“Buy Black” Play Addresses Challenges of Gentrification

Courtesy of Bowie State University

Buy Black, a play about how Black Americans cope under the threats of gentrification, opens tonight with performances through Saturday in the Black Box Theatre in the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Bowie State University.

The play was written by Raymond Ingram, a junior theatre major in with a concentration in acting and directing. Although his focus is on the stage, his true calling may be behind the scenes. He demonstrated his ability to become a prolific writer by churning out the 85-page script for Buy Black in just three weeks.

“You don’t see a lot of shows for Black people that are written by Black people,” said Ingram. “I wanted to create a play that allows the actors to see themselves through the performance. August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry are both great Black playwrites. Hopefully, one day I’ll perfect my writing and have my name mentioned along with theirs. It may sound like a lofty goal but that’s how I think.”

Buy Black promotes supporting small neighborhood businesses such as Black mini-marts to redirect money back into the community. . The play also encourages people to stay in their communities and build them up again.

Jacoby Thornton, a junior theatre arts major from Dallas, Texas, plays the role of a shop owner who is a peace maker and the good guy.

“I’m striving to get everyone on the same page and focus on the mission of serving the community,” said Thornton. “In 2023, Black and Brown folks have to work together for the good of their communities. Wes, my character in the play, epitomizes sticking to what you believe in and standing by your view of things. And believe it or not, that’s a true reflection of me and who I am.”

The antagonist in the play is not a person but gentrification and how it dismantles neighborhoods without taking into account how the lives of people who have been living there for generations will be changed forever. Alexis Kennedy, a junior theatre major, plays the role of Cora, a passionate and head-strong business owner whose shop is directly impacted by gentrification.

“My role summarizes my reality every day,” said Kennedy. “I want the audience to walk away from Buy Black with a greater appreciation of the differences people may have but are still willing to talk and work things out. That’s what we have to do to make things better for everyone.”

Malaysha Sabria, a senior theatre arts major and Brielle Bertrand, a junior theatre arts major, are Buy Black co-directors. Sabria says the play raises some concerns that all of us need to ponder.

“Buy Black poses a great question to modern day Black America about how to navigate success and how it looks different for each individual,” said Sabria. “Since we have freedom of choice, what each of us value can be different. The opportunity I’ve been given to direct the play has opened my eyes and increased my understanding of how gentrification impacts communities and now has me focused on building a career directing plays.”

Meanwhile, Buy Black playwright Raymond Ingram says this is just the beginning. “When I get an idea I can clearly see it and my brain goes into another gear. I write like I’m running out of time,” he said. “After graduating from Bowie State I plan on going to graduate school to fine tune my writing so my plays can be performed on Broadway.”