It Takes Unity: Yuri Kochiyama

In Causes by Nilo ThomasLeave a Comment

Poetry is how I heal
Words are how I feel
The world around me
To know whats real

A friend of mine shared an email with me a couple of days ago as part of their weekly newsletter and this month’s theme was Women’s History Month which just so happens to be this month (March). This week my friend specifically highlighted a woman by the name of Yuri Kochiyama. I remembered learning about her during my first year of undergraduate school and the she had done during and after the Civil Rights Movement.

Yuri Kochiyama was a Japanese American human rights activist in Black, Latino, Native American and Asian-American communities. During World War II Yuri Kochiyama and her family was forced to relocate to an internment camp along with the tens of thousands of other Japanese Americans. After getting married and moving to New York where she lived in housing projects among Black and Puerto Rican neighbors she slowly became more inspired to join the Civil Rights Movement. Through her own experiences of in internment camps as well as working with other communities of color, she became more invested in human rights and civil rights activism and quickly turned her home into a center for activism and social . She befriended Malcolm X as her involvement in civil rights work amplified and became known as the woman in the iconic photograph of the night of his assassination who cradled his head in her hands after he was shot in 1965.


© Photo by dignidadrebelde

Yuri Kochiyama and her family opened up their home to activists in need of a place to organize and sleep and she organized campaigns to free activists and others whom had been unjustly imprisoned. In the 1980s, Yuri Kochiyama and her husband sought government reparations for Japanese Americans who had been interned which helped pave the way for Congress to approve a plan to pay $20,000 to each of the surviving Japanese Americans interned during World War II, in 1988.

Yuri Kochiyama understood the importance of collaboration, community and unity. She fought for anyone who was oppressed, she spoke for anyone who was silenced by injustice and she worked her whole life to repair the system of injustice that this country was built on. And that was the most inspiring thing to me about her life and mission for justice and human rights. To make real , we all must come together and stand up for each other as well as ourselves. We must work together as one.

I was inspired to write a nonet poem about this idea of coming together as people and working together to fight injustice. A nonet is a poem with nine lines. The first line has nine syllables, the second line has eight syllables, the third line has seven syllables, etc… until line nine that finishes with one syllable.

You, Me, & Us

Together we are unstoppable
Side by side fighting war and hate
Hand in hand we can spread peace
We can fight injustice
We can change the world
We must be one
It takes all
You, me