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Brandeis embarks on new voyage with Indigenous People’s day at Chum’s

Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) and Cholmondeley’s Coffee House (Chum’s) hosted a “Fuck Columbus Dance Party” to celebrate the passing of a resolution to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day in Brandeis’ Academic Calendar, on Monday, Oct. 10.

Faculty members held a meeting on Friday, Oct. 7 to vote on the proposal, which Sophie Warren ’18 originally brought to the Student Union a year ago. The group unanimously voted yes to altering the holiday’s name on Brandeis’ calendar.

The resolution intends to “acknowledge the legacy of imperialism, colonialism, enslavement and white supremacy which has displaced and oppressed Indigenous People/Native Americans,” according to the “Vote to Change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day at Brandeis University” petition on change.org.

Brandeis joined other colleges including Brown University and Tufts University at the vanguard of adapting a more appropriate name for the controversial national holiday.

After a year of hard work and support by many Brandeis students and organizations, it was time to commemorate these strong efforts. Dimmed lights, loud music and refreshments set the mood for a celebratory dance party in Chum’s last Friday night.

The dance party began at 10 p.m., but a discussion about the movement to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day preceded the festivities. Angel Del Amour ’19 led the discussion from an indigenous person’s point of view. He talked about the “motivations behind the party, the historical context and why this is happening, why this is necessary,” explained Divanna Eckels ’18.

The discussion also included decoration-making. Signs and chalk art with messages such as “Fuck Columbus,” “Fuck Colonialism,” “Stand with Standing Rock,” “Columbus = Genocide” and “End Colonialism” adorned the coffee house’s walls.

Eckels joined BLC in her sophomore year because she was moved by BLC’s campaigns and felt the need to help. Eckels hopes this change starts a conversation on campus. “I’m hoping for self-reflection,” she added.

A dance party for such serious matters may seem a bit peculiar and unexpected. “A lot of students on campus are feeling that burden, students of color and students who are at the intersections of other marginalized identities … Having these moments of joy in the midst of what sometimes seems like constant pain and stress, especially with being in school, is really important,” Eckels explained.

Aaron Goodwin ’18 played an essential role in planning this event. He organized a similar event in previous years, but added the discussion to this year’s agenda. Instead of merely hosting a dance party, students were able to exchange thoughts and hear an indigenous student’s perspective. Goodwin had valuable connections to students like Del Amour who were eager to help with the discussion and dance party.

“I think it’s more of a symbolic victory. I don’t think things about this school will change, but I think it’s important to recognize true history and the way history has been manipulated,” Goodwin expressed.

In addition to designing the event, Goodwin created a playlist consisting of de-colonial songs.

Goodwin selected songs by The Coup, a hip hop group from Oakland, CA, whose music ridicules capitalism and colonialism among many other worldly affairs. “I’d like to take a moment to say, ‘Fuck Columbus!’” the group exclaims in its song “Dig It!”

Goodwin’s playlist also featured songs by Shadia Mansour and Ana Tijoux. Both female artists use their music to stand up against colonialism.

Apart from The Coup, Shadia Mansour and Ana Tijoux, Goodwin additionally included contemporary songs about self-empowerment and combating oppressive norms, according to Eckels. Songs from Beyoncé’s new album “Lemonade” appeared in the evocative playlist as well.

The next step for this campus-wide movement was the teach-in designed by the Brandeis University Intercultural Center. The comprehensive program, which took place on Indigenous People’s Day, ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and featured several professors, Brandeis Climate Justice, a film and student led discussions.

“American Indians” make up 0.1 percent of Brandeis’ undergraduate student body and 0.2 percent of its graduate population, according to the university’s Fall 2015 enrollment statistics. Although a small number of undergraduates and graduates identifies as indigenous, it is critical that the entire community be respectful of all races, ethnicities and groups on campus, especially with Brandeis’ emphasis on social justice.

Ultimately, Oct. 7 will forever mark a monumental victory for Brandeis University, and most importantly, for the indigenous community. BLC and Chums threw a spectacular and illuminating dance party that definitely screamed “Fuck Columbus!”

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