May 4 Task Force Connects Current Students to University History
The May 4 Task Force is a student-led organization dedicated to honoring the memory of May 4, 1970, and shedding light on the injustices that followed. Through year-round educational events and continuous activism, the group focuses on what May 4 means to current students.
“I believe that our task force is more than a story from a textbook, more than a mission statement or a part of a giant piece of international history. We are the voice of the past, present and the future,” said Trevor Walton, a junior political science major and co-chair of the May 4 Task Force. “The May 4 Task Force represents the spirit within every college student to fight for progression and change.”
The May 4 Task Force was founded by students in 1975 in response to Kent State University’s decision to no longer commemorate May 4.
Up until 2020, the task force was the sole programmer of the annual May 4 Commemorations. In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of May 4, the university joined the commemoration efforts and has remained present in the planning process since. The university and the task force continue to have both separate and combined programming.
“The students of the May 4 Task Force were powerful and influential student leaders, and their activism is the reason why elements such as the May 4 Memorial and Visitors Center are present today,” said Avery Hall, senior communication studies major and chair of the May 4 Task Force. “This organization represents 47 years of powerful student voices making change on our campus, and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”
While this task force is a student-led organization, faculty and staff members are involved through partnerships with the organization for May 4-related events or even as a faculty advisor. Uma Krishnan, Ph.D., professor in the Department of English, has been involved with the task force for several years and serves as the faculty advisor.
The role of the faculty advisor is to channel student voices, Krishnan said, mediating between the university and the student group and being as helpful as she can.
“At the end of the day, students can make their own choices,” Krishnan said.
For the 53rd Commemoration of May 4 this year, the task force is planning events that connect the legacy of May 4 to the present atmosphere of gun violence in schools across America.
“In keeping with past commemorations, the May 4 Task Force continues to bring awareness and education to the May 4 shootings while conquering modern issues and creating open and challenging discourse or conversations,” Walton said. “Keeping the memory alive means attempting to reinvigorate and revolutionize the spirit and mission in a modern context. The task force continues to be more visible than ever. And this year our organization is focusing on the modernization of May 4 through our theme of ‘Defining Justice in the Age of Gun Violence.’”
The current chairs will be speaking on May 4 about the organization’s call to action with T-shirts commemorating the event. Their continued work has not gone unnoticed, especially by other groups on campus dedicated to remembering May 4.
“The May 4 Task Force was and is one of the key organizations that was and has been instrumental in keeping our university legacy alive,” Krishnan said. “We have a history, a legacy, that cannot be forgotten. We learn from our legacies, and we try to seek answers for something that happened in the past and learn from them.”
The 53rd Commemoration is set for May 3-4 with a schedule of events that includes the annual Jerry M. Lewis May 4 Lecture Series, a special screening of the film “Young Plato” and panel discussion with filmmakers, Candlelight Walk and Vigil, and the noon gathering on the Commons.
“The work that the May 4 Task Force has done for the past 50 years is just amazing. I am so proud of the work that they have done to honor the four killed and nine wounded students. I applaud their continued work and dedication,” said Lori Boes, interim director of the May 4 Visitors Center.
Learn more about the May 4 Task Force and how its members are making an impact at the university.