Richard Aoki Remembered

March 21, 2009

Aoki was already sick when he checked himself out of the hospital to take care of his mom who had had a heart attack. And even though his own health wasn't good, he organized a funeral service for his mom and spoke at it upon her death. Just about a month after his mom's service, he passed.

Aoki remained politically active despite his ailments in recent years, including supporting Lt. Ehren Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq, and attending rallies with friends like activist Yuri Kochiyama. He also supported political prisoners. He made sure to attend Black Panther Party reunions and commemorative events, as well as events for the Asian American Political Alliance and other groups he had been involved in over the years.

He would speak with revolutionary fervor at some of these events. In the last several years, these speeches would wipe him out for several days afterwards but publicly, he never showed that his body was wearing down, according to friends.   

His friends have put together a blog where people can share photos and memories. I was particularly struck by this entry by Kei Fischer. Here, she talks about how when Richard was in the hospital two weeks ago, he was worried about getting a letter of recommendation that he had written for her, even though he was so sick. "That small act alone truly characterized the giving, nurturing and self-less human being Richard was," she writes.


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.



Wow, keep informing the community momo, a rare person most of America never knew existed
Thanks for the obituary Momo. Reading about Richard in the last few days has really moved me, just the unwavering level of commitment and some of the personal stories. May we treasure his legacy and attempt to carry it forward to the best of our ability
richard is proof that the movement and fight for social justice is well and alive - his raw dedication and activist spirit is truly inspiring, and i only wish i could have met him during my three year stint at merritt college.r.i.p. richard, you beautiful soul, you.