Tag Archives: Richard Aoki

An Attractive Paradox: My Relationship With Richard Aoki

By Guest Contributor Cecile Lusby, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

Image courtesy of Cecile Lusby

How can anyone explain a man who lived two lives? I try to unravel the mystery of Richard Aoki, because in 2012 Seth Rosenfeld reported that Richard served as an FBI informant. I view Richard’s life as having two turning points: one in 1956-7, and then again in 1966-1967, as he formed a new identity through the ‘60s activism that transformed and radicalized him.

Disclosures about Richard’s work with the FBI have been hard for his contemporaries, his students — and for me — to accept. My knowledge of Richard began in 1966 as he was leaving the Socialist Workers Party and joining the newly organized Black Panther Party. He joked about his earlier conservatism and his vote for Nixon in 1960 before his political ideas evolved. He voiced contempt for the student socialists who read, but never risked action. “I’m down for the struggle,” Richard would say. He did have a history.
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Connecting The Past And The Present: Harvey Dong’s Insights On The Allegations Against Richard Aoki

By Guest Contributor Tala Khanmalek

L-R: Richard Aoki, Charlie Brown of the Afro American Student Union and Manuel Delgado of the Mexican American Student Confederation, March 1969. Photo: Muhammad Speaks via San Francisco Bayview.

On September 6, 2012 I interviewed Harvey Dong, a veteran of the Third World Liberation Front and Asian American Political Alliance at the University of California-Berkeley, where he is a professor in the school’s Department of Ethnic Studies. As our conversation progressed, I noticed the American and California flags waving through the window, and that’s when the irony of our personal and political complexities hit me.

However, Dong’s timely insights about the allegations against fellow veteran Richard Aoki connected the past and the present to clarify our positions in critical ways that also provide tools for the future of social justice scholarship and activism.

Tala Khanmalek: I was re-reading Richard Aoki’s speech notes from the Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) Founding Rally (July 28, 1968) in “Stand Up: An Archive Collection of the Bay Area Asian American Movement, 1968-1974″ and remembering what I think is one of the most important things about Aoki’s legacy: his comparative analysis of racialization as well as his centralization of interracial solidarity. Is there a relationship between Aoki’s politics and Seth Rosenfeld’s claim that he was an FBI informant?

Harvey Dong: Definitely. His politics is internationalism, and he’s a symbol of Afro-Asian unity. A lot of times when people talk about peoples of color and examples from history, examples from the past, Richard’s name is always mentioned because he was someone that bridged two or three different worlds. There’s a lot of support for Richard’s life and what it represented. So, in a lot of ways I kind of felt it was an attack on his legacy in terms of what he contributed and what he had represented.
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On Richard Aoki

Say it ain’t so.

When the news broke that beloved radical activist and former Black Panther Richard Aoki may have been working as an FBI informant, I was floored. I had the same reaction as Phil, over at Angry Asian Man:

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this.

Granted, Aoki, who committed suicide in 2009, is not around to verify, deny, or explain these claims–claims that will no doubt help to sell the crap out of this new book. I’m not willing to accept this bombshell just like that, especially based on one article that happens to be written by Seth Rosenfeld, the same guy who wrote the book making these claims.

We’re also talking about the FBI, who definitely aren’t amateurs when it comes to shady discrediting tactics. It’s not hard to believe that there are holdovers from that era who would go to these lengths to tarnish Aoki’s legacy. Hell no. Not buying this. Need more information.

So I went looking for all the information I could find–and what remains is frustratingly inconclusive. Here’s a quick walkthrough of FOIA requests, COINTELPRO, other informants, and why the truth in these situations is so hard to find. Continue reading

Aoki: a documentary on the life of richard aoki

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Aoki, by Ben Wang and Mike Cheng, is a new feature documentary chronicling the life of the late Richard Aoki, a third generation Japanese American who became one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party in 1966. Here’s the film’s official description:

Aoki is a documentary film chronicling the life of Richard Aoki (1938-2009), a third-generation Japanese American who became one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party. Filmed over the last five years of Richard’s life, this documentary features extensive footage with Richard and exclusive interviews with his comrades, friends, and former students. Viewers will learn about Richard’s childhood in a WWII Japanese American concentration camp, growing up in West Oakland, and serving eight years in the U.S. military. The film explores previously unknown facts about the formation of the Black Panther Party such as how Richard became intimately involved in its founding and contributed the first two firearms to the Party. Aoki highlights how Richard’s leadership also made a significant impact on individuals and groups in the contemporary Asian American Movement. Richard’s contributions to the groundbreaking organization Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) and its involvement in the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) student strike led to the formation of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley. Above all else, Aoki is a film that demonstrates the incredible dedication to justice that one man’s life has had and how the lessons of solidarity, commitment, and discipline can carry on from one generation to the next.

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