South Dade News Leader: Matt Becherer

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Matt Becherer

Thursday 02/22/2018
Finding Poetry in Racing

bluapple Poetry Network gives students the opportunity to express themselves through spoken word. 

bluapple Poetry Network at Homestead-Miami Speedway

One day before one of South Florida’s leading philanthropic organizations was recognized by NASCAR for its work with youth and minorities, a local high school was beset by a devastating tragedy. 

The work that the Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network of the Jason Taylor Foundation has done with youth throughout South Florida has been remarkable in the seven years of its existence, and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland have been actively involved in their programming since those early years.

An avenue to express

emotions and feelings is imperative for our youth, and the bluapple Poetry Network gives many students around South Florida this vital opportunity.

While there will be many coping mechanisms in place for the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and throughout South Florida, the bluapple Poetry Network will undoubtedly provide an outlet that many of the students will so desperately need. They have served in an invaluable role since 2011, and they have become an integral part of the school system here in South Florida.

The Jason Taylor Foundation earned NASCAR’s Institution Award at the 2018 Drive for Diversity Awards last week at Daytona International Speedway, prior to the running of the DAYTONA 500.

It was an honor that was

certainly well deserved for all that they do to help integrate local minority youth into the sport of racing through our partnership in the Write Track Poetry competition. While it’s something that made their entire organization beam with pride, it was evident upon accepting the award that emotions from the day before were still very strong.

They have been one of our great community partners each of the last three years, and it’s a relationship that has grown each year. While the work that they do with us as a track helps to bring the sport of NASCAR into focus for kids who might otherwise not have given it a second thought, their ultimate objectives have much more wide-ranging effects.

Since its inception in 2011, the bluapple Poetry Network – which began as the bluapple Poetry Corner - has afforded students the opportunity to express themselves through spoken word. Kids who previously might have been fearful of being forthcoming with their feelings about life’s issues that they face, now are able to do so through the art of poetry. And through this program, a plethora of middle and high school students have been afforded the chance to do just this.

Our involvement with this tremendous program began in 2015 when three of their students wrote and performed a spoken word piece focusing on NASCAR and its history at Homestead-Miami Speedway The following year we commenced the Write Track poetry competition, which took our partnership a step further. This specific program has challenged middle-school students throughout Miami-Dade County to write and perform a spoken word piece based on a NASCAR-championship theme.

The success thus far has been greater than we ever could have hoped. The number of participating schools increased from three in 2016 to seven last year. Over the two years of its existence, the program has introduced more than 4,500 students to spoken word poetry, and more than 1,000 students wrote and submitted poems. NASCAR and poetry were very rarely uttered in the same sentence previously. Now, the two have become synonymous in South Florida.

Each spring since 2013, the bluapple Poetry Network has put on Louder Than a Bomb Florida (LTBFLA). This is a friendly competition which pits high schools from Homestead all the way up to Port St. Lucie against one another during multi-week poetry festival. The energy around these is unmistakable. Auditoriums throughout Broward County are filled with students from the various schools, some who are there as participants, but many more as fans and supporters. The raucousness is so similar to any of the schools’ Friday night football games and provides those performing a feeling unlike any other.

We all know that sports has played an integral part in the development of our youth. Whether it’s the competition that is experienced on the field of play or learning from professionals in a sport who serve as role models, it is something that has an important place in our society.

Through the great work of the Jason Taylor Foundation, poetry is now serving in that same capacity – if not more so. You don’t need to be able to bench press 225-pounds or run a sub-5-minute mile to become interested in and be successful in poetry. It cuts across all races, genders and socio-economic status groups.

It is a true microcosm of the diversity that pervades South Florida.

And it is a major reason the Jason Taylor Foundation was so worthy of this prestigious honor.


Sunday, February 25 at 2:30 PM (ET)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Tune In: FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Saturday, February 24 at 2:00 PM (ET)

NASCAR XFINITY Series Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Tune In: FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90

Saturday, February 24 at 4:30 PM (ET)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Active Pest Control 2000

benefiting Children’s HealthCare of Atlanta at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Tune In: FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90


Feb. 22-26 Road to Indy Spring Training

March 1 Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

March 2 Fast Lane Friday Presented By The Ticket Clinic

March 3-4 National Auto Sport Association

March 17 Performance Driving Group

March 18 Miami Exotic Auto Racing


Nov. 16

Ford EcoBoost 200 Camping World Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 17

Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 18

Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship Race

Posted in Opinion, Columnists, Matt becherer, Sports on Thursday, February 22, 2018 7:59 pm. Comments (0)


Matt Becherer is President of Homestead-Miami Speedway. This long-time motorsports executive is one of the good guys, and he leads a team of 40 that operate the track. If you would like to talk to Matt, he can be reached at chatwithmatt

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