Autumn wrote a poem

by Seth Levit, Executive Director of The Jason Taylor Foundation

One could argue that it began in 1992, in Gainesville, on the University of Florida campus when I first met an18 year-old Marcellus Haynes. There was certainly no earthly way that this Jewish kid from South Florida could have known that the Decatur, Georgia native with dark skin and even darker combat boots would become my closest friend in college and a life-long confidant.

And even if some out-of-world premonition had given me the slightest sign of what was to come, under no circumstance could I ever have dreamed that 19 years later, Marcellus’ childhood best friend, then a University of Georgia defensive back with passions far beyond the gridiron, would one day use a laptop from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to begin a collaboration with myself and one of the National Football League’s most feared and decorated defenders of all time, to change lives through a magical combination of rhythmical composition, similes, metaphors and powerful imagery.

You could make that argument, but again, I would tell you that Autumn wrote a poem.

It was February 2011 and Kevin Sawyer, our unparalleled Educational Director at the Jason Taylor Reading Room, was conducting his unique Black History Month presentation for the students in our after-school literacy program.

During one particular session, a quiet, but bold young 8th grade student by the name of Autumn Williams was so moved by Mr. Sawyer’s teachings that she felt compelled to pick up a pen that evening and write a poem. Her first poem. Ever.

Fortunately for all of us, it didn’t stop there. See, Autumn wasn’t just inspired to write a poem. Once she poured her heart and soul onto page, she was empowered to let others hear her piece, and that is exactly what she did. Upon her arrival at the Reading Room the following day, Autumn asked Mr. Sawyer if she could share her work, and the rest, literally, was history in the making.

Autumn’s poem ignited a spark in me that transformed into a flame that, thanks to the courage, creativity, talents, support and influence of so many others, is burning down barriers and building up spirits in a way I have never experienced before. I don’t take what I am witnessing lightly and as this movement grows like wildfire, I absolutely refuse to let anyone forget how it began.