OAKLAND — Diane Fujino, the biographer of Black Panther member Richard Aoki, will speak at the Oakland Public Library’s Temescal Branch at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Fujino will discuss her new book, “Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance and a Paradoxical Life.” The Temescal Branch is located at 5205 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
According to the author: “An iconic figure of the Asian American movement, Richard Aoki (1938–2009) was also, as the most prominent non-black member of the Black Panther Party, a key architect of Afro-Asian solidarity in the 1960s and ’70s. His life story exposes the personal side of political activism as it illuminates the history of ethnic nationalism and radical internationalism in America.”
Aoki’s life was centered in Oakland and Berkeley, with influences from his childhood in the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp, growing up in West Oakland and an Army stint in the 1950s. He was awakened to political activism during the early years of the Cold War and developed into a significant political leader in the 1960s. Part of the research for “Samurai Among Panthers” was done at the Oakland Public Library.
Aoki, who passed away in 2009, has become the subject of a well-publicized controversy. In August, an article in The San Francisco Chronicle alleged that Aoki had been an informant for the FBI. In a subsequent editorial for The Chronicle, Fujino challenged the article, saying the allegation requires more substantiation. Fujino also suggested the FBI sometimes deliberately muddies the water in order to “cast suspicion on a legitimate activist.”
Fujino is chair and professor of the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She teaches and studies Asian American activism, Japanese American radicalism, and Afro-Asian solidarities. Her other books include “Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama,” a profile of a Japanese American activist renowned for her connections with Malcolm X; and “Wicked Theory, Naked Practice,” on Chinese American saxophonist, radical activist and writer Fred Ho.
For more information, visit www.oaklandlibrary.org.