“Harlem was truly a ‘university without walls.’”
Being in Harlem in the 1960’s, in the heart of all the activity and the excitement, it was hard for Yuri not to become involved with the Civil Rights Movement, as she saw many links and connections between their struggle and her own.
There were two trends in the Civil Rights Movement, one following the other in influence and popularity during the mid 1900's. At first, groups such as the NAACP, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) spearheaded the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, fighting mainly against the issue of segregation in America through the courtroom, and marches and protests and civil disobedience. Several key victories won by the Civil Rights Movement during this time included the court case Brown vs. Board of education ( http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0809176.html ) which made segregation in public schools unconstitutional, and the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which among other things, outlawed discrimination in voter registration requirements and public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants, and theaters, and withdrew government funding from programs which were discriminatory.
In spite of these victories, progress was slow, and many people lost faith in working for equality within the system. The movement for nationalism, of which Malcolm X was one of the most influential leaders, arose in the mid-1960s, and was based around the idea that the one solution for racism in America was for blacks to form their own nation and government, and be completely separate from whites. As his political philosophy matured, Malcolm toned down his separatist beliefs, realizing that it alienated people of other colors who might be fighting for the same dream. Although he still had a distant dream of blacks organizing their own government, he focused on improving conditions for blacks in America now, and went on to say "We will work with anyone, with any group, no matter what their color is, as long as they are genuinely interested in [ending black injustice]."
Yuri was in fact involved with both trends, or which later became known as separate movements: the Civil Rights Movement led by King and the Black Power Movement (or Black Liberation Movement) led by Malcolm X. Yet it was Malcolm’s philosophy that really changed Yuri’s perspective of the struggle for civil rights and caused her to become an ardent fighter for black nationalism. Yuri’s contribution to both movements in the 60’s is indelible. She marched with the blacks, helped them organize protest events, and showed great support for black organizations, including the Black Panthers. She also helped create a link to other cultures who were facing the same deprivations as the blacks, such as the Puerto Rican Movement, hoping to unite all deprived minorities under one common struggle. It was the movement that really educated Yuri on politics and radical philosophies, have attended the Organization of Afro-American Unity, Malcolm X’s Liberation School, and other schools such as Amiri Baraka’s Black Arts School. From this learning, she formed the beliefs that have, until even today, compelled her to fight injustices such as oppression and all ethnic communities and imperialism throughout the world
Yuri Kochiyama talks about two different kinds of movement, one for integration and one for separation: