A 93-year-old activist named Yuri Kochiyama died this week in Oakland after an epic life that included several years in a Japanese internment camp and involvement, 40 years later, in a successful campaign to compensate victims of those camps.
Kochiyama, born in California, became an activist after being held in Arkansas during WWII. From the Los Angeles Times:
She married a Japanese American GI she had met during the war and in 1960 moved with him to Harlem, where she raised a large family and joined her poor black and Puerto Rican neighbors to fight for better schools and safer streets.
Radicalized by her association with Malcolm X, the fiery Nation of Islam leader, Kochiyama plunged into campaigns for Puerto Rican independence, nuclear disarmament and reparations for Japanese American internees.
The campaign for reparations was successful, with $20,000 awarded to survivors by a law signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988. (The idea of reparations has been in the news recently thanks to an Atlantic article that made the case for compensating black Americans.) But that was just one chapter in Kochiyama's career as a New York radical—during which she also witnessed the assasination of Malcolm X, rushing to his side seconds after he'd been fatally shot. Read more about Kochiyama’s life here.
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