The First Corinthian Baptist Church in New York was filled to capacity on the last Saturday in September for a memorial service to celebrate the life of activist Yuri Kochiyama, who passed away peacefully in her sleep in Berkeley, California on the morning of Sunday, June 1, 2014, at the age of 93.
Soh Daiko, Pua Ali’i ‘llima o Nuioka, Janice Robinson, Taiyo Na and Magnetic North, and New Heritage Theatre Group’s Impact Repertory were among the artists who performed in tribute to Yuri.
Former Black Panther Jamal Joseph served as emcee and Yuri’s granddaughter Akemi Kochiyama read a statement from the family. Malcolm X’s oldest daughter Ambassador Attalah Shabazz, Peter Wong, Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele, Tomie Arai and Zulu Williams were among those who gave remembrances.
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.
Film clips featuring Yuri in Renee Tajima-Pena’s My America…or Honk If You Love Buddha; Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice by Pat Saunders and Rea Tajiri; and Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama were shown during the memorial.
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.
Click below to see excerpts of tribute performances by Soh Daiko, Pua Ali’i ‘llima o Nuioka, Janice Robinson, Taiyo Na, Magnetic North, New Heritage Theatre Group’s Impact Repertory for Yuri.
Below is the full program lineup for Yuri’s memorial.
Pastor Desiree Allen
Welcome to First Corinthian Church
Statement from the family
Pua Ali’i ‘llima o Nuioka
Tribute: Hula performance
with Director Kumu Hulu Vicky Holt Takamine
Film clip: Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice
by Pat Saunders & 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.
Tribute: “Angel of the Night”
Taiyo Na and Magnetic North
Tribute: “Asian Song”
Jamal Joseph and Impact Repertory
Remembrances and tribute
Great Grandchildren – Leilani, Malia, Kenji and Kai
Reading of “My Creed” (by Yuri in 1939); and Kai’s statement
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
Remembering Civil Rights Activist Yuri Kochiyama, 1921-2014
Sept. 27: Yuri Kochiyama Memorial Service at First Corinthian Baptist Church in New York
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
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