We Thrive: AF3IRM Women Remember Maya Angelou and Yuri Kochiyama

The women of AF3IRM join the world in mourning. This past week we women lost two of our own – Maya Angelou and Yuri Kochiyama.

Throughout their lives, they planted seeds in our activist souls and shone light in places of darkness. They gave us words and inspiration when we had none. Maya pushed the boundaries of possibility as she said “my mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive.” Yuri told us that we “people have the right to violence, to rebel, to fight back.” We took these words to heart as we chose to thrive and fight back, as we continue to choose to demand more for women.

We salute Maya Angelou for her work as a writer and advocate, for standing up against discrimination and for being a survivor of sexual assault and speaking her truth. We carry the words of “Phenomenal Woman” and “Still I Rise” in our hearts. Her courage in sharing her life story and reclaiming her voice inspires us to share our own stories and lives. We learned from Maya that our voices hold power and that trauma and pain don’t have to hold us back.

We salute Yuri Kochiyama for her political work and activism. She is not just the woman holding Malcom X in her arms as he died – but she was a woman who spoke out for civil rights for all of people of color, who called on freedom for political prisoners, who demanded reparations for Japanese Americans after internment. She worked tirelessly for the people and we strive to do the same. We learned from Yuri that activism is never-ending and that it should be expansive and bold and should build with other movements and struggles.

They are our sheroes – they were women of color in whom we saw our own lives and the lives of our sisters, mothers, grandmothers. They were women in whom we saw a life-long vibrancy and fire that have helped fuel our work in the struggle. They were women who refused to be invisible. And they are women we will never forget. They shall not be “vanished” from history. The world of women shall remember them in every struggle for women’s dignity and liberation.

We salute you, Maya Angelou. We salute you, Yuri Kochiyama.

We choose to thrive because of women like you – your words, wisdom, and strength will live on in us all as we women continue the fight. We are forever your sisters and daughters in the struggle. May you both rest in power.

Tributes, Dedications, and Love from AF3IRM Women

Hail Maya, full of grace
Our love is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy loom,
Weave for us.

Holy Maya, mother of Guy
Pray for us seekers now and
At the hour of our depth.
I mean…

The old gods only exist
Through our faith in them,
through our devotion,
through ceremony do we manifest and sustain their blessings.

I am only a small brown woman,
With a face wet with tears.
Hear my prayer Mother Maya,
Let me rise in the spirit
of your pain,
of your love.

-Katrina Socco, AF3IRM National Programme Coordinator (May 28, 2014) 

Struggled with the news of Grandmother Maya’s transition into the ancestral realm the entire day…our great ones are leaving, but their lives have left inspirational legacies behind that blazed a trail for others follow behind…Grandmother Maya, in showing up as your full self this lifetime, your life, your spirit, your words propelled humanity forward. Grateful to have known your work. Will carry on your wisdom by passing it along to upcoming generations. Thank you for all the gifts….Rest well and easy in the light

Kristen Jackson, AF3IRM LA (May 29, 2014)

We mourn the deaths of writers because they guide us, they become part of our lives. I will never forget how I felt when I was 17 and heard my first Maya Angelou poem in our Boyle Heights classroom – “Still I Rise.” It planted the activist seed. I will never forget how I felt when my AF3IRM sisters performed “Phenomenal Woman” for me on my 30th birthday, at a Stand With Grace event. Maya Angelou has been key to me growing up. I mourn and thank her, I know she Rests In Power. Maya Angelou forever.

Jollene Levid, AF3IRM National Chair (May 28, 2014)

Yuri Kochiyama reminded the world that Asian American women are not the docile, passive women that the white man/colonizer wants us to be. People always remember her simply for holding Malcolm X as he died, but she was a force onto herself – in the Black, Brown & Yellow Power movements. For the hard work she put in. For being a shero to the invisible, myself included. My heart is heavy but our resolve is strengthened. Yuri Kochiyama forever.

Jollene Levid, AF3IRM National Chair (June 2, 2014)

Rest in Power Yuri Kochiyama. I’m certain Maya Angelou will love your company. You and your work will never (ever) be forgotten. #activist #shero #love

– Dorothy Santos, AF3IRM SF Bay Area Coordinator (June 2, 2014)

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