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Sun May 28 09:40:34 MDT 2000
New York Times, May 28, 2000
Kiyoshi Kuromiya, 57, Fighter for the Rights of AIDS Patients
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Kiyoshi Kuromiya, who was born in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans
and spent much of his adult life battling for civil rights and relief for
AIDS patients, died on May 10 in Philadelphia, where he lived. He was 57.
The cause was complications of AIDS.
When Kuromiya was told he had AIDS in 1989, he became a self-taught expert
on the disease. Patients fare best, he believed, when they understand the
illness, explore treatment options and participate in medical decisions.
He ran a community chest to help patients get free drugs, published a
newsletter and ran a 24-hour information line. He even accepted collect
calls from prisoners.
He also provided free Internet access to AIDS patients in the Philadelphia
region and ran an underground buyers' club that supplied marijuana free to
patients who found that it helped alleviate nausea from their other
Kuromiya, a short man with a pony tail and a wry wit, never forgot his
beginnings at the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming, and kept a
large picture of it on his apartment wall. Several years ago, he and his
mother, Amiko Kuromiya, revisited the site.
His activism began with the civil rights movement, when he was a student at
the University of Pennsylvania. He was beaten by sheriff's deputies on a
voter registration march in Montgomery, Ala. In 1965, he marched in front
of Independence Hall in an early rally for gay rights, and he was one of
the founders of Act Up, a protest group concerned with AIDS issues.
In 1981, he assisted R. Buckminster Fuller, the architect and thinker, in
writing "Critical Path" (St. Martin's Press). The book sketched a vision of
a bountiful future created by technological advances. In what James Traub
in The New York Times Book Review called "a bizarre and often revelatory
volume," the authors suggested that the blossoming of new technology had
the potential to end war.
Kuromiya called his program of free Internet access the Critical Path
Project after the book, and his blending of social activism with the
Internet was seen by some as a realization of his prophecy of the power of
He sat for hours at his computer in his tiny apartment making connections
with patients, advocates, researchers and policy-makers around the world.
He also had a role in framing the use of the new technology. He was one of
the lead plaintiffs in the successful 1996 challenge in federal court in
Philadelphia to the Communications Decency Act, which made it a crime to
circulate "patently offensive" sexual material.
"Someone might find material that we find important offensive," he said in
court. "I don't know what 'indecent' means. I don't know what 'patently
offensive' means in terms of providing life-saving information to people
with AIDS, including teen-agers."
Kuromiya was also a nationally ranked Scrabble player. He is survived by
his mother; a brother, Larry, and a sister, Merijane, all of whom live in
the Los Angeles area.
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