Yuri Kochiyama, 93; was civil rights activist

Ms. Kochiyama was dedicated to activism that spanned races, nationalities, and causes.
Penni Gladstone/San Francisco Chronicle/File 2005
Ms. Kochiyama was dedicated to activism that spanned races, nationalities, and causes.

SAN FRANCISCO — Civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama, who appeared in a memorable Life magazine photograph cradling the head of Malcom X moments after he was shot, died Sunday in her Berkeley, Calif., home. She was 93.

Ms. Kochiyama’s activism led to the US Senate’s agreement to pay reparations and apologize to Japanese-Americans and others who were interred during World War II.

Ms. Kochiyama was living in New York’s Harlem neighborhood when she forged an unlikely bond with Malcolm X, and she witnessed his 1965 assassination in New York. The mother of six was sitting in the front row of the Audubon Ballroom Auditorium in New York when assassins burst in and gunned him down.


She was born in San Pedro, Calif., to a middle-class family. She and her family were interred for two years in Arkansas during World War II. After the war, she moved to New York and married her husband, Bill, who died in 1993.

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After her release at the war’s conclusion, Ms. Kochiyama dedicated her life to social activism that spanned races, nationalities, and causes, including vocal opposition of the Vietnam War and antiapartheid policies in South Africa while supporting independence for Puerto Rico.

‘‘Her tireless dedication to civil rights helped inspire generations of activists, including within the American Muslim community,’’ the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a prepared statement. ‘‘She will be fondly remembered by all those of us who continue to defend civil liberties and promote justice.’’

The California Assembly adjourned Thursday in Ms. Kochiyama’s memory.

She is the author of a memoir, ‘‘Passing It On,’’ and leaves four children and several grandchildren.