On Sunday morning, Japanese-American activist, social justice warrior, and champion of civil rights Yuri Kochiyama (93) died in her home in Berkeley, California, in her sleep while surrounded by family.
With just a week since Dr. Maya Angelou’s passing, I am heartbroken to know that two influential forces who guided me towards the radical activism that I subscribe to today are no longer with us. In contrast to Dr. Angelou’s passing, I don’t have a specific story to share about how Kochiyama’s work inspired me to join a movement. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about her activism and work until college. But it’s important to recognize her involvement with the Black nationalist movement (alongside Malcolm X) in the U.S. and her push, and eventual success, to demand reparations and an apology from the U.S. government to Japanese American internees for their treatment during World War II. Everyone should know this about her.
Her work has inspired Asian American activists like myself to work to keep the movement going strong, with or without leaders like her around. She reminds us how far we’ve come as a community, how important it is to ally with other movements, and that we must never give up on working towards equality. I don’t have much else to say except, “Revolutionaries die, the revolution don’t.”
A Tumblr page has been created to remember the contributions that Kochiyama has made to social justice movements. I encourage you to read it if you know little about her or are interested in seeing how her work has made an impact on several different activists.