The Martin Luther King Jr. poetry contest held by the Rochester Diversity Council gives local students the opportunity to express themselves freely.

Elementary through high school students participated in the contest, and winners are selected to recite their poems during the Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast event held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18.

Students like Willow Creek Middle School seventh-grader Eli Kagel and Byron High School ninth-grader Samantha Solberg used this contest as a chance to show their current interpretation of society through their winning poems “Tapestries Alive” and "Life Seals You in a Path."

"Distilled each tapestry’s contents are fundamentally similar … encouraging to appreciate we are … destined for goodness and greatness … only when we come together and act judiciously."

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Kagel and his family recently moved to Rochester in 2019 from Denver.

His family comes from Jewish heritage, and a lot of his influence for the poem came from his recent bar mitzvah. Kagel’s experience hearing stories about his lineage and the current political situation in the U.S. gave him the symbolic metaphor idea of the tapestry and the poem.

“The whole idea is how we’re given these stories and ideas on how to grow,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, it can be taken away if we don’t protect it and we don’t protect the stories and focus on differences instead.”

"Exclusion requires … persons to hold … a tapestry like a divider … failing to understand and protect … its beauty and intrinsic value."

As a 13-year-old watching the events that took place at the Capitol last week, Kagel has found it all “bewildering.”

He feels he has a strong grasp of the current reality and “what it’s like to be a human,” but he said he’s also aware of his age and the fact that he hasn’t had the life experiences, nor a complete understanding of others, to fully grasp it.

Kagel does feel, however, that the Capitol storming is a representation of how history is being misunderstood.

“I feel like they are misusing history to create their own narrative for their own reason to do things,” he said. “And that we’re not learning anything from it, but instead, we’re just talking about it. … I feel like history should have caught up by now that it’s not a good thing to have division.”

Eli Kagel, a 7th grader at Willow Creek, on Friday, January 15, 2021, outside his home in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Eli Kagel, a 7th grader at Willow Creek, on Friday, January 15, 2021, outside his home in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

"Ultimately, damaging the tapestry of a people ... damages all origins of humankind ... And, interjects in our ability to achieve a cohesive place to … bring alive our respective tapestries."

Following along with Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision, Kagel sees the ability for change and hope in people.

From others donating their time and money to good causes to the kindness he notices around him, he feels if the tapestry is protected, there can be change.

“I see the good in people all around us every day,” he said.

"All the respect builds for different people ... Whether you’re rich and full of money ... Or a baker that might get lucky ... You have the world at your feet they say ... But what if you have a path planned for the rest of your days ... It never changes."

Solberg and her family have lived in Rochester their entire lives. The 14-year-old has always enjoyed English class and writing, so it didn't take much convincing from her stepmother for her to join the poetry contest.

Her poem centers around the concept of how people are given respect, and if it's possible to change how that respect is given to others.

"I think there's a line of respect that everyone has deep down, and that maybe a person from a poor family may not have as much respect in society as someone that runs a big business, per se," Solberg said. "You look at them with different levels of respect and people probably have respect, but it's just given in different ways. So I took it from there because some people are born into that respect and given it, while some have to earn it."

Fourteen-year-old Samantha Solberg is a 9th grader at Byron High School and has always been interesting in English and writing. (Contributed photo)
Fourteen-year-old Samantha Solberg is a 9th grader at Byron High School and has always been interesting in English and writing. (Contributed photo)

"Dare it breaks ... When it all comes crumbling down ... Revealing the fakes ... Making the path foggy ... But what's the good of that if we will build it up."

As Solberg sits in her history class through lessons about slavery and the civil rights movement, she can't help but relate them to today's events.

Like Kaleg, she feels history is also being misused. She thinks the parts of history Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to abolishing may be getting restored and the cycle may continue.

"Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to break the pattern and go through and see if he can break it and change the path for future people, and he did," Solberg said. "But what if you build it back up, and it seems now that some people may be trying to build it back up in today's society, but most of us, I think, would be trying to help what he did in the past, and come together and make it a better place."

While she never imagined her poem would have the platform it has now when she submitted it, Solberg hopes the poems will help bring more awareness, even though she feels "it's kind of a big hope for it to get that far."

"I really do hope it inspires people," she said. "Maybe somebody out there will see it and think, 'We should stop.' "


Winners of the Diversity Council’s Annual MLK Poetry Contest


"The Cause of Jr." by Aditi Sriram

Fourth Grade, Rochester Montessori School

When humanity works together as a society,

Not a soul notices the dissimilarity.

But when one breaks its tranquility,

They start to realize that there is diversity.



They change the community in a poor, and atrocious way.

Thinking that they will always be victorious with their ways,

“Forget your pious being,” they say.



You wonder what to do, and an idea comes into sight,

And with many other people,

In the path of peace you fight.

You fight for a cause, and that cause is human rights.



You don’t need to go out with a suit and tie on stage,

You don’t need to be of an adult's age

You don’t need to have a gun that is beige,

You must be brave.



Help them continue,

Even you have to trudge through grass with dew

For the people you do it for is a benefit for you.

Do it with virtue.



To be devoted to this cause,

means you must do everything you can to help.

You must have the conviction.

You must have the courage to do it.



If it is a success …

We the people will be peaceful.

We the people will be prosperous.

We the people will be happy.

We the people will be freer than ever.


