Education and Entertainment: the Gordon Parks Celebration

John Mason, left,  leads a discussion on Gordon Parks’ book A Choice of Weapons, with  Harold Hicks, one of the book club facilitators, attending on the Zoom screen. A Fort Scott Community College Book Club had been discussing the book in previous weeks.  Mason is a history professor at the University of Virginia. In the book, Parks states that his weapons of choice in the fight against bigotry and poverty were love, dignity, and hard work. The book discussion was on Oct. 8 at the Ellis Arts Center on the campus of Fort Scott Community College.
Gordon Parks Museum Director Kirk Sharp gives an introduction to the Lunch and Learn speaker on Oct. 8 at the Ellis Fine Arts Center on the campus of Fort Scott Community College. The speaker, Angela Bates, is on the left.

The annual Gordon Parks Celebration weekend Oct. 7-9 was packed with events to educate and entertain.

The Gordon Parks Museum is located on the campus of Fort Scott Community College, 2401 S. Horton.

Parks was an African American documentary photojournalist, photographer, musician, writer and director, with humble beginnings in Fort Scott.

He died in 2006.

There were photo exhibits and a local photo contest, speakers, tours, film showings, entertainment, book discussions, and the opening of the Learning Tree Tourism Trail.

Two African American men were honored as the “Choice of Weapons” annual recipients, Kyle Johnson and Eli Reed.

Kyle Johnson is an actor, performer, and activist. Submitted photo.


Eli Reed is a photographer, author, producer, and director. Submitted photo.

Parks Choice of Weapons Award Winners Announced

During the weekend celebration, The Learning Tree Tourism Trail was introduced.

The Learning Tree Tourism Trail is a series of signs located at the different locations where the filming of The Learning Tree took place around Fort Scott. The signs include QR codes, to be used with a smartphone,  along with a virtual tour of the identified scene locations of the film, according to a Gordon Parks Museum press release.

To learn more:

The Learning Tree Tourism Trail Grand Opening is Oct. 7

Angela Bates speaks on Nicodemus, an African American town in Kansas, at a Lunch and Learn as part of the Gordon Parks Celebration on October 8.  Nicodemus, KS was a community of African Americans who came following the Civil War to start new lives as free people. Bates said the first year, 1877,  the Potowattamie and Osage Tribes of indigenous peoples helped the newcomers with food.

The annual photography contest in conjunction with the Gordon Parks Celebration had the winners on display at the Ellis Arts Center on the campus of FSCC.

Additionally on display were some of Parks’ photos and photos of The Learning Tree, the autobiographical film that Parks wrote and directed.

Winners of the Gordon Parks Celebration “Fashion & Diversity” photo contest, sponsored by Merl Humphrey Photography, are below.

Twenty-six entries were received and the winner of First Place was Johanna Walker (Franklin, KS) with the photo titled “Spotlight.”

Second Place was also Johanna Walker with the photo “Johnny.”

Third Place was Frank Clay with his photo, “Enjoying Each Other.”

First, Second, and Third place winners received cash prizes of $100, $75, and $50 respectively.

There were six Honorable Mentions named: “Diversity.” by (Yasser Alaa Mobarak,( Alexandria, Egypt.); “Skating the Disaster.” by Julie Steck (Merriam, KS); “Jewels of Plenty” by Bareigh Farrell (Fort Scott); “Portrait.” by Yasser Alaa Mobarak, (Alexandria, Egypt); “Queen of Color” by Alexxus Browning, Tulsa, OK and “Baby Blue.” by Adelay Martin (Redfield, KS).

The contest was open to any non-professional photographer and was inspired by Gordon Parks, who started his career in fashion photography and chose a camera to fight against racism, discrimination, and poverty.

Judges for the photo contest were professional photographer, Veretta Cobler, and established make-up artist and hairstylist, Donna Fumoso based in New York City.

The photo exhibit is on display in the lobby of the Ellis Fine Arts Center through October 15. The building is open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

First Place was Johanna Walker (Franklin, KS) with the photo titled “Spotlight.”
Johanna Walker, Franklin, KS was second-place winner in the Gordon Parks Photography Contest. The contest winners were one of many artistic displays at the Gordon Parks Celebration.
Enjoying Each Other, a photograph by Frank Clay, Overland Park, KS was the third-place winner of the Gordon Parks Photography Contest.



One thought on “Education and Entertainment: the Gordon Parks Celebration”

  1. Thanks for such thorough coverage of the events. I’m very grateful for all Kirk is doing to keep the Museum exciting and open to the public.

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