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Alternative Names for Black

A 4th grade class is using theater to discuss race and Black Lives Matter

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Last fall, 4th graders from Success Academy Bronx 2 in New York City performed the spoken-word production, "Alternative Names for Black Boys" under the direction of actor, playwright and teacher Sentell Harper.

Harper told CNN that the show demonstrates how acutely these boys are aware of race in their world - and how much they want to talk about it.

"I got my group of boys together, and I said, 'today we're gonna talk about race,'" said Harper, who is black.

"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."

The death of Michael Brown - a black teen who was fatally shot in 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, MS - fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.

"With the killings of black men and boys being in the media, it was really just scary in my world," he 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 five-part performance includes a poem by rapper Tupac Shakur called, "Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?"; a few lines from Langston Hughes' "Poplar Tree"; Danez Smith's "Alternative Names for Black Boys"; a monologue that speaks to the future of young black boys.

Harper plans to make the show a yearly tradition. With each new class of 4th graders bringing their own perspectives to the piece. The latest cast was invited to perform the piece at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall.

CNN contributed to this report.

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