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Rethinking the Asian-American Movement

By: Alex Park

on 14 December 2015

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Transcript of Rethinking the Asian-American Movement

Yuri Kochiyama
She spent most of her of her life there until 1941 when Japanese fighter pilots bombed Pearl Harbor, causing Yuri's family to relocate to Japanese internment camps. She met her husband there and moved to New York City after WWII ended. She became friends with famous black leader, Malcolm X, in Harlem in 1963 and focused her work on black equality as an activist.
Malcolm X
Keep in mind that the 1960's was a new age of thinking. The Civil Rights Movement taught others to become more open to expressing opinions and ideas. Blacks were standing up for their rights and so were other groups of people. Americans were starting to feel uncomfortable about the issues that led to the Vietnamese War. Young students were becoming politically active on college campuses. This new age of "idealism" was sweeping across America.
"Yellow Power" Movement
The Civil Rights Movement played an important part in inspiring Asian Americans to fight for equality. From organized acts such as Rosa Parks’ bus boycott in 1955 to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, many blacks helped make a stand for social justice.
As a result, the Civil Rights Movement attracted other people of color. After President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, declaring it
to discriminate people based on race, color, religion, or national origin, more groups of people started standing up for equality. These groups were no longer willing to stay silent while white people continued to deny minorities equal opportunities. This is where the Asian-American movement or "Yellow Power" movement was born.
On Feb. 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated. Yuri Kochiyama is the woman holding Malcolm X’s head.

Why do you think Malcolm X was assassinated?
Look at the setting and clothing; what kind of event was taking place?
Does Yuri look like she has a different ethnicity than Malcolm X?
What does the logo on the top-right corner signify about the importance of this picture?
Remember the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968)?
Beginning with the Civil Rights Movement, did you know that blacks were
the only ones struggling to fight for equality in the 1960's? The movement helped create the Asian-American Movement, along with other movements including:
Native American Power Movement
Chicano Movement
Before we begin, remember what a "movement" is.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of "movement" is defined as:

a series of organized activities working toward a goal
the act or process of moving
the moving parts of a mechanism that create motion

Looking at the last 2 definitions, how does this apply to the Civil Rights Movement?
What ethnicity do you think both these men are?

Look at their clothing. What’s similar and why?

Why is one of them holding a shotgun? More importantly, what is strapped around his chest and why is he displaying it?

Why do you think they chose that name?

Third World Liberation Strike
10 Third World Demands
Remember this picture from earlier? This was Yuri Kochiyama speaking at an anti-war demonstration in New York's Central Park around 1968.
Black Panther Party
The Black Panther Party was created to stand up and fight for equality for all oppressed minorities similar to the beliefs of Malcolm X. They went out to the community and helped to serve the people in the fight. Black Panthers would often be seen in public with guns and believed violence was necessary for the people to take their right to equality.
"Free Huey" Rally
Richard Aoki
What color is his skin tone?

What kind of expression is on his face?
From Oakland, California, Richard Aoki is one of the few Asian-Americans who joined the Black Panther Party. Similar to Kochiyama, he was sent to internment camps as a young boy, where he witnessed unfair brutality and treatment towards the Japanese people. Aoki spent 8 years in the Army and was one of the first Panthers to provide the party with guns and training. Since then he has become a political activist and a strong advocator for the Asian-American Movement and Civil Rights Movement.
One year after founding the Black Panther Party, the co-founder Huey Newton was involved in a shootout with a police officer. In 1968, people stood together at a "Free Huey" rally to protest Huey's arrest for his alleged murder.
Who is that person facing the camera?
What does the sign say? What does this tell you about the Yellow Power Movement?
Why would Asian-Americans support this rally?
Aoki and Black Panthers were very active in the community. One account, a neighborhood asked for the city to put up a stop sign on a corner but there was no response. So the Black Panthers stood out there as traffic guards to stop cars to let children to walk safely across the street.
"Stop for little kids!"
"Stop for little kids!"
This is the Third World Liberation strike at Sather Gate, UC Berkeley, 1969. Organizations of student groups (including Asian American student groups) joined together to protest the school’s ethnic studies curricula and advocating for rights of minorities. Frustration over this lasted for a while until a member of the Black Student Union, and who once served for the Black Panthers, was suspended. This strike is the
student strike in American history.

