Thursday, April 30, 2009
Richard Aoki Remembered
Richard Aoki speaking at an Asian American Political Alliance reunion in 2008. Photo courtesy of Andre Nguyen.
Here is an obituary on activist and former Black Panther Richard Aoki, who passed away last Sunday at his home in Berkeley, CA. I learned a lot about Richard Aoki from writing this obituary though honestly it was very difficult, especially talking to his friends and colleagues who were grieving and still in shock.
There is little out there in the public sphere about Aoki, and perhaps that is why he is mostly known in activist circles. There are several articles, some excerpts from books, a radio interview, and video footage. The most popular image we have of him is of the stern Richard wearing a beret and shades. He was that -- the staunch revolutionary -- but so much more.
I was astonished to learn the many facets of Aoki. I knew he was fiercely loyal to his friends and to social justice causes. You could tell he loved his friends. For example, he spoke so highly of -- and defended -- Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton. He was also wary of the media for the same reason, because of the way his friend was described in his later years before and after his death. Even though Aoki played a major role in many events, his most proud, according to close friends, was his role in the Black Panther Party.
Aoki was already sick when he checked himself out of the hospital to take care of his mom who had had a heart attack. And even though his own health wasn't good, he organized a funeral service for his mom and spoke at it upon her death. Just about a month after his mom's service, he passed.
Aoki remained politically active despite his ailments in recent years, including supporting Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq, and attending rallies with friends like activist Yuri Kochiyama. He also supported political prisoners. He made sure to attend Black Panther Party reunions and commemorative events, as well as events for the Asian American Political Alliance and other groups he had been involved in over the years.
He would speak with revolutionary fervor at some of these events. In the last several years, these speeches would wipe him out for several days afterwards but publicly, he never showed that his body was wearing down, according to friends.
His friends have put together a blog where people can share photos and memories. I was particularly struck by this entry by Kei Fischer. Here, she talks about how when Richard was in the hospital two weeks ago, he was worried about getting a letter of recommendation that he had written for her, even though he was so sick. "That small act alone truly characterized the giving, nurturing and self-less human being Richard was," she writes.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The Zainichi Korean Quarterly Film Series
Featuring “Woori Hakkyo” - Our School
by Kim Myeong-Joon
Sunday, May 17
Eastside Cultural Center
2277 International Blvd. at 23rd Ave., Oakland
About the Film: Woori Hakkyo is a documentary film that gives audiences a glimpse into the daily lives of 3rd and 4th generation Korean residents of Japan who attend a K-12 Korean school in the northern most prefecture of Japan: Hokkaido. As a critical response to the prevailing negative connotation the broader Japanese society has associated the Korean schools with because of their relation with the DPRK, Woori Hakkyo reveals an honest look at what life is like, particularly for the youth, in this unique community of Japan.
Historical Background of the Korean Schools in Japan: After liberation from Japanese colonization in 1945, 1st generation Zainichi Koreans built Korean schools in order for their descendants to learn the “mother tongue” – a right that had been deprived of the Korean community in Japan as a result of colonial assimilation policies. Hundreds of these Korean schools that are operated all over Japan are not recognized as “formal educational institutions” by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science to this day.
Eclipse Rising is a US-based Zainichi Korean group founded in the winter of 2008, by Zainichi Koreans who came together in the Bay Area to recognize and celebrate the rich and unique history of Koreans in Japan, promote Zainichicommunity development, peace and reunification, and work for social justice for all minorities in Japan and around the world.
Eastside Arts Alliance is dedicated to nurturing ans supporting the work of the Lower San Antonio District’s African American, Latino/Chicano, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Indigenous artists and cultural workers, many of whom have not found a home within Oakland’s mainstream arts community.
ESAA Websites: www.
Suggested Donation of $7 - 15
Film is in Korean and Japanese with English Subtitles
From BART, get off on Fruitvale BART and walk several blocks west on International Boulevard or walk 1 block north to International Boulevard and take 1R bus west to East Side Arts Alliance. For travel planner link,http://tripplanner.