Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Richard Aoki 1938-2009 

Richard Aoki, one of the nation's unsung revolutionaries, passed away this weekend. The third-generation Japanese American lived in internement camps as a child before returning to the Bay Area. He spent eight years in the Army before being honorably discharged for his opposition to the Vietnam War.

Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton ran the Black Panther Party's 10-Point Program by him before going to press, and it's popularly believed that Aoki gave the Panthers their first weapons. As an original member, he also helped train new recruits in the handling of their weapons and developed the "policing the police" tactics that brought the BPP to national attention.

In 1968, he was Field Marshall for the Black Panther Party. In 1969, he organized the Third World Student Strike at Berkely, which was successful in establishing the first Ethnic Studies program in the USA. He was one of the original coordinators of the university's Asian Studies Program. Recently he came out in support of Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada, who was court martialled for his refusal to deploy to Iraq.

Check out this trailer for the 2006 documentary about the man Bobby Seale called "a radical Japanese cat."

- Frank Sherlock

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