Talk on Richard Aoki and ‘Reclaiming the Legacy’

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OAKLAND — “Richard Aoki, Black Panther and Asian American Activist: COINTELPRO Attacks and Reclaiming the Legacy” will be presented on Sunday, Sept. 9, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the EastSide Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd. in Oakland.

Richard Aoki (1938-2009) is remembered as one of the few Asian Americans to be active in the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. He was also involved with the Third World Liberation Front and the Asian American Political Alliance.

Richard Aoki

Since his death, Aoki has been the subject of a documentary and a book. His name is making headlines again because of a new book, “Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power” by Seth Rosenfeld of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which alleges that Aoki was an informant for the FBI.

COINTELPRO was the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program, whose goal was to infiltrate and disrupt domestic political groups like the Black Panthers. Many of those who knew Aoki argue that he is a posthumous victim of “snitch-jacketing,” a COINTELPRO tactic in which someone is falsely labeled as an informant in order to discredit him among his peers.

The scheduled speakers are:

Diane Fujino, professor at UC Santa Barbara and author of “Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance and a Paradoxical Life”:

Emory Douglas, artist and former Black Panther Party minister of culture;

Tarika Lewis, artist and first female member of the Black Panther Party;

Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party and a friend of Aoki since they both attended Merritt College in Oakland.

The event is co-sponsored by the EastSide Arts Alliance and the Freedom Archives.

“This event is intended to bring together various communities to challenge the dominant COINTELPRO-like politics that have framed the unsubstantiated allegations against Richard and ensure that the community has a time and place to gather and reclaim his memory,” the Freedom Archives said in a statement.

“This event also offers space to re-center the conversation around ethnic unity, militant politics and state efforts to discredit movements, organizations and individuals who reject white supremacy, pacifism and electoral politics.

“The current attack on Richard’s legacy is more than simply a journalist’s ploy to sell more books; one must consider the larger context and meaning of these assaults. Similarly to the SF8 case, which began in 2007, the attack on Richard is an additional campaign of the state to politically re-criminalize and discredit the Black Panther Party specifically, the Black liberation struggle more generally and in this case, foster disunity between the common interests of Black and Asian liberation.

“We look forward to hearing from those knew and struggled alongside Richard and to discuss how our communities can come together and move forward.”

For more information, call (510) 533-6629 or (415) 863-9977.

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  1. Peralta TV To Broadcast Exclusive 2008 Interview with Richard Aoki

    In 2008, Peralta TV produced an award-winning documentary on the origins of the Black Panther Party at Merritt College. As part of the documentary, “Merritt College: Home of the Black Panthers,” Peralta TV interviewed Richard Aoki, who for many years worked for the Peralta Community College District as a teacher, administrator and counselor.

    Although regarded by many as a leader in civil rights and activist circles, recent evidence suggests that Richard Aoki may have been an FBI informant. Peralta TV conducted a lengthy interview with him in October 2008, just months before he died in 2009.

    Peralta TV will broadcast its entire 90-minute interview with Richard Aoki in three episodes this week on Wednesday (9/12), Thursday (9/13) and Friday (9/14) at 8:30 p.m. Peralta TV can be seen on Comcast cable channels 27 (Alameda and Berkeley) and 28 (Oakland, Emeryville and Piedmont) and throughout the Bay Area on AT&T’s U-Verse channel 99.

    Was Richard Aoki an FBI informant or a committed revolutionary? See his story in his words this week on Peralta TV.

    View a trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5RvwMIC5gg

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