Richard Aoki (1938-2009)

Mabuhay si Richard Aoki!

Rest in Power.

“A hero serves the people until his last breath”

Richard Aoki. Asian American radical. Student activist at UC Berkeley. Former Field Marshall of the Oakland chapter of the Black Panther Party. Community connected intellectual and academic advisor. And oh yeah… BADASS.

My partner and I had the privilege to actually see a rough cut screening of the documentary film about his life, directed by Mike Cheng and Ben Wang, at which Mr. Aoki was gracious enough to attend and field questions from the audience. He was definitely one of the more remarkably charismatic old timers I have ever had the experience of listening to. The sharpness of his politics (he obvious still understood that imperialism was alive and well) was only matched by his razor sharp wit. He seamlessly crossed back and forth between a passionate agitation and a stand up comedy act which had the mostly young audience of color either pumping their fists or rolling with laughter.

I can only consider myself immensely fortunate that I had the opportunity to personally witness the depth of humanity from an activist who not only lived through the radical political era of the late 60s, but had the drive to stay connected to the community, continue to make contributions, and NEVER dull the sharpness of his political outlook. He also approached his mistakes as well as the mistakes of the organizations he participated in with honest, straight forward self-criticism. Despite the fact that this dude was one tough SOB, he definitely was humble enough to not pretend that he was beyond making mistakes. For example in the documentary he was very forthright about criticizing the male-supremacist tendencies of certain members of the BPP, including himself.

His involvement in the Black Panther Party, which I sadly admit I am not that well studied upon, did offer me a certain lesson about solidarity. In order to bring about true change, one must side with the groups and individuals most oppressed and impacted by the devastating effects of imperialism and one must always be willing to make concrete connections and build true solidarity between the struggles of one’s own group and other oppressed peoples. Being a Japanese American who joined the Black Panther Party and held a high level of responsibility in the organization was testament to Mr. Aoki’s unyielding commitment to building a genuine alliance amongst all oppressed people.

I wish that I could have had more opportunities to see Mr. Aoki speak, give lectures, or talk-story, but I’m glad that I was able to see him and listen to him in the flesh at least once. I walked out of that event thinking that I hope I could one day be as badass as Richard Aoki.

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.


One Response to “Richard Aoki (1938-2009)”

  1. […] The bright side to this ostensibly tragic tale, however, could easily be summed up through the words of the recently departed Richard Aoki: […]

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