"My friend Richard Aoki was there when Huey P. Newton and I founded our Black Panther Party, discussing political analysis and seeking critique approval of our Ten Point Program. This book is a necessary kind of reading that illuminates my friend’s political revolutionary life’s meaning: Richard Aoki’s reverence." —Bobby Seale, founding Chairman and National Organizer of the Black Panther Party
"Richard Aoki straddled the worlds of ethnicity by the radical bridge he built through his engagement with an authentic, even saucy American radicalism. Diane C. Fujino unearths Richard’s story with sympathy and warmth, and in the process redeems the legacy of a remarkable American radical." —Vijay Prashad, author of The Darker Nations: A People's History Of The Third World
"Samurai among Panthers is a bracing, honest, and revealing biography. The book is a powerful reminder that although social movements operate collectively within social and political contexts, they are ultimately enacted by individuals who, like Richard Aoki, are flawed, complicated, dedicated, and visionary." —Daryl J. Maeda, author of Rethinking the Asian American Movement
About the Author
Diane C. Fujino is associate professor of Asian American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her books about leading Asian American activist Yuri Kochiyama (Heartbeat of Struggle) and with Fred Ho (Wicked Theory, Naked Practice) are published by the University of Minnesota Press.
Let's speculate first that Aoki was an informant : there were always some very out of control, unstable characters on the periphery, around the more focused and righteous Panthers -- Seale and Newton's accounts will support that statement, as will George Jackson's. (That was also true of pre Panther movements -- look at the records of spies and double agents that hung around the Nation of Islam in Malcolm X's time. )It is possible that Aoki as a young man, was torn in many directions, and was tempted by the dollar bill. That is possible. And many of us may have done the same in his shoes -- we cannot say for sure we wouldn't. Brought up in the toughest ghettos and brutal streets, interned in a racist concentration camp, marginalised by white racists who contemptuously considered Asians a joke, just 'gooks' and railway track workers, not 'real men' like Anglo Saxons -- who knows how you or I would react to all that hate? Who knows how we would react to survive as very young men and teenagers in those conditions Aoki found himself ? We do not know how we would behave. Are we perfect? I'd say we are not.
But -- if he was an FBI plant, then other parts of the story simply do not add up -- if he was a spy, surely he'd have split from the scene as soon as he could, or as soon as he'd made his money -- surely, it would be dangerous to hang around the scene after having been a plant. But Aoki stayed around the Panthers and their causes for his whole life, long after the state was interested in watching them. Aoki stayed with the Panthers when they were no longer a powerful danger to the state, and were just a group of dignified elders. Now, think about it -- does that sound like the kind of man who was a spy and an informant?Read more ›
Having known Rich Aoki during the early 60s and being shocked by the recent news that he was a government informer for 17 years, I decided to pick up this book and see what the author has to say in his defense. It is apparent she was not familiar with the allegations when she wrote the book and nothing in it refers to or suggests Aoki's connections with the FBI. I found the book to be quite interesting, the story of a young Japanese-American who became alienated from the U.S. government, and Franklin Roosevelt in particular, for sending the entire West Coast Japanese community to desert prison camps without any due process whatsoever. His extensive family in California, many of whom were citizens, was given 24 hours to pack up, and then their homes and real estate assets were confiscated, never to be returned and with no compensation!! The author prints verbatim Aoki's reminiscences and then finishes each chapter with notes from her research verifying his recollections. By and large she found his statements were accurate and true. There are some questions which are not answered: there is no mention in the book as to how Aoki made his livelihood during the early 60s when he was apparently informing on the Panthers, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Young Socialist Alliance. How was he being supported? He says his Mom, who he lived with as a young adult, was earning minimum wage. His father was a criminal who lived hand to mouth. So where did Aoki get the money that paid for the guns he donated to the Black Panthers? Here was Rich Aoki with highly expensive rifles giving them away freely to Huey Newton and other Panthers without a second thought!Read more ›
The author's comments after each section are tiresome and laborius. She cites numerous sources that attempt to lend credibility to her work. This work reads more like a manifesto for equality issues which in itself is admirable however this biography reads more like a text book.