Silent Vigil Marks '500 Years of Oppression'
Protest of Columbus Day Includes Speakers From Several Minority Organizations
Carrying signs with messages such as "500 years of oppression" and Discovery of genocide?," more than 50 demonstrators congregated yesterday on the steps of Widener Library to protest the celebration of Columbus Day.
The half-hour silent vigil began at 12:30 p.m. and was followed by a string of short speeches on racism over the past five centuries.
Members of the Minority of Student Alliance organized the event to help the Harvard community "take time to study the full aspects of Columbus Day as a holiday," said organizer E. Franklin Miller '94.
Speakers said they wanted to raise awareness of what they called European colonists' exploitation of non-whites which began with Colombus' "discovery" of the Americas.
Columbus "didn't discover a land, he discovered a people," Miller said to the crowd gathered on the steps and to pedestrians in the Yard.
After the demonstration, Miller said he was "not completely" pleased with turnout at the rally. He said awareness could be improved if study formally the events of Columbus' exploration.
Speakers included Native American graduate students, representatives from the Asian American Association, Raza, La O and the Black Students Association.
Raza president Lilia Fernandez '95 said students need to be better educated about all aspects of American history.
Fernandez said she thought the socio-economic problems of today's minority groups are related to "the attitude of discovery and prejudice" forstered by Columbus and his contemporaries.
Fernandez and other speakers called on students to fight for more faculty, curriculum and student diversity at Harvard.
"We need Latino faculty," Fernandez said. "We need to educate the community about Latino history."
Black students Association President Zaheer Ali '94 also addressed racism in the modern world. Ali encouraged students to recognize and combat prejudice "Columbus just set the wrecking ball inmotion," he said. "Don't focus on ChristopherColumbus, focus on yourself...We are ignorant toknowledge of ourselves.
"Columbus just set the wrecking ball inmotion," he said. "Don't focus on ChristopherColumbus, focus on yourself...We are ignorant toknowledge of ourselves.