People & Places: The U’s New Blog Helps to Increase Cultural Awareness

By Aila Amer

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University of Utah students are taking a liking to People & Places, a blog started by the Office for Equity and Diversity to give diverse students, staff and faculty a louder voice.

Students find it to be a great platform and hope that it will inspire changes to help them feel more accepted.

“Not directly, I have felt discriminated on campus,” said student Shayma Salih, “but I guess being on a predominantly white campus you can feel like an outsider. I have never been attacked for my identity, but I have never felt comfortable.”

Hearing the voices of others can help students like Salih find their own.

“The blog is great and that’s nice that people are wanting to welcome different identities and that their uniqueness is being celebrated or differences,” said Salih. “Being the first one in my family to get an education here means a lot and I want to be welcomed.”

There are other students who feel that this is a great way to shine a light on unrepresentative groups on campus.

“I am really involved on campus and there should be more actions taken on that towards unrepresentative students on campus,” sophomore Justice Meneses said. “I came to the university feeling that I would be accepted and knowing that I’ll make it through, and I feel that’s not fair to unrepresentative students. They come here for a reason. I think this blog is a good idea for cultural awareness and individuals to get their voices heard. No one can assume what a person is going through unless voices are heard so this is great.”

One of the students who spoke with the Chronicle, who wished to stay anonymous, said they don’t feel comfortable on campus at times.

“I feel that this is a great place to start and that we should recognize that Christopher Columbus did have violent reeds in America and that people who have done so much to the country should get the credit they deserve,” they said. “This should be done more often not just around Thanksgiving but frequently a constant reminder. I feel the mission is to educate and import folks to all the amazing strides who have made this land and how their culture and being wiped out and their voices being silenced despite them being a big part of history.”

One of the articles featured on the blog is “What are we really celebrating?” by the Office for Equity and Diversity Director of marketing and communications, Neelam Chand.

Columbus Day is known to celebrate Christopher Columbus and his coming to the United States in 1492. This government holiday was inaugurated for people to show their culture, traditions, customs, belongings, background, history and — more importantly — pride of their land. The main concern is, have we forgotten the true value of this holiday or is there a new meaning?

Christopher Columbus, at first, was known for his bravery and for his strength to travel and discover land. When we read his name in textbooks, there are stories full of his heroic ventures. Throughout the years we see that his legacy is changing, now that more of his life is mentioned.

According to Neelam Chand’s blog post, Leo Killsback, a Northern Cheyenne Nation citizen and assistant professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, told CNN, “One of the biggest misconceptions about Columbus is that he was righteous. The truth is that he was wicked and responsible for the rape and murder of innocent indigenous people.”

On the blog post, it reads, “Before 1492, millions of indigenous communities had established cities, infrastructure, education, agriculture, social organizations, as well as wealth and sustainability – all of which were thriving. But there was a swift change as Columbus and his settlers viewed this land and its people as an opportunity for commercial gain.”

Everything had changed after Columbus came. Rapes, murders, theft and the harm of marginalized identities were off to a running start.

After finding out about all of this background information about Christopher Columbus, people are taking action to change this holiday to another one. That day would be celebrated as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, acknowledging the marginalized identities and all people with different cultures.

The blog is striving to bring some positive changes to the community, inform people of the true meaning of Columbus Day and the changes that should be made to appreciate celebrate Indigenous People’s’ Day, as well as shed some light on other issues and concerns facing the voices of the U that too often go unheard.

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