Born in 1921 in San Pedro, California to two immigrants, Kochiyama described her twenty-year-old self as “a small-town gal living comfortably, and totally apolitical.” In 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kochiyama was incarcerated at Camp Jerome in Arkansas – one of the incarceration camps that held 120,000 Japanese/Japanese American citizens during WWII. Kochiyama cites this as “the beginning of [her] political awakening.”
Kochiyama’s work in the Asian American struggle for social justice was extensive – from her involvement in anti-imperialist and anti-Vietnam War protests, to labor organizing, to supporting the development of Ethnic Studies programs, to advocating for compensation for Japanese American incarceration. Kochiyama also fought against the racial profiling of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians post- 9/11. At a Bay Area peace vigil and rally in September 2001, Kochiyama delivered a speech calling upon Japanese Americans to “remember Pearl Harbor” as Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians increasingly became the “newest targets of racism, hysteria, and jingoism.” Kochiyama connected Japanese American history of incarceration to racism against Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians, while incorporating transnational issues of US imperialism and war.
Designer: Tayler Pineda @bytppj
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