May 4 virtual commemoration screen grab - Canfora marker + kids

A screenshot from the 51st virtual commemoration of May 4, featuring Alan Canfora's children, Maya and Lev, sitting by the new marker on campus near a tree he once said saved his life, with Canfora's name and his distance from the Ohio National Guard when shot. 

Although gathering limitations enforced by the pandemic are still looming, the 51st commemoration of May 4, 1970 was hosted by the university, albeit virtually, today at noon.

At the time of the video premiere on YouTube, more than 300 people tuned in to watch reflections from current students and students on campus in the ‘70s.

The video also featured a repeat performance of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Ohio” by the Kent State University Chorale from last year’s virtual commemoration and clips from past commemorative events including speeches from Jerry Lewis, former Kent State professor and faculty member and Florence Schroeder, mother of William Schroeder. 

In the video, University President Todd Diacon announced the addition of new markers to join the existing four markers that were installed in 1999 in remembrance of Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder, the four students killed by Ohio National Guardsmen on May 4. 

The new markers for the wounded students on the May 4 site —  Canfora, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Dean Kahler, Joseph Lewis, Donald Mackenzie, James Russell, Robert Stamps and Douglas Wrentmore — will display the students’ names and their distance from the Ohio National Guard when hit. 

“I think telling the story and understanding the scope of the distances from the so-called threats that the guardsmen perceived from people that were so far away and unarmed and unprepared for even a fight let alone a battle, I think for that reason the markers are very significant and important for understanding the story of the Kent State shootings that day,” said Joseph Lewis, one of the wounded on May 4. 

Alan Canfora, who was injured on May 4 and died in December 2020 at the age of 71, played a large role in continuing to honor May 4, 1970. His daughter Maya Canfora rang the victory bell, leading into a moment of silence for the four dead and nine wounded students at Kent State, as well as the two students killed at Jackson State University on May 15, 1970. 

 

“Many people knew Alan Canfora better than I do,” Diacon said. “But my encounters with Alan were always profound, and they left me with a better understanding of the depth and breadth of this individual whose life was marked by the dogged pursuit of truth.”

Over the past 50 years, Canfora was the primary voice of May 4, never allowing the shootings and the four students killed to be forgotten. The video featured reflections from former students like Thomas Grace and Joseph Lewis, sharing their memories of the rock n’ roll loving, long-haired activist.

“I can’t tell you how sad I was when I found out he passed away,” Lewis said. “For him and his family and all of us who lost such a leader, such a caring and passionate person who framed the whole Kent State shooting in ways that I thought of but never could express.”

To honor his life and legacy, the Alan Canfora Activism Scholarship was created.

According to the Alan Canfora Activism Scholarship website, the scholarship will provide up to two years of renewable support to Kent Campus incoming freshmen or transfer students who have a demonstrated financial need, a demonstrated interest in social justice and advocacy and a demonstrated commitment of care and compassion toward others.

Following the Alan Canfora memorial part of the video, there was a clip of Canfora’s young children, Maya and Lev, playing near the new marker on campus, near a tree he once said saved his life, with Canfora’s name and his distance from the guardsman at the time he was shot. 

The video closed with a panel of some of the wounded students, interviews with current students and other influential people from May 4 explaining what young people can do in order to enact change and make a difference when it comes to social and political issues of today. 

“When they went to sit on that hill, blood had already been shed,” said David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. “You have to be that brave. If you’re not, what’s your life worth? If you don’t stick up for what you believe in, what’s your life worth? These people were brave and they got shot to death for it. But they're still inspiring us.”

Contact Maria McGinnis at mmcginn9@kent.edu

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