Papa Rap to bring message to schools
Papa Rap to bring message to schools
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – One of the most influential voices in the Hispanic community in Arkansas will be on stage at Hempstead Hall for a one-night conversation with the Hope Public School District’s Hispanic families.

Al Lopez, better known as Papa Rap, is a former visual merchandising executive for J. C. Penney Co. who now takes his love of music and message of community involvement in education across the state.

Currently employed as the school-community liaison for the Springdale School District, which has one of the fastest growing Hispanic populations in the state, Lopez can be heard regularly on La Zeta, 99.5 FM on “Papa Reportes” discussing education and community involvement. He performs regularly at Northwest Arkansas schools, using music to help communities find common ground in education.

“When I started to work, I realized there were already problems with kids not getting along; kids who were Latino and kids who were white and who’d been here their whole lives,” Lopez notes in a June, 2016, interview. “I used my music to build that bridge. The main message was, ‘It’s going to take time to become friends, but why can’t we work on common ground issues?’”

With music such as his “What’s Up, Que Pasa” bilingual recording from 1998, which won the John Lennon Song Writing Children’s Category, Lopez incorporates friendship into simple Spanish phrases that answer questions and bridge cultural divides.

“What’s up? Que Pasa? What’s your name? Como te llama? Where are you from? De donde eres? Let’s be friends. Seamos amigos,” he offers.

Using audience participation, Lopez helps students in schools connect through assuring them they are understood.

And, as co-founder of OneCommunity, Lopez also introduced ArkanSalsa to Northwest Arkansas, which brings Hispanic culture alive in an art and music festival each October in Springdale. He has also fostered summer reading programs in the Springdale schools to bring Hispanic parents together with their children to read together.

“It’s a good way to help parents learn the language better as well as the kids,” he explains in a previously published interview.

Papa Rap will be on stage at Hempstead Hall on Dec. 9 during the annual HPSD English Language Learners Parent Night. The program is free of charge and activities begin at 6 p.m., according to Cleytus Coulter, Beryl Henry Elementary School assistant principal and ELL coordinator.

More than $600 in door prizes will be given away throughout the evening including at least one bicycle, Beats ear buds, Tone wireless headphones, automotive services, Watermelon Festival tee shirts, kitchen items, tools, local restaurant meals and more. Sponsoring merchants include Right Choice rental, Hope Auto, McDonalds of Hope, Tailgaters, Kidd Tire Co., Sears, Lagrone-Williams Hardware, HopePrescott.com, Blonde Ambition, and Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce.

Coulter said light refreshments will be served after the program.

For more information, contact Coulter at 777-6222, or Connie Ortiz, 722-2716, Laura Gray and Mary Storey, 777-2723, Teena Bell, 777-5134, Christi Tucker, 777-3451, or Shannon Hawthorne, 777-3454.