Documentary aims to give details about May 4

With more than 80 events planned for the 50th commemoration of May 4, 1970, the Fire in the Heartland documentary shown regularly in Taylor Hall features a comprehensive look at the events of May 4. 

The film was created in 2010 by Daniel Miller, a Kent State alumnus and witness of the May 4 shootings. 

Mindy Farmer, director of the May 4 Visitor’s Center, said the film focuses on the movements of activism present at Kent State at the time. 

“It undermines one of the myths we often hear when it comes to what happened on May 4, 1970, and that is that Kent was a sleepy town where nothing ever happened,” Farmer said. “That’s not true, that’s what Fire in the Heartland demonstrates: There is a history of activism at Kent State.”

“It really gives current students a good perspective of issues that students from that time period faced,” said Rodney Flauhaus, project manager of the 50th commemoration.

He began planning for the commemoration of the shootings in 2017. Over the next nine months, featured speakers will share their experience with the shootings and students will attend many of the activities offered. 

After being a student at Kent State in the 80s, Flauhaus was head of the May 4 Task Force in 1985, as well as a consultant on the 30th commemoration of May 4 in 2000. 

Lori Boes, assistant director of the May 4 Visitor’s Center, said the film highlights the early history of Black United Students and their connection to May 4. Both of the directors express the importance of the collaboration between students and young people to protest against what they felt were injustices. 

“The May 4 story itself is really complicated,” Boes said. “I think people think they know the story and then they get into the May 4 Visitor’s Center and they realize it’s much more complicated.”

“The powerful thing about Fire in the Heartland is that it doesn’t stop with May 4, 1970,” Farmer said. “It doesn’t begin with May 4 either.”

Freshmen First Year Experience (FYE) classes have traditionally required students to attend a showing of the documentary and visit the May 4 Visitors Center. 

“Even before we start thinking about the next commemoration, we start thinking about the next freshmen class because every fall is when we see the FYE courses come through the visitor’s center in huge numbers,” Farmer said. 

Farmer and Boes encourage students who don’t know a lot about May 4 to attend some of the upcoming speaker events and visit the May 4 archives in the Kent State library. 

As for the Fire in the Heartland documentary, Flauhaus said the film is typically shown the first Friday of each month.

“We’ve seen many students over the last couple of years go to watch the film and they all come away with a lot more knowledge and a lot more interest,” Flauhaus said. “There is a lasting commitment to make sure the future generations of students are going to be learning about May 4.”

Contact Linden Miller at [email protected].