History, community and unity are words from students, staff and alumni from Booker T. Washington High School and Green Oaks Performing Arts Academy as they prepare for the annual Soul Bowl football game tonight.
The longstanding matchup has been a part of the athletic line up for many years. Out of a high school football game between rival schools, grew what is now a culture and atmosphere that has shown benefits to the schools and city. The experience of the Soul Bowl has heightened to more than just a high school football matchup. Rather, it has become an event that brings together generations of former and current students to reminisce and connect.
Additionally, school class reunions, family reunions and other celebrations are planned around one night of football with an atmosphere of wholesome fun and community pride.
With much anticipation of the game, Green Oaks junior cornerback, L’Sean Thomas said, “We are ready to play to win.”
Also feeling the enthusiasm of the game are players at BTW. Practicing over two hours each day, the Lions prepared to put their best plays on the football field.
Senior offensive tackle and defensive end Kamari Clay said, ”Our community supports us. When I wear my BTW t-shirt in public, it shows my community that I take pride in my school and neighborhood.”
In 1982, the establishment of the Soul Bowl took formation after two BTW alumni, Michael Walker and Vernon Claville, came together to develop a football game showcasing the two communities. What began as a way to united two communities has taken on a new look with the Soul Bowl serving as a source of continued pride. The Soul Bowl has fostered mutual respect among both schools and has translated into the surrounding neighborhoods.
Unlike a high school football game, the Soul Bowl has established itself as a festive event for residents of Shreveport to enjoy.
“The Soul Bowl is bigger than a football game. It has evolved into an event that brings communities together,” Booker T. Washington Alumni Foundation President Frederick Henson said.
High school football is part of many students’ school experiences. Whether it is playing an instrument in the marching band, twirling a baton on a dance line or running a football into the end zone, football brings people together in a spirited, yet interactive way. The Soul Bowl has gained the reputation of being as exciting as an NCAA college football game. Many students and spectators are drawn to the fan-fair gameweek brings. This history of the game continues to show students that success can be achieved. Former Soul Bowl football players have gone to become professional football players, doctors and lawyers.
“There is much pageantry that goes behind the scenes for the Soul Bowl,” said Anthony Tisdale, the district’s athletic supervisor. “The Soul Bowl makes a great contribution to Caddo Parish Public Schools. Students have attended college because of the funds from the Soul Bowl and fundraisers surrounding the game, and former students have become very successful.”
This year, Green Oaks is holding its inaugural alumni prom, with proceeds of tickets sales given to students in need of uniforms, shoes and supplies throughout the school year.
“The Soul Bowl is a community family reunion, where two historical schools come together as one for the benefit of our students,” Green Oaks Alumni Association President Dr. Stacey Russell said. “The prom is a fun way that our alumni can give back to our students. Proceeds from this event will go towards Green Oaks Kids in Need (KIN) initiative.”
Not to be outdone, BTW alumni also hosts an event to benefit its students with a musical twist. The Battle of the Bands was established by BTW alumni as a fundraising effort to award student scholarships. Reminding players and students of the Soul Bowl’s rich history has become critical to both alumni organizationas as well as coaches and staff ito keep the tradition thriving in years to come.
“As coaches, we have to be historians to our students,” BTW Head Football Coach Tony Reliford said, “We must make sure that our teams understand the efforts that have been given to them to make this game possible.”
Prior to the game, both schools meet in an atmosphere of fun at the Soul Bowl breakfast. School administrators, players, family members and district leaders attend the event to offer encouragement to both teams and to celebrate the history the Soul Bowl has offered.
“The Soul Bowl is not only important to both schools, but it is important to the city and the parish,” Booker T. Washington Alumni President Frederick Henson said. “It takes a village to ensure that students who are in need have the necessities to become successful and to achieve what they could not achieve on their own. These are acts of generosity that create better communities.”