Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Night I Kissed Kiyoshi Kuromiya

I first met Kiyoshi Kuromiya around March or April 1995. I was a newbie to the Philadelphia gay community. I was a volunteer graphic designer for the AIDS Services in Asian Communities (ASIAC), which was about to be created. After a routine meeting one evening, I was hanging out in the gayborhood with a few other ASIAC volunteers. I figured I'd get to know the gayborhood and meet new people.

For some reason I can't recall, a few of us ended up walking a few blocks over to Kiyoshi Kuromiya's apartment. I think at the time, Kiyoshi was one of the board members of ASIAC. Kiyoshi was a hippie-looking skinny and somewhat tall Asian man in his 50's. I had seen him in passing several times but did not know him personally. To my surprise, Kiyoshi knew my name! He asked me a few questions to make some small talk and made me feel at ease. The other ASIAC volunteers had been to Kiyoshi's apartment quite a few times so they already made themselves a pot of coffee or tea.

The discussion eventually turned to politics related to AIDS, gays, and Asians. I hardly knew anything about these topics, so I was simply an observer. Kiyoshi was quite a story teller. He was opinionated, well-spoken, articulate, and most of all passonated. He was talking about legalizing marijuana for medical use, especially for people who were living with AIDS like he. Kiyoshi talked about providing sterile needles to drug users, teaching safe sex to prostitutes. He talked about working with goverments in Asia countries to create AIDS awareness and decriminalize homosexuality. He talked about ACT UP Philadelphia. A lot of the discussion went over my head. I thought his ideas were radical. I worried that he'd get arrested for possession of marijuana. I didn't say much during my two-hour time at Kiyoshi's apartment, but I learned a great deal.

Kiyoshi kissed everyone on the cheeks as we left.

I saw Kiyoshi in passing several more times during the next year.

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


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