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Google celebrates activist Yuri Kochiyama's 95th birthday with Doodle

By Marilyn Malara
Google celebrates activist Yuri Kochiyama's 95th birthday with Doodle
Google celebrated Yuri Kochimaya's 95th birthday with a Google Doodle on Thursday, May 19, 2016. Kochimaya was a famed activist who worked closely with the African American, Latino and Asian American communities. Photo by Google

WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- Google has released a new doodle honoring the 95th birthday of late Asian-American activist and former WWII internee, Yuri Kochiyama.

Thursday's Doodle, by artist Alyssa Winans, is an illustration of the civil rights protest leader's face behind horn-rimmed glasses, speaking into a megaphone before a line of picket signs reading "Equality."

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Kochiyama, who died of natural causes in 2014 at the age of 93, was a lifelong advocate not only for Asian-American rights, but also African American, Latino and Native American rights. Her passion and energy ignited such iconic moves as President Ronald Reagan's signing the Civil Liberties Act, which consisted of a formal government apology for detaining Japanese-Americans. The act was signed in 1988.

During her early twenties, Kochiyama and her family were moved by the government to an internment camp in Arkansas during WWII. They spent two years there. Later, Kochiyama relocated to Harlem, New York, where her proximity to African American and Latino residents inspired her to get involved in civil rights movements.

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A brief but close friend of civil rights leader Malcolm X, Kochiyama was at his side during his New York speech in 1965, an event that ended in his death after gunmen stormed the event. She is pictured in Life magazine peering over her friend's bloodied body at the time of the incident.

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"She was not your typical Japanese-American person, especially a nisei," or a second-generation Japanese-American, Tom Toyama -- her cousin -- said, according to NPR. Toyama ultimately wrote a one-act play based on Kochiyama's friendship with Malcolm X.

"She was definitely ahead of her time, and we caught up with her."

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