Brianna (they, them, theirs) does PR (Public Relations) for BLM Kansai. Their passion for racial equity and social justice is not only refreshing but inspiring! Read about Brianna’s story of how they went from learning Japanese to helping organize Japan’s BLM movement!
Why Did You Start Learning Japanese?
I was homeschooled to take care of my late grandmother. A program sent me materials to get my high school diploma from home.
At some point I got bored and had decided to pick a language to study and I picked Japanese! It was so different from any other language and I thought it was unique. My family poked fun at my decision but I just knew that I wanted to learn the language.
Relatives were asking me how in the world I was going to support myself and get to Japan. I didn’t necessarily have a plan at the time, but I knew that I could get to Japan if I put my mind to going there.
What Led You to Japan?
When it was time for me to pick a school to go to for college, I looked at my options. There’s Yamanashi Gakuin and several others, I applied to Temple University’s Japan campus, too.
Doshisha University not only accepted me, but they offered me a full scholarship. Tuition was covered. I remember showing the acceptance letter to my family on the day of my high school graduation.
To get into my university, there was the first stage of the initial application, and then an interview. I had built my resume through my internship at the University of San Diego, volunteer work at my local library, and several jobs I have had since I was 16 years old.
When it was time to apply for college, I knew my major would center around international relations. My current major is Japanese Politics and global studies.
How Do You Nurture Friendships with Allies in Japan?
When I first arrived on campus, I noticed how everyone hung out in their own separate groups. At first it was easy to just keep to myself but eventually I started to connect with other people.
With the way this movement has really taken hold, I’ve had native Japanese speakers offer to translate some of the terminology that still needs research. There are allies that really want to see this take hold in Japan and I really felt their solidarity when they showed up at the BLM Kansai march.
What Experiences Stood Out to You as a Morenx in Japan?
I was able to get sponsorships and extra income through YouTube. I thought it was really cool that I was able to get paid for my content!
I’ve been invited to speak at events for Black Women in Japan (BWIJ), I’ve had people recognize me in both Japan and the U.S. It’s all pretty cool stuff.
Of course, I’ve had my fair share of harassment as well. I think with having an online presence it does get exhausting, but having visibility allows me to make a huge difference in people’s lives.
What Do You Believe is the Future of BLM in Japan? On an International Scale?
Other prefectures are now creating their own branches of BLM. I don’t think this movement is going away any time soon. For my own personal work, I will focus on Black history and Black LGBTQ aid. I have reserved a space for local BLM events in Kyoto for when I’m able to return.
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Osaka, Japan. June 7th, 2020. 2,000 people. To see manifestations occur at the tips of your fingers is truly a mind boggling experience. To my fellow organizers, thank you. I love you. To all who appeared ready to fight for the liberation of Black people and to honor those who have had their lives taken, thank you, I love you. We will continue this fight. The work does not end here, it has only begun!
What are You Currently Working on?
Right now I am working on getting translators and volunteers to begin virtual Zoom events to educate allies and to spotlight Black trans women in need of funds.