QUESTION: Which World War II Japanese internment camp survivor went on to fight for the rights of not only Japanese Americans, but numerous minority groups, supporting African Americans during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and helping to raise awareness of Puerto Rican independence by storming the Statue of Liberty?
Yuri Kochiyama transformed her experience in the Japanese internment camps into a universal sense of social justice, translating her Japanese American struggles into an understanding of other oppressed minority groups. After marrying and moving to Harlem in 1960, she and her husband were constantly engaged in the community, boycotting for more quality education for inner-city kids, fighting for jobs for Black and Puerto Rican workers, and using their home as a central meeting space for locals and activists, just to name a few initiatives. She later met and became inspired by Malcolm X, a figure that would spark her involvement in Black nationalist organizations and fuel her commitment as an activist. She is often historically noted in reference to the Life Magazine photo of Malcolm X’s assassination in which Kochiyama is cradling Malcolm X’s head. Her involvement in minority issues would only continue to grow, and she quickly became a leader for Asian Americans and an authority on multi-ethnic cooperation.
Photo credits to angry asian man.