2014 / Civil right leader Yuri Kochiyama passes away at the age of 93 in Berkeley

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus releases the following statement:

Washington, D.C. June 2, 2014 – Yesterday, Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American civil rights activist, passed away in Berkeley, California at the age of 93. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements:

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), CAPAC Chair:

“Yesterday, the world lost an American icon with the passing of Yuri Kochiyama. A tireless civil rights activist and fierce coalition builder, Yuri was at the heart of numerous movements, including efforts to provide redress for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. With her deep commitment to creating a more just society, she mentored and empowered generations of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders. While she is no longer with us, her life and legacy will continue to inspire Americans for generations to come.”

Congressman Mike Honda (CA-17), CAPAC Chair Emeritus:

“Today we celebrate the life, and mourn the loss, of an incredible civil rights activist and community leader. Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American who, like me, was interned during WWII, used her experiences from both the war and living in the housing projects in New York City as fuel for her activism and community organizing. During a time of incredible racial tension, her work was inclusive of all communities and connected people across many different walks of life. Mrs. Kochiyama was a dedicated leader who successfully fought for redress for the internment of Japanese Americans. She was a true visionary and trailblazer. She will be missed.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13):

“I was deeply saddened to learn of Yuri Kochiyama’s passing yesterday in Berkeley. A champion for social justice and equality, Yuri’s tireless commitment to activism spanned generations. From her experience living in an internment camp during World War II, her fight to secure reparations for Japanese American internment survivors, and her close friendship with Malcom X, Yuri sought to root out racism and injustice in every form. The world will miss her boundless optimism and wisdom, but her legacy lives on in the people she inspired and the change she affected.”

Background:

Born in 1921 as Mary Yuriko Nakahara, Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese American activist and civil rights leader. Kochiyama spent her early life in San Pedro, California until World War II, when she and her family were relocated to a Japanese internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas. It is here that she met her future husband, Bill Kochiyama, a Nisei soldier in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. After World War II, the couple married and moved to Harlem in New York City where they became active in the Civil Rights movement.

Through her organizing work, she became friends with civil rights activist Malcom X, and was with him during his final moments. Kochiyama went on to organize in other social movements, including the push for Puerto Rican independence, rallies against the Vietnam War, and efforts to grant reparations to Japanese Americans through the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

 

The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and Members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Currently chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu, CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.

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