Educators Summit Kicks Off Yearlong 50th Commemoration of May 4, 1970, at Kent State

Voices for Change: Keynote Speakers to Explain and Inspire Student Activism

Student activism and giving voice to students will be the topics of two keynote speakers who are headlining the upcoming 2019 Educators Summit at Kent State University titled “May 4, 1970 Then & Now: Voices for Change.”

 

The summit will usher in a year of programming and events commemorating the 50th anniversary of May 4, 1970, when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on Kent State students protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine.

 

While the three-day summit is only for teachers, the talks by both keynote speakers are free and open to the public at the Kent Student Center Kiva. Registration is required at www.kent.edu/voicesforchange.

 

Todd S. Hawley, Ph.D., Kent State associate professor of social studies teacher education, a member of the May 4 anniversary education committee, and co-chair of the summit, said he was excited for the chance to connect the legacy of May 4 to teaching and learning in local schools in the present.

 

“As the kickoff event of the 50th Commemoration, the Voices for Change Educators Summit is designed to prepare teachers to educate a new generation about the history and legacy of May 4, 1970, and to use inquiry to make direct connections to contemporary issues and events,” he said.

 

One of its organizers, Annette Kratcoski, Ph.D., said a main goal is to ensure that teachers understand the significance of May 4, 1970, in the context of American history so that they are able to teach those lessons to young people to inspire a new generation of student activism.

 

“It is about determining how we empower educators to support students in finding their voice and having voice and expressing that voice constructively, particularly with people who might have differing viewpoints,” said Kratcoski, who also is director of Kent State’s Research Center for Educational Technology in the College of Education, Health and Human Services.

 

Organizers selected keynote speakers for their expertise in talking about the importance of student activism, she said.

 

The conference begins with a keynote speech at 6:30 p.m. July 31 by Thomas Grace, Ph.D., a historian, scholar, researcher and one of the nine Kent State students wounded during the May 4 shootings.

 

Grace’s talk, titled, “Facts Are Stubborn Things: Kent State – the Sixties at Fifty,” will provide the historical perspective of the Kent State shootings, including the political climate of the era, and will help to set the stage for the two days sessions that will follow for educators.

 

An adjunct professor of history at the State University of New York (SUNY) Erie Community College, Grace said his talk “will provide some thoughts about making anniversaries, specifically the remembrance of next May 4, relevant in an age of contested facts and a sharp partisan divide.”

 

“The bulk of the talk will involve a retelling of the history of student activism on the Kent State campus, during an era that some historians call the ‘long sixties,’ meaning simply the roots of the dissent extended back to the 1950s and the aftermath stretching into well into the 1970s,” Grace said.

 

Speaking at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 1, is Sara Abou Rashed, a poet, motivational speaker and Syrian refugee who moved to Columbus, Ohio, with her family in 2013. Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, has called Rashed, “a powerful voice, an inspiration.”

 

Now 19 and a student at Dennison University, Rashed has been the keynote speaker at numerous conferences, including the National Convention of Teachers of English, the United States of Women and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s Women’s Leadership Summit. Rashed was one of 20 global student delegates to the 2018 New York Times Athens Democracy Forum in Greece.

 

Rashed’s work has appeared in more than 12 publications, including a forthcoming language arts curriculum by McGraw-Hill. Most recently, Rashed wrote and stars in her debut one-woman show titled “A Map of Myself,” in which she discusses identity, belonging, immigration and finding home.

 

Rashed’s topic is “I Am a Student – I Am a Voice for Change.”

 

“She will bring a current perspective on activism and civic action that teachers can draw on when working with their students following their participation in the summit,” Hawley said.

 

After Rashed’s speech, David Hassler, director of Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center, will lead guests in contributing to a community-created poem for the 50th Commemoration of May 4, 1970, using the Wick Center’s Thread poetry app.

 

Other presenters and speakers at the summit include Alan Canfora, who also was one of the nine injured on May 4; his sister, Roseann “Chic” Canfora, a longtime educator and activist in Northeast Ohio; and Laura Davis, Kent State professor emerita of English and founding director of the May 4 Visitors Center. All three were Kent State students on May 4, 1970.

 

“I am really excited for teachers to engage with Tom Grace, Chic and Alan Canfora, and Laura Davis as well as the May 4 Visitors Center and the Kent State University archives,” Hawley said. “We are so lucky to have each of them as part of the summit.”

 

In addition to a deep dive into the background of May 4, 1970, organizers hope that teachers will leave feeling empowered and prepared to inspire the current generation of young people to find their own voice and causes so that they may become active, engaged citizens and make a difference in society.

 

More than 30 teachers from throughout Northeast Ohio will be attending the summit, which is sponsored by a grant from the Martha Holding Jennings Foundation and additional support from Kent State.

 

In addition to an emersion in May 4, teachers will have time to explore University Libraries’ digital archives and special collections, which they can access online at any time.

 

As part of their activities, the teachers will help to build May 4 teaching lesson plans, which then will be available to any teacher to download and use, Kratcoski said.

 

“I am hopeful that the annual May 4 Commemoration will continue to focus on education and connecting with local teachers as part of expanding the focus on the legacy of May 4,” Hawley said.

 

Organizers hope the summit will become an annual event.

 

For more information about plans for the 50th Commemoration of May 4, visit www.kent.edu/may4kentstate50.