Kent State University has begun its 46th annual commemoration of May 4, 1970.
The program of events starts today (April 26) and runs through May 4. The annual commemoration, hosted by the May 4 Task Force, allows the university community to gather and remember those who were lost and injured during the tragedy and also reflect on what May 4 means today.
The May 4 Task Force is a student organization on campus. This year's theme: “Black Lives Matter: Long Live the Memory of Kent State and Jackson State.” It has asked Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, 12, who was shot and killed at Cleveland's Cudell Recreation Center in November 2014, to give the keynote speech.
May 4 marks 46 years since four students were killed and multiple others wounded when the National Guard opened fire at Kent State University. The gunfire erupted outside KSU's Taylor Hall during protests.
The four killed were Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder and Sandra Scheuer.
“The May 4 Task Force has been talking all year about the significance of police violence to May 4 and of racial oppression to the histories of both the Kent State and Jackson State shootings,” said Alan “Tré” Dufner, president of the May 4 Task Force and a junior philosophy major at Kent State.
“And with our choice of Samaria Rice as keynote speaker, it was most appropriate to theme the commemoration around Black Lives Matter. It is my hope that attendees will gain a deeper perspective into the ways the lives of black people and protesters for justice are dismissed, degraded and destroyed. And I hope those in attendance will have a greater reverence for the lives we lose to police violence every day.”
There will be book discussions and signings, concerts and the annual candlelight walk, vigil and commemoration. Kent State President Beverly Warren also will speak at the commemoration on May 4.
"What happened at Kent State, May 4th 1970 and what happened in Cleveland just a year ago are very comparable," Dufner said.
"There were many people who said things like they should have shot more students, and there's a lot of anger and a lot of hatred," said Idris Syed, faculty advisor for May 4 Task Force.
The groups leader says he has no intention of uninviting Ms. Rice.
"I don't knowing if there's anything that I've done in my life that I've been more proud of and I stand by our decision 100 percent," said Dufner.
Kent State spokes member Eric Mansfield released the following statement:
"Samaria Rice was asked to speak by the May 4 Task Force, a student-led organization that plans the annual events commemorating May 4. Student organizations regularly secure speakers of their choice. Kent State University continues to support the privilege of free speech and encourages open dialogue and respectful civil discourse."
Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center also hosts a series of events on state violence with the theme “Cambodia After Kent State,” Those programs, are on April 26, 27 and 28 on the Kent Campus and are free and open to the public.