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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Racial Justice
Richard Aoki, a revolutionary, civil right activist and a memebr of the BPP passed away
On March 15, Richard Aoki, a revolutionary and a civil rights activist died. Aoki was a founding member of the Black Panther Party (BPP), becoming a Field Marshal. Using his military training, Aoki assisted members of the BPP in acquiring weapons and trained members in defending the community from the Oakland Police. Aoki was also a leader in the third world Liberation Front (twLF), an organization that led strikes, resulting in the establishment of Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies department.
At the age of four, Aoki was confined with his family in a concentration camp in Utah, during the Japanese Internment of World War Two. After the war, Aoki’s family moved to Oakland and still in his youth, Aoki enlisted in the military, however, he later was discharged for dissent against the Vietnam War. Growing up in West Oakland, Aoki was a close friend of Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal, and helped found the BPP.
Although the BPP had several Asian-American members, Aoki was the only Asian-American to achieve a formal leadership position. His connections to the community along with his revolutionary politics made him a Branch Captain, and later a Field Marshal. Using his military training, Aoki assisted members of the BPP in acquiring weapons and trained members in defending their community from the Oakland Police. He also provided political education, leading discussion and classes for BPP members concentrating on Marxist, Leninist, and Maoist theory.
In 1968, while a Field Marshal with the BPP, Aoki became a member of the Asian American Political Alliance, a student organization that held a leading position in the twLF fight for Ethnic Studies. From Through twLF, Aoki merged his background in community organizing with student movements.
For many, Aoki represented internationalism and solidarity. In a statement about solidarity between oppressed communities, Aoki said "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 inclusionist"