Can’t stop, won’t stop: ‘What’s In It For Us’ says the biggest battles are ahead

"We kind of predicted that there would be some white backlash and we're seeing it happen now," said guest host Polly Irungu

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The election may be over, but the battle to save the country’s democracy has only just begun. This week, on the What’s In It For Us podcast, Host Dr. Christina Greer was joined by journalist, photographer and founder of the Black Women Photographers project, Polly Irungu, to talk voter burnout and the dangers it poses ahead of next year’s midterm elections. 

Several key voter states, including Arizona, Texas and Georgia, which flipped to blue during the 2020 election, have already begun proposing and passing new restrictive laws, which severely limit the voting rights of citizens in those states. The Republican narrative around the wave of new laws centers on conspiracy theories of voter fraud. 

Aside from the Governor Brian Kemp’s attempts to strip voting rights, all eyes remain on Georgia as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently announced that she is not planning to seek reelection. She became the second woman to hold the position when she was elected back in 2017.

News that she would not seek reelection came as a surprise to many, considering that she successfully raised more than $500,000 at a fundraiser with President Joe Biden earlier this year. Lance Bottoms has yet to announce what she plans to do after her current term. Greer says whatever her choice, it could have implications for not only the state of Georgia, but the entire nation and the Black women who run some of country’s largest cities, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

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MOVE Bombing
MOVE Bombing (screenshot from archived footage of the bombing)

Philadelphia also found itself in the spotlight this week in connection to a painful reminder of a nickname for the city: The City That Bombed Itself. This year is the 36th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, which killed 11 people, including five children. After a years-long back and forth with the radical, back-to-nature movement known as MOVE, the mayor of Philadelphia authorized city police to drop a bomb on the house where members of the organization lived.

City firefighters stood by as an entire city block burned to the ground. Following the bombing, several remains of the victims were left unclaimed. It was recently uncovered that the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University have been using the remains as teaching tools and keeping them on display in museums. Among the remains used were those of 14-year-old Tree Africa and her sister, 12-year-old Delicia Africa. 

Irungu said without the recent discovery of UPenn’s use of the remains she, like many other Americans, would not even know the bombing ever took place. Greer noted that the lack of knowledge around major events that affect Black Americans is commonplace. 

“Black history is American history,” said Greer. “So, if you don’t know about the Tulsa Massacre, if you don’t know about the things that have happened to Black people then you don’t know American history.” 

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We all know a picture is worth a thousand words and Twitter is still trying to figure out what Serena Williams is trying to say after a recent photo she posted sparked a large public discourse on her appearance.

In the photo, Williams appeared to have a lighter complexion, which led some to speculate that the tennis megastar might be intentionally bleaching her skin. Others blamed bad lighting and poor make up. What’s In It For Us guest host Irungu said no matter what may be happening in the photo, she understands the pressure and scrutiny darker-skinned Black women especially deal with concerning their appearance. 

Changing how we see Black women and people starts with who’s behind the lens. Amplifying the work of Black women photographers is the mission of the Black Women Photographers initiative, which Irungu launched in 2020. In the year since she began the project, she’s created a global network of more than 600 Black women photographers who’s work is available for purchase. She also created a map to highlight Black women photographers nearby. 

To learn more about the project visit:  

What’s In It For Us, now streaming on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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