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    1. #1
      w.i.s.e.'s Avatar
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      Richard Aoki: The Japanese Black Panther (Not your average Asian)

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      Back in the Day...
      Richard Aoki, Charles Brown and Manuel Delgado, leaders of the Third World Liberation Front in the 1960s. Photo from Muhammad Speaks,1969.
      By Neela Banerjee

      Richard Aoki walks up the stairs at the historic Café Med in Berkeley. He is wearing a blue leather jacket. He shakes my hand revolutionary-style, and starts telling stories. The
      62-year-old Aoki — field marshal for the Black Panther Party, Third World Liberation Front leader, professor — still has eyes that burn bright from the fires of activism.

      Only 4 years old when World War II broke out, Aoki and his family were interned in the Topaz, Utah internment camp. Four years later Aoki moved to West Oakland, where he grew up immersed in African American culture. After high school, Aoki spent eight years in the U.S. Army before coming back to Oakland to attend school. After spending some time at Merrit College, Aoki transferred to U.C. Berkeley and landed right in the middle of two of the biggest social movements of the 20th century.

      “For me, it was a time of hot lead, cold steel and explosives,” Aoki says. “Because I found myself on the front lines by accident.”

      Aoki had come back to Oakland for an education, saying that he wanted to collect the knowledge held at the University, and bring it back to the community where he thought it belonged.

      Aoki was involved with the Black Panther Party from its inception, and was the only Asian American member to attain a formal leadership position.

      “That I was a field marshal is one of the biggest secrets of the last 50 years,” Aoki says.

      At Berkeley, Aoki became a member of the Asian American Political Alliance, a student organization that led the fight for ethnic studies. From 1968, Aoki was one of the leaders of the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), the group who led a strike that resulted in the development of Berkeley’s ethnic studies department.

      “The Third World Liberation Front strike at Berkeley was the longest — at three months — ugliest — thousands of dollars of cost to the university — and bloodiest — 168 of us arrested — in the history of the U.C. system,” Aoki says.

      At the time, according to Aoki, the leadership of student activism was all or nothing, a reflection of the chaotic ’60s. “We needed fighters,” he adds, “people who would stand up for what they believed and fight physically.”

      For a moment, Aoki’s jovial face darkens.

      “Things I saw as a leader in the 1960s movements were traumatic, even for a war veteran,” Aoki says.

      Aoki in the ’60s. Photo from San Francisco Examiner, 1969.
      In a January 29, 1969 San Francisco Examiner photograph, Aoki is shown in his signature leather jacket and sunglasses, blocking Berkeley’s Sather Gate with a large, wooden stick in his hands. This was the first day of the strike and Aoki ended up in jail, charged with assault for putting two police officers in the hospital.

      “I don’t regret it,” Aoki says. “We did what we had to do.”

      What makes Aoki more than just a historical legend is his continuing activism. Not only has he been an active and vocal presence in the East Bay for the last 30 years, but he was also involved in Berkeley’s 1999 Third World Liberation Front Strike. Aoki served as both an advisor and a negotiator in the 1999 strike, which called for a more autonomous ethnic studies department.

      Aoki saw a world of difference between the two strikes.

      “It was a different time, a different struggle,” Aoki says. In 1969, many of the TWLF leaders were made up of ex-military men. Most were about 10 years older than the average student. Charlie Brown of the African American Students Union had served in the Coast Guard for three years, and Manuel Delgado of the Mexican American Students Union was an ex-Marine. The administration was also less willing to work with the students, resulting in three months of strife.

      In 1999, a hunger strike held by seven students brought a fast victory.

      “In 1969, we would have never considered a tactic like that because of its passivism,” Aoki says. “But the times were different. Had the students in 1999 done the same thing as the students in 1969, I don’t know if things would have come out.”

      But Aoki still believes in radicalism. He looks to the protests such as last year’s WTO frenzy in Seattle, and even the recent uprising in Cincinnati, as necessary steps to make a difference.

      “Can students alone take over state power? I think so, but it rarely happens,” Aoki says. “But they can raise a lot of hell. University students are the bellwether of society. They are the future.”

      Richard Aoki, Charles Brown and Manuel Delgado, leaders of the Third World Liberation Front in the 1960s. Photo from Muhammad Speaks,1969.
      By Neela Banerjee

      Note: Richard donated some of the first defend weapons for police patrols to the BPP. Richard has always been active in the communities, and today after he has retired from his job, he still doing workshops and speaking about the past as well as present conditions like the War, Economy, and Police Abuse.

    2. #2
      w.i.s.e.'s Avatar
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      Here's a four minute documentary on him!

