Poetry is loosely defined as ‘a beautiful expression of feelings and ideas.’ Whether written or spoken, it is a thought-provoking and meaningful way for your voice to be heard. Poetry can be personal or public, and the definition of the word could not be more fitting than for a group of young students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School known as the Parkland Poets.
The Poets consist of a diverse group of teens and their teacher, all with a similar interest – to address the pressing issues of our day using a positive and artful approach. By sharing their stories, they seek to empower their fellow youth. The Parkland Poets were profiled this year during the annual Louder Than a Bomb: Florida poetry festival comprised of teens from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville. This forum provides a safe space for individual and collective expression. To better explain the events’ title, co-founder Kevin Coval said, “We feel that what young people have to say about the world they inhabit and hope to construct is more useful than any armament, more complex than prison industrial systems, and louder than any bomb.” The Poets’ graceful approach in describing the tragic events of February 14 will draw you in from the students’ very first breath. With a recurring theme of, “I don’t know if I’m doing this right,” they speak openly about that devastating day and how it has changed them forever. These special young people choose to cope with their grief by turning to the spoken word and deliver a gripping performance through the eyes of those who were there.
While some adolescents shy away from public speaking, the Parkland Poets thrive at it. This platform allows them to express their raw emotion, their fears, their angst… themselves. Their tremendous stage presence is especially evident in a scene where individual Poets stand on stage as one and share, “I’m adrift in a sea of complacency. I couldn’t even bring myself to bring myself to the funerals, to look at the pictures of the victims… I’m heartless and cold; at least, that’s what I’m told. But I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know if I’m doing this right!” Presented by NBC 6 and the Jason Taylor Foundation, you can view this compelling 30-minute performance now on YouTube.
Legendary Miami Dolphin defensive end, Jason Taylor, has a success story of his own. While homeschooled from grades 10 to 12, he remained on his high school’s football team. In college, he was a four-year letterman and also starred on the school’s basketball team. As a junior, he earned National Defensive Player of the Week honors and was drafted the following year by the Miami Dolphins. He established the Jason Taylor Foundation in 2004 with the hopes of giving back to our local community. Admittedly from humble beginnings, Taylor had great ambition to provide South Florida’s less fortunate youth with better opportunities than he had growing up. This objective has led him to a mission of understanding, compassion, and support. He’s created programs that empower children by focusing on improved health care, education, and simple quality of life. With clear goals in mind, the NFL Hall of Famer set out to build on the impact that the Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network created and became involved with Louder Than a Bomb: Florida. Now in its fourth year, the event is stronger and the poetry is more influential than ever. Taylor told NBC 6, “It’s spoken word poetry in a very raw, organic, real way that’s leaving a big impact on kids. Words can be cutting and uplifting, they can be inspiring, and that’s what we have here.”
It’s extremely powerful to watch these amazing youngsters perform, but when you think about why this group came about, and the dreadful reason for where their poetry was spawned, it really hits home. So how do we end the violence? We may not have all the answers quite yet, but coming together and taking a stance, as the Parkland Poets do, is unquestionably a great beginning.
To learn more about the Jason Taylor Foundation and Louder Than a Bomb: Florida, visit the website at https://jasontaylorfoundation.com/programs/louder-than-a-bomb-florida/.
“Teach your child poetry; it opens the mind, lends grace to wisdom and makes the heroic virtues hereditary.” — Walter Scott