Yuri Kochiyama has passed away at age 93, according to Democracy Now!. Kochiyama’s activism began after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when she and her family were held in a Japanese American internment camp.
According to Wikipedia:
In 1960, Kochiyama and her husband Bill moved to Harlem in New York City and joined the Harlem Parents Committee. She became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his Organization of Afro-American Unity, following his departure from the Nation of Islam. She was present at his assassination on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying.
In 1977, Kochiyama joined the group of Puerto Ricans that took over the Statue of Liberty to draw attention to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence. Kochiyama and other activists demanded the release of five Puerto Rican nationalists who were jailed in the United States for more than 20 years. According to Kochiyama, despite a strong movement enabling them to occupy the statue for nine hours, they intended to “give up peacefully when the police came.” The five Puerto Ricans were eventually released.
Kochiyama also became a mentor during the Asian American movement that grew during and after the Vietnam War protests. Many young activists came to her for help for several of the Asian American protests. Due to her experience and her ability to interrelate African American and Asian American activist issues, Yuri and her husband could secure reparations and government apologies for injustices toward Asian Americans such as the Japanese American internment. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988 which, among other things, awarded $20,000 to each Japanese American internment survivor. The process of issuing reparation checks is ongoing.
Over the years, Kochiyama has dedicated herself to various causes, such as the rights of political prisoners, working on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, nuclear disarmament, and reparations for the Internment of Japanese Americans.
In 2005, Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize through the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” project.
Hansi Lo Wang of NPR’s Code Switch wrote about Kochiyama’s relationship with Malcolm X in 2013.