March 23 - Women’s History Month Profile: Yuri Kochiyama

At 90, Yuri Kochiyama has been one of the most influential Asian American women, a Japanese American civil rights activist that embodies a strong heart and the powerful spirit of movement and change. During World War II, she experienced internment when her family was forced from their homes to a camp where her father had died. Following the war, she moved to Harlem and began to be involved with local civil rights organizations. At the center of the civil rights and black liberation movement, she became actively involved with their struggles and participated in many marches and demonstrations. Kochiyama met Malcolm X and they exchanged letters and postcards as she learned more about his ideas. When gunshots rang out at the Audubon Ballroom, she was the one that cradled his head with her hands after he was shot. Inspired by the black liberation movement, she was also a leader in the Asian American movement as well. Moreover, in 1977, she took over the Statue of Liberty with Puerto Ricans to create awareness about their movement for self-determination. Her life is filled with compelling stories and continues to a living inspirational figure for many people today.