Tsuru Rising! Speech

By Emily Akpan

It’s hard to recognize yourself when you’re grieving. In this moment, there are no words to describe what it feels like to be a Black person in America. Our feelings are visceral. For me, it’s a pit in my stomach that twists my innards, a pressure that carries on my shoulders and chest. It’s being on the verge of a full body cry that rocks my soul.

Right now many Black Americans are feeling like our survival is sheer luck. Returning home safely after protesting, running, driving, to wake up the next morning unharmed is luck. 

During a pandemic, in which Black and Brown people are dying at twice the rate of any other community, we are risking our lives to demand that we are worth more than black squares and quick solutions. We are fighting for worth that meets our deepest imagination. Beyond body cams and indictments, we deserve justice and we deserve to be healed. 

In no way will fighting for a system that values our lives be easy. As Black Americans we know that just being in the presence of the police is a risk, to address anti-Blackness in the workplace is a risk, and to say that we matter is a risk. So my question is, what is our Nikkei community willing to risk, going to risk, for Black liberation — for our collective liberation?   

Emily Akpan is a Yon-sei of mixed heritage who is proud to be both Black and Japanese American. She feels lucky to be an organizer with NY Day of Remembrance and Tsuru for Solidarity NYC, and on Tsuru for Solidarity’s outstanding communications team. Emily lives in Brooklyn, NY where she was born and raised; and has immense love for Brooklyn and her second-home in Seattle where her mother’s family lives.  Emily co-organized NYC’s direct action, was a speaker for Nikkei Reflections on Solidarity and a co-facilitator for Saturday’s regional gathering/ community forum. Emily also participated in the healing circle and was a proud viewer of Tsuru Risings! wonderful program, performances and speakers. 
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