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Yuri Kochiyama

"Don't become too narrow. Live fully. Meet all kinds of people. You'll learn something from everyone. Follow what you feel in your heart."

A daughter of Japanese immigrants, Yuri Kochiyama (born 1921) grew up in California. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, her life changed dramatically in 1942 when people of Japanese ancestry in the USA were sent to internment camps. After World War II, she joined movements for civil rights and black liberation in New York City; she opposed US imperialism and supported radical grassroots organizations and political prisoners. She has spoken out for racial justice and human rights for over 40 years.

Yuri Kochiyama was among the 120,000 people forced into internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This traumatic experience was the beginning of Yuri's political awakening, and her subsequent work for social and economic justice. To counter the deprivations of camp life, Yuri led an organization for young women and volunteered for various community programs. After leaving the camp, she saw the oppression of African Americans in the segregated south when she worked with the Aloha United Service Organization for Japanese American soldiers. She married in 1946, moved to New York City with her husband and had six children. They lived in low-income housing in Harlem, surrounded by black and Latino families. Yuri became involved in the Organization for Afro-American Unity founded by Malcolm X. With her husband and three older children, she attended its Liberation School to learn about black history, thought, and culture. She was present in the Audubon Ballroom in 1965 when Malcolm X was shot. A famous Life magazine photo shows her cradling his head in her lap. With her children, Yuri attended countless protests and demonstrations. She supported the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and other radical activists. She participated in Asian Americans for Action, the Asian Coalition Against the Vietnam War, the Japanese American Redress and Reparations Movement, and the New York Justice for Vincent Chin Coalition, among many others. Yuri Kochiyama has worked unstintingly for over 40 years for racial justice and human rights, making alliances between diverse communities, especially communities of color. Despite her age and frailty she continues to speak out, urging Japanese Americans to oppose US government harassment of Arabs, Arab Americans, and South Asians, also labeled as a "national security risk".

Organization for Afro-American Unity National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners Asian Americans for Action

Northern America | United States of America