About the Americans of Japanese descent, AKA nikkei.

Yuri Kochiyama Nikkei Activist

Yuri Kochiyama Quotes

“Consciousness is Power“

“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.”

“Tomorrow’s world is yours to build.”

“When you’re in a black group, you have to keep in mind you’re not black. You just have to be sensitive. We have to be appreciative that the black nationalist struggle is a nationalist struggle.”

“We are all part of one another.”

“Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another.”

“Transform yourself first”

“Transform yourself first…because you are young and have dreams and want to do something meaningful, that in itself, makes you our future and our hope. Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders.”

“The movement is contagious”

“People have a right to violence, to rebel, to fight back.”

Yuri Kochiyama: Nikkei Rebel

Yuri Kochiyama: Nikkei Rebel

Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese American activist born in California.

Born Mary Yuriko Nakahara on May 19, 1921 in San Pedro, California. Her parents were Japanese immigrants, Seiichi Nakahara, an entrepreuner and fish merchant and Tsuyako Nakahara, a college-educated homemaker and piano teacher.

She went to San Pedro High School and Compton Junior College, where she studied English, journalism and art, graduating in 1941.

Yuri Kochiyama and Japanese Internment in WWII

Shortly after the Pearl Harbor Kochiyama’s father was arrested along with other Japanese American elders and held in federal prison. He was ill at the time and died shortly after being released in January of 1942.

The rest of Kochiyama’s family, her mother and brother, were assigned to Santa Anita Assembly Center and then the Jerome, Arkansas Concentration Camp as part of the Japanese American Internment.

After the war, and her marriage to Bill Kochiyama, she moved to New York City.

Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X

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. She began her association with Malcolm X in 1963, working together on the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Yuri’s activism spanned the later years of Malcolm X’s life—she cradled his head as he died—to the early formation of Tupac Shakur as a 9-year-old.

Yuri Kochiyama and Tupac Shakur

In the 70s Yuri and Bill’s apartment in Harlem was know as “Grand Central Station” or the “Revolutionary Salon”, and it was a hub for activism and community leaders. It was in the Kochiyama apartment where a 9-year-old Tupac Shakur spoke in front of an assembled group about th need to free political prisoners, including members of his own family like stepfather Mutual Shakur and godfather Geronimo Pratt. [Read More]

Excellent Democracy Now interview in 2008

Over her life she advocated for many causes, including Black separatism, the anti-war movement, Maoist revolution, reparations for Japanese-American internees, and the rights of people imprisoned by the U.S. government for violent offenses whom she considered to be “political prisoners”.

Yuri’s Google Doodle

On May 19, 2016, she was featured on the U.S. Google Doodle in honor of what would have been her 95th birthday.

Blue Scholars - Yuri Kochiyama (Live)

Blue Scholars – Yuri Kochiyama (Lyrics)

[Verse 1: Geo]
Oh, yeah!
I got that third world militant, still think it’s relevant
Even if them kids copped the shirts and stopped wearin ’em
Humbled in the presence of the veterans
And not the ones who picked up their guns
But who picked up their brethren and sister and
History in the making I was witnessin’
Listenin’, seein’ this old Japanese lady with a sticker on her walker, said “Free Mumia” and
This was before the Trustafarians were sayin’ it
Taking it for granted that we talk about the 60’s and
Never get to talk to anybody who done live this shit and still exist
Or better yet, shit, she still resist, speaking to a myriad of young, dumb and ignorant kids
I was one of ’em
Stuck around lingering
Said that “It’s a privilege to meet you in person” and
She took my hand, said “It’s good to meet you too”
And when I’m out of school asked me what I’m gonna do
I had to think about it, but truth is I knew
That it was something for the youth and shit
Truly I’d probably be a teacher if the music didn’t make enough
To make me wanna gamble on it’s sustenance
And that’s why I’m writing this, to tell ya’ll
From a scholar

[Hook]
When I grow up I wanna be just like Yuri Kochiyama
Holla, swear to my kasamas
When I grow up I wanna be just like Yuri Kochiyama
And if she ever hear this its an honor
Cause when I grow up I wanna be just like Yuri Kochiyama
Imma, serve the people proper
When I grow up I wanna be like Yuri Kochiyama
When I grow up I wanna be like Yuri Kochiyama
When I grow up I wanna be like Yuri Kochiyama

[Verse 2: Geo]
I see the picture up in Life magazine
You were sittin’ front seat for Malcolm’s last speech
Saw the first man with the shotgun (Boom)
Two more came to get the job done
Now who would’ve thought that it’d be you holding him?
I wonder what you felt when his eyes were going dim
And if he never died, would we know that he exists?
Or would he have been the leader that we always seem to miss?
Now there’s no taking back whatever happens in our midst
You remind me that it’s more than just a martyr and a myth
You could’ve said it quits many times ever since and you find
There will always be a reason for the fist
The last one to hold him could’ve been somebody else
You’d still be remembered for the people that you helped
They said to keep trying but never losing hope
Revolutionaries die, but the revolution don’t
And it won’t and I put that
On my momma

[Hook]
Cause when I grow up I wanna be just like Yuri Kochiyama
Holla, swear to my kasamas
When I grow up I wanna be just like Yuri Kochiyama
And if she ever hear this it’s an honor
Cause when I grow up I wanna be just like Yuri Kochiyama
Imma, serve the people proper
When I grow up I wanna be like Yuri Kochiyama
When I grow up I wanna be like Yuri Kochiyama
When I grow up I wanna be like Yuri Kochiyama

Kanrin Maru members

May 7, 1843: The First Japanese in America

The month of May was chosen to commemorate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to capture two significant dates in Asian American history, firstly, the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and secondly to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869.

Specifics as to who was the first Japanese is sketchy, but what is known is that there were official Members of the Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860), who sailed on the Kanrin Maru and the USS Powhatan. Fukuzawa Yukichi sits on the right in the picture above.

Let’s all celebrate May 7 as a mark of really incredible pan-Pacific voyages in an era well before worldwide travel was as safe as it is today.