Name: Sola Olosunde
Occupation: Urban planner, photographer and historian
Motivator: New York City
NYC neighborhood: Far Rockaway, Queens
A lover of New York City and history, Sola Olosunde is known for his online presence, particularly on and , where he showcases a portfolio and archive of vintage and vintage-style photography. The photos depict life in—and the people of—the City that he takes a lot of pride in being from. Though he is also heavily influenced by the Nigerian culture of his family and Black culture as a whole, his words, and the love, time and skill evident in his work, make it clear that Sola is a New Yorker through and through. Read more about Sola below.
What do you love most about New York?
The people. There’s such a global population. I grew up around mostly Black people, and I feel like we get a population of Black people that’s very different from most places in America. There’s a lot of immigrants from all over. There’s West Indians, Africans, Black Americans—you get a really nice mix of people. I grew up becoming very familiar with Black culture on a global scale.
What is your favorite NYC story or experience?
When I was younger, I used to deliver stuff. When I would deliver food, I would go up to the rooftop just to see what it would look like. I just always think about how fun that was to me, just being able to see the City from so many different perspectives. I was doing that for a lot of my teenage years. That’s probably my favorite New York experience, because I feel like that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.
What do you consider to be the greatest cultural contribution of Black New Yorkers?
I always say hip-hop, but I’ve been thinking a lot about [the fact that] Marcus Garvey came here from Jamaica, and he bought this whole idea of Pan-Africanism. We do share similar experiences, Black people, and I feel like that is so important. People tend to overlook this because Marcus Garvey isn’t really talked about as much as other Black historical figures. You can say that here is where the idea of Pan-Africanism in America developed. That’s probably one of the biggest contributions to the world that Black people have given, in terms of New York.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
Being able to teach people about New York City, and the fact that people will come up to me in the street about something I posted. That really makes my day.
When I first started college, I wanted to be a history professor, with the aim of getting people interested in history. So even if I didn’t end up in a classroom, it’s still like I taught people about New York City history and made them interested in it. I pretty much accomplished my goal. It may not look like the way that I wanted it to look when I was 16, but I did it.
Did you imagine that you’d be where you are?
I didn’t picture it to look this way, but I did want this for myself for a long time. I never thought I would take pictures, and people would be knowing me for the pictures that I take, but other than that, as far as history and urban planning goes, yeah, I always wanted to do that.
What’s next for you?
I’m planning on making a book of the photos that I take. I'm gonna try my best to bring some historical stuff in there as well.
What would you like your legacy to be?
To be known as someone who’s given a lot to my city and has just influenced people to get educated and give back to their community in the best way they know how.