Across Time: Students Display Their Connection to May 4
The events of May 4, 1970, mark an important time for current students to reflect and connect to the ones who shaped history almost five decades ago. Today, the similarities between the lives of May 4 students and today’s students seem more pertinent than ever.
“I’m a college student. They were college students. The only thing separating us was time,” said Cameron Gorman, ‘19. Gorman graduated from Kent State in May with a degree in journalism and is now getting her graduate degree in creative writing at The Ohio State University.
Before graduating, Gorman was involved in Jacqueline Marino’s spring 2019 Advanced Magazine Writing course. In this course, Marino, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and David Foster, assistant professor of multimedia and photojournalism, teamed up to have students in both of their classes collaborate on "50 After 13" that gave students today a way to consider the events of May 4, 1970. The title comes from the fact that nearly 50 years had passed since the 13 seconds that changed history.
The website features articles regarding the students’ May 4 reflections, walk-throughs of historic locations, interactives, and drone video footage.
Marino said she provides a collaborative project for her students almost every semester. She knew the 50th Commemoration of May 4 was coming up and wanted students to be able to create their own take on what tragedy means for those who carry the May 4 legacy.
“We knew we wanted to showcase student work and obviously the web is a really visual platform,” Foster said. “It can allow us to curate and allow students to mix their text with imagery.”
Many of Marino’s students, who typically want to become writers and editors, created pieces out of personal creativity.
“There’s one student who was an activist, and she felt a great kinship with the women protestors,” Marino said about a story by Taylor Patterson, who explored the bond of activism that unites people over generations.
One piece titled “I Just Want To Listen And Be Sad” was written by Valerie Royzman, senior journalism major. The piece goes into detail about how sadness is a necessary and acceptable feeling, and how the tragedy of May 4 can teach everyone a lesson.
“Sure, it’s not a happy story, but it’s our story,” Royzman said.
The piece includes a poem written by Jim Lawless, who worked for Kent State News Service from 1970-78, called “They Didn’t Cry.” Royzman found the poem while searching through May 4 archives in the University Library.
“I look for things that inspire me, and poetry is one of those things,” she said. “They have a lot of poems in the archives, and I remember going through many of them and narrowing down my favorites. I thought, ‘I think I like this one the most. It speaks to me.’”
Students didn’t have an easy time creating the pieces. Gorman said that discovering more about May 4 by visiting pivotal locations caused her to experience a very natural range of deep emotions.
“It’s really hard sometimes to subject yourself to feeling that overwhelming sadness,” Gorman said. “I do think that if you are interested in learning more about May 4, that’s just an inevitable part of it because it’s such a tragic event. I’d encourage students to go and just do what I did. Just take some time to sit in those spaces and reflect on things.”
Both Foster and Marino expressed pride in the success of their students’ work.
“I was really impressed by the writing, especially. It certainly showed the difficulties of when you don’t take a documentary route to a project and how hard it is to evoke the past,” Foster said. “It was certainly a learning moment for both instructors and students.”
Marino said that one of her goals for the website was to try to picture the project’s value from another student’s perspective.
“I hope that audiences come to this,” Marino said. “There are people who wonder about how today’s generation views the tragedy-- this answers that question to a certain extent.” The students, she says “were given the task of answering ‘How do you connect to the tragedy?’ and here’s what they came up with.”
Image Caption: A man stands near a cone marked with an "A" and holds a lantern, while others look on during candlelight vigil (first annual commemoration),
Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives, accessed November 20, 2019, https://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/items/show/1666.
Author/Photographer: Kent State University. News Service
Subject: Candlelight vigil