“I Believe in Campus Activism” | Cynthia Cummings, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, 2016
I saw my father cry for the first time when I was 17. It was May 4th 1970. Iwas just about to graduate from high school. I would enter college in September. What happened that day was unimaginable. Twenty-eight members of the Ohio National Guard fired 61 bullets into a crowd of Vietnam War protesters, killing four unarmed college students and injuring nine others on the campus of Kent State University. The nation was stunned. My father was devastated.
My family was well acquainted with protest and activism. We witnessed the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. We saw dogs and fire hoses turned on black people who marched for basic rights such as access to public facilities and voting rights. My father, a Lincoln Republican, worked for fair housing and educational equity in Indianapolis. He negotiated a truce between the city and its black citizens that prevented the kind of riots that had erupted in Watts, Philadelphia, and Newark. My mother, an accomplished fundraiser, organized events that supported charities that served the black community. My little sister marched against hunger and, with our parents’ blessing, refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school to protest our country’s involvement in the war. We lived with the frustration, anger, and sadness that come with being members of an oppressed group. But we believed that we could make great changes in our society if we worked hard enough and long enough. We believed in the American system and held on to hope that the dream of “liberty and justice for all” would come true someday. Continue reading