Please join us celebrating the birthdays of these notable figures and applaud them for their work in Social Justice.
Yuri Kochiyama (May 19, 1921)
Yuri Kochiyama is a Japanese-American human rights activist. The events of Pearl Harbor changed her life. After the attack, the FBI imprisoned her father as a potential threat to national security. During her father’s imprisonment, he was denied medical care. This led to his early death a day after he was release from prison in 1942. After his death, Yuri and her family were forced to live in the Japanese concentration camps at the Santa Anita Assembly Center for several months before they were moved to the War Relocation Authority concentration camp at Jerome, Arkansas for three years.
In 1960, Kochiyama and her husband, Bill joined the Harlem Parents Committee. She became a member of Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity. She witnessed Malcolm X’s assassination in Harlem and held him in her arms when he died. In addition, Kochiyama was a member of the Asian American movement during the Vietnam War protests. She continues to advocate for social justice through various causes such as, political prisoners’ rights, nuclear disarmament, and reparations for the Japanese American internment. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
Daniel Berrigan (May 9, 1921)
Daniel J. Berrigan is an American Catholic Priest and a counterculture peace activist. Berrigan, his brother Philip Berrigan and Thomas Merton founded an interfaith coalition to protest against the Vietnam War. In 1968 during the Tet Offensive, he traveled with Howard Zinn to Hanoi to receive the first American POWs released by North Vietnam. In that same year, he and eight other Catholic protesters destroyed 378 draft files in the parking lot of Catonsville, Maryland. After this incident they became known as the Catonsville Nine. As a result, he was sentenced to three years in prison.
Barrigan opposed American intervention in Central America, Kosovo, and the Middle East throughout the 1990s and 2000s. In 2012, he along with other clergy went to New York City’s Zuccotti Park to ask Trinity Church, which is the third-largest landowner in Manhattan, to drop charges against Occupy activists, including retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard, for occupying its empty lot on 6th Avenue and Canal Street on Dec. 17
Stevie Wonder (May 13, 1950)
Stevie Wonder was born Steveland Hardaway Morris. He is an artist, singer-songwriter, and musician. In 1961, he signed with Motown’s Tamia label. Wonder has been an influential figure in popular music since the 1960s. He has produced and recorded several songs such as “I just Called to Say I love you”, “That Girl”, “Ribbon in the Sky”, “Ebony and Ivory” and many more.
In addition to being an award winning musical innovator, Stevie Wonder is a humanitarian who has used his music to support a number of social causes. In support of making Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a national holiday, Wonder released “Happy Birthday” (1980), a song celebrating Dr. King. Wonder joined a number of musicians and entertainers, including Quincy Jones, Lionel Ritchie, and Michael Jackson to produce the song “We are the World” (1985) to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Africa. He teamed with Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, and Elton John (1988) to produce “That’s What Friends Are For” to support AIDS charities.