Published: June 3, 2014; Updated: June 9, 2014
Statement released by Yuri and Bill Kochiyama’s family:
Life-long activist Yuri Kochiyama passed away peacefully in her sleep in Berkeley, California on the morning of Sunday, June 1 at the age of 93. Over a span of more than 50 years, Yuri worked tirelessly for social and political change through her activism in support of social justice and civil and human rights movements.
Yuri was born on May 19, 1921 in San Pedro, California and spent two years in a concentration camp in Jerome, Arkansas during World War II. After the war, she moved to New York City and married Bill Kochiyama, a decorated veteran of the all-Japanese American 442nd combat unit of the U.S. Army.
Yuri’s activism started in Harlem in the early 1960’s, where she participated in the Harlem Freedom Schools, and later, the African American, Asian American and Third World movements for civil and human rights and in the opposition against the Vietnam War. In 1963, she met Malcolm X. Their friendship and political alliance radically changed her life and perspective. She joined his group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity, to work for racial justice and human rights. Over the course of her life, Yuri was actively involved in various movements for ethnic studies, redress and reparations for Japanese Americans, African Americans and Native Americans, political prisoners’ rights, Puerto Rican independence and many other struggles.
Yuri is survived by her living children—Audee, Eddie, Jimmy and Tommy, grandchildren—Zulu, Akemi, Herb, Ryan, Traci, Maya, Aliya, Christopher, and Kahlil and great-grandchildren—Kai, Leilani, Kenji, Malia and Julia.
Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice (1994), a film by Pat Saunders and Rea Tajiri, chronicles her remarkable contribution to social change through some of the most significant events of the 20th century, including the Black Liberation movement, the struggle for Puerto Rican independence, and the Japanese American Redress movement.
Yuri appeared as herself in the TV movie, “Death of a Prophet — The Last Days of Malcolm X” (1981); in the 12 award winning documentary, All Power to the People! (1996), by Chinese-Jamaican-American filmmaker Lee Lew-Lee for ZDF-Arte, broadcast in 21 nations and the U.S. between 1996-2001; is the subject of a documentary film with Angela Davis called Mountains That Take Wing (2010) by C.A. Griffith & L.T. Quan; and is the subject of a Tim Toyama’s play, Yuri and Malcolm X.
She and her husband, Bill Kochiyama, were featured in My America…or Honk if You Love Buddha (1997), the documentary by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña.
Yuri’s speeches were published in Discover Your Mission: Selected Speeches & Writings of Yuri Kochiyama (1998), by Russell Muranaka, and she wrote Passing It On: A Memoir (2004).
In 2005, Kochiyama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize through the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” project.
Video on Yuri
Watch Yuri’s 2008 interview on Democracy Now!
This interview aired the week that marked 43 years since Malcolm X was gunned down in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and Yuri also recalls how she cradled his head as he lay dying on the stage.
Life.com: Yuri Kochiyama, at Malcolm X’s Side When He Died, Is Dead at 93
AAPI Civil Rights Heroes – Yuri Kochiyama
Other articles on Yuri Kochiyama
AsAmNews: Civil Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama Dead at 93
The Independent: Yuri Kochiyama Dead: Japanese American Human Rights Activist and Close Malcolm Ally Dies Aged 93
SFGate: Yuri Kochiyama dies: activist got reparations for interned Japanese
Apex Express:Remembering Yuri Kochiyama (part 1 of 2)
Apex Express: Occupation of the Statue Of Liberty in 1977
NPR: Civil Rights Champion Yuri Kochiyama Dies at 93
NPR: Yuri Kochiyama: Passing it on
latimes.com: Yuri Kochiyama dies at 93; civil rights activist, friend of Malcolm X
Washingtonpost.com:Yuri Kochiyama, ’60s civil rights activist and friend of Malcolm X’s, dies at 93
New York Times: Yuri Kochiyama, Rights Activist Who Befriended Malcolm X, Dies at 93
Chicago Sun-Times.com: Yuri Kochiyama, 93, activist held Malcolm X after shooting
smithsonianapa.org: Folk Hero Yuri Kochiyama
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia recently starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes, Marcus Naylor and Phynjuar, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
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