KENT: Four decades ago, Kent State University was the site of one of the most shocking of many confrontations between students and law enforcement in the Vietnam War era. The killing of four students by Ohio National Guardsmen sent shock waves though the nation.
Ten days later, on May 14, at Mississippi's Jackson State College, another student protest, inspired in part by the events at Kent, went horribly awry.
Local police fired more than 250 rounds at students outside a women's dormitory, killing Jackson State prelaw student and new father Philip Gibbs and 17-year-old James Green, who was cutting through campus on his way home from his grocery store job. A dozen students were injured.
The shootings in Mississippi didn't receive anything close to the national media coverage given the Kent State killings.
Gene Young thinks race was part of the reason: The dead in Kent were white; at Jackson, they were black.
''A lot of people say that Jackson State doesn't get near the attention that Kent State gets,'' Taylor said Sunday. ''But that was just the nature of the game, because at that time, there were few if any black faces in the newsrooms, as part of decision-making process or in the broadcast media.''
Young, a civil-rights activist who was a Jackson State student and witnessed the shootings, spoke for a half-hour to a crowd of about 40 students, former and current activists and a contingent from Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He was a featured speaker at the three-day Roots of Resistance Conference: Continuing the Struggle part of the event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Kent State shootings.
Young said he considered Kent State ''my second home and spiritual energizer when it comes to student resistance.''
''I'm appreciative of Kent State, and I'll never criticize Kent State,'' he said ''To their credit, they have always included Jackson State in their memorials.''
Young called the four dead Kent State students by their first names — ''Allison, Jeff, Sandra, and Bill'' — saying the protests at Jackson State were inspired by ''the battle cry of Kent State,'' as well as the May 9, 1970, killings of six blacks during racially charged riots in Augusta, Ga.
Young, 59, was born on the Jackson State campus and began his civil-rights activism as a pre-teen, getting arrested for civil disobedience at a bus station at the age of 12. Before his 13th birthday, Young took his first plane ride to New York to speak to civil-rights groups.
He attended the 1963 March on Washington, and testified at the House of Representatives, alongside civil- and voting-rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
After witnessing the Jackson State shootings, Young went on to study for a doctorate at Columbia University, where he led a sit-in at the campus library protesting courses teaching that blacks were genetically inferior to whites.
After his formal presentation Saturday, Young and the crowd exchanged thoughts and opinions about the state of student activism and the difficulties of inspiring students to action.
Young scoffed at the notion that questions of bias and prejudice are no longer important issues in the ''post-racial Obama Era.''
''It's a joke,'' he said. ''If young people need motivation, there's plenty of it out there.
''There is still an unpopular war, there is still racism and sexism, there are still a lot of folks who go to sleep tonight hungry.''
The Roots of Resistance Conference was organized by members of Kent Anti-Racist Action, the May 4th Task Force, Black United Students, KSU-NAACP and the Women's Liberation Collective.
The conference, which will continue through Monday, features speakers, workshops on activism and a screening of the documentary film, Fire in the Heartland: Kent State, May 4th, and Student Protest in America.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3758.