– Sadie Kaplan
We left home — I mean the Holiday Inn Express early morning and for the next couple of hours, we made our way to Akron, en route to Kent State University. During this time, some teens watched small red barns, slightly larger off-white barns, and industrial-sized barns pass them by, while the smarter teens put in their headphones and dozed off.
We pulled into Kent State University with our bedheads at approximately 10:30 a.m. After a very brief walk through their May 4th museum, we met with the real history book in the form of a man named Alan Canfora. You may not have heard of Canfora by name, but I guarantee that you’ve seen him before.
An iconic picture of Kent State is a shaggy haired kid waving a black flag in front of armed national guardsmen is now a shaggy haired man with a wound in his hand as a result of the May 4th atrocity. And his being at the Kent State protest was no mistake. Just a week before President Nixon announced the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, Canfora found himself feeling called to action. He said to himself, “the next opportunity we get, when Nixon does something to provoke us, we’re gonna send our own message in the form of very powerful militant protests at Kent.” Insert Canfora, along with several hundred other Kent State students, sending that message just two weeks later.
But Canfora would like to clear something up: the events at Kent State were not limited to 12:34 p.m. on May 4th. After Nixon’s April 30th announcement, Kent State students held a peaceful protest in downtown the next day. Tensions heightened when the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) on campus building was burned down. None of that was helped when Ohio Governor James Rhodes called the protestors “the worst type of people that we harbor in America…worse than the brown shirts and communist elements.”
It might not surprise you to discover that just two days after the shooting, Governor James Rhodes narrowly lost his bid for the GOP Senate nomination.
Canfora continued to describe the order of events that day, down to the moment he was shot in the hand.
More than what Canfora endured on that fateful day, what strikes me the most is the tenacity that he displays all of the time. There’s a new building that cuts through “sacred ground,” as he says? You can find Canfora camped out in protest. A tree has been planted in the line of fire? This man is actively talking to somebody who has the power to take it down.
Alan Canfora is an activist in every sense of the word. Give the man a flag that will cause an uproar, defy popular opinion, go beyond civil discourse, and he’ll proudly wave it today.
Not too shabby for an 11:00 meeting.
After a quick lunch of sandwiches on the Kent State steps, we boarded the bus and headed to Cleveland. We welcomed the city to the tune of Ian Hunter’s “Cleveland Rocks” .
As we neared the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Billy salivated in anticipation. Okay, I didn’t see it myself, but it’s a safe assumption to make.
Once we arrived at the museum, we were given a few hours and the ability to wander around the place on our own. We rocked out to “American Pie” in little kiosks, learned about songwriting from the master himself, Paul Simon, and peered at Jimi Hendrix costumes. Oh, and spent a good amount of time perusing, okay, purchasing knick-knacks and other goodies from the gift shop.
Outside of the museum, we had a conversation about the influence of music on our own lives, and then went on our way. After a quick dinner of grilled cheese, we hit the long, lonely highway.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few weeks, it’s just how long that highway can be.
Oh, and one more thing I’ve discovered: we don’t like to spend too long in one state.