Pieces of Freedom: A Tribute to Yuri Kochiyama
Lakeview Branch Library, Oakland, CA
Followed by a post performance dialogue facilitated by J. Miakoda Taylor with guest Pamela Wu Kochiyama.
This performance is part of an artistic project that began when I first interviewed Yuri Kochiyama in Oakland in 2010 and 2011. The theme of all of our dialogues unequivocally centered on the subject of freedom for all people. From those initial visits, I found the inspiration to begin an interview process of people who are working tirelessly to make a difference in our community. I look forward to continuing to make dances that explore the notion of FREEDOM!
Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014) was a tireless political activist who dedicated her life to contributing to social change through her participation in social justice and human rights movements. She was raised through young adulthood in San Pedro, California. She spent two years in a concentration camp in Jerome, Arkansas during World War II. Following the war, she moved to New York City and married Bill Kochiyama, 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 Asian American, Black and Third World movements for civil and human rights, ethnic studies, and against the war in Vietnam. In 1963, she met Malcolm X. Their friendship and political alliance changed her life and outlook. She joined his group, the Organizations for Afro-American Unity, to work for racial justice and human rights.
During that period, she also served as a member of Asian Americans for Action, the Harlem Parents’ Committee, and the Republic of New Africa. She was involved in anti-apartheid organizing support of Puerto Rican independence, solidarity with Cuba and other international liberation struggles. Support for political prisoners was a consistent thread in her work.
Yuri won numerous awards and recognitions, two honorary degrees, spoke at over 100 schools and colleges throughout the country, and has been featured in several books, films and a television documentary. Her memoirs, entitled Passing It On, received the 2004 Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.
She had six children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Of the many causes that Yuri Kochiyama stood for, she was most passionate about the rights of political prisoners. The following is a list compiled by Yuri and Audee Kochiyama.
Mumia Abu Jamal
Pam and William Africa
Mtajari Shabak Sundiata
Puerto Rican Nationalists
Oscar Collazo, Lolita lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irvan Flores Rodriguez, Andres Figueroa Cordero and Oscar Lopez Rivera.
The MOVE 9
Charles, Debbie, Delbert, Edward, Janet, Janine, Merle, Michael and Phil
The San Francisco 8
Francisco Torres, Herman Bell, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, Jalil Mutaqim, Richard O’Neal and Harld Taylor
The Cuban Five
Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Lañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gozález and René González