Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama died yesterday at age 93.
Kochiyama’s long life of intersectional social justice activism began when her family was interned during World War II. After the war, she and husband became involved in the civil rights movement while living among Black and Puerto Rican neighbors in New York City. She befriended Malcolm X and was famously by his side when he was killed. FBI files described Kochiyama as a “ring leader” of Black nationalists and a “Red Chinese agent,” so she was clearly doing something right. In the ’80s, she helped win reparations and an official apology for Japanese-American internees.
Here are some words of wisdom from a woman who was “ahead of her time.”
“Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.”
And if you’ve got some time, check out this documentary in which Kochiyama and Angela Davis talk about life and activism.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.