My friend, Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama, passed away in her home in Oakland, California on June 1st, 2014. She was 93 years of age and lived a beautiful life.
Yuri and I first met in 2009, through a renowned human rights activist. Yuri had requested to be introduced to me, a human rights activist and child Life-sentenced prisoner, whom she said she has heard so much about. In one of Yuri’s correspondence to me she said, “You have a wonderful personality. We can feel it through your letters. Shakaboona! That’s a great name!” Yuri possessed keen insight, exceptional intuition and understood the power in a name.
Yuri was staunchly against mass incarceration, sentencing children to life imprisonment, the death penalty and injustice everywhere. Yuri said to me, “It seems that the U.S. government has wrongly been arresting innocent people and incarcerating them. We are all coming together to stop this outrageous action by the state. . . The state of Pennsylvania must stop putting innocent people in prison and think they could get away with giving life prison sentences. . . We are all thinking of you and wondering how we can get you out.” I immediately witnessed Yuri’s selflessness and passion for the struggle.
When I would speak to Yuri over the phone, she would shower me with love, affection and questions of concern as my very own grandmother does. “Shakaboona, how are you? How is your health? Do you need a fundraiser? Are you getting visits? Please hang in there. We’re going to get you out of prison,” she would say. Yuri was a deeply caring person. I told her I love her and that she is my hero.
Yuri once sent me a poem titled “Friendship,” saying that “. . . it reminds me of you.”
Friendship has no symbol or vow to make it whole:
It’s just a sacred covenant that’s locked within the soul
It seeks no special favors, or thought of gain or fame.
But what it does is precious, and is done in friendship’s name.
Yuri told me, “Friends are friends. And you are a wonderful friend to everyone. Can’t wait to meet you in person.” I never got the opportunity to meet Yuri in person, but I am fortunate to have met her at all. Yuri wasn’t just a friend to me, she was a wonderful friend to us all.
I am Kerry “Shakaboona” Marshall, founding member of the Human Rights Coalition, Co-founder and Editor of The Movement magazine, Prison Radio Correspondent and can be reached at: SCI-Rockview, Box-A, #BE-7826, Bellefonte, PA 16823.