Columbia’s One Tribe organization presents ‘Tunnel of Oppression’ to raise awareness

By Shardae Smith

Guests who visit Columbia’s first “Tunnel of Oppression” might find walls inked with homophobic rants and tables filled with pictures of hate crime suicide victims, which fill the room as students yell racial slurs at spectators.

One Tribe, a collective group of members from the college’s student organizations, put its spin on a national program aimed at creating an interactive environment in which visitors are subjected to various types of discrimination. “Tunnel of Oppression” will take place on March 1 and 2 from 4 – 9 p.m. in the Multicultural Affairs Office, 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building.

During the event, groups will be led through a series of rooms and engaged in a full sensory experiential manner. The demonstration will feature interactive demonstrations, videos, sounds, images and role playing—some of which include explicit language that may be deemed offensive.

According to Laila Alchaar, coordinator of Asian-American Cultural Affairs at Columbia, the event will explore topics such as racism, sexism, gender identity

and homophobia.

“It’s kind of like a haunted house,” Alchaar said. “It’s scary, but it’s definitely scary in a different way. It’s an interactive process, and you just won’t be going through it watching it; you might be put into a scene.”

Alchaar said One Tribe’s mission is to touch on subjects not happening globally but cultural issues students experience on campus. She said it’s a way to “create change” on campus. Though all sensitive subjects won’t be explored, it’s an “eye-opening” presentation that challenges ideas and perceptions of

other people.

“Tunnel of Oppression” started in 1993 as a grassroots initiative at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. It’s loosely based on the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles as a stepping stone toward creating diversity, awareness and tolerance, according to Columbia’s website.

Freshman marketing communications major Tillman Liggins said he wants to show others how people are oppressed and make them aware of what’s going on.

“Our goal is for people to speak up about things happening,” Liggins said. “A lot of things go under the radar and aren’t detected.”

In a promotional video, members of One Tribe said they think the graphic, real-life situation presentations will help those who learn best from first-hand experiences and become more aware.

Junior cultural studies major and Asian Student Organization President Alison Davino said she became involved with the event because it was a great outlet for everything upsetting her.

“I felt there [are] a lot of diversity issues in Columbia that aren’t really being talked about, and ‘Tunnel’ was a great way to talk about them,” Divino said.

She said a misconception others have about the “Tunnel of Oppression” is the presenting group points the finger and blames other people for their emotions.

“It’s a learning experience,” Divino said. “It’s for people to go around and see how people’s experiences are different and for them to see and form connections within their lives. It shouldn’t be something deemed negative.”

Once groups are led through the tunnel, they are encouraged to express their experience through guided conversation co-sponsored by Columbia’s Counseling Services.

Liggins said he hopes people will begin speaking up about what’s going on within the college community after experiencing “Tunnel of Oppression.”

“These are our stories,” Liggins said. “There’s nothing made up about them. These are situations we experience on our own, [and] we’re also experiencing them here at Columbia.”

Those interested in participating in “Tunnel of Oppression” are encouraged to RSVP at