On Wednesday March 25, Tom Grace will introduce the screening of Fire in the Heartland: Kent State, May 4th, and Student Protest in America, a documentary that details the 1970 shooting of unarmed students at Kent State University by the National Guard. Tom is one of thirteen students shot in the massacre, during which the guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others.
This event was and is directly connected to student activism. Some of the students who were shot had been protesting the U.S. bombing of Cambodia. The National Guard was quick to respond to Kent State’s campus because of the tradition of activism among the students involving civil rights and peace protests. Following the shooting, four million students across the country participated in strikes, marches, protests, and rallies to show their solidarity with the students of Kent State.
Niagara University’s newly re-constituted Black Student Union is proudly hosting this event on March 25 at 6 PM in the Gallagher Multipurpose Room. Discussion following the screening will be led by Danielle Judge and Lou Dejesus of the Buffalo Anti Racism Coalition. All are welcome and refreshments will be served. An informational flyer is attached.
Fire in the Heartland: Kent State, May 4th, and Student Protest in America is a documentary film about a generation of young people who stood up to speak their minds against social injustice in some of our nation’s most turbulent and transformative years, the 1960s through the 1970s. On May 4th, 1970, thirteen of these young Americans were shot down by the National Guard in a shocking act of violence against unarmed students. Four, Jeffery Miller, Sandy Scheuer, Bill Shroeder and Allison Krause, were killed. Immediately afterward the largest student strikes and student protests in history swept across 3,000 campuses nationwide, punctuated ten days later by the shooting of African American students at Jackson State University. There, James Earl Green and Phillip Lafayette Gibbs were killed. This student protest in America did not arise from nowhere. It represented an active voice of protest against the terrible and continuing violence against African Americans and the perpetration of one of the most corrupt, violent and terrible wars in US history against the Vietnamese people.
The story is a personal story for those who tell it and for every viewer who lived through these times, but also for their sons and daughters, and for all Americans. This is not just the story of a violent turning point, but also of a hoped for new day for a generation and the music, art, literature, and politics that accompanied it. It is told by over 20 voices of those people at Kent who lived through a movement that began in alliance with the civil rights struggles, with silent vigils and education efforts, that grew into massive demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes, and activist protests, and that went on after the tragic events of May 4. They include men and women, activists, musicians, attorneys, teachers, historians, journalists, photographers, veterans, musicians, poets and artists. This is their story and a story of all times when human beings are faced with injustice and are asked to choose—to stand by or to stand up, to stay silent or to raise a voice, to stay safe or to put themselves at risk, sometimes at very great risk. This is a story that resonates as much today as it did in the 1960s and 1970s.