Richard Aoki (1938‐2009) was the face of Asian
American political militancy in the late 60s and early 70s. Dubbed the Yellow Panther, Aoki was appointed the leadership position
of Field Marshal within the Black Panther Party. He gained notoriety within the Party by supplying guns and training for their
police patrols, and he was their most prominent non‐Black member. Aoki was also heavily involved with the Third World
Liberation Front as well as a founding member of the Asian American Political Alliance that formed in May 1968 out of Berkeley.1
In short, he was “one of the most important political leaders bridging the Asian American, Black Power, and Third World
movements.”2 In 2012, reporter Seth Rosenfeld of the San Francisco Chronicle accused Aoki of being an FBI informant
over a 16‐year period that included his involvement with the BPP. 3 Many longtime
friends, including Party co‐founder Bobby Seale came to Aoki’s defense as both the timing of Rosenfeld’s
article and the FBI’s longtime practice of snitch‐jacketing were thrown into question. Despite recent declassification
of additional files, Aoki’s involvement with the FBI remains in dispute and he is unable to speak for himself having
died of a self‐inflicted gunshot wound in 2009.
1 Diance C. Fujino, Samurai Among Panthers: Richard Aoki on Race, Resistance,
and Paradoxical Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), xi‐xiii.
2 Ibid. Also recited in special report by Momo Chang & R. J. Lozada, “Who Was Richard Aoki?,”
Hypen Magazine, http:// www.hyphenmagazine.com/content/who‐ was‐richard‐aoki
3 Seth Rosenfeld, “Activist
Richard Aoki Named as Informant,” San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Activist‐Richard‐Aoki‐named‐as‐
informant‐3800133.php#page‐1 (August 20, 2012).