Richard Aoki, a charter member of the Black Panther Party and leader in the Third World Liberation Front Strike of 1969, died Sunday morning at his home in Berkeley from complications from dialysis, he was 71.
Aoki befriended Black Panther Party founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale when they were all students at Merritt Community College in the mid-60s, at a time when the college was a hotbed of political activism, and black revolutionary thought in particular.
The co-founders showed Aoki their 10-point platform and plan, which he liked. He became a member of the revolutionary group and helped organize the early rallies. He also gave them arms, which were then used to patrol the police against brutality.
Though Aoki is most well-known for his affiliation with the Panthers, he played an important role in UC Berkeley's Third World Liberation Front Strike in 1969, which celebrated its 40 year anniversary last week. He represented the Asian Americans in the strike for a third world college, which led to the founding of ethnic studies at Berkeley, as a leader in the Asian American Political Alliance.
Aoki spent another 25 years as a counselor, instructor and administrator in the Peralta College system. He is remembered by friends, colleagues and family members not only as a dedicated and principled political activist — especially someone who linked the struggles of all ethnic minorities and marginalized people — but as a devoted son.