"Ripples" by Diya Kapoor

Fourth Grade, Rochester Arts and Sciences School

The world’s problems are like ripples

As I skip a stone on water, I watch it bounce

The ripple grows

If there is a problem in the world, it cannot be kept in a bubble

Because if something affects one directly, it is certain to affect the neighbor indirectly

The world’s problems are like ripples

The world’s love and kindness are like ripples



As I skip a stone on water, I watch it bounce

The ripple grows

If there are kindness and love in the world, they will not remain in a bubble

Because if there are kindness and love in your heart, they will spread to the neighbor

The world’s love and kindness are like ripples



The way we act and what we say affects others

Let us spread kindness and love to our neighbors



The world’s problems are like ripples

The world’s love and kindness are like ripples


"In Your Own Way" by Rayna Siwani

Fourth Grade, Fowell Elementary

Turn your mind, your kindness, your empathy

To a land with a hopeless plea

Where people are separate and people are sad,

And no one can ever be free



Take a look at their sadness, their love, their longing

Make a place of love; a place of light

Work hard to build the bridges

Tear down the fences and unite



Don’t let the differences tear us apart

Or let the colors define you

Make a place where everyone can choose

And let their colors run true



Because Black is a rich midnight

And White a cloudless day

Each color is beautiful; each color is mesmerizing

In their own way



Even the darkest day will set

Hold on to your resolve to be kind

May every setback bring us closer

Because you see, our destinies are intertwined


"Awakening" by Caleb Kennel

Seventh Grade, Friedell School

Like a hidden figure

It’s there

Even though it’s invisible

It’s always there



There’s no escape

It’s always waiting

Until it reveals itself

Sly, deceiving, hating



I did not see it

I’m not sure if others do



On my head it hit

When I finally saw and knew



I thought this stuff was gone

A fight long won I have never been so wrong

I thought the battle was done



To me it is amazing

And equally horrifying

To see how one thing

Can lead to things that are terrifying



One person killed

Leads to others dead

Who would’ve known

Where one person killed led



This world is full of hate

And as Yoda said

“Hate starts with fear”

And that hate of one will spread



However bad

The situation is

We must always have hope

Without hope, we will have opportunities that we will miss



Nothing can be accomplished

Without the will of one

To do what is right

Until right has been done



But how much courage does it take?

To help others and make

To make the world a better place

Before we can do that, we need to wake


"Tapestries Alive" by Eli Kagel

Seventh Grade, Willow Creek Middle School

The origins of all people,

begins with their story

depicted in a tapestry,

whether in the Bible, along cave walls,

in the Tantras, Torah, Quoran, or

lures passed down.

Distilled each tapestry’s contents are fundamentally similar,

encouraging to appreciate we are

destined for goodness and greatness

only when we come together and act judiciously.

Forsaking all else for unity and inclusivity.

Nowhere is diversity

something to be frowned upon

or an indication of inferiority.

Diversity is a common thread

Interweaving different experiences

and beliefs,

all essentially belonging to

complete each and every threading

and thus, the whole tapestry.

The tapestry warms our shoulders

and unites us.

Seemingly never-ending

mirroring our destiny as people.

But, its craftmanship is delicate.

If we don’t keep it taut to our hearts,

and protected from the winds surrounding it,

it will rip, fade, and become unappreciable.

These tapestries, by themselves, are not strong enough

to reject and exclude others.

Exclusion requires

persons to hold

a tapestry like a divider,

failing to understand and protect

its beauty and intrinsic value.

Ultimately, damaging the tapestry of a people

damages all origins of humankind.

And, interjects in our ability to achieve

a cohesive place to

bring alive our respective tapestries.


"Its Your Choice" by Nasra Nur

Eighth Grade, Friedell School

You can choose to stay blind, choose to not listen, and choose to stay quiet.

It's not my choice of what you choose.

The truth is untangling in front of us consistently and relentlessly.

Was it obvious what has occurred today today? Yes? No?

I pray for one day we can put all our faith together in a justice system that treats us fairly regardless of skin color, creed, or religion. We need to remember we are all human.

I hope we can leave long grudges, become more forgiving, instead of dividing on beliefs and what's on the outside, we should unite since we are made of the same stuff in the inside. Blood and bones.

When you see a blatant crime being committed in front of your face, I hope you would stand up to what is right despite the person's skin color, creed or religion. If one of us gets hurt, we all get hurt.


"Life seals you in a path" by Samantha Anne Solberg

Ninth Grade, Byron High School

Tied in a line of mutuality

That could only get you up the chain

If you get an act of charity

Dare break it

To lose all that you have

So you fake it

But what does that give

When the fakers fake

The haters hate

All the respect builds for different people

Whether you’re rich and full of money

Or a baker that might get lucky

You have the world at your feet they say

But what if you have a path planned for the rest of your days

It never changes

I doubt if it will

You're tangled in this web that won't let you leave

Oh what people would do to get a glance

Of the other side

But what if you did break it

What if you did make it

But it's too late to hide

From the set plan society has

With pins in your side you try

To break it

To make it

The chain that makes a path

Of where our life will lead

When the poor wished to be freed

And the rich don't bother to help

We’re standing on a sinking ship

When you are so unsure

You end up going down with it

Dare it breaks

When it all comes crumbling down

Revealing the fakes

Making the path foggy

But what's the good of that if we will build it up


"It’s Not Over" by Harshdeep Kaur

10th Grade, John Marshall High School

Black, brown and, beige

Threaded and woven with white.

Strings of a skin in fabric

Threatened and filled with fright.



Break a string or two

And all will fall and fray.

Freed are the strings

But the souls remain stray.



Needles start poking, scissors start cutting.

Fights arise and recur.

Black, brown, and beige

Begin a revolutionary murmur.