By Paul Holston, Editor-in-Chief
“Please note, the University will be open on Columbus Day. The Day after Thanksgiving is the new university holiday that replaces Columbus Day.”
This excerpt was written in part of a mass email sent out by a Howard University representative, Friday, September 30. But Howard…now that the day is over: What’s next?
— The Hilltop (@TheHilltopHU) September 30, 2016
— Paul Holston (@Tru1P) October 10, 2016
— Paul Holston (@Tru1P) October 10, 2016
When The Hilltop pushed this information out to the public as it came that day to inform our colleagues, I saw some reactive responses from our peers. Some questioned Howard as to why did the university decide to make this holiday change so late? Others applauded the university for taking the stance on keeping the university open. Both views are respectable, and for me personally, I am satisfied that Howard did this, but deep down, I’m not satisfied enough. To me, I feel that for Howard: It’s time to abolish Columbus Day and make it Indigenous Peoples Day at The Mecca.
Some of us may or may have not have heard about Christopher Columbus. For many across the nation, Columbus is regarded as the Spanish explorer who (for those who don’t know) “was a famous explorer known for his voyages across the Atlantic Ocean and his establishment of America.” Many primary and secondary education schools still teach this, but yet in 2016, this history lesson is just not true. Many people across the country have denounced the Columbus Day holiday and have pushed for a new holiday to take its place: Indigenous Peoples Day.
In a 2015 article, Bill Bigelow, co-director of the Zinn Education Project, described Columbus as initiating the trans-Atlantic slave trade in early February 1494, sending several dozen enslaved Africans to Spain. A year later, Columbus intensified his efforts to enslave Indigenous people in the Caribbean.
Bigelow continues to write that “from the very beginning, Columbus was not on a mission of discovery but of conquest and exploitation—he called his expedition la empresa, the enterprise…And Columbus deserves to be remembered as the first terrorist in the Americas.”
The Zinn Ed Project also has launched an “Abolish Columbus Day Campaign,” which inscribes “it is time to stop celebrating the crimes of Columbus and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous people who demand an end to Columbus Day.”
The excerpt continues stating, “instead of glorifying a person who enslaved and murdered people, destroyed cultures, and terrorized those who challenged his rule, we seek to honor these communities demanding sovereignty, recognition, and rights. We encourage schools to petition their administration and for communities to introduce legislation to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.”
With also having the opportunity to sit down and speak with some representatives with Zinn Ed in Washington, D.C. to further explain this concept of abolishing Columbus Day, I fully agree and am personally for this campaign.
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Yesterday we had a great meeting with Paul Holston, editor of the Howard University @howard1867 Hilltop @thehilltop1924 student newspaper. We learned that it was cofounded by Zora Neale Hurston and powerful writers including Isabel Wilkerson have served as editors for the paper in the past. We talked about ways that the Zinn Education Project and the Hilltop could collaborate. Like this post if you think it's a good idea.
It’s time for Howard to recognize this as well and to take the initiative to assist in introducing legislation to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
As Howard University is entering its 150th anniversary in 2017, it was called during the 149th Convocation by Howard Student Ombudsman Calvin Hadley that, “the time has always been and always will be now.”
If we are to answer this call to action, then hey Howard: It’s time to shake up an aspect of your status quo, abolish Columbus Day, and make it Indigenous Peoples Day for the people.