It's a shame not many know about her because Yuri Kochiyama was the ultimate intersectional badass. In her 93 years she survived Japanese internment camps and fought for reparations, cradled Malcom X as he died, fought for Puerto Rican independence, was nominated for a Nobel peace prize, advocated for nuclear disarmament and rocked cat-eye glasses like nobody's business:
Kochiyama was a paragon of compassion for all people, but her exclusion from the history books is not entirely surprising. Women-particularly those of color-are largely erased from both women's rights and human rights movements, and when they are included their stories are sanitized. Rosa Parks was made out to be a little old lady with tired feet, and everyone conveniently forgets to talk about Helen Keller's socialist activism.
With the way our textbook guidelines are being legislated it's unlikely our kids will learn about her in school, so it's important to learn about these legacies on our own. As Kochiyama herself once said:
Remember that consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge. Consciousness is becoming aware. It is the perfect vehicle for students. Consciousness-raising is pertinent for power, and be sure that power will not be abusively used, but used for building trust and goodwill domestically and internationally. Tomorrow's world is yours to build.
If you're looking for more info Racialicious has a very great summary of Kochiyama and her work here and you can also check out a documentary about her and Angela Davis on youtube. There's even a rap song about her! Seriously, listen to it. It's awesome.
Images via NPR and learntoquestion.com