Friday, June 12, 2020

For Italian-Americans, the Christopher Columbus statue is a deeply-rooted public celebration of our immigrant heritage and a public expression of pride for our culture, our past and our identity.

The Columbus Heritage Coalition joins with our fellow citizens in the long-overdue public dialogue which is taking place in our own city and around the country about racism, discrimination and hate, and it is our fervent hope that peaceful demonstration with a strong and united voice will bring about constructive change.

This path to change cannot be allowed to detour down a destructive and hateful course, one which marginalizes and alienates Americans of any particular color, religion, or ethnicity.

The willful defilement of Columbus statues around the country and calls for similar vandalism or worse here in New York City, are not acts of peaceful protest or public enlightenment; they are acts of hate against more than 17 million Italian-Americans. The destruction or removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in New York would be a hate crime against Italian-Americans, which federal, state, and local law authorities must prosecute to the full extent of the law.

We ask our neighbors and fellow Americans to recognize, honor and respect what the Columbus statue, as well as our other cultural celebrations, means to Italian-Americans.

The strength of this great American nation lies within our diversity. Solving our most challenging problems will require all of us to work together, united with a mutual respect and understanding for our heritage, our history, and our humanity.

Angelo Vivolo

President

Columbus Heritage Coalition

Columbus Citizens Foundation Condemns Destruction of Columbus Statues Nationwide, Urges Peaceful Dialogue and Equality For All

Columbus Citizens Foundation President Marian U. Pardo offers a public statement on Foundation’s behalf urging preservation of monuments to Columbus city and nationwide.

New York, June 11, 2020.

Following the destruction and damage to several prominent statues of Christopher Columbus nationwide, the Columbus Citizens Foundation released a statement condemning the destruction of these monuments to Italian-American history.

President of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, Marian Pardo, had this to say:

“Columbus Citizens Foundation stands for the civil rights and respect of all residents of America regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, or anything else that hurtfully divides rather than positively unites all of our interests. We abhor and are outraged by the murder of George Floyd and the mistreatment of any person on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or any other divisive identification. Ours has always been a positive agenda, especially in the celebration of Columbus as a symbol of accomplishment, which is emblematic of Italian Americans’ own long fought and continuing battle with prejudice in American society. We have all experienced it, myself included. The latest assaults on our symbols of accomplishment are part of that prejudice.

We decry the news of the destruction and potential removal of Columbus statues throughout the United States. Removing Columbus statues is to be complicit in denying a real struggle for identity – which is an ally to current protests, not anathema to them.

Through this public statement, we wish to express our support of peaceful protest and our support of the civil rights of all, regardless or ethnicity, race, religion or any identification that can be used to divide us from one another.” Columbus Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the celebration of Italian heritage and the creation of opportunities for younger Italian Americans, organizes the Columbus Day Parade in New York City.

More About Columbus Citizens Foundation:

Columbus Citizens Foundation is a non-profit organization in New York City committed to fostering an appreciation of Italian-American heritage and achievement. The Foundation, through a broad range of philanthropic and cultural activities, provides opportunities for advancement to deserving Italian-American students through various scholarship and grant programs. The Foundation organizes New York City’s annual Columbus Celebration and Columbus Day Parade, which has celebrated Italian-American heritage on New York’s Fifth Avenue since 1929. For more information, contact jwilson@columbuscitizens.org

Press Contact:

Jefferson Wilson

Director of Marketing & Communications

Columbus Citizens Foundation

Phone: (212) 249-9923 x242

jwilson@columbuscitizens.org

Cuomo Says New York City’s Columbus Statue Should Stay

June 11, 2020 4:27 PM ET

Austin Horn

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the Christopher Columbus statue at Manhattan’s Columbus Circle “has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York.”

Bebeto Matthews/AP

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that he did not believe New York City’s prominent statue of Christopher Columbus should be removed and pointed out its importance in the Italian American community.

Cuomo was asked on Thursday at a press conference whether it was time for the statue, which stands above the city’s Columbus Circle subway stop, to go.

“I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts, which nobody would support,” said Cuomo, who is of Italian descent. “But the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York. For that reason, I support it.”

Discussions about the removal of statues dedicated to the Italian explorer once credited with discovering the Americas have proliferated across the country at the same time that some other controversial monuments — Confederate figures — have been removed. A statue of Columbus was pulled down and tossed into a lake in Richmond, Va., and one was beheaded in Boston. Activists also toppled one of the statues in Minneapolis, according to Minnesota Public Radio. One was defaced in Miami, member station WLRN reports.

Honors for Columbus and other European