Amplify Black Voices: Polly Irungu
This month, Nasdaq continues its campaign: Amplifying Black Voices, a multimedia retrospective featuring works of art and photography documenting Black life. The work is being displayed on the Nasdaq MarketSite seven-story tower in Times Square and accompanied by profile of each artist on Nasdaq.com to spread awareness about their work.
We spoke with Polly Irungu, Founder of Black Women Photographers. Irungu is a multimedia journalist, digital editor and photographer herself. Currently, she is Digital Content Editor at New York Public Radio (WYNC), where she manages social media for WNYC and national NPR show “The Takeaway.”
Irungu’s work has been published in several publications including Refinery29, NPR, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, CNN and others. Born in Nairobi, Kenya. She has lived around the world from Nairobi to Topeka, Kansas, Eugene, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and today in Brooklyn, New York.
Names of artwork.
- Our magic.
- Black joy.
- Don’t forget your crown.
- We are here.
Talk to us about why you chose these pieces to display
Not going to lie, it was really hard. It’s not everyday you get the opportunity to have your work shown on a tower in Times Square by Nasdaq. I chose these photos to showcase Black women in all of their glory. I want members of my Black Women Photographers community to remember their power, their joy, and to never forget who they are. I want people to see these photos and instantly feel the joy within them. I want these photos to serve as a reminder to never dim your light or shrink and change yourself for anything or anyone. These photos are some of my favorite photos that I return to when I need that reminder myself.
In your opinion, what is the best way for allies to help amplify Black voices?
I have three tips for allies who want to help amplify Black voices:
I think this is a word that gets tossed around a lot, especially in times like this, but I don't know how many people actually listen. For example, if we actually listened to Black women four years ago, maybe, this country would not be in such a mess right now. A lot of the things that have been said these past few months are things that Black women and other people of color have been saying for years. Imagine if we all just listened?
What did Beyoncé say in ‘Homecoming’ again? “Until I see some of my notes applied, it doesn't make sense for me to make more." It doesn’t make sense for us Black folks to keep repeating the same notes, year after year: Are you willing to do the work, no matter how uncomfortable it may be, and apply what you have learned?
3. Keep that same energy
I think this is one of the biggest things that allies fail to do every time. The best way to help amplify Black voices is to keep that same energy all year. All of these #BlackLiveMatters posts, “investment into Black community initiatives,” Instagram Black square posts etc., mean absolutely nothing if you do not keep that same energy every single day, 365 days of the year. If it was not made clear this year, let it be made clear with what I am saying now: We are all so tired of the performative actions made by "well-intentioned" allies. If you’re not keeping that same energy, in the words of Ira: "Keep it."
Black Women Photographers Background, founded by Irungu:
Black Women Photographers (BWP) is a new global community and digital database for Black women and non-binary photographers.
Founded by Polly Irungu on July 7, the platform supports creatives during the pandemic and spotlights their portfolios to encourage inclusivity within the industry.
The launch was kickstarted with the BWP COVID-19 Relief Fundraising more than $13,100 to support Black women photographers who have been hit hard by the pandemic. The current funds are being distributed directly to 70+ Black women to receive a small relief. Check out the hashtag #BWPReliefFund on Twitter to see how and who this fund is helping.
The platform also hosts interviews under the hashtag #BWPTalks with guests like New York Magazine’s Director of Photography, Jody Quon, and Nikon Ambassador, Audrey Woulard. The intimate forum allows the community to gather digitally and unpack what it means to be a Black woman in the photography industry.