Students share the power of community in new show ‘Buy Black!’ at BSU

Voices from the creative team of an original production at Bowie State University about protecting Black businesses.

By MaLeah Diggs, BSU senior and Theatre Arts major

Bowie State Theatre has done it again, but this time with all students leading the way! Buy Black! We Don’t Sell to Your Kind, written by Bowie State acting/directing student Raymond Ingram, is a student-led production emphasizing the meaning of community and protecting Black businesses. Running November 15 to 18, Buy Black! is part of BSU Theatre’s Incubator program, which identifies motivated student leaders ready to embark on intensive new play development. In his play Ingram, already a professional theater artist and now pursuing his theater degree, shares how the power of unity can make the difference when the going gets tough, particularly in an age of gentrification, which disproportionately affects Black businesses and homeowners.

‘Buy Black!’ playwright Raymond Ingram and co-directors Brielle Bertrand and Malaysha Sabria.

Students who are involved in making this production happen shared their creative and personal experiences in the process. In this setting the playwright and co-directors’ relationship is important. Working together in the theater program and seeing their growth as artists over the years makes that easier. It’s all about community. Community is not grown only from being in a production here at Bowie State. It starts in the classroom. As the relationship between the student cast and directors becomes better, that relationship expands to the design team. From the directing to design, here are some insights into Bowie State University Theatre artists’ “why” and “how.”

Raymond, how do you give your trust to the co-directors and make space for their vision, especially since you are the playwright and an actor in the show?

Raymond Ingram, playwright (also performs the role of Aaron): I always think there’s a little bit of apprehension when you’re first going into a process like that because it is your story and you want your story to be told the way you see it. When a story like this is being presented, it’s more than just about you and what you want. Other people’s opinions matter — other people’s visions matter. With these directors, I already knew how good they are and the professionalism they have — how great they are at telling these stories. I knew it was going to be a very successful production going forward with those two leading the way.

Brielle and Malaysha, what do you want the audience to get from Buy Black?

Brielle Bertrand, co-director: I want the audience to realize the real issue a lot of businesses face, especially Black-owned businesses. Now that we are literally putting it in their faces through entertainment, I hope that every single person who watches this show will be able to answer the question for themselves, “Money or community?” — and then really think about if gentrification really is helping or hurting us.

Malaysha Sabria, co-director: There are so many variables to success in America, and the end goal for Black America in particular will look different for everyone, especially now that Black people have the choice to control most of their destiny.

A table-read of ‘Buy Black!’ with the playwright Raymond Ingram, co-director Malaysha Sabria (to his right), co-director Brielle Bertrand (to Malaysha’s right), and the cast surrounding. Photo courtesy of Elena Velasco.

Jacobie, as a transfer student, how does Bowie State Theatre make you feel the most welcome?

Jacobie Thornton, actor (plays Wes): It makes me feel the most welcome when fellow artists are as committed to their art as I am. That pushes me to be more creative and be more excited to collaborate with everyone else. I think one big thing for me were connections and those bonds, knowing that I was coming to an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) and a more populated area. I knew that there was going to be different people, different backgrounds, coming from different experiences. I know in this industry it’s all about the people you know and that starts with who you’re in the classroom with. When it came down to the students and the professors, they approached me with open arms right away. I had questions; they did their best to help me out if I needed anything. In return, I gave them the same energy back. I made sure to tell them how much they’re appreciated. It all starts in the classroom and that’s where I felt that unity — people who look like me, share the same interests, and have the same drive as me, wanting to become better and just continue to learn.

Bria, why did you become a designer on this production?

Bria Mukes, lighting designer: This being my last year at Bowie State, I wanted to make sure I took advantage of this opportunity to learn as much as I can, especially for a production like this. It is an original script and it allows me to be more experimental. Also, the story and the topic of this production is so impactful and needs to be talked about more. It’s definitely something I wanted to be a part of.

Buy Black! We Don’t Sell to Your Kind finds power in community pride and in supporting Black businesses. Practicing what they preach, they are including pre-show and post-show Black student vendors selling some of their products. This is all while digging within their own department to find students who are ready to try new things and take their creativity to the next level. Come ready to Buy Black! This is a show you don’t want to miss!

Buy Black! We Don’t Sell to Your Kind plays November 15, 16, 17, and 18, 2023, at 7:30 pm and November 18 at 2:30 pm presented by Bowie State University performing in the BSU Department of Fine and Performing Arts Black Box Theatre, 14000 Jericho Park Road, Bowie State University, Bowie, MD. Purchase tickets ($13 plus $2 service fee, general admission; $8 plus $2 service fee, students and seniors) online.

Running Time: Approximately two hours with one intermission.

Buy Back! creative team bios are here. 

MaLeah Diggs is a 21-year-old Bowie State University senior majoring in Theatre Arts with a concentration in acting and directing. With her God-given gifts and talents, she began studying theater throughout middle and high school, continuing her passion for it through college. Her latest endeavor was her work with Theater Alliance on a “DMV IDEA.” MaLeah is excited to be working as sound designer on Buy Black!, her first Bowie State Production.


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