    3. #3
      Jacuma's Avatar
      Jacuma is offline Forward To PanAfricanism

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      Arrow The struggle wasn't just black and white Asian-Americans dubbed Yellow Panthers

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      The struggle wasn't just black and white
      Asian-Americans dubbed 'Yellow Panthers' helped form militant group
      MOMO CHANG / Oakland Tribune 8oct2006

      Richard Aoki is arrested at Telegraph entrance to the University of Berkeley. (1969 Oakland Tribune File Photo) -- A Legacy of Activism: Behind Fury, Black Panthers Laid Course for Social Programs WILLIAM BRAND & CECILY BURT / Oakland Tribune 8oct2006

      Richard Aoki is arrested at Telegraph entrance to the University of Berkeley. (1969 Oakland Tribune File Photo)

      Richard Aoki remained incognito to the world outside the Black Panther Party until the early 1990s, when he came out as a charter member of the revolutionary group that was birthed in West Oakland. "It was a closely guarded secret," said Aoki, one of six Asian Americans among the 5,000 official members of the Black Panther Party.

      But at memorial services for party co-founder Huey Newton, who was killed on Aug. 22, 1989, Aoki attended in full Panther uniform: a black beret, black leather jacket and shades.

      "What makes him a person of historical significance is his leadership in the struggle for social justice," said Diane Fujino, professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-writer of Aoki's forthcoming biography.

      In the years following Newton's funeral, more stories appeared about the "Yellow Panther" and the pivotal role he played in the development of the Black Panthers, though little has been published about who he is.

      Born in San Leandro, Aoki was not yet 4 years old when the United States entered World War II. His family was forced, along with 120,000 other Japanese and Japanese Americans, to relocate to "concentration" camps.

      After the war, Aoki, his father and grandparents resettled in West Oakland. The neighborhood once populated with families of Japanese, Italian, Polish and Greek descent had turned into a predominantly black ghetto, where many had migrated from Southern states for defense jobs.

      Aoki said the community was a tight-knit one, and he knew of the Newton, Seale and Hilliard families early on. But it wasn't until he attended Merritt College that he became close friends with Newton, a pre-law major, and Bobby Seale, another party co-founder.

      Aoki transferred to the University of California, Berkeley in 1966, but didn't lose touch with his West Oakland friends. The month he transferred, Seale and Newton founded the revolutionary organization, in October 1966.

      "Bobby and Huey came up with this program, the 10-point program, and they ran it by me," said Aoki, who was heavily involved in Marxist-Leninist ideology by then.

      "I was one of the first to join (the Black Panther Party)," he added. Aoki also started a Berkeley chapter and recruited new members, including two other Asian Americans.

      He said it was partly his upbringing in the mostly black, post-World War II West Oakland neighborhood that tied him to the black community. He had arrived at the notion that a revolutionary, black nationalist group was the path to liberation, he said.

      Aoki joined the U.S. Army for eight years, serving as a medic and later in the infantry, where he was trained as an expert in small arms and sharpshooting. He was honorably discharged after he became adamantly opposed to the Vietnam War, but managed to utilize his military skills in the Black Panther Party. He became a party field marshal in 1968.

      In fact, lore has it that Aoki provided the party with its first guns and trained members as part of a program to patrol the police in Oakland, "which, at that time, was running roughshod over the people in the community," he said.

      Aoki said he provided them with small rifles, pistols and shotguns.

      He also provided them a different type of arms — political education. Newton, Seale and Aoki often discussed political ideology, including communist leader Mao Tse-tung's "little red book."

      The year Aoki was appointed the party's field marshal was the same that UC Berkeley and San Francisco State students became embroiled in the tumultuous Third World student strikes.

      It was also the same year that, in the mainstream media, Asians were pitted against blacks as the "model minority," said Fujino, who wrote "Heartbeat of Struggle" documenting another revolutionary, Yuri Kochiyama.

      Aoki became a spokesperson for the Asian American Political Alliance, which supported the Black Panther Party and was the first known pan-Asian political organizations in the nation. The group was anti-war and supported a Third World College and Ethnic Studies program.

      To this day, Aoki remains solidly supportive of the Panthers and keeps in touch with members of the organization.

      "The Black Panther Party not only talked the talk, but walked the walk," he said, adding that during the years the party was active, crime declined in Oakland.

      Aoki became one of the first coordinators of the Asian American studies program at UC Berkeley, and was there for three years. He spent the next 25 years as an instructor, counselor and administrator in the Peralta Colleges.

      Though Aoki, now 67, has been plagued by ill health recently, he has spoken out for some causes publicly.

      This summer, when Bob Watada, father of the first Army lieutenant to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq, visited the area, Aoki spoke in support of the younger Watada at a meeting in Berkeley.

      "I managed to get one political blow in despite my disability," he said.

      source: The struggle wasn't just black and white - Inside Bay Area 8oct2006

      ---------- Post added at 11:24 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:14 PM ----------

      Field Marshal of the Black Panther Party, Co-Founder of Asian American Studies at UC Berkeley, Leader of the Third World Liberation Front Richard Aoki dies at age 71.


