SES rally bashes Columbus tradition

By Gloria Carr

About 250 NIU students gathered Monday to hear speakers dispel the myths surrounding Columbus Day.

Student speakers stressed changing myths through education. “I want to learn. It is time to come together and learn,” said Liz Monge, member of El Pueblo Unido.

The teach-in, which followed a class walk-out, was organized by a group called Students Empowering Students (SES).

“What we were taught isn’t reality. It can only stop now if we educate ourselves, our communities and our children,” said speaker Karry Ann Moisant, a member of Native Americans Together Insuring Our Nation’s Sovereignty (NATIONS).

The idea of celebrating Columbus Day also was discussed by several speakers.

Eugene Edmond, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, said it is a day

of mourning. “This is a day we should grieve for the loss of cultures. We must build by that and start anew,” Edmond said.

Student speaker Paco Ramirez agreed and said people need to open their eyes. “It can be a day of rejoice as we open our eyes. The time has come for our voices to be heard,” Ramirez said.

NIU student Doug Lindgren, a Chippewa Indian, also thinks Columbus Day shouldn’t be celebrated.

“I think they should get rid of Columbus Day because it did mark the end of one civilization,” he said.

At one point University Police arrived and told students they had to turn off the sound system.

Nelson Perez, a member of El Pueblo Unido, said the UPs threatened to arrest speakers.

“There was a direct threat to me. They said me and whoever was speaking would be arrested if the sound system wasn’t shut off,” Perez said.

“I told them if they wanted to turn it off they could ask the students,” he said.

But Z. Ahmad, a programming coordinator for University Programming and Activities, said no threats were made. University policy states no sound system can be operated in the commons after 1 p.m., he said.

“There was no intention to disperse the rally, students had every right to be there. We will do everything to help,” Ahmad said.

“Our role here is to make sure student events go on according to our policies,” he said.

The decision to turn off the system was made but the teach-in continued.

Ramona Boyd, a member of NATIONS, said the rally was successful. “I thought the turnout was good considering today’s apathy in major issues,” she said.

Student reaction to the teach-in was positive. Shannon Carter, an NIU junior, said he learned about the issue of Columbus in class and decided to find out more information.

“I think they (SES) are getting the truth out to people who otherwise wouldn’t hear it,” Carter said.

The diversity in the crowd also was important, Boyd said. “It seemed to be a very mixed crowd, which symbolized minorities and non-minorities are concerned with what happened in the past and how we should conduct ourselves in the future,” she said.

“We need the voices of other people to amplify ours,” Boyd said.

Following the teach-in, El Pueblo Unido invited students to the dedication of a mural, which represents the struggles of people of resistance, at the University Resources for Latinos. The mural was designed by El Pueblo Unido members and NIU student Leo Castillo.