We Honor These Heroes
"What camp were you in?" was a common greeting between Japanese Americans during Warren Furutani's childhood. This history shaped the California Assemblyman's life and work, including co-organizing the first Pilgrimage to Manzanar, a Japanese American concentration camp, a tradition that continues to this day.
As a young man in the 1960s, Furutani was influenced by the Black Power movement. Studying Black writers and attending protests ignited a spark in him to pursue a future where Asian American voices could take part in the conversations around race. His efforts have directly led to the recognition of Manzar as a historic site, and the establishment of Fred Korematsu Day in remembrance of Korematsu's Supreme Court case fighting against Japanese American imprisonment.
The Basement Workshop
In 1969, a group of NYC Asian American artists began gathering in a basement on Catherine Street. Within a few years, their movement would grow to dozens of members, publishing radical newspapers, creating art, and spearheading activist movements in Chinatown. They became known as The Basement Workshop, and their members would take inspiration from the Chinese Revolution, the Black Panthers, and other radical movements to formulate an Asian American ethos and identity.
Among their ranks were well known figures like Corky Lee, photographer/documentarian, and Nobuko Miyamoto, Charlie Chin and Chris Kando Ijima, who recorded the album "A Grain of Sand." Through their organizing efforts, Asian American creatives found a voice, and their members would go on to impact the culture after the Workshop closed its doors.
Yuri Kochiyama's life intersected with America’s most important moments. Born in 1921, incarcerated for being Japanese in 1943, in 1960 she moved to Harlem, NY and began a decades-long fight for liberation. She was a member of Asian America and Black civil rights organizations, as well as the founder of Asian Americans for Action.
She famously met and bonded with Malcolm X over shared beliefs in racial justice and rights. When Malcolm X was assassinated, she was there by his side. From the 1960s on, she would remain committed to fighting for BIPOC liberation and pushing radical, community-based philosophies.
Grace Lee Boggs
Grace Lee Boggs lived to be 100 years old, and she spent most of that century engaged in Black organizations while becoming a central figure in the Asian American Movement as well. Enduring a lifetime of discrimination, she found herself swept up in Black-led protests in her Chicago community, setting her on the path of radical social justice.
She would move to Detroit to edit a leftist newspaper, where she would live out the rest of her life. In Detroit, she would create the Detroit Asian Political Alliance, and continue her work with the Black community. Her name is synonymous with progressive values, grassroots support, and racial equity, a legacy carried on at her namesake Boggs Center, a hub for activist organizing in Detroit, and the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, which educated Detroit youth with the values the Boggs couple upheld.
CAAAV was founded in 1986, when working class Asian women organized themselves to build community power among immigrant, refugee, and impoverished communities in New York City.
Their work encompasses protecting the residents of Asian communities from gentrification, fighting for adequate resources in public housing for immigrants, and providing young Bangla, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese speakers the chance to work with low-income communities and advance themselves via internship experience.
Red Canary Song
Sex workers are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Red Canary Song works to provide safety for them, with a focus on Asian and migrant sex workers. Their work has been spotlighted internationally in the wake of the Atlanta spa shootings, and they've provided extensive resources on the needs of the community.
Based in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, APIENC provides services and community to queer APIs in the Bay Area to build towards a safer, brigther future for our entire community. In addition to inspiring leadership among queer, non-binary, and gender noncomforming Asians, they also take on climate change and support other orgs in fighting for trans justice and many other shared goals.
In addition to 'equality,' APIENC teaches values of honoring history, abundance, honesty & vulnerability, innovation, reciprocity, and self-determination. These pillars guide their members in carrying on the legacy of API activism and organizing to achieve solutions that protect and nourish our queer community.
There are so many heroes to thank, and give our deep apreciation to. We regretfully could not thank every one of the countless, powerful, individuals and groups that were pivotal in bringing awareness and power to the Asian American Community.
We hope that reading the stories of these heroes inspires you to learn more about this incredible history.