Listening to the Voices of May 4
Armed with Our Voices Exhibition
Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center launched its interactive exhibition Armed with Our Voices at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in Austin, Texas, in November 2019, as part of the university’s yearlong 50th commemoration of the May 4, 1970 shootings.
Plans were in place to install it in March at the Kent Student Center, with pop-up versions at Regional Campuses. Then it was to travel to various venues across the country, including the Ohio Supreme Court and New York City’s St. John the Divine Cathedral.
That was before the outbreak of COVID-19 and state social distancing requirements made it necessary for the center to suspend in-person exhibitions. “We had to pivot and convert the exhibition to an online experience,” says David Hassler, director of the Wick Poetry Center. “The upside is that now the presentation can be shared more widely with those who may not have been able to see the exhibition in person.”
Armed with Our Voices is now a digital Listening Wall, created in collaboration with Each + Every design studio in Kent, Ohio. The digital exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the tragic shooting and connects it to the contemporary moment—encouraging visitors to explore the history of student protest and the timely themes of peace and conflict transformation.
The exhibition was created in partnership with the May 4 Visitors Center, Stephanie Smith, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and other colleagues.
More than just static text and photos, the digital Listening Wall contains archival videos, articles, oral histories and photographs that create a deeply immersive experience. Visitors are challenged to reflect on the content and given an opportunity to respond. Responses are curated to display in an online gallery on the Armed with Our Voices website.
Wick Poetry Center invites the public to visit the digital exhibit, to pause and listen deeply to these voices, download lesson plans, and view the gallery of poems on peace and conflict transformation selected by poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Then, most of all, the center hopes the public will share their own voices. —April McClellan-Copeland
May 4th Voices Radio Play
David Hassler wrote the play May 4th Voices: Kent State, 1970 (The Kent State University Press, 2013), based on the Kent State Shootings: Oral History Project, which is part of the May 4 Collection digital archives. He collaborated with Joe Gunderman, production coordinator at WKSU, who produced and directed it as a radio play.