BIPOC voices reverberate with resilience

Nejma Reza ’23 directs show that takes aim at racism with music and poetry


Graham Lee, Arts Editor

With the help of the theater department and the DEIG office, Nejma Reza ’23 collaborated with and directed six other Upper School (US) students to highlight their voices through her production “Resilient Voices” on June 2. The show spread a message of activism and anti- racism by displaying the artistic talents of BIPOC students, Nejma said.

“The goal of this show is to highlight the cultures and experiences of people of color and to address society’s negligence in acting against racism,” Nejma said.

Though the US has many productions and shows for students to participate in, Nejma hoped to create a platform for students of color to feature their talents, she said.

“I think in theater and music, there’s a lot of diversity within it, but the diversity itself often isn’t highlighted,” she said. “Specifically in America, most people are used to only viewing one kind of performance, which is a very typical American performance. But it’s important to highlight that there are amazing other kinds of performances that can highlight people of color from everywhere.”

Nejma said she based “Resilient Voices” on a similar production from her old school. The process of organizing this show began in December after Nejma spoke with Theater Director Ross MacDonald, she said.

After getting approval from the theater department, Nejma began working on the show in late April.

“I had done a show like this at my old school where I was one of the performers, but I had never organized it myself.”

Mr. MacDonald fully supported Nejma’s idea and helped her navigate through the production process, he said. The show was important because he sees theater as a powerful and useful way for people to express their thoughts, he said.

“Theater is a fantastic medium to address issues in all forms, creating constructive discussions no matter how difficult and challenging the subject matter may be for all parties,” he said. “I would also encourage all students to follow Nejma’s example and use theater and the performing arts to tell their stories.”

After learning about this performance opportunity through Nejma, Dahlia Roberts ’24 agreed to perform in the show alongside Rockie Yewendwossen ’25. Though the duo was originally unsure of which song to perform, they eventually chose “Hold Us Together,” a song by H.E.R. featuring Tauren Wells.

“This song was suggested by my partner, and it was kind of a last-minute decision,” Dahlia said. “We spent a lot of time going back and forth between which song to choose and also finding something that related to the theme of this performance. I liked this choice because the chorus is really nice, and the harmonies work out well.”

While the process of preparing for the show was nerve-wracking, Dahlia enjoyed the experience and was glad to see the duo’s hard work pay off, she said.

“The preparation process was a little overwhelming, but though it was stressful it was worth it. I really enjoyed being able to sing with Rockie, because she’s a really good and talented singer and I think I can learn a lot from her.”

Some performers used other mediums besides music to express themselves. For her performance, Alisa Ishii ’23 read a poem titled “A Bell, A Bird, and Me” by Misuzu Kaneko in both English and Japanese.

“This poem is something I’ve had in my back pocket for a very long time,” she said. “I first encountered it when I was around 12 in my weekend Japanese language school, and it just stuck with me ever since. It’s so simplistic, but it’s so beautiful, especially in its native language. I thought that ‘Resilient Voices’ was the perfect chance to share it.”

Through her performance, Alisa hoped to raise awareness against inequality both within and beyond the school community.

“Our main message was to raise awareness for BIPOC voices and students, especially because they’re a minority on [the US] campus,” she said. “So just raising them and uplifting them was a goal. Also, we hope this brings attention to the fact that our country is still a long way from equality, which is something that we as the BB&N community and as a nation can work on.”

Going forward, Nejma plans to make “Resilient Voices” an annual event highlighting the voices of BIPOC students.