One Friday night in Nagoya two black British women sat down to have a much welcomed glass of wine after feeling deflated from a recent event that promised some melanin kins. ‘There must be more of us in this city!’ Stephanie exclaimed! ‘We can’t be the only two, where are the other black women?’ They took matters into their own hands and started a hunt for ‘the others’, fueled by a sense of misrepresentation and isolation. With a plan and social media in hand, Stephanie Fay Gayle and, Avril Haye Matsui, in Autumn 2014, started Black Women in Japan (BWIJ) as a facebook group. “Imagine our surprise” Avril said, “..when by Christmas that same year, our numbers had grown to 100. I remember posting on the group page, how I couldn’t believe that there were 100 black women in Japan!” Now the group boasts well over 2000 members.
The question of ‘where are the others’ was answered. Black women were everywhere in Japan; from the snowy peaks of Hokkaido to the sandy beaches of Okinawa.
BWIJ provides a place where women of African descent, living in Japan, virtually connect, support each other, give advice and even give virtual shoulders to cry on. Bridgette Wright, a member from Jamaica, who is also one of the organizers of the BWIJ convention says,“The biggest benefit of BWIJ is camaraderie… Japan gets pretty lonely…but in BWIJ I can associate with people who have similar issues/interests,” She goes on to say, “ I found that I could just speak my mind, be myself, and just have real fun without sugarcoating everything.”
As the group grew, the urge to actually meet and have a hearty laugh with like minded individuals also grew, and members started meeting up for casual drinks, dinners or just to paint the town red (in their own cities). This matched perfectly with the founders distant dream; to have all Black Women in Japan meet under one roof for an annual event. This dream was realized in March 2017, in Tokyo, where the first BWIJ convention was held and it was an explosion. At the end of the day, tears were visible, new bonds were created and the wish of it being held annually was reciprocated by many.
So, of course that wish is granted! This time we are taking it back to the city where the dream was created, Nagoya! BWIJ 2018 will be staged at the Nanzan University on 17th-18th of February 2018. This year promises to be bigger and better; held over a 2-day period, with guest speakers from all over Japan, workshops to include dance, physical health, self-esteem, professional development with opportunities to network, feel empowered and enjoy the sense of belonging. And yes, you’ll also find all those hard to get skin and hair care products!
If you are a black woman living in Japan and still wondering if you are alone, fret not, we’ve got your back! Come on down on February 17-18, 2018 to Nanzan University in Nagoya to bask in the melanin glory and experience what others have been talking about. Check out our website to register and be sure to check us out on social media.