Dream lives on

More than 170 original poems inspired by the civil rights work of Martin Luther King, Jr. were submitted in the second annual student poetry contest run by the Diversity Council and Rochester Civic Theatre.

Winners in three age groups, grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12, read their poem on-stage at a Poetry Slam Jan. 16 at the Rochester Civic Theatre. Prizes were also awarded.

The winners are:


Joy Harris


10th Grade

Century High School

First place, Grades 9-12

"The Dream of Generations"

400 Years Ago

Stripped of name, of family, of rights

Captured and sold in the dead of night


Longing burns his beating heart

The sun climbs high, a new day starts

Sweat streaks cross his weathered face

In this land he knows his place

But in his eyes glows a dream

A dream for freedom and equality

145 Years Ago

Freedom comes with bloody battles


Gun fire sparks and cannons rattle

Some battle hard to keep their rights

To preserve the Union others fight

Four long years of endless strife

Slaves set free, a newfound life

No land, no jobs, no civil rights

Codes based on color, no justice or equality

47 Years Ago


With a slandered name and second-class rights

Threatened and harassed in the dead of night

Longing burns his beating heart

The sun climbs high, a new day starts

Aching feet march miles and miles

Sit-ins and boycotts, again he’s reviled

But in his eyes glows a dream

A dream for freedom and equality



This dream has glowed for generations past

Spreading and growing, determined to last

An entire people rose as one

A degrading system was undone

People still hate, there’s violence and bloodshed

But steadily with courage we should look ahead

To a day when all mankind will sing together


"Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are

free at last"


April Dennison

10th Grade

Century High School

Second Place, Grades 9 – 12

"My Heart"

Do you hear it?


The heart that was stepped all over

It’s left and it’s still beating

No matter how many people I meet that discriminate against me

It wants to forgive

I know in my head I should hate back

But why is my heart rebelling so?

It’s still yearning to love others

No matter how many times it’s hurt, by the words, by the actions, by the looks, just because of my race

I want to strike back, but it won’t let me

No matter how hard I try, I won’t stop loving

I have to forget in my heart

But it’s all that I have left

Forget, what makes me human


It’s no use. My heart is broken.


It won’t stop beating

I can’t believe in a world without love

Listen to my heartbeat

Can you hear it now?


Bridget White

Grade 10

Century High School

Third Place, Grades 9 – 12


I am not you, and you are not me.

But why must we always contend?

If I hurt you and you hurt me

We’re welcoming our own bitter end.

You’re a Black,

And I’m a White.

But both of us lack

The judgment-free sight.

I’ll look in you, and you look in me.

Perhaps then, we’ll both see.

In you, I see bravery, endurance, and strength.

Your soul has been tortured, and oft it has cried.

It’s broken and torn, yet it has not died.

In me, you see hatred, cruelty, and might.

My soul is lost — overtaken by pride.

Yet together our souls will forever abide.

You scream into the night, begging, "How can this be —

That I am enslaved, while he is yet free?"

That night, I watched you through Liberty’s veil.

I must reach for your hand, or this nation will fail.

Though I am not you, and you are not me,

Here we are — hand in hand.

Together we’ll walk for an eternity or more

Across Freedom and Unity’s Land.


Abryelle Terrill

8th Grade

John Adams Middle School

First Place, Grades 6 – 8

"Human Rights"

Human rights

are mighty lions

protecting people from crazy danger

in their home and everywhere else

saving people from getting killed

an ugly painful death


Emma Pankratz

Grade 8

John Adams Middle School

Second Place, Grades 6 – 8

"He Held My Hand"

My ma says we’re all the same

But I know we’re not

I’m so sick

They wouldn’t give us blankets

They don’t care if we die

Why am I so cold?

They leer at ma and smile at me

But not nice smiles

Ma holds me close

They whip my brother

And spit on my father

We shiver together

Ma lays me down softly

She’s going to beg for warmth

I’m colder already

My body can’t take the work

I’m six years old, dying

And I’m so, so cold

A man kneels next to me

I’m scare until I see the color of his skin

He smiles

And takes my hand

His hand is warm

He pulls me up

And lifts me into the sky

He’s carrying me somewhere safe

I look back

And see my still body

Lying on the barn floor

A smile on my face


Jacob Gehrking

Grade 6


Third Place, Grades 6 – 8


Angry words through the air,

Not knowing why they are yelling

Some sticking up for others,

Some tearing people down

Judging colors of people

Some being mean to black

Some being mean to white,

Some saying why can’t we have peace,

Some people kicking and hitting.

But one saying let’s have peace

That name is Martin Luther King, Jr.


Aman Abdirizak

Grade 5

Harriet Bishop Elementary

First Place, Grades 3 – 5

"We Need Peace All Over"

We need peace all over,

Stop being so mean,

We don’t need you to add the anger,

We need peace all over,

Stop being so hateful,

There’s already a big pile,

We need peace all over,

Stop being such a bully,

Don’t be mean to people for pleasure,

We need peace all over,

So put it to rest,

Let’s just have this world be peaceful.


Jarod Rhudy

5th Grade

Harriet Bishop Elementary

Second Place, Grades 3 – 5

"I Have a Dream"

I have a dream for peace to flow like a stream

For hate to leave and for all to believe

We can live as one, no one must wield a gun

I have a dream for peace to flow like a stream

To turn an enemy to a friend is to turn a break into a mend

I have a dream that everyone will stop and see

Between everyone is equality


Geena Burgess

Grade 4

Hoover Elementary

Third Place, Grades 3 – 5

"Black and White"




What does that mean to you?

Maybe when you see children play on the playground.

Maybe fields where you can run at the speed of a horse.

Or does it remind you of the beautiful color black and white.

To Martin it did.

He took the color black and white and looked at the world

and said why aren’t these colors combined.

I see a huge spot of white,

and the color black.

I see it on me and my friends.

I see it on working people under slavery.

But nor do I see it in fancy restaurants,

Or in the front row of a movie theater.


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