The significant underrepresentation of Blacks in optics and photonics with respect to authors, invited speakers, conference chairs, reviewers, associate editors and editors in chiefs of Optica’s journals demands special attention. In accordance with the Optica June 2020 Commitment to Change and independent statements from the Optica Leadership and the 2016-2020 Optica Ambassadors, a special feature issue to amplify Black voices in optics and photonics was proposed. While, by no means, is this a solution, it is a step in the direction of inclusivity to elevate the visibility of the researchers (and their work) belonging to our optics community.

Through this special issue we highlight the excellent and exciting research in optics and photonics led by some of the Black researchers in the field. It is our intention that this special feature will bring awareness to the research contributions from this community for both present and future optics researchers from all walks of life. Thus, with this special issue, we take a snapshot of this community with 13 selected papers across 5 Optica Publishing Group journals (Applied Optics, Biomedical Optics ExpressOptics ExpressOptics Letters, and Optica). A companion piece to this special feature was published in a May 2023 Optics and Photonics News feature Breaking Barriers, Advancing Optics [1].

The topics covered in this special feature represent a diverse range of research areas that include metasurfaces, fiber optic biomedical sensors, photoacoustics, optoelectronics, space-time optics, computational optics, and silicon photonics. To facilitate reading through the special feature, we have binned these topics into three broad categories: bioimaging and biosensing, on-chip photonics and optimization in photonic systems, and entangled photons and applications of structured light.

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