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AISA display on Sierra Lawn blessed by Native American

Rudy Ortega, Jr., a Tataviam Native American, blessed the display created by the American Indian Student Association Wednesday at 12 p.m. on the Sierra Lawn. A circle was created on the walkway in front of the Oviatt Library, with Ortega in the middle of the circle, along with his daughter. About 30 people created the circle, which included members of AISA, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan, and several other students. Ortega was holding a basket with tobacco that was wrapped in red cloth, eagle feathers and sage. Tobacco was passed around the circle to sprinkle over the display. “If it wasn’t for Columbus, different colors wouldn’t stand together in this circle,” Ortega said. Ortega remained in the middle, while he went around “smudging” the people that made up the circle. Smudging is a form of purifying the environment and individuals with sage, cedar chips, and sweet grass, according to Hector Ramirez, spokesperson of AISA.

– Cynthia Ramos

Anti-Defamation League looks into local Valley hate groups

Several members of known racial hate groups, National Alliance, National Vanguard, San Fernando Skins, Imperial Klan of America, The National Socialist Movement, and American Front, reside in the San Fernando Valley area. The San Fernando Valley is home to between 10 and 15 known individuals who are part of hate groups, according to Joanna Mendellson, investigative researcher of the Anti-Defamation League. She said the home base for these hate groups is not necessarily based in the San Fernando Valley area, but the individuals are. “ADL works closely with law enforcement to train officers on hate crimes,” Mendellson said. They offer the Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network, which shares information with the police and educates them on various symbols and tattoos from hate groups. The definition of a hate crime defined by the ADL is “a criminal act against a person or property in which the perpetrator chooses the victim because of the victim’s real or perceived race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or gender.” The league has a team dedicated to compile information from websites and message boards to report on hate group activities, Mendellson said. The ADL also receives their information from public rallies and events the groups participate in. To organize, or be a part of a hate group is not illegal. However, some members of the groups carry out criminal activities as a result of hate ideology, Mendellson said.

– Melanie Saxe

Project ACT leads campus discussions about diversity

Project ACT, or Advocates for Cultural Talk, is a group run through University Counseling Services that encourages discussions about education, race, gender, sexual orientation and many other topics having to do with diversity. The project is offered for group leaders as a class that can be taken for one or three units. During the first three weeks, students acquire formal training on how to have and lead discussions about diversity. Students will create presentations and lead discussions in other classrooms. “It provides an opportunity for the students to talk about subjects they normally wouldn’t have the chance to talk about,” said Veronica Delgado, who works with Project ACT as the peer coordinator. There will be a Student Involvement Fair on Oct. 20 in front of Bayramian Hall, formerly the Student Services Building, from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. The fair will focus on the ways students can find out more about Project ACT and what it has to offer, Delgado said. The fair will include food, games, prizes and music. Project ACT also sends out announcements for the presentations, and teachers can sign up to have the student presernters come to their class. Four scheduled presentations have been set up for this fall, and five are currently underway. ACT will also host forums every semester, which are open to all students. The forum for this fall will be announced later this semester, Delgado said.

– M.S.