Dear Yuri and Malcolm,
I am writing this love letter to honor you and offer my gratitude for the solidarity work you did together. Your work was expansive, visionary, and liberatory. Your dreams were never limited to what was possible at the moment, for individuals, but always building towards a future where we all could be free.
As a Queer and Trans Nikkei Hafu kid growing up in Minnesota in the ’90s, I was haunted by the specter of Vincent Chin and the slurs and fists I endured every day on the school bus and playground. I was left seeking affirmations and reflections of myself. Your courage to resist gave me the courage I needed to move through this world. Without your work, I would not be who I am.
Yuri, I was 16 years old when I discovered you by reading through the Anthology Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire, Edited by Sonia Sha. I learned that the U.S. Government took your father as a prisoner of war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He died only hours after returning home. While you were imprisoned in a Japanese American concentration camp, you cared for others, supported children’s education, and did your best under impossible circumstances. You taught me that resilience and survival can be determined by the simple act of caring for others in the most horrible of conditions. This is still the foundation of my organizing practice.
Malcolm, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X that summer. I learned about how your family survived your father’s death and your mother’s institutionalization. I felt deeply connected to you when I learned that during your own incarceration, you turned to books as your own form of personal liberation. The fact that you and your siblings fought for years for your mother’s freedom from psychiatric institutionalization also made me feel hope and validation that I was worth fighting for too. You turned poison into medicine and gave that medicine to your people.
While I was not held in a prison or concentration camp, I was detained in psychiatric hospitals frequently and against my will, starting when I was 12 years old until my last hospitalization at 19. I endured hate, violence, and abuse at the hands of my peers, teachers, cops, social workers, psychiatrists and psych nurses. I learned to believe that I was less than and had no control over my own body or destiny. I was lonely and did not have the language to describe what I was experiencing, but I was beginning to see how deep the roots of oppression are.
You both taught me that no violence can ever take away our humanity or worthiness of love, care, and dignity. This gave me the courage to fight for my own liberation and in solidarity with my peers when I needed it most. I got the tools I needed to get liberated from the psych wards. I stopped the cycle that sent me down a path towards incarceration or institutionalization. Now I use your wisdom in my work to support other people stabilizing after the trauma of being caged, experiencing harm, and feeling desperately alone, heartbroken, and afraid.
You both understood the necessity of solidarity in action and modeled that throughout your life. Together, you two planted seeds of solidarity, from Harlem to Japan.The relationship you two built helped me understand that I was a part of lineages of people who have always resisted, and who refused to accept anything less than liberation for everyone. You helped me understand that my light skin, citizenship, masculinity, and the illusion of the model minority could be used against the state and in solidarity with other oppressed people. You two taught me that our individual liberation must always connect to our collective liberation. That our pain and struggle have always been intertwined. Organizing and bridgebuilding are a part of how we take the grief, anger, and pain and transform it and the world around us; caring for others is an act of resistance and healing.
I believe all people who desire true liberation should engage with our internalized anti-Blackness, racism, ableism, xenophobia, misogyny, capitalist realism, and the accompanying shame it comes with. Both of your work were guides that led me to organizations like The Audre Lorde Project, Fireweed Collective, Justice Committee, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, Picture the Homeless, and coalition spaces and resources like Communities United for Police Reform and Transform Harm where I learned how to practice and train in Copwatch, wellness planning and community safety, and how to build trust and care across difference while owning my own privilege. I learned from my ancestors and elders across movements, from Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson to the comrades of the Disability Justice Collective to the Rainbow Coalition that facing the truth of the harm we cause to ourselves and one another is painful and necessary if we are going to get free. That no matter how hard it may be, no matter how much we may fall, we have to keep trying to make the world we all deserve.
These past two years have brought me back to you both. The people of the United States are facing backlash from the summer of Uprisings demanding an end to anti-Blackness and calls to Defund the Police. We’re fighting against Vaccine Apartheid and health care inequality globally, fighting to end the exploitation of our lands and resources, fighting for agency and self-determination for Trans people and Women, and fighting for safety from hate violence and discrimination in our communities as Asians and Asian Americans. We are continuing your work while battling new and different contexts and conditions. And we know the roots of our suffering are the same as the day you two met. The cages you both fought to dismantle are still here, and they still serve the same purpose they always have. Our people are coming to that critical awareness and consciousness that you both challenged us to seek, grapple with, and build together. We are struggling against the backlash that comes with change and transformation, with the anxiety, rage and grief that fuel the crisis that is capitalism. We are understanding that our hurt is as interconnected as it is unique to each of our communities.
Thank you, Yuri and Malcolm, for not accepting who you were supposed to be in an oppressive world and for choosing love for your people and truth over fear and complacency. Thank you, for modeling how to be open, reflective and what solidarity in action actually looks like.
With Love and Solidarity,
Elliott Fukui, he/him, is an organizer, trainer and facilitator in/from low income, neurodivergent, mad and disabled Queer and Trans BIPOC movements. Originally from the Midwest, he has worked and built with organizations, collectives and humans organizing for liberation nationally. He currently lives in occupied Chochenyo Oholone Territory (aka Oakland) and runs a website called Mad Queer Organizing Strategies, learns as an Advisory Council member with APIENC, and works with the Education Team of the Fireweed Collective. When he isn’t thinking about the revolution, he enjoys learning 90s’ covers on the ukulele and reading sci-fi.