May 19, 2000
The following notice by Kiyoshi's friends in Philadelphia was posted on the Web site of Critical Path AIDS Project, an organization Kiyoshi founded.
We regret to inform you that Kiyoshi Kuromiya, one of the world's leading AIDS activists, died on the night of May 10, 2000, 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.
Kiyoshi devoted his life to the struggle for social justice.
He was a committed civil rights and anti-war activist. He was also one of the founders of Gay Liberation Front - Philadelphia and served as an openly gay delegate to the Black Panther Convention that endorsed the gay liberation struggle.
As a pioneering AIDS activist, Kiyoshi was involved in all aspects of the movement, including radical direct action with ACT UP Philadelphia and the ACT UP network, PWA empowerment and coalition-building through We The People Living with HIV/AIDS, national and international research advocacy, and loving and compassionate mentorship and care for hundreds of people living with HIV. Kiyoshi was the editor of the ACT UP Standard of Care, the first standard of care for people living with HIV produced by PWAs.
Kiyoshi is perhaps best known as the founder of the Critical Path Project, which brought the strategies and theories of his associate/mentor Buckminster Fuller to the struggle against AIDS. The Critical Path newsletter, one of the earliest and most comprehensive sources of HIV treatment information, was routinely mailed to thousands of people living with HIV all over the world. He also sent newsletters to hundreds of incarcerated individuals to insure their access to up-to-date treatment information.
Critical Path provides free access to the Internet to thousands of people living with HIV in Philadelphia and this region, hosted over a hundred AIDS related web pages and discussion lists, and showed a whole generation of activists and people living with HIV that the Internet can be a tool for information, empowerment and organizing. He was a leader in the struggle to maintain freedom of speech on the Internet, participating in the successful lawsuit against the Communications Decency Act.
Kiyoshi understood science and was involved locally, nationally and internationally in AIDS research. As both a treatment activist and clinical trials participant, he fought for community based research, and for research that involves the community in its design. He fought for research that mattered to the diversity of groups affected by AIDS, including people of color, drug users, and women.
He fought for appropriate research on alternative and complementary therapies as well, and was the lead plaintiff in the Federal class action lawsuit on medicinal marijuana.
In the first issue of Critical Path, published in 1989, he wrote, "it is our conviction that . . . a heroic endeavor is now needed both to provide for the continuing health maintenance of Persons With AIDS the world over, and, by the year 2001 to find a cure for the ravages of AIDS for all time." That task he set us still remains unfinished.
We will miss Kiyoshi's intelligence and the clear and even analysis he brought to any meeting or political activity. We will miss his commitment, and dedication to the idea that all people living with HIV should participate in the decisions that will affect their lives. And we will miss his wit, his smile, his sense of fun.
If you want to honor Kiyoshi, we urge you to make a donation to the activist organization of your choice. And sometime soon, today, or tomorrow, or next week, take the opportunity to speak truth to power, join a picket line you might have passed by, or help plan a demonstration against global injustice that you thought you were too busy to be involved with. He would have liked that.
Kiyoshi had many friends and did not make enemies, despite being involved in some of the most controversial issues, including civil rights (he was injured in a voter-registration campaign in Alabama), gay rights, opposing the Vietnam war, AIDS treatment and services, fighting Internet censorship, and providing medical marijuana.
A 1200-word obituary was published May 12 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.phillynews.com/inquirer/2000/May/12/obituaries/O-PKUROMIYA12.htm
We learned from this article that Kiyoshi had marched in an early gay-rights demonstration almost 35 years ago, on July 4, 1965 in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. I also marched in that picket line, which was organized by the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C.
Kiyoshi once mentioned that he had learned early about injustice, having been born in prison -- in one of the U.S. government internment camps for persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
We suspect that ultimately Kiyoshi's most important contribution to history may have been in the fight against Internet censorship. The Communications Decency Act was created by the Christian Coalition and its allies, and in its final form added quietly to a major telecommunications bill in Congress without opportunity for debate. Many believe that if it had gone into effect, it would have prohibited all positive or neutral discussion of gay life or issues on the Web or other public computer systems -- giving inestimable advantage to certain people over others as much of our public communication becomes digital. Kiyoshi was one of many plaintiffs in the successful lawsuit against the law, but he may have been the most important; he forced the government lawyers to admit that if the law stood, he could be prosecuted for the AIDS prevention information on the Critical Path computer system. The initial hearings, which laid the groundwork for the U.S. Supreme Court review which declared the law unconstitutional, were held in Philadelphia, and each day Kiyoshi walked several blocks from his home to the court to testify.
In one of his last conversations Kiyoshi said that he had principles he believed in all his life, and he had never deviated from them, so he was at peace.
Julie Davids of Philadelphia FIGHT has been appointed interim director of Critical Path AIDS Project (http://www.critpath.org), and the organization will continue, as Kiyoshi requested.
ISSN # 1052-4207
Copyright 2000 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.
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