BOSTON — It’s the final countdown for hundreds of Boston Public School students set to perform in the city’s annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration at the Strand Theater.
Through song, middle schoolers from the Haley Pilot School in Roslindale are telling the desegregation story of the Little Rock nine with rap, hip-hop, and dance.
“People deserve to know about the Little Rock Nine. They were an amazing group in history and they deserve to be known,” said sixth-grader Calum Royal.
The show titled Little Rock is part of the Haley celebration of Black History Month, extending the conversation into a yearlong conversation. Royal told Boston 25 News he loves playing real characters in history.
“A lot made history, and not just the ones you know off the top of your head like Martin Luther King. There’s a lot more to it,” he said.
“This idea of upstanders and bystanders, the kids always have a choice what they’re gonna do in the face of injustice,” said Dan Dehart, Haley Pilot School.
Work on the Hip Hopera started back in May and one of the biggest challenges was taking a subject like the Little Rock nine and make it accessible to middle schoolers.
“Just not trying to water it down. Trying to kind of Disnify the story. As some of the kids mentioned earlier, just paying homage to the Little Rock Nine and their families,” said Jason Wise, Haley Pilot School.
Dehart and Wise say they included the study of Civil Rights in their art curriculum, making sure students felt connected to the material. It wasn’t always easy especially while rehearsing scenes directly addressing the hate the Little Rock Nine experienced.
“I just sat there and I just had nothing to say and one girl says under her breath, ‘I really don’t like singing that song’ and that, to me, says you really understand it’s heavy. It’s not supposed to be enjoyable, but this happens,” said Dehart.
Seventh-grader Jaedaliz Lopez says the tough moments are the most important. “It gets to people and it makes them understand more what’s really going on. Not really everybody listens to words.”
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