From this picture who do you think are the protestors? Why?

What differences do you see when comparing both groups of people?

What kinds of expressions do you see from both groups of people?

If you thought the school was being unfair, would you stand up against it?
The students on strike demanded the school to abide to 10 requests. One demand the students desired was more funding for departments such as for blacks, Asians, and Chicanos.
Do you think it is fair for students to make these demands? Why or why not?
Why would they demand that whoever supported the strike would receive no penalties?
What did minority students want?
How do you think the students felt when making these demands?
Malcolm X was a passionate revolutionary for the black community. He had similar beliefs to Martin Luther King Jr. but not always.
While MLK Jr. was against violence, X believed blacks had to fight for their equality "by any means necessary." This has brought in many supporters, as well as criticizers (including MLK Jr.). Malcolm X began his political journey when he was in prison for 10 years. There, he read and educated himself and joined a group called the Nation of Islam.
Did you know?
Malcolm X's real name is Malcolm Little.
Since black slaves in America were given their last names from their owners, Malcolm dropped his last name and gave himself "X" to stand for his unknown African last name.
During imprisonment, Malcolm X was part of an organization called Nation of Islam. After release, the organization grew from 400 members to 40,000 in 8 years.
Yuri Kochiyama was born in San Pedro, California in 1921.
Ask Yourself
There's a knock on your door. You open it. You are ordered to move to another location behind barbed wires, forced to sleep in barracks, and guarded 24/7 against your will. Your parents must quit their jobs or sell their businesses. Your crime? You're Japanese-descent. Is this fair? Can you help what you were born as or what you look like?
Although Malcolm X had radical views compared to MLK Jr., X had conflicts with one of his mentors in the Nation of Islam. After leaving the group, Malcolm converted to a different religion, Sunni Muslim. This caused some of his followers to become confused and possibly upset.
This is Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, founders of the Black Panther Party (For Self-Defense) formed in October 1966.
This is Japanese-American political activist, Richard Aoki at a rally.
Next is what Kochiyama said in an interview in 2004 in response to the forceful relocation to Japanese interment camps.
Kochiyama: I wasn’t very knowledgable about anything at that time though I was 20. Of course, right after that, 120,000 Japanese or people of Japanese ancestry were evacuated and sent to, what the government calls them "internment centers." We call them "concentration camps." But it changed the life of every person of Japanese ancestry.
: Tell me how that very troubling and difficult moment for you impacted your life and your activism years later.
How do you think this experience influenced Kochiyama's pursuit to fight for equality?
Concentration camps is a term used to confine a group of people who are "undesirable" in society. Why would the Japanese call their new locations "concentration camps?"
Do you think this was fair to the Japanese people in the US?
How do you think the Japanese were treated in these camps?
Remember from earlier, that people across the nation were becoming more accepting of each other's ideas, beliefs, and expressions. Groups of people, such as Asian-Americans were rallying together to fight for equality. Movements for Natives and Chicanos were now also on the rise. Protests were being held and speeches delivered. People were trying to accept peace in such troubling times. Now was the time to act!
Even someone who went to prison became a prominent leader.
What kind of expression do you see on Kochiyama's face? How does this reflect in her speech?
Since this is an anti-war demonstration, what does she want?
What do you think she is saying into the microphone?
While some people believed violence was necessary for equal rights, others expressed themselves in nonviolent ways. Paintings, drawings, poems, and songs were great examples to reach out to the people!
Asian-American singers like Chris Iijima, Joanne Miyamoto, and Charlie Chin sang to expression their desire for equality. Below are some lyrics to their song "We Are the Children."

We are the children of the Chinese waiter,
Born and raised in the laundry room.
We are the offspring of the Japanese gardner,
Who leave their stamp on Amerika.
Foster children of the Pepsi Generation,
Cowboys and Indians – ride, red-man, ride!
Watching war movies with the nextdoor neighbor,
Secretly rooting for the other side.
We are the cousins of the freedom fighter,
Brothers and sisters all around the world.
We are part of the Third world people
Who will leave their stamp on Amerika.
Who will leave our stamp on Amerika.

What kind of jobs did the parents of the children have?

What do they mean by “secretly rooting for the other side?”

Are Chinese and Japanese the same ethnicity? What are they trying to do by saying “we are the children” of both of them?

What is the purpose of these lyrics?

More importantly, look closely at his uniform? Where have you seen similarities in the uniform such as the jacket and beret?
In a documentary, Aoki says this in describing the daily police brutality he saw against minorities:
“I could easily see the similarities between the concentration-camp experience and the conditions in the West Oakland ghetto.”
What kind of experience would one have at a concentration camp?
What does this quote tell you about how the police treated minorities in Oakland and the Japanese internment camps?
How would you feel if the police treated you unfairly based on what you look like?
How do you think this motivated Aoki to fight for equality?
Remember how both Kochiyama and Aoki were sent to interment camps along with about 120,000 Japanese interns? It took 40 years for the Japanese-American community to finally receive an apology from the U.S. government. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed by President Reagan, officially apologized and compensated over 100,000 surviving Japanese interns $20,000 each.
Below are pictures of the Japanese internment camps.
Housing in Amache, CO.
Mess hall where the Japanese ate.
Official notice for Japanese relocation.
How does this look differently than your own home?
After release, the Japanese returned home to this.
A Japanese family returns home to find their garage vandalized with graffiti and broken windows in Seattle.
Signs publicly displayed in a neighboorhood.
Japanese Redress
Hooray! The Japanese received money
an apology from the U.S. government. Asian-Americans, and other minorities, have been fighting for equality for decades! Racism is now gone and we have achieved that equality by now, right?
According to 2014 statistics, white households still make more money than black households and Latino households
Men make an extra average of $10,000 yearly compared to females
In a 2009 report, 2/3 criminals who were given life sentences were non-white
White Americans held about 88% of the nation's wealth in 2010 but make up 64% of US population. Black Americans held 2.7% of the nation's wealth but make up 13% of US population.
Ask yourself, do you know any influential Asian-American historical figure in American history? That's right. The history we teach in schools aren't racially fair.
Police brutality are constantly making headline news today, similar to what Aoki witnessed as a child. So far at least 776 people were shot by police in 2015, 161 were unarmed. Although a majority of the victims are whites, the shooting of minorities is disproportionate to their US population. Movements within the minority communities continue to rally up in response to these unjustified deaths such as Trayvon Martin. Protests and riots are happening across the nation. Phrases like #blacklivesmatter are circulating throughout media.
Police Brutality
Trayvon Martin
On February 26, 2012, 17 year-old Trayvon Benjamin Martin had left his father's house to go buy Skittles and ice tea. Neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman called the police, reporting Martin as behaving suspiciously in the neighborhood. After police told Zimmerman to not approach Martin, Zimmerman hung up and did the opposite. According to George, there was a physical altercation when he approached Trayvon and ended up shooting Trayvon in the chest. Trayvon Martin is a black male. Do you think this would have happened if Martin was a 17 year-old blonde, white girl buying Skittles and ice tea?
Asian-Americans stood alongside other members of the oppressed. More importantly, the "Yellow Power" Movement
with other movements to push towards a common goal. However, the doors of racism still stand today and open or close depending on your skin color. Can you help what your skin color looks like? Is it fair to give someone privileges while denying others based on appearance? If the Declaration of Independence claims that "all men are created equal," do we see it today? This is not just an issue of "one side has an easier life than the other." People are actually losing their lives because of racism. After all, how would you feel if your friend got shot because of what he/she looked like?
In Conclusion
Students in an Asian-American group celebrate MLK Day in Philadelphia.
Supporter for #blacklivesmatter protest.
Look familiar?

Every day people face issues of inequality, where do you stand in the fight?
Source 1: Kochiyama interview
Source 2: Malcolm X assassination
Source 3: Black Panther Party
Source 4: Richard Aoki
Source 5: Aoki in documentary
Source 6: “Free Huey” Rally
Source 7: Kochiyama’s anti-war demonstration
Source 8: Third World Liberation Strike
Source 9: Third World Demands
Source 10: Chris Iijima, Joanne Miyamoto, & Charlie Chin

Fujino, D. (2012). Samurai among panthers Richard Aoki on race, resistance, and a paradoxical life. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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