Thanking our Founders; Looking Behind and Ahead

Posted On September 2, 2021

September marks the month we celebrate all the people who believed in the birth of Legacy Foundation Japan.

It started with a conversation between five people who quickly realized we all wanted more for the Black community here in Japan. As the Foundation began to take shape, various others joined the cause to breathe life into the vision.

We wanted to create an environment for African Americans living in Japan to have a voice as they watch the struggles and injustices seen back home.

We wanted something outlasting that would recognize and support the needs of all Black ex-pats living overseas. 

There are some amazing individuals and organizations that have given their time, talents, and efforts to tell the stories and answer the questions that would make living in a home away from home a little easier and less scary. You never know how important it is to find a good hairstylist, or barber, or a place that sells your favorite food, or even a community to connect with until you can’t. 

We didn’t want to stop there, though.

Many of us have begun to put roots down in Japan and we begin to ask ourselves, “What more do we want or need to support ourselves, our families, and our children growing up here?”

Many of our children are feeling displaced and disconnected from their identities. Families are falling apart, not being able to find a common ground of communication or support to help them through. Fathers are frustrated and fearful of losing connection with their children when divorce becomes the answer. Japanese mothers are needing support to raise their brown babies. Expat parents are feeling lost trying to navigate through the Japanese education system. Talented, educated individuals who are good at what they do have very limited job opportunities within their field or passion.

This makes it very difficult for individuals who have the experience but lack the education to come and work.  Expat seniors, especially teachers or those not brought to Japan by a company, are not supported enough beyond their pension to continue to live in a place they have lived over 40 years and consider home.  The frustration and at times anger are very real, opening the door for individuals to become jaded about a place they love.

LaTonya Whitaker, Legacy Foundation Japan Executive Director

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good things and so many wonderful people in Japan. If I am honest with myself, I found myself in Japan. I enjoy cooking and singing with my Japanese students however, they didn’t just want to cook or sing, they wanted to know the why – the stories behind what I did. In turn, I began to learn more about my culture, history, and who I was as a Black woman and it was good. When I see the countless stories of men, women, and children being killed for senseless reasons, I am grateful for the safety and peace of mind Japan gives me. Being a country girl from Mississippi, who knew Japan had so many delicious dishes beyond sushi? And trust me, sushi in Japan is good!

Legacy Foundation Japan can not be all things to all people but we are making strides to raise awareness, educate, and provide resources so that we can not just live but thrive in Japan. There are many Black people and many allies in Japan. Legacy Foundation Japan is here to serve as the bridge to connect us to be a stronger, more supportive community. 

This journey is just beginning and we are so grateful to have you walking with us no matter who you are or where you may be. Your support means everything to us as we build and grow. 

Over the course of the year, we have met some amazing individuals! Some have joined Legacy Foundation Japan, some have not, and others are still waiting to see what this new foundation will become. Though everyone has their own reasons of interest and come from various backgrounds, we all seem to share a common thread; our desire for a strong, welcoming, and supportive community and the ability to share our gifts, giving back to our communities in meaningful ways.  

I can not close this letter without thanking all the people who gave and continue to give their time, energy, and support to Legacy Foundation Japan and the directors who volunteered countless hours and continue to do so because they believe in the vision of LFJ. This has not been easy but we continue marching forward because we BELIEVE.

Thank you and I love you all!

LaTonya Whitaker
Executive Director

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