These South Bronx Fourth Grade Boys Are Talking About Race And Black Lives Matter Through Theater
South Bronx teacher Sentell Harper created a production based on the poem, “Alternative Names for Black Boys."
Art stays imitating life!
Success Academy Bronx 2 teacher Sentell Harper has created the spoken-word production entitled Alternative Names for Black Boys featuring boys in his fourth grade class as performers, CNN reports.
With hoods on their heads, they recite the names of black youth and men killed in police brutality incidents, “Freddie … Michael … Philando … Tamir,” they say. “Eric … Alton … Trayvon … Jordan.”
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“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today we’re gonna talk about race,'” Harper said.“And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”
Besides the recitation of names, Harper's production includes Tupac Shakur’s famous poem, “Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?,” snippets from Langston Hughes’ “Popular Tree” and a monologue addressing future issues of young black boys.
“With the killings of black men and boys being in the media, it was really just scary in my world,” Harper said. “I thought about the boys I was teaching … society won’t see them like I see them. Society will only see them as black men.”
The production has clearly had a significant impact on the young boys, who unfortunately have to navigate a world where the police see them as a target. “When I do this piece, I’m, like, proving everybody wrong, that I could get an education, and I could go somewhere in my life,” performer Tysean Wheeler said.
“We want to prove people wrong about what black men and boys can do, because we might be the future men [that] would [or] could get shot or killed,” another performer Gregory Hannah, added.
The production has since expanded with the latest cast being offered invitations to perform at theater conferences and Carnegie Hall. The success of the piece has Harper working on a comparable piece for girls of color.