      Richard Masato Aoki, 1938-2009.

      Fearless Leader and Servant of the People

      It is with deep sadness that we inform you that Richard Aoki, due to complications from longstanding medical problems, passed away on March 15, 2009.

      Born on November 20, 1938, Richard was a righteous fighter and a warrior in the truest sense – he dedicated his life to his beliefs and the struggle for human rights. He was a field marshal in the Black Panther Party, a founding member of the Asian American Political Alliance, a leader in the Third World Liberation Front Strike at UC Berkeley, co-ordinator for the first Asian American Studies program at UC Berkeley, an advisor for Asians for Job Opportunities, a counselor, instructor and administrator at Merritt and Alameda Colleges .

      We will remember him for the personal impact he made on our lives and the social impact he made on the community movements of people of all colors:

      “…Based on my experience, I’ve seen where unity amongst the races has yielded positive results. I don’t see any other way for people to gain freedom, justice, and equality here except by being internationalist.” – Richard Aoki

      Memorial arrangements are pending and information will be available at a later date.


      Harvey Dong

      Richard Aoki Commemorative Committee.

      Que en Paz Descanse....

      cesar a. cruz (teolol)

      ---------- Post added at 11:28 PM ---------- Previous post was at 11:24 PM ----------

      Growing up was know easy job for Richard at the early stages in his life he and his family were placed in an Internment camp during World War II, a childhood prisoner held at Topaz Concenation camp in Utah from 1942-1945. He joined the military at a young age, Having left the Army after two years of service, Richard was intimately aware of the vicious treatment and punishment that the U.S. government could meter out.

      Being Japanese-American and growing up in Black West Oakland, he was tight with Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, as well as David Hilliard years before the party started. He also attended Merritt College for two years before transferring to U.C. Berkeley in 1966. Richard remembers" we had discussed pressing political, social issues of the day, that we wanted to do something about it, so we got together one night and hammed out the 10 point program of the Black Panther Party.

      Richard said, there were several Asian American members of the BPP, he was the only one attain a formal leadership role. Richard attended the first meeting of the BPP his connection to the community along with revolutionary politics and his action made it easy for other Panthers to accept him as a equal, he was made branch captain they accepted his rank, and later in the Party Huey promoted him to Field Marshall. Richard said, "one of the first things the Party did was patrol the police of Oakland, they were killing a dude a week, and set up Political Education classes for members and the community."

      Richard says" I've seen where unity amongst the races yielded positives results. I don't see any other way for people to gain freedom, justice, equality here except by being inclusionst"

      Enrolling at U.C. Berkeley soon after the founding of the BPP, Richard became a leading member of the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA). A student based organization whom platform closely resembled the Party's 10 point program. Richard would recruit blacks on the campus by passing out information and telling students about the Party and when Elrage Clever started teaching classes on campus in 1968(Experienmental class 139X) he was there organizing for the BPP.

      From 1968, onward Richard was involved in networking with various groups cutting across communities, and nationalities. Richard says" One of the least understood aspects of the liberation movement era is the impact that many Black, Brown, Yellow, Red radicals had on one another. Ideological and organizational influences spilled across vast distances, while Panthers absorbed Maoism, Asian Americans took to the lectures and speeches of Huey Newton, Chicanos and Puerto Rican radicals replicated some of the BPP' Serve the People programs" as well as Native Americans like groups like AIM".

      Richard was a founding member of the Third World Liberation Front on the campus of UO Berkeley in 1969 which was a formation of African Americans, Native Americans, Africans, Mexican Americans, Asian students, striking to win demands for a Third World College on campus.

      The college would include departments for Chicano studies, and Native American Asian, and Africans studies, with the aim of the program being to help oppressed minority communities in American. TWLF is were striking for the same basic demands that the students at San Francisco State were. The formation of radical students successfully challenged, the most conservative intuitions in the nation the University system and won vital space in the form of Ethnic Studies Depts. On both UC Berkeley as well as San Francisco State campuses With these new departments has made higher education transformed the cultural imagation of many people and communities of color, thanks to people like Richard Aoki who paved the way for many others to fellow. Richard said, "That if it not for the BPP the many student and political groups for students rights would not have emerge."

      Note: Richard donated some of the first defend weapons for police patrols to the BPP. Richard has always been active in the communities, and today after he has retired from his job, he still doing workshops and speaking about the past as well as present conditions like the War, Economy, and Police Abuse.

      My dear friend and warrior.
      Thirty eight years ago on 12/04/2009 the united snakes murdered Fred Hampton & Mark Clark, this date also marks the 6 year anniversary of the launching of this site in solidarity of these martyrs.

    4. #4
      Walk Wit Me's Avatar
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