To my dear friend and comrade, Daniel Kato
Posted on December 22, 2019
(This was originally a facebook post. I converted it for friends and family who are not on facebook)
To my dear friend and comrade, Daniel Kato
Rest in Peace and Power.
I’m shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of my dear friend and comrade Daniel Kato. The last few days, I’ve been processing and plowing through my emails from the last 20 years to recount his life.
I wanted to share a few memories from his early years, the 1990s. I hope others will too. Some of this is hazy (and maybe a little embarrassing); they were some of the most defining moments of my life.
Above all else, Daniel was one of the most loyal and committed friend in times of need. When he said, “I got your back, homie,” he really meant it and was there for you every step of the way. Even though we were not in touch for many years, I can see how this continued to be true throughout his accomplished life.
For context, the 1990s were a turning point for many young activists in California. Like Daniel, many of us who cut our teeth during the reactionary times of Pete Wilson, especially in San Diego and the US-Mexico border region, it became a foundation to our politics and identity. (We were also organizing in the era of dot matrix printers, pagers, cassette tapes and even before AOL!).
With the elimination of affirmative action, it seemed to be a pivotal moment for Asians, especially East Asians, to not be silent but instead be bold, courageous and LOUD.
I remember first meeting Daniel when I was 19. He was hella sharp, brutally honest and full of rage. I felt the same and was drawn to his vigor and intensity. I not only found an (angry) Asian brother to rage with but to also learn and grow with.
I also learned a lot from Daniel.
He taught me about music. From dead prez to portishead, I miss those mix tapes and CDs.
He taught me about theory and practice. He often sent hella deep and long emails and papers.
He taught me how to laugh (and talk shit).
He taught me how to struggle. I remember long nights talking about life purpose, politics, relationships, and then more about relationships. Those were some fun times.
He taught me how to complicate ideas, paradigms, almost everything lol
He taught me about Buddhism, body work and spirituality. He was already on some next level stuff at a young age.
He taught me that we could all do better, especially folks on the left <3
We learned how to organize on the inside and outside and learned to build across the contradictions of the academy, community and movement. We forged an unforgettable friendship and even with the time apart, I will cherish those formative years together.
At UC San Diego, our home base was the UCSD Cross-Cultural Center when it just started. Daniel was the Chair of the Student Affirmative Action Committee (SAAC) in 1996 during an extreme backlash to not just affirmative action but to any progressive politics. I remember doing a Black Power study group with him and other organizers with Professor George Lipsitz, which totally blew my mind. He was even the campaign manager for the Students First! Slate when I ran for AS President.
It was through all this that our rage turned into self compassion and love and finding our life purpose.
After college, while he worked at the UCLA Labor Center and I worked at The Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego, we co-coordinated a statewide conference on Immigration and the US-Mexico Border for summer interns at UC Berkeley and UCLA and Students for Economic Justice in San Diego. It was a powerful experience and our last project together. And later in life, he was one of my groomsman.
I know this is just one chapter of Daniel’s life and there is so much more to learn. I hope to connect with others to share more memories and stories.
Somehow I imagined at some point in life I would share the impact he had on my life and that I loved him like a brother. I guess that is what I’m doing now. I’m glad that he was in a good place in so many aspects of his life and that he surrounded by love and family when he passed in London.
I wanted to leave folks with something he sent me in 2001 about going to graduate school and it sorta just captures his spirit.
“…I want to devote my life to rework the conception of politics to somehow integrate the project of possibility. People nowadays are hungry for something new. We need new words, new ways of thinking, new hope. We need to expand the boundaries of possible thought in order to accommodate what the people are yearning for.”
“The project of possibility” is a damn good and necessary project and from all that people have shared it is clear he continued to touch the lives of so many.
He was truly a beautiful and humble human being and I’m gonna hella miss him.
Rest in peace and power, Daniel.
PS: For folks who don’t know, Daniel also wrote a book called “Liberalizing Lynching: Building a Racialized State” which I hear is amazing. I have some catching up to do and look forward to reading it.
PPS: I’m also including some cheesy and rare photos of us in a tuxedo at my wedding. He would totally appreciate this. I will have more photos when I get back to the US next month.