A few years back, I wrote a piece for Black History Month in which I challenged people of African descent living here in Japan to "be black history." I implored them not to necessarily dwell on the past but to: "Dwell on the now instead. Because everything you do now becomes history and herstory the moment after you've done it, and that deed is potentially historic. Particularly here. The opportunities to be a trailblazer abound in Japan."
That was true then and I still believe the onus is on "us" to make black history relevant in this country. Overseas I think it's much easier for the white majority to educate themselves on how to respect people of African descent, and many have, but from my own experience here I think Japanese society is still woefully unaware of our contributions, past and present. National awareness of black excellence in a variety of arenas is crucial to reducing fears and furthering any other strides we intend to make here. In fact, this was the thought that gave birth to the Black Eye column in first place
Moreover, we should work to make sure that the black history that Japan already has is common knowledge. For example, many Japanese have likely heard of the first black samurai, a gentleman who went by the name Yasuke, but how many people here know that possibly the first African-American to step foot in this country arrived in 1845? Eight years before Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay, Pyrrhus Concer, a former slave, came to Japan from New York. He even assisted in the rescue of some shipwrecked Japanese sailors and helped return them home. Sounds like the makings of a fascinating drama to me, someone get me Netflix's phone number!