Persephone Pioneers

A Tribute to Yuri Kochiyama

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.

By Luann

Feminist, Pinay, coffee lover, boba aficionado and pop culture enthusiast. Current graduate student in Peace and Conflict Studies. Dwelling in the rainy city of Portland, Oregon but always California dreaming. You can also read more of her articles at

One reply on “A Tribute to Yuri Kochiyama”

I was devastated to hear that Yuri Kochiyama had passed. She’s someone who I consider a personal hero, and whose work I had often suggested to others, as well as a name that should have had wider recognition. I highly suggest the documentary Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice for anyone who’d like to learn more about her history and activism.

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