Tiana Williams is an IU junior majoring in musical theatre. Through her work she said she embodies the spirit of an activist. Williams uses the stage and her various roles to emphasize Black voices and Black struggles.
“As much as I am a performer, I am truly an activist at heart,” Williams said. “As an actor, my job is to portray the world and give it a better understanding of itself.”
Williams is a diversity representative in IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. This position allows her to make sure everyone’s voice and perspective in the department is heard. She is also a co-social programming chair for the IU NAACP, organizing general body meetings and other small events.
“My work has definitely been a strong asset this year,” Williams said. “Everyone’s like ‘Oh let’s see what our institutional racism within this department looks like.’”
Outside of advocating for students, Williams enjoys being a performer. Normally, she performs in various shows and cabarets over the summer around Indianapolis. But the recent pandemic has put a strain on her performances, limiting her travel throughout Indiana to perform.
Williams got her start in theater at Pike High School in Indianapolis, with some of her first performances being “Ragtime” and “In the Heights.” “Ragtime” was one of her favorite performances because it was a politically driven play highlighting diverse families in pursuit of the American dream.
Williams performed this play in 2016, an election year, and said it was a show people in Indiana needed to see.
Her most recent show, “Bonnets: (How Ladies of Good Breeding Are Induced to Murder),” was also another success.This play confronted legacies of violence and power through subverting historic illustrations of well-behaved women — the performance raised the question of why good people do bad things.
Coincidentally, this was another politically driven performance Williams starred in during an election year.
She said these plays are examples of how she embodies an activist through her work.
While being an advocate for the Black community, Williams remembers that it is important to confront her own battles at times. One piece of advice she abides by is everything does happen for a reason.
Williams said she can sometimes get lost in pain and emotion, but then months or years later she realizes why those times were so hard. Knowing everything happens for a reason, she is able to understand that there is a bigger plan ahead that she cannot control.
“We’re just kind of living in a plan that’s already been written for us,” Williams said. “With the hardships, we don’t know what the next chapter looks like. It’s so cheesy, but it’s so true.”