By Eboná Mais
Published: October 21, 2014
A collaboration of Brooklyn College student organizations protested Columbus Day with a silent march Tuesday, during which students who oppose the holiday quietly walked through campus dressed in all black.
The march, called Day of Dignity, began with its participants convening in the West End Building. Students then walked in single file in complete silence, with hands held behind their backs.
Some marchers walked with the flag of their native counties wrapped around their legs or arms, and their silence was intended to replicate that of their ancestors, according to the event’s description on Brooklyn College’s website.
The walk was hosted primarily by the members of the Puerto Rican Alliance and included members of Movimiento Estudiantil Dominicano (MEDo), the Haitian American Student Association (HASA), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), The DREAM Team, and the Caribbean Student Union (CSU).
“We’re recognizing our history and embracing it, but at the same time oppressing it,” said Yasmin Ortiz, the vice president of MEDo, in reference to the acceptance of Columbus Day in American culture.
The Day of Dignity is held annually at Brooklyn College, but this year’s event comes as an increasing number of people across the nation are questioning whether celebrating Columbus Day is appropriate.
American Indian activists held a protest during an Italian Pride Parade in Denver Oct. 7, and a petition has been sent to the government to rename Columbus Day nationally, according to the White House website.
Seattle held a ceremony on Columbus Day to commemorate its declaring the second Mondayin October “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”
“How can you discover a land that’s already discovered?” protest members asked rhetorically during the pre-march orientation in the West End Building.
Ary Ariano, President of the Puerto Rican Alliance, was strict about each member not speaking and staying in line. She said that it was a ceremony to pay respect to indigenous and African peoples, while also showing resistance against Columbus Day.
As the march went through the campus’ quad, students looked on, and some did not share the protesters’ views.
“Even today people are being united by Christopher Columbus,” said Brooklyn College student Jeano Edwards, who watched the march. “[Christopher Columbus’] discovery led to the mix of diversity and tradition that we have now,” he said.
“We just want to get people talking,” said Carrington Amey, CSU’s Vice President. “We want to a spark dialogue and bring exposure to our feelings on this topic.”
“I’m not disregarding all the negative aspects, but that painful past has brought about a stronger culture and solidarity between Americans,” Amey added.