Richard Aoki, 1938-2009

March 16, 2009

I just heard the news that Richard Aoki passed away Sunday at age 70*. Richard Aoki was one of the first members of the Black Panther Party and a field marshal of the revolutionary group.

Aoki was born in San Leandro, CA. He and his family were interned during WWII, and afterwards, resettled in West Oakland. Aoki befriended Black Panther Party founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale at Merritt College in Oakland, where they all went to school. Richard was also a student leader in the Third World Student Strike at UC Berkeley in 1968 and a member of the Asian American Political Alliance.

I'm sure Richard will be missed by many friends and people in the community. Feel free to post a message here. I am writing a full obituary on him for the local paper, which I will link to later.

Here's an article I wrote about him on the 40th* anniversary of the Black Panther Party. Here's an article that Neela Banerjee, also a Hyphen editor, wrote about him in AsianWeek in 2001.

*corrected from original version.


Momo Chang

Senior Contributing Editor

Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media, and freelances for magazines, online publications, and weeklies. Her writings focus on Asian American communities, communities of color, and youth culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Her stories range from uncovering working conditions in nail salons, to stories about “invisible minorities” like Tongan youth and Iu Mien farmers. She has freelances The New York Times, WIRED, and East Bay Express, among other publications.



He was a hero to the asian people. what he stood up for and how he fought should be remembered by all people. i certainly praise for what he has done for the weak and we should never forget this man.don nomura
All power to the people. RIP comrade.
RIP Richard. You were and still are a hero.
Wow, Richard was such an amazing character, really inspiring. He always seemed younger than his years. Have a safe journey, comrade.
I feel deeply sad to hear that you left us. You were so nice to me during my stay at Berkeley. You live in my heart...Your neighbour
I worked with Richard back in the 60's - it was on a project with the Panthers, and I was most flattered to be included. 30 years later we lived on the same street in Berkeley and again he inspired me by sharing all his current political and social enthusiasm. Richard was always a friend in my mind wherever I roamed.