“Songs From My Mother’s Seashore” Celebrates Black Trans Woman Love


Julia Harbutt

College seniors Elijah Aladin and Nani Borges rehearse Songs from my Mother’s Seashore before opening night Thursday.

A woman in white and gold walks on stage, caressing a framed portrait of a Black woman shrouded in white cloth who stares defiantly at the viewer with one breast exposed. Over the sound of gentle waves in the distance, she wonders aloud, “If God were to stand before us, would we recognize her magnificence?”

Songs from My Mother’s Seashore is an original work written and directed by College senior Nani Borges, who also plays the lead in the show: a character with Borges’ name who represents a future version of herself. The theater production uses music, dance, and poetic writing to tell the story of a young Afro-Latinx transgender girl and her healing process.

“A lot of the dance and music is related to my education at Oberlin, but ultimately, when I think about what Black life and the Black aesthetic [are] … [they’re] filled with all those mediums,” Borges said. “We use all of those things to overcome trauma, we use all of those things to heal. But more importantly, we use all of those things in ritual.”

Her storytelling monologues also bleed into songs and dances, as well as scenes of dialogue — most often featuring the male love interest, Isaiah. The romantic aspect of the show is important to Borges because stories about Black trans characters often focus solely on their trauma.

“I feel like there are so many movies, so many plays about a white girl… being young and dumb and in love,” Borges said. “What if I wrote a story about a young trans girl being young and dumb and in love, and it didn’t end in her death or a tragedy, but it ended in something that was to be continued, that would be continued, and would be worked on and would be better?”

This show is a celebration of the Afro-Latinx experience, the trans body, womanhood, and the spiritual self. 

“Black trans love can be rough and can be beautiful,” Borges said. “When you push towards love, it is a vulnerable process that begs you to reckon with your past traumas and your past joys. But through reckoning, through understanding them, through reflecting on them, you will find a way back to your truest self.” 

Songs from My Mother’s Seashore runs April 4–6 at 8 p.m. in Kander Theater. Tickets are $5.