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Making History: HARK Comes to Shreveport

July 22, 2019


HARK (which stands for History of the Ark-La-Tex) is both a history festival and a competition. The competition challenges K-college students to engage in age-appropriate research, then present their findings in creative ways.

HARK is an initiative of the Bishop Blue Foundation, which celebrates the living legacy of Bishop College, an HBCU established by Northern missionaries and freedmen in 1881 in Marshall, Texas. The College moved to Dallas in 1961 and, by the time it closed in 1988, was known for producing dynamic teachers and preachers. Prominent Bishop College graduates include Shreveport-based ministers like Rev. Harry Blake and the late Rev. E. Edward Jones, who were civil rights activists and held national leadership roles.

Like many colleges, Bishop spearheaded community learning opportunities, from providing Boy Scout troop leaders to hosting nationally-known speakers on its campus. The Bishop Foundation seeks to have a similar impact with programs that generate interest in the complex history of the Ark-La-Tex. HARK - developed by the Foundation in partnership with LSU Shreveport and with the support of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the James Smith Noel Foundation - aims to do precisely that.

The collaboration between the community groups and educators benefits everyone. "We are delighted that LSUS is hosting the HARK festival in partnership with the Bishop Blue Foundation," says Interim Provost, Dr. Helen Taylor. "LSUS is committed to fostering creativity that responds to the rich diversity of this region, as we all work to tighten our cultural and social fabric. This festival reflects and celebrates everyone"

Dionne Procell-Brown, History teacher at Caddo Magnet High School, is excited about the unique format of the event. "HARK isn't your average academic competition," she says. "It has a category for everyone, from cooks to artists to writers to filmmakers."

The structure of HARK also appeals to poet and short-story writer ML Dumars. "The HARK Festival is significant for preserving the historical and cultural uniqueness of this region," she says. "Students will be able to reconnect with their own family history and share in the collective experience of their region. Through music, prose, crafts, recipes, and other means by which they choose to express their history, student participants serve as historians when they share what they learn in an artistic manner."

Giving students creative choice is one thing that makes HARK different from other competitions. HARK acknowledges that we all experience life - and learning - differently. So there are no preset formulae that competitors must follow, although HARK does offer guidelines and advice on its website. Instead, the focus is on hands-on creativity.

Procell-Brown believes this approach will help foster skills that are "critical for the 21st century work place."

"I know from experience," she adds, "that when you get students to learn more about where they come from, where they live, it can build their self-confidence."

Another exciting prospect is the chance to win the $500 grand prizes, sponsored by LSU Shreveport and the Noel Foundation, that will be awarded in each of four age groups: elementary school, middle-school, high-school, and college. That's in addition to ribbons and trophies at the lower levels of competition. Winners in the writing and visual arts categories will be published in the HARK Journal. And all entrants will be invited to submit process writing explaining their entries to be preserved in the Pioneer Heritage Center archives.

Entering HARK is free and open to all K-college students. Competitors register online between August 1 and September 27. Entries in some categories, like poetry, prose, and animation, are submitted online at the time of registration. Other entries, like textile crafts, wood crafts, and painting, must be brought to the LSU Shreveport campus on Friday, October 11.

Judging happens during the festival, which will be held at LSU Shreveport on Saturday, October 12 in conjunction with the Pioneer Heritage Center Open Day. As well as history-based entertainment, visitors can enjoy a scavenger hunt, live music, and interactive poetry.

For details about the competition and festival, look up And be prepared to become part of history!


Media Contact: Media Contact: Wendell Riley, Director of Media and Public Relations 318-797-5108

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