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Lecia Brooks, outreach director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said everyone needs to be able to stand up to injustice during her remarks at Kent State University’s annual May 4 commemoration on Thursday.
“It’s wonderful that we come out here on May 4 and stand up for the people affected, but I’m the kind of person that wants to see you everyday,” she said. “I want to see you speak out against injustice everywhere. When are we going to understand that we need to get police violence and gun violence under control? In tradition of May 4 and in tradition of the Civil Rights movement, let’s get out there. There is so much to do.”
Brooks was the keynote speaker at the 47th commemoration, which remembers Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder, who were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a protest on campus. Nine other students were wounded.
Brooks honored and thanked all of those who were at KSU on May 4.
“I want to just thank everyone for whatever part they played in,” Brooks said. “You witnessed history and you are here to help us recall history correctly.”
Brooks also addressed the crowd by telling everyone that even though times may be hard, change can be made.
“People can change,” Brooks said. “You’re not a victim of your upbringing. People allow themselves to change, or they allow the movement to change them.”
Speeches about all four students killed on May 4 were read aloud to the audience. A chronology of the events leading up to the May 4 shootings were also read, as well as the chronology of the Jackson State shootings that occurred 11 days after the KSU shootings. Two students were killed and 11 others were injured at Jackson State in Jackson, MS when city and state police confronted a group of students protesting racial intimidation and harassment, as well as the KSU shootings.
Later Thursday, university officials, alumni and Kent residents gathered at the Kent State University Hotel & Conference center to discuss the 50th anniversary of the shootings, which will take place in 2020. Assistant Provost Mandy Munro-Stasiuk led the discussion. People from as far as Maryland were in attendance.
Those gathered wrote down one idea as to what they thought would be a good idea to commemorate the events of May 4 during the 50th anniversary. The ideas were voted upon and the top ideas served as the basis for the discussion. Some of the ideas included:
• Tearing down the MACC Annex (where part of the May 4 site stood) and name a building after each student killed.
• Restore the Taylor Hall hill landscape
• Bring shooting victims together to honor them.
• Bring in a strong, reputable speaker to draw a large crowd.
• Release all state and federal documents and give a formal apology.
• Add a Vietnam Memorial.
The ideas will be presented to the May 4 Task Force.