Meet Nneka JuliaAmplify
I am so excited to share this month’s Amplify with you guys! I got the opportunity to speak with Nneka, a creative who is cultivating community through connection. She is an amazingly talented photographer, writer, and podcast host. Last year, she launched a 100 Day Challenge on Instagram that caught mine and my team’s attention. In the challenge, she chooses a question submitted by a follower and sends her response to them in the form of a handwritten letter. My team and I have been really inspired by her efforts to create conversation and community.
Nneka shares with us how she’s able to maintain a human connection in the digital world, what inspires her to create, and how she feels about the notion of balance. This conversation was a fun one to have and I can’t wait for you guys to read it, meet Nneka, and be inspired by her too!
Our team has been closely following your 100 Day Challenge on Instagram. Can you share a little about why you started the challenge and what it’s meant to you? Last year, it felt like we were reacting to something every single day. Everybody had experienced this burnout towards the end of last year and social media began to feel more like a machine than it ever has. I felt like I was just logging on, and I didn’t feel like I was making a decision. I remember just sitting with the thought of how do I engage online in a meaningful way? How do I slow it down and get back in control of the stuff that I’m sharing? How do I have a slow exchange with others on a platform that forces us to have quick and often times shallow exchanges with each other? So I began really diving into certain questions and focusing on having this exchange with people offline that is going to take days, if not weeks. It was really all about trying to reclaim that slow exchange that I feel we’ve lost in many ways.
“How do I have a slow exchange with others on a platform that forces us to have quick and often times shallow exchanges with each other?”
What inspires you most to create? It’s always been people. Even when I look back on my journey as a photographer, there has always been some human element. Everybody is a walking universe. If I encounter you and I ask you a few questions, I’m now stepping into your world. That to me is just endlessly fascinating.
What is your hope for 2021? If 2020 didn’t show us that we have to be able to claim a second, a moment, or a small slice of the day then it was a waste. You know, you don’t have to run every day, but you can walk, and you can crawl if you can’t walk. So for me, what I hope 2021 brings is momentum. I know it’s not going to be fast every single day, but whatever it is that I’m working on, I want to crawl towards that thing with intention.
What’s something you feel you learned about yourself during the last year? That I’m loved — by myself and other people. There’s a lot of loneliness going on in the world right now. To get a phone call or a text from a friend, from a family member, from a stranger just saying hello is really nice. I hope everyone feels that way.
How are you feeling? As a woman and a creator, how have you found yourself coping with everything that has happened the last year? I feel extremely hopeful and cautiously optimistic. What the last year has shown me is that balance is a bit of an illusion. I think sometimes we try to balance work and life as if both aren’t intertwined. I’ve run away from the idea of balance and really come to a point of harmony. Whether I’m doing photography, podcasting, or writing, I honestly ask myself, “are these things in harmony with each other or with my life?” I’m past trying to balance one with the other. I’m hopeful that I can find that harmony in my life, and I’m hopeful for others to find that as well.
“I think sometimes we try to balance work and life as if both aren’t intertwined.”
How do you approach the topic of racism with your friends, family & peers? To see me, you have to actually acknowledge the fact that I am a Black woman. I’m not only a Black woman. I am also ethnically a Cambodian woman and a Nigerian woman, but I identify as a Black woman in all spaces. With my family members, it’s an interesting thing. Where my father comes from, the majority of people are Black so you aren’t necessarily dealing with racism. Instead, you’re dealing with tribalism. In coming to America, there is this weird distinction between being an African and being Black. Whereas, I was raised in America as not only a Black American but also these ethnic things so there are actually four identities. So when approaching the topic of race, it depends on who I’m talking to, but I try to pull from history. A lot of people don’t want to acknowledge the bloody history that America has. And not just white America per se, but what colonization as a whole has done to the collective consciousness. When you start talking about that, I think people are more willing to have a more honest conversation. If someone isn’t willing to have that conversation, I’ve realized there’s little I can do to change their mind. The real revolution is individual.
“To see me, you have to actually acknowledge the fact that I am a Black woman. I’m not only a Black woman. I am also ethnically a Cambodian woman and a Nigerian woman, but I identify as a Black woman in all spaces.”
What do you wish more people understood about racism? I wish they understood its history, and that sometimes it’s not a choice. I think that people stumble upon this thought, “I’m not racist”. As if it was a conscious choice and not their upbringing. Instead, I wish people reflected and thought, “I did not know that this was being taught to me so when I encounter this situation I am wrong. I did not know I was wrong, but now I can choose to be better”. I wish that people would stop denying that racism and white supremacy exist, and start questioning how they’ve benefitted from it. I wish more people understood that racism wears many cloaks. It is not just what we see in movies or in the media. It’s much more covert and insidious. It doesn’t have to be this big hate crime for you to partake in white supremacy or racist trains of thought or behavior.
I also wish people understood that there is room for grace in these conversations. Social media can make you think there is no grace in the world. There’s much more grace and much more room for that conversation when you demonstrate a willingness to have hard conversations.