Saturday, March 20, 2010

Richard Oaki

Richard Aoki (1938 – 2009) was an American civil rights activist. He was one of the first members of the Black Panther Party and was eventually promoted to the position of Field Marshall. Although there were several Asian Americans in the Black Panther Party, Aoki was the only one to have a formal leadership position.

Aoki was born in San Leandro, California in 1938. He and his family were interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah from 1942 to 1945. They moved to Oakland, Ca after World War II ended. Aoki spent eight years serving in the US Army, first as a medic and later in the infantry. He attended Merritt College for two years, where he became close friends with his longtime acquaintances Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the founding members of the Black Panther Party.
The organization was founded in October 1966, one month after Aoki transferred to the University of California in Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1968 and a Master of Social work degree in 1970.
Aoki died at his home in Berkeley from complications from dialysis. 

Aoki's life was chronicled in the 2009 documentary film, Aoki.

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