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Yuri Kochiyama

Yuri Kochiyama (1921-)

Human Rights Activist/

Member, Organization for Afro-American Unity

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Yuri Kochiyama.

Yuri Kochiyama An unlikely meeting became the catalyst that would connect Yuri Kochiyama with acclaimed civil rights leader Malcom X. Mrs. Kochiyama was born in California, to first generation immigrants to the United States. Her family experienced firsthand the perils of war and racism after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Her family, along with other Japanese Americas, was forcibly moved from their home and imprisoned in an internment camp where they were held for two years during the war. It is because of this suffering that she identified well with the ongoing struggle of African-Americans especially during the tumultuous 50s and 60s.

In the 1960s, Mrs. Kochiyama moved to Harlem, NY with her husband. They lived in housing projects among black and Puerto Rican neighbors. Mrs. Kochiyama began participating in sit-ins and inviting Freedom Riders to speak at weekly open houses at her apartment. In October 1963, she and her eldest son, 16-year-old Billy, were arrested along with hundreds of other people, mainly African-Americans, during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y.  Mrs Kochiyama as a member of the Organization for Afro-American Unity, the organization founded by Malcolm X, she worked for racial justice and human rights.

Although in advanced age, she continues to tour the country speaking to youth about social justice and racial equality.

Sources:
Photo: Kochhiyama family/UCLA Asian American Studies Center
http://civilrightsteaching.org/about/handouts-sample-lessons/womens-work-an-untold-story-of-the-civil-rights-movement/  (Accessed 12/26/13)
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/08/19/209258986/the-japanese-american-internee-who-met-malcolm-x  (Accessed 12/26/13)

Compiled by Beverly Moore

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