Kent State students, staff perform at Severance Music Hall in honor of May 4

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Morgan McGrath

Members of Afrobeat dance group Asé Xpressions perform to a piece called “Fem” on Monday, May 2 at Severance Hall in Cleveland.

Morgan McGrath, Senior Reporter

Blue lights lit the backdrop at Cleveland’s Severance Hall as performers entered the stage on Monday, May 2.

The audience sat in three collective rows – on the floor, or in the two balcony sections up above — as they waited patiently for the show to begin.

From 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., the concert hall hosted a plethora of performances, including various Kent State singers, dancers and poetry performers.

After the first two performances of the night, titled “With a Heart and a Voice” and “A Mother of Revolution!”, Kent State President Todd Diacon entered the stage and stood at the podium.

“Poetry and music, they help us heal, and they certainly help us reflect and learn,” Diacon said.

He wore a gray suit paired with a purple and white striped tie, and as he stood on the stage, Diacon told the story of Glenn Frank, a university professor who witnessed the historic shootings on May 4, 1970.

In a short, yet powerful speech, Diacon spoke highly of Frank, who

Kent State President Todd Diacon speaks at Severance Hall in Cleveland during Stories of Peace, Protest and Reflection, on Monday, May 2. (Morgan McGrath)

became the university’s Peace Marshall after helping save students on the day of the attack.

“So there [Frank] stands in the photograph, frozen in time, glasses and a buzzcut, dressed in a suit and tie,” Diacon said. “A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp, a boy scout leader, a father, and one of Kent State’s most popular classroom teachers.”

Diacon ended his speech in the same way he started it: with passion and sadness while looking back at the past.

“Sunlight. Trees, pavement. Bodies. The sound of air fleeing automobile tires punctured by gargoyles,” he said. “Tears. Shouts. Sunken expressions. Looks of outrage and defiance. Fear.”

Following Diacon’s five minute speech were performances by Kent State’s percussion ensemble, jazz orchestra, opera theatre, Thai ensemble, student dancers and an African ensemble.

During the orchestra’s performance, guest speaker Orlando Watson read the words to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” while the musicians played in the background.

Watson was born in the Cleveland area, and he’s also a published poet.

After his performance, the audience stood from their blue cushioned seats, clapping and giving a standing ovation.

Later in the show, student dancers performed while pianist Alena Miskinis played the accompaniment to the side.

The piece, titled Winnisboro Cotton Mill Blues, was created to raise awareness for the problems with unfair labor practices in other countries.

A dancer walks off stage during a choreographed performance titled “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues” on Monday, May 2 as part of Stories of Peace, Protest and Reflection. (Morgan McGrath)

Additionally, it was meant to give light to the overconsumption of goods by American individuals.

A PowerPoint slide appeared above the stage during the dance, and it read, in part, that choreographer Jeffrey Richard “reminds us of the true costs of obsessive consumerism.”

Intermission occurred around 8:30 p.m., and a survivor of the Kent State shooting, Roseann “Chic” Canfora, spoke and read a piece of poetry titled, “[the wind/ has never cared],” by Darren Demaree.

“When I read ‘[the wind/ has never cared]…’ I wondered how someone so young could so beautifully cast the thoughts and emotions of those of us, who when we were his age 52 years ago, witnessed and survived 13 seconds of gun violence on that fateful day, May 4, 1970,” Canfora said.

The audience clapped accordingly after Canfora’s speech and reading, and the night ended with a concerto, along with choral and orchestral performances.

Each performance – though unique in its own way — stood the test of time as a way to memorialize the tragedies of Kent State’s May 4.

Morgan McGrath is a senior reporter. Contact her at [email protected]