Annette Eddie-Callagain — A Black Lawyer in a Homogenous Country Like Japan
The untold story of an inspirational woman.
Recently I’ve been left feeling discouraged, heartbroken and frustrated after I read the news about what’s going on in the world pertaining to #BlackLivesMatter.
It feels as if the world is ending. Isn’t it common sense that humans are humans regardless of race, social stature, and other differences? That we should all be treated equally?
I once had an elementary school teacher tell us, “An apple is an apple regardless of what color apple it is on the outside.”
This problem of discrimination is not exclusive to America. It’s a problem around the world. However, if America is set to be the “leader of the free world” then it should do so by setting the right example.
I go through a whirlwind of emotions as I read #blacklivesmatter tagged posts on social media. I go from feeling, anger — disappointment — heartache — disbelief — slight hope — then rage until finally, I’m overwhelmed, a jaded attitude takes over.
I decide to log onto Youtube and I see this video Being A Lawyer in Japan (Black in Japan) | MFiles.
My mood took a whole 180 turn. Annette Eddie-Callagain’s story felt like an ounce of hope. A reminder from the universe that the world isn’t so bad. I felt so happy that I wanted to cry.
“Who is she? Why don’t more people know about her? Why hasn’t there been a movie made on her story yet?” are all questions that start racing through my mind as I watch and learn about her story.
Who is Annette Eddie-Callagain?
Annette Eddie-Callagain moved to Okinawa Japan 25 years ago, in 1995. Her journey started when she used to be an airforce JAG (Judge Advocate General’s Corps) which is the legal branch of the military.
During one of her assignments in Okinawa at the Kadena Airforce Base, she realized there was a problem. The problem was that a lot of local women were having babies with American military men. These men would eventually leave once their assignment was over leaving the women as a single parent.
Annette wanted to do something about this. She took charge. She quit the military and hurdle #1 of her journey started — getting licensed to practice law in Japan.
It took her about a year to work through the red tape in Japan to finally get licensed to practice law in Japan. She set up her own practice. Now hurdle #2 — how does she get started to help these women?
While taking other cases to keep her practice afloat, she took up these women’s’ cases as pro bono as much as she could before she had to start charging out of necessity.
Annette didn’t think she could be a lawyer because she was black.
Annette and her family lived across a courthouse. During the summer, when Annette was younger her mother dressed Annette and her 9 siblings up and sent them to go sit in court and observe trials.
However, this did not encourage Annette to become a lawyer because she would see that the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney were white and the defendants (the persons in trouble) were black.
She never saw a black prosecutor or judge at that time so she didn’t think that occupation was for her. A problem often due to lack of representation. Afterwards, she completed her higher education and eventually became a teacher.
One day her school’s assistant principal asked if Annette had thought about going to law school. Annette said no because Annette believed there was no room in a law career for a black person.
One day, a black teacher of the school’s faculty suggested Annette come along to Creighton University’s graduation to attend a friend Brenda’s graduation ceremony. This changed Annette’s life journey.
“Brenda is graduating from law school. Brenda is black! A black female and I was like woah woah woah they let us go to law school and graduate from law school? Brenda is going to be a lawyer? From that point I started to believe I can be a lawyer.” — Annette Eddie-Callagain
Seeing another black female like herself graduate and become a lawyer changed Annette’s mind.
What We Can Learn From Annette’s Story
Annette recommends getting away from toxic negative people telling you you can’t do something. Surround yourself with people who support your goals, motivate you, and hold you accountable.
Her story also shows us that representation is important. Annette wouldn’t be doing what she is doing now if she didn’t see Brenda become a lawyer.
How many potential lawyers, teachers, actors, presidents, doctors, and so on are we losing because young kids don’t see themselves being represented in these fields. How many kids grow up believing these careers aren’t for them?
She shows you where self-belief, self-motivation, determination, and hard work can get you. Real change is possible if you put your mind to it.
She wanted to help all these women left behind by US soldiers and she brought upon that change at a time when it didn’t seem possible. She became the change she wished to see.
Please watch her full story here and listen to the hurdles she had to overcome to be where she is now:
There are numerous heroes in the world that go unnoticed. Let’s not get ourselves distracted by all the negativity. Let’s not focus on all the villains. If we do it’s easy to become jaded.
Here is to a better future where more representation is to be seen. I wonder how many stories like Annette are out there. Women who have broken all sorts of barriers and made real change.
Let’s support change by acknowledging the progress that’s happened, promoting the individuals making change happen, all the while personally striving to make change happen.
Change has happened. Change is happening. The change will come.