Judy Tanzawa (Judy Tristan) 1939-2017

November 12, 2017

From the November-December 2017 issue of News & Letters


Olga Domanski and Judy Tanzawa in May 2014. Photo: friend of News & Letters.

We will long remember our News and Letters Committees comrade Judy, who passed away this past October. She passionately entered so many struggles for freedom of workers, of minorities—Black, Latino, Asian—of anti-war, of women’s liberation, thus developing her own multi-dimensionality.

Born into a family of revolutionaries, she came to the ideas and practices of Marxist-Humanism on her own terms, in her own time. Her decades-long experience as a union organizer and representative, her work in the Black community, particularly with Black women after the 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion, her intense interest, along with her husband Paul, in the experience of Japanese-Americans in the World War II internment camps, together with her exposure to the ideas and practices of Marxist-Humanism through Raya Dunayevskaya and Judy’s mother Bess Gogol, came to be expressed in her work within News and Letters Committees.

She was a long-time member of the Committees, eventually taking on responsibilities as organizer of the Los Angeles local and as a member of the National Editorial Board of News & Letters. When attending News and Letters national gatherings she reported on the activities of the Los Angeles Local, particularly her work in the African-American community among women whose sons were experiencing brutality and prison at the hands of the police.

Within the Los Angeles Local, Judy chaired meetings, developed agendas, shared communications from the Center, and participated in giving educationals on issues of News & Letters, as well as on topics from Marxist-Humanist literature. Her passion for freedom activities and ideas, as well as her taking organizational responsibility for the Idea of Marxist-Humanism, will be greatly missed.

—Eugene Walker


Courageous. That was Judy’s basic quality, which permeated her thought and actions in her professional and personal life. That outstanding trait took the form of hearing and listening to the voices from below. She was attuned to the reverberations of the disenfranchised who were trampled on in society. This disenchanted her with those who abused their power.

As a factory worker Judy heard the workers’ voices. She organized with them, had meetings with them and confronted the factory owners with their grievances. With the united strength of the organized workers, Judy won concessions that benefited them and their families. Her actions were brought to the attention of the union and Judy became a union representative. She was in that capacity for over 20 years—winning grievances, negotiating for better pay, better working conditions and at all times hearing and listening to those voices from below.

In the 1950s the Los Angeles City Council ousted hundreds of Mexican families from their village in Chavez Ravine, claiming that the land would be used for affordable housing. But soon they sold the land to the owner of the Dodgers. As a result of lies and the finagling of the powerful and moneyed, this area became Dodger Stadium. Judy became involved in the struggle of the displaced Mexican families, and eloquently revealed the truth of this takeover.

Judy was always aware of the voices from below and acted valiantly against any words or actions unfairly brought against the impoverished.

—Paul Tanzawa


I met Judy during the Los Angeles uprising of 1992; two strangers’ paths had crossed, only to become good friends. Judy showed me that she was truly color-blind; she fought for everyone. She was a friend through thick and thin, she supported not only those who were oppressed in the inner city but those across the country. She broke all color barriers, all racial lines; she crossed all economic lines, and dared to enter all gang-infested communities. She was a “Radical Warrior.” We traveled abroad as Freedom Fighters. Together we kicked down the doors of injustice for the LA 4 + in 1993.

Our acquaintance grew into a deep-rooted friendship. She supported me beyond the LA  4 + trial. She was always there, a listening ear and a supportive shoulder. We traveled together and fought together for the underserved and the oppressed.

Judy gave her all. She had a never ending dedication for justice, for humanity. For 25 years we marched side by side. Her greatest desire was equality for all. Judy has truly left an indelible mark upon my heart.

—Georgiana Williams
Mother of the struggle
Mother of Damian Football Williams

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