Here’s another reason why we wish we lived on the West Coast: “Aoki,” a new documentary about Richard Aoki, the third-generation Japanese American who was one of the founding members of the revolutionary African American Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, is premiering in Oakland (where the Black Panthers were formed) on Nov. 12.
At “Here and Now,” an event for Asian American non-profit organizations in San Francisco yesterday that Erin and I participated in, someone handed out cards promoting the premiere. And this morning, Angry Asian Man had more information about it.
Like most Americans, and probably many Asian Americans, I wasn’t aware of the role Aoki played in such a turbulent period of our history. It turns out (the documentary reveals for the fist time) that Aoki, a veteran by the mid-’60s, was the man who gave the Panthers their first guns, from his personal collection, and taught them how to use firearms. Although there were AAPI members of the Panthers, Aoki was the only one in a leadership poition, given the rank of Field Marshall.
He went on to be one of the leaders of the emerging Asian American consciousness of the 1970s. He died just this year.
It humbles me to learn how little I still know about the history of Asian America.