MendoCoastCurrent, May 4, 2011
Jennifer Schwartz Wright on her cousin Allison Krause at the 41st commemoration of the Kent State Shootings, May 4, 1970
What can I tell you about my beloved cousin? I was less than a year old when she was shot dead on May 4, 1970. Had she not been killed, I would most certainly have known her.
I have spent my life trying to right this wrong in my own way, trying to get closer to her, to know her, endeavoring to honor her and make Allison proud. So I thank you for inviting me here today to tell you some of what I have learned about Allison from books and published articles, from her friends, from our family and from my efforts at the Kent State Truth Tribunal.
Allison Beth Krause was the cherished first of two daughters born to Arthur and Doris Krause, living in Cleveland Heights. Although roughly 10 years older than Allison, my father Marvin Schwartz remembers many summers playing with the Krause girls. My Dad talks about Allison as a sweet, fun, clever, pretty and vivacious girl. Many of Allison’s friends in Cleveland still remember her from those days back in grade school.
In the early sixties, Allison’s family went for Sunday drives out to the country often ending up at Kent, dining at the Robin Hood and enjoying the pastoral campus. Remarkably, at a very early age, Allison made her decision to attend college at Kent State University.
Her father’s job at Westinghouse moved the family to Pittsburgh in the mid-sixties and then on to Wheaton, Maryland where Allison attended John F Kennedy high school. Many of Allison’s classmates were children of government employees, and with them Allison developed an active awareness of global issues and a well-formed understanding of American history, politics and civil rights.
As she found her political voice in high school, Allison joined the young people of those times who were against the ever-expanding war in Vietnam, and the draft lottery. She lent her voice to the calls for peace at demonstrations in Washington DC.
Allison’s father Arthur was a veteran of WW11. Back in the late sixties he was pro-Vietnam, like many of his generation. Allison’s sister, Laurel remembers many heated dinner-table arguments where she and her big sister objected to the war and nuclear weapons. It was a scene like so many other dining room debates back then. From those debates, Allison knew: As an American she had a right to freedom of speech and a right to engage in peaceful assembly, all guaranteed by the first amendment.
Yet Allison was more than anti-war protester and advocate of civil rights. She was an active, caring person and was considering a career in a helping profession such as art therapy. My aunt Doris Krause recounts this story of Allison’s volunteer work at a hospital for the mentally disabled. “She would go there at night and play basketball with them… and her biggest day that she had was when she came home and told us that one of the men had talked to her, and he hadn’t talked to anybody in a long period of years. And she was so gratified by that. So she had potential. She was a smart girl and was just cut down.”
In the fall of 1969, Allison started college as a freshman here at Kent State. Her family had recently moved back to Pittsburgh, so Allison was still close to home. Allison lived in Metcalf Hall, and later Engleman, did well academically as an honors student, made friends quickly, and met another student, the love of her life, Barry Levine. Barry describes Allison as “a sweet, intelligent, loving, warm, intelligent, compassionate, creative, funny, intelligent girl. As bright as they come.”
That fall, Allison traveled to Washington DC, like hundreds of thousands of other young people, taking part in a huge anti-war demonstration and peace rally.
In her last days, Allison reveled in the first Earth Day Celebration held on April 22, 1970. Buckminster Fuller erected a geodesic dome right here on the commons, just a few steps from Allison’s dorm. The following day, April 23rd, was Allison’s 19th birthday. Her family came in from Pittsburgh to celebrate, never imagining this would be the last time they would see her alive.
Allison assembled with others on Friday May 1st as she vehemently disagreed with the U.S. government’s decision to escalate the war and send more troops into Cambodia. She spent the first weekend of May with friends, doing schoolwork, enjoying the first breath of Spring, but at night, running from the military and helicopters on campus, now occupied by the National Guard, the Highway Patrol, and campus and town police.
On Sunday afternoon May 3rd, Allison spent time outside, socializing with friends and started talking with some guardsmen among the blooming lilacs. I have heard different accounts of this story, some say Allison placed a flower in the barrel of one Guardsman’s gun, others say the flower was already there. What is certain, is that those moments have been preserved in several photographs. That guardsman’s smiling face is absolutely beaming in the pictures, there with Allison, the flower, his rifle, and the irony and release of tension they all felt in that moment, as human beings who were on opposite sides of a conflict. And when Allison witnessed that guardsman’s superior come along and reprimand him there for having a silly flower in his gun barrel, Allison responded, “What’s the matter with peace? Flowers are better than bullets.”
The next day Allison attended the peace rally at the Victory Bell at noon with her boyfriend Barry. She was unarmed. She was vocal. I do not believe that Allison thought her life might be in danger on her own college campus. Not in America. Surely there weren’t real bullets in those guns… But there were bullets and there was intention to kill protesting students.
My cousin Allison Krause was shot dead in the Prentice parking lot, roughly a football field away from the shooting guardsmen. A steel jacketed, armor piercing bullet fragmented on impact in her left chest, according to the autopsy. She died on the way to the hospital, in Barry’s arms.
Who was my cousin? I wish I could tell you, but as mentioned, I never met her. And still, I stand here to say we will never forget her!
We honor her memory by emulating her actions. Personally, in my professional life as an art therapist, in my volunteer work as a community organizer, as a mother of a little girl named Allison, as a peacemaker, as an earth-conscious consumer, as a citizen and active participant in government… in all of these actions every day of my life, I honor Allison, and all those murdered at Kent State on May 4th.
This time last year, I memorialized the 40th Anniversary in the way I think Allison would have appreciated. With Laurel Krause, Emily Kunstler and the Kent State Truth Tribunal crew, we recorded and preserved the personal narratives of original participants and witnesses of the Kent State Shootings. The emotional healing that we witnessed during our four days together was immense. I encourage you to take a look at our project online at http://www.TruthTribunal.org.
In closing, I must tell you briefly about one powerful piece of healing that is not viewable in the Kent State Truth Tribunal video archives. On the second day as I was greeting and checking in KSTT participants, a man, whom I later recognized from the photos to be THAT guardsman, the one with the flower in his rifle, came through the tribunal doors to share his truth & find his own healing. He did not want to film his story with us. And yet, he was there. Though he didn’t identify himself by name, he bravely told me that he had been among the guardsmen that weekend in 1970. I remember looking into his eyes as he spoke his truth to me for several long minutes. He simply came, as so many others did last year, to unburden himself, to try to heal his own wounds from Kent State and to connect with the spirit of truth.
Since last May, at KSTT NYC, I greeted and checked in the forensic scientist Stuart Allen, who is Keynote here today. Before our cameras, he examined the Kent State tape. He verified an order to shoot and exposed suspicious additional gunshots. Listening to that recording, cleaned up by Mr. Allen’s state-of-the-art technology was gut wrenching.
The Krause family asks the federal government to open up an investigation into this new evidence, the Kent State tape. Because we understand, there can never be true healing without truth and justice. We further encourage our government to issue a formal acknowledgment of the wrongs of Kent State on May 4, 1970… 41 years later, it’s time!
Finally, what I know in my soul is this… that none of the accounts that I have presented to you today can truly do Allison justice without justice being done. Allison believed in a just world. She put her life on the line for it. Let us never give up in our pursuit of justice and healing at Kent State.
Watch Jennifer Schwartz Wright’s 5/4/11 speech at the 41st anniversary of the Kent State Shootings ~