It all started with a phone call. The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) contacted the Jason Taylor Foundation (JTF), looking to partner with us for an upcoming public service announcement with the theme "Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands." Due to circumstances with youth today, BSO and Sheriff Scott Israel wished to heed a warning with their new campaign that violence shouldn’t be the answer in any situation. JTF Executive Director, Seth Levit, shared an ingenious idea with the Public Relations team at BSO to have Zoharian Williams and me, Taylor Duarte, current bluapple poets and JTF student volunteers, incorporated into the PSA. Within twenty-four hours, they had fallen in love with the idea and plans were quickly underway.
The next day, Zo and I just happened to be in the office at the same time and the same moment the PSA idea was approved. I had briefly gotten to know Zo through the bluapple Poetry Network during the school year, and we became more acquainted working together within the group of Omari Hardwick bluapple poets that performed at the American Black Film Festival. Asked on the spot to write a collaborative 30-second piece, we took up the challenge with ease. Situated in the conference room at the JTF office, he and I flowed and rhymed together, and within forty-five minutes, an inspirational poem on peace had been created. This was the fastest I had ever written any complete poem, and I think we shocked everyone with our speedy collaboration.
After this whirlwind of events, on June 26, Zo and I found ourselves at the BSO headquarters basketball court in front of a camera, ready to shoot the most powerful PSA ever seen. Without needing the teleprompter, we fired off line after line of the poem written only the afternoon before, and the South Florida heat didn’t even faze us. And then the keeper of peace himself arrived, Sheriff Scott Israel, to film with us at the end. We were also joined by youth from H.A.N.D.Y. (Helping Abused, Neglected, Disadvantaged Youth) and other Broward County deputies. And speaking of the heat, Miami Heat World Champion basketball player, James Jones, even made an appearance in support of the same efforts to "Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands."
After wrapping up, pictures were taken, smiles were shared, and congratulations were given. Sheriff Israel was so thankful and generous; he even offered us rides on his helicopter and airboat! I viewed the opportunity as a great learning experience, and as young poets, this was another great reason to use our voice to help others make better decisions through the power of poetry. We are excited to make an impact on Broward County and are supremely grateful for the opportunity afforded to us.
We do big things here at the JTF!
To view the Broward Sheriff Office's "Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands" PSA, led by the Omari Hardwick bluapple poets, Taylor and Zo along with Sheriff Scott Israel, please click the following link: