Kent State Observes 46th Annual May 4 Commemoration

Photo from Kent State's May 4 Commemoration in 2015Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, to serve as keynote speaker 

Kent State University holds its 46th annual commemoration of May 4, 1970, with events taking place April 26 through May 4. The annual commemoration, hosted by the May 4 Task Force, provides an opportunity for 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, a student organization on campus, announced that this year’s theme is “Black Lives Matter: Long Live the Spirit of Kent State and Jackson State,” and asked Samaria Rice to give the keynote speech. Rice is the mother of the late Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer in a city park in November 2014. 

“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.”

A series of events have been organized by the May 4 Task Force and other campus organizations, including 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. 

Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center, supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, also hosts a series of events on state violence with the theme “Cambodia After Kent State,” with a focus on the aftermath of the Cambodian Genocide during the Khmer Rouge regime. These programs, held on April 26, 27 and 28 on the Kent Campus, are free and open to the public. 

April 26
At 7 p.m. in the Kent Student Center Kiva, Chum Mey, a survivor of the infamous S-21 Security Center in Phnom Penh, will relate his story of imprisonment, survival and forgiveness. Throughout its existence, S-21 detained and tortured more than 12,000 men, women and children. His life will provide the focal point for a broader discussion on state violence with Kent State students from across the globe. A reception hosted by Kent State’s Office of Global Education will follow.

April 27
At 7 p.m. in the University Auditorium at Cartwright Hall, Loung Ung, author of “First They Killed My Father,” will provide a powerful address on her childhood experience under the Khmer Rouge. More broadly, Ung will discuss the reality of girls’ education in contemporary Cambodia. Joining Ung is Jamie Ameilo, founder and CEO of Caring for Cambodia, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the educational system of Cambodia through the creation of more than 20 model schools.
April 28
At 7 p.m. in Schwartz Center, Room 177, LinDa Saphan, lead researcher/associate producer and genocide survivor and director John Pirozzi will host a screening of their award-winning film “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll.” Their film examines popular music from the pre-Khmer Rouge era and explores the impact of music in the struggle for political, ideological and social change. It depicts the musical and political history of Cambodia from the 1950s to the mid-1970s.

May 3
The May 4 Task Force will host presentations by students enrolled in the Kent State course titled May 4, 1970, and It’s Aftermath, starting at 5:30 p.m., as well as a book discussion on Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties by Thomas Grace, Ph.D., one of the nine wounded students shot on May 4, 1970, starting at 8 p.m. Both events will take place in Ritchie Hall, Room 214. That evening, the annual candlelight walk and vigil will begin at 11 p.m. on the Kent State Commons. The march will begin at the Victory Bell and will continue around campus, concluding at the Prentice Hall parking lot, where lighted markers indicate where the four victims – Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder – were killed. The candle bearers will then start the vigil that will continue throughout the night until the commemoration begins at noon on Wednesday. 

May 4

  • The Kent State University Bookstore will host a book signing event from 10-11:30 a.m. at the bookstore with authors Craig Simpson and Greg Wilson, Ph.D. (Above the Shots, released in April); Thomas Grace, Ph.D. (Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties); Jerry Lewis, Ph.D. and Thomas Hensley, Ph.D. (Kent State and May 4th: A Social Science Perspective); Laura Davis, Ph.D., and Mark Seeman, Ph.D. (This We Know); and David Hassler (May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970). 
  • The commemoration begins at noon on the Kent State Commons and includes a keynote speech by Samaria Rice, performance by a member of the Kent State Gospel Choir and welcome remarks by Kent State President Beverly Warren. 
  • A book signing with Grace will be held 3-5 p.m. at the May 4 Visitors Center.
  • Kent State's Honors College and May 4 Visitors Center will host a “Research Uncorked” event at 5:30 p.m. at Venice Café in downtown Kent. The discussion, focused on May 4, 1970, and the conflict between freedom of public expression and the unauthorized use of governmental force used to suppress it, will be led by Paul Haridakis, Ph.D., professor and coordinator of doctoral education in the School of Communication Studies at Kent State, and Richard Serpe, Ph.D., department chair and professor in the Department of Sociology at Kent State.
  • A Kent State Gospel Choir concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. in University Auditorium at Cartwright Hall.

For more information about events commemorating May 4, visit the May 4 Task Force Facebook page or contact Dufner, president of the May 4 Task Force, at or Idris “Kabir” Syed, faculty advisor of the May 4 Task Force, at    

For more information about Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center, visit

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Photo Caption:
Kent State University faculty, staff, students and campus visitors gather on the Kent State Commons and Blanket Hill for the 45th annual commemoration of May 4, 1970.

Media Contacts:
Alan “Tré” Dufner,
Eric Mansfield,, 330-672-2797
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 11:50 AM
Updated: Monday, January 30, 2023 10:51 AM
Jim Maxwell