Kuromiya, Kiyoshi

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KUROMIYA, Kiyoshi (b. 9 May 1943;d. 10 May 2000), activist.

Kiyoshi Kuromiya was a Japanese American civil rights, antiwar, gay liberation, and AIDS activist whose personal political history demonstrates the importance of the cross-fertilization of social movements in the making of queer politics.

Born at Heart Mountain, Wyoming, in a World War II internment camp for people of Japanese ancestry, Kuromiya became politicized as a civil rights, antiwar, and gay liberation activist in the 1960s. He participated in the Congress of Racial Equality restaurant sit-ins on Route 40, Aberdeen, Maryland, in 1962; participated in the 1963 March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech; and was injured in an act of police violence at the State Capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, while leading black high school students in a voter registration march in 1965.

In 1968, as an architecture student at the University of Pennsylvania, Kuromiya protested the use of napalm in Vietnam by first announcing that a dog would be burned alive in front of the university's Van Pelt Library, and then, when thousands came to protest, he distributed a pamphlet reading, "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."

Kuromiya participated in an early homosexual rights demonstration at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, in 1965. He was one of the founders of Gay Liberation Front–Philadelphia in 1969 and, in an important act of cross-movement solidarity, served as an openly gay delegate to the Black Panther Party's Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention, held at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1969. It was during this convention that the Black Panther Party endorsed the gay liberation struggle.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Kuromiya was a pioneering AIDS activist whose participation in the AIDS mobilization effort helped to redefine the nature of social movement activism and to reinvigorate LGBT politics in the AIDS era. He was at the forefront of AIDS activist efforts at cross-race and cross-class coalition building. Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, he was a long-standing member of the direct action group ACT UP Philadelphia. He participated in some of ACT UP's most dramatic and influential protests in the United States and abroad and was an active member of the ACT UP People of Color Caucus. In a parallel effort to overcome class-and race-based divisions among people living with HIV and AIDS in Philadelphia, he helped to found the multiracial and multiclass People with AIDS (PWA) coalition We the People Living with AIDS/HIV. In the early 1990s, the activities of this group became one of the most significant avenues for political participation among low-income sexual minorities of color.

Together with other activists across the United States and the world, Kuromiya helped to challenge the authority of biomedicine in AIDS research and treatment. In the self-help style of the PWA movement, he directed significant attention to the education and empowerment of people living with HIV and AIDS. He was an internationally recognized treatment activist who participated in the struggle for community-based research and for research that mattered to the variety of groups affected by AIDS, including people of color, drug users, and women. He also edited the ACT UP Standard of Care, the first standard of HIV care written by and for people living with HIV.

Kuromiya is perhaps best known as the founder of the Critical Path Project, a newsletter, 24-hour telephone hot line, Web page, and free Internet service for people living with HIV and AIDS in the Philadelphia region and beyond. He developed Critical Path to be an organizing tool and a comprehensive source of HIV treatment information in the Internet era. Accordingly, he was the lead litigant for a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to overturn the 1995 Communications Decency Act on Internet Censorship. In 1999, Kuromiya sued the United States in a class action suit to decriminalize medical use of marijuana.

Kuromiya's personal and political influences were eclectic. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he worked with architect R. Buckminster Fuller, helping Fuller to complete many of his books. Kuromiya is credited as Fuller's "adjuvant," meaning, roughly, "catalyst," on Critical Path (1981), one of Fuller's apocryphal ruminations on technology and human history, and Kuromiya edited another of Fuller's books, Cosmography (1992), after Fuller's death. Kuromiya's interest in and commitment to digital democracy were derived in part from Fuller's philosophy.

Kuromiya died on 10 May 2000 due to complications from AIDS.


Forster, Evan M. "Philadelphia's Kiyoshi Kuromiya Lights Up." POZ Magazine (February/March 1996).

Jeff Maskovsky and

Julie Davids

see alsoaids and people with aids; aids coalition to unleash power (act up); antiwar, pacifist, and peace movements; homophile movement; new left and student movements.