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Indigenous People’s Day open mic at the State House



“…the world knows that Columbus did not discover America. The world knows there’s nothing but lies being told about how Columbus came here and what he did…”

“There’s a celebration going on on Federal Hill right now where they’re commending Christopher Columbus, where they think he is a hero, where they think he discovered America,” said Brooklyn Toussaint, who, with Bella Noka and Anita Bruno, organized an open mic protest dedicated to “honoring and supporting Indigenous history and making Christopher Columbus obsolete.” Toussaint is a Providence based activist.

The Indigenous People’s Day event began at noon, with an art build, then at 3pm there was this open mic.

Columbus is an extremely contentious historical figure. In June his statute was removed from its pedestal in the Elmwood Neighborhood after being hit with paint by protesters several times. The historical Columbus is responsible for brutalizing indigenous people, stealing from them, maiming them, murdering, raping and enslaving them, all in the name of gold. The historical reckoning taking place right now has been a long time coming.

Here’s the rest video from the open mic:

“I’m not taking away from the Italian people. I believe they have a lot of beautiful people that can be well respected and can be celebrated,” said Bella Noka, a tribal elder of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. “But Columbus is not one of them. Columbus is a thief. He is a rapist. He is a murderer and he sold slaves. He did not discover America, and if this is the history they want to teach to the next seven generations of their family members, they can continue doing so. But the world knows that Columbus did not discover America. The world knows there’s nothing but lies being told about how Columbus came here and what he did…”

“To a point, we do have something to celebrate here today,” said Randy Noka, tribal elder of the Narragansett Tribe. “What we have to celebrate is that we still survive as indigenous people.”

Noka described many incidents from the history of the Narragansett Tribe under colonialism, from the Great Swamp Massacre in 1675 to the Smoke Shop Raid in 2003. The attack on Narragansett sovereignty has never really abated.

Brooklyn Toussaint:

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The event was actually two events. It was about Indigenous People’s Day, but it was also about local unions, and the lack of BIPOC leadership in those unions.

“We’ve been on a mission, Brother Ozzie and I, trying to call out the unions to make sure that thy have fair representation, Black and brown people, in the membership and in the leadership,” said Anita Bruno, from the Carpenters Local Union 330. “The unions are a great career. They pay good money that can give you generational wealth… Unfortunately, here in Rhode Island, they don’t offer that to everybody. We’re here to change that.”

Bruno then read a message from Patrick Crowley, Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, who encouraged people to unionize, and for local union members to form a chapter of Black Trade Unionists. “The only reason why progress is made is because oppressed people struggle against the weight of the status quo to demand justice,” wrote Crowley.

“The lack of diversity in the unions is a big thing,” said Bruno. “The Carpenters hold 1877 members. there’s only 26 female and less than 100 diverse members in our union. There is not one minority, Hispanic, Asian, Black leadership person in any position in the Rhode Island Building Trades…

“Where are our Black leaders? Why aren’t Black and brown people in leadership in any unions in Rhode Island?”

Osmond Weekes, with the Carpenters Local Union 330:

Anita Bruno:

Mark Fisher, Black Lives Matter Rhode Island:

Bela Noka:

Anita Bruno:

Joel Rosario Tapia:

Anita Bruno:

“My blood is the blood of immigrants. I am a gust, and my people are guests on this land,” said Joseph Gizzarelli, an Italian-American against Columbus Day. “And we owe it, to Indigenous people, to show that respect.”

Enrique Sanchez:

Anita Bruno:

Randy Noka:

Mark Fisher:

Bella Noka:

Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence):

Bella Noka:

Anita Bruno:

Brooklyn Toussaint:

Osmond Weekes:

Jeremy Costa:

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.