The Black Women in Japan Convention was an event that touched my soul. I walked in feeling excited, but anxious. For some reason, I was nervous about my outfit. I didn’t know if I was dressing for “the cookout” or for “church”. However, I walked out feeling like a powerful and enlightened being, almost superhuman.
The convention began with introductions by the women who made this convention happen. One of the founders, Avril Haye-Matsui, opened by saying “You’re at home. You are around sisters.” As she spoke, the room was silent. Eyes were widened and ears opened when Avril told us the importance of the convention and where we hope to go from here.
The Importance of Black Women’s Health
Throughout the convention, there were different workshops focusing on mental health, physical health and self-care. I had the opportunity to attend the Mindfully Me and the Be Your Own Advocate workshops. The Mindfully Me workshop was led by Kisstopher Musick. She has an MS in Psychology and has worked in the field for over 20 years. During the Mindfully Me workshop, we discussed how to describe ourselves more objectively than subjectively, self-care and the importance of black, female mental health in Japan. The ability to talk about mental health with other black women was incredible. It’s hard living in a homogeneous society, especially when your community is underrepresented. Having a woman like Kisstopher guide us through this discussion was helpful.
The Be Your Own Advocate workshop was led by Florence Orim, M.D. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss physical health and tips on how to navigate the Japanese healthcare system. Also, we had an opportunity to ask questions about our current health situations. I’ve only been in Japan for about six months and I am still learning about my health insurance and the healthcare system. Regardless of the amount of time I’ve lived here, Japanese bedside manner and ways of discussing health are different. I learned that I wasn’t the only one who had inhibitions about visiting the doctor. Dr.Orim taught us that getting a second opinion and communicating with doctors are necessary. After leaving both of these workshops, I felt more confident and comfortable about making decisions regarding my health.
One of my favorite aspects of the conference was how balanced it was. There were workshops about health, fitness, spirituality and professional development. I attended the Easy Product Photography workshop. It was led by Tia Haygood, a professional photographer working in Tokyo. Tia taught us about how to take photos of products, how we can improve our photography and budget-friendly equipment we can use. Although I take a lot of photos, I still found this workshop helpful. I was able to learn about what items work best for food photography and product photography. Plus, we got a chance to practice shooting photos and received feedback from Tia.
The Next Steps
The last day of the convention was the most difficult for me. I wanted more time with these courageous, smart and beautiful black women. I truly believe that being a black woman in a foreign country is special. Not all of us have the opportunity to live abroad. However, living abroad as a black woman can be challenging. When you are a black woman living abroad, sometimes you feel the need to represent the whole black female population. If you mess up, someone is going to remember and it could affect the next black woman they meet. After that weekend, I feel less of a need to carry that burden. I know that my sisters represent us well.
If you’re a black woman in Japan or considering moving to Japan, you can contact the group on Facebook @ black women in Japan (bwij). You can also follow the group on Instagram @BWIJ.