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Kiyoshi Kuromiya
(May 10, 1943 - May 11, 2000) U.S.A.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya

Gay rights activist and AIDS advocate


Kiyoshi was born at Heart Mountain in northwest Wyoming, where the government had established one of the prison camps for Japanese Americans citizens which were officially called "relocation centers." Citizens were removed from their homes, schools, and workplaces, and were crowded into tarpapered barracks surrounded by chain link fences, barbed wire, and guard towers.

Heart Mountain itself was swept by severe winters and duststorms, but despite these conditions the people there found the will and the way to improve their quarters, to plant gardens, and to print newspapers.

In January 1944 the government began drafting some of the prisoners in these camps into the military. Of those, most accepted the draft as a way to prove loyalty in time of war; but a minority chose civil disobedience as a way to regain the rights of citizens, and Heart Mountain was the site of the most organized resistance.

And finally, towards the end of the century, the government made modest reparations to Japanese American citizens whose constitutional rights had been so deeply violated.

In 1968 he wrote a flyer protesting the use of napalm in Vietnam, and drew a crowd of thousands who were concerned that he would burn a dog alive at the University of Pennsylvania's Van Pelt Library, just as he had announced.

Once they had gathered, he passed out another flyer among them: "Congratulations on your anti-napalm protest. You saved the life of a dog. Now, how about saving the lives of tens of thousands of people in Vietnam."

He read everything from Einstein to Madame Blavatsky; he kept up to date on immunology and practiced kundalini yoga. He was never systematic about his spirituality, and never a crusader for one true faith. He knew too much blood has been spilled over the earth and time in the name of God, and never felt at home in organized religions.

When Kiyoshi lay dying he was surrounded by friends, neighbors, and comrades who loved and cared for him. Some of Kiyoshi's last words and conscious moments concerned the well-being of others. He was not spared suffering or death, and none of us are. But even when he was dying he was kind and wise.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya, one of the world's leading AIDS activists, died due to complications from AIDS. To the last, Kiyoshi remained an activist, insisting on and receiving the most aggressive treatment for cancer and the HIV that complicated its treatment. He participated fully in every treatment decision, making sure that he, his friends and fellow activists were involved with his treatment every step of the way. He never gave up.


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