My name is Ayana Wyse and I am a photographer and event organizer living in the Kansai region of Japan. I have always been for the community and raising awareness of Black culture in Japan, and I have learned a lot after having lived in this country for more than nine years.
Assisting with the creation of the Black Lives Matter Kansai group felt natural to me, as if I had a calling to do it more than anything else. I don’t care for any recognition or anything personal, I just feel that often when there’s no one there to step up and set something in motion, someone just needs to do it. With my experience in helping to found and work for a collective called Black Creatives Japan, I felt like I was the right person to do step up.
The process began with a couple of my friends posting a poll on Instagram to see who might be interested in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement with a peaceful march where we live. So, I responded and it was really as simple as that. Just like with my involvement in the Black Creatives Japan collective, it makes me happy to help and be a part of something greater than myself.
My fellow organizers and I are happy to bring the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront here in Japan. I’ve found that many Japanese people love American culture, but they aren’t always aware of what’s really going on there. Even when they do see something in the news, it’s still very surface level and they don’t understand the context, keeping it at a distance. Because of this unfamiliarity, I think creating this platform and having people participate in this experience of the Black Lives Matter movement is very helpful. It’s important for others to be more aware and stop assuming that Black people are a monolith.
The current situation in the United States is heartbreaking, and in Japan there’s not much I can do directly at the moment. Still, I’ve seen some of the brutality going on back home and it’s very frustrating.
For centuries, the government has been treating people, especially those who are Black, as if they are insignificant. All lives do in fact matter, but this notion cannot be fully realized while brutal behavior toward Black people, and other people of color, remains an ingrained and acceptable part of our society. When these people are on the receiving end of violence, some believe they must deserve it. So this is why we say Black Lives Matter.
What we have here is a simple matter of human rights, which makes it a problem for everyone. If Black bodies are dispensable, then we as an entire human race are dispensable — and that must change. We hope to see a change, but for that we must stand together and this is why Black Lives Matter Kansai came to be.
On June 7, Black Lives Matter Kansai was proud to hold a peaceful march in support of the promotion of freedom and equality for Black people. Both Japanese and non-Japanese marched from Osaka City Hall to Nishiumeda Park, to remember the Black lives that have been senselessly taken from us due to systemic racism. This was not a protest, as we learned foreigners do not have rights to protest in Japan. However, we received a license and permission from the local authorities to hold this event and were escorted by Japanese police.
I was truly in awe with how many people came. We were told by the police that around 2,000 joined our march. We had speakers from the community and our organizers, as well as moments of silence in honor of George Floyd and others who have been killed because of police brutality — of which there are hundreds, thousands if we go back further in history. What we do won’t necessarily be similar to what you are seeing in the United States, but we are happy to have the opportunity to show our support.
For more information on Black Lives Matter Kansai, follow @blmkansai on Twitter or head to linktr.ee/BLMKansai. There you can find a list of places to donate money, educational resources and tips on how to show up at this important time.