Did you know that one of the first members of the Black Panther Party was a Japanese-American guy named Richard Aoki? I’m watching a documentary about him right now. Aoki spent 10 years of his childhood in a concentration camp during World War 2, and then he moved to West Oakland, where he quickly became a radical political activist. There were actually several Japanese-Americans in the Black Panther Party, fueled no doubt in part by the fact that they were also harshly discriminated against around the time that the civil rights movement was taking place. Aoki was appointed as Field Marshall of the Party; among other members, he was known as the mysterious man who supplied guns to Party founder Huey Newton. Such an interesting life story! The documentary follows him around on the last six years of his life and interviews friends and experts who remember him.
You can watch Aoki at the SF International Asian American Film Festival, which starts next week.