Letter to the Editor: Acknowledgement (or lack of)

Chris Poe

Kevin Hart was at Kent State on Saturday doing what has made him America’s go-to funnyman. Having starred in numerous movies and standup tours, Hart’s success is anything but unearned. Through being booed off stage early in his career, the comedian couldn’t be more right when he said, “Everybody wants to be famous, but nobody wants to do the work.” None of us wish to have our lives under a microscope; on the other hand, who would say no to the lavish lifestyle and social life? We would do anything to swap places with celebs like Kevin Hart. We do just as much for a life that would simply sustain our meager needs. We are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to earn a degree through such an established institution as Kent State University. If we work hard enough, Kent State offers opportunities to advance our careers.

Yet, there are those who, despite how hard they work, will never know this reality. The recent events in Ferguson and New York City are evidence. Our society has not made the leaps from the civil rights era as it had hoped. Our society holds up the Kevin Harts and reassures us, if you work hard enough, you can be as much. If we are honest with ourselves, this is not the narrative for some of us. There are more Eric Garners and Michael Browns than Kevin Harts.

Change Of Heart sponsored protests before the event for all of the attendees to see and, though Hart had everyone rolling within minutes of his routine, no acknowledgement was made regarding the protests outside. Hart’s lack of acknowledgement at a destination with as much history of activism as Kent State is disappointing. Hart, given his upbringing in Philadelphia, assumedly has something to say about the issues in Ferguson and New York City. Could Hart be weary of controversy? If so, what is controversial about speaking out in a society that prides itself on democratic principles? The only controversy about speaking out is not speaking out in a society that proclaims racism dissipated with the civil rights movement. With the exception of a few — most notably NBA star Derrick Rose wearing a “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt during warm-ups prior to a game Saturday — Hollywood and star athletes have kept silent about these issues. The loudest are those in the streets of American cities, from New York City to Anchorage.   

We need to get back to our roots. Peering back through our lineage, we need to understand Kent State has been historically renowned for the activism of the student body. This spring will mark the 45th commemoration of May 4 wherein the KSU student body of that era will be honored for their moral courage to stand up for the rights of humans regardless of what they look like or where they live, despite those students’ actions being both downplayed by media and mocked by their peers. When the next generation reads about the tumultuous history of race relations of this era, how will it be remembered? Will it be remembered for standing up despite being the object of ridicule? Or for going with the crowd and acting like everything is okay when the contrary is true? Kevin Hart made his choice. Derrick Rose made his. Change Of Heart made its. What will your choice be? This is happening whether we acknowledge it or not. Journalist Edward Murrow said, “A nation of sheep will soon have a government of wolves,” a truth that Trayvon, Michael, Eric and Tamir all became victims to.  #BlackLivesMatter  

Chris Poe

Kent, OH