Day of Dignity Protests Columbus on Campus

People of varied cultures marched through campus on Day of Dignity. / Derek Norman

Students silently marched early Thursday afternoon, dressed in all black and holding up flags of their historically colonized and respective home countries as they protested the celebration of Columbus Day in what came to be known as a “Day of Dignity.”

“It’s [purpose is] to reclaim that dignity that was stolen from us and our ancestors all throughout history. That’s why you saw people from all nationalities and not just the Caribbean,” said Carlos Cabeza, a psychology major and vice president of the Puerto Rican Alliance. “Today is to maintain awareness and bring attention to the fact that colonialism is a real thing and it didn’t just happen in the past. It’s still happening.”

The Day of Dignity march was comprised of students from a range of campus clubs, including the Dominican Student Movement, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Black and Latino Male Initiative, and its sponsoring club since the event’s first march in the early 1990s, the Puerto Rican Alliance.

“This march means a lot to the Puerto Rican Alliance because Puerto Rico is a place that is still technically not free,” said Marlene Gomez, journalism major and secretary of the Puerto Rican Alliance. “Columbus Day is celebrating the taking of land that was not his to begin with, and similarly, that is the same as what happened to Puerto Rico. And until this very day, we are not free. We are still colonized.”

The purpose of the march was to spread awareness on the negative effects that global colonization has had on the indigenous people of non-European homelands, in which its detrimental effects are still being felt today and according to the members of the silent protest, are even still being “celebrated.”

“You know history repeats itself, so if you don’t know history then you’re bound to repeat it again,” said Christina Rivera, a business administration major and treasurer of the Puerto Rican Alliance. “You always see the two sides whenever you’re walking. Some people will support vocally or with some kind of hand signal. Some people just ignore or give faces like they don’t care. Some people even said ‘you guys are supporting terrorists,’ because the students for Palestine were marching with us.”

There is still racial marginalization and cultural prejudice that takes place everyday on campus that the protest symbolically addressed and even coincidently, felt the effects of itself during the demonstration.

“There was this girl sitting on the steps of Ingersoll and she saw us walking around. She said ‘they already got the Puerto Rican day parade, why do they gotta’ do this too?” said Krystal Valentin, a psychology major and member of both the Puerto Rican Alliance and the Dominican Student Movement.

“The legacy of Christopher Columbus has been heavily romanticized. People don’t fully acknowledge the horrors of his actions and what resulted with the indigenous people of the Americas and the Caribbean,” continued Valentin. “Although this protest was silent, we’re giving a voice those people who were silenced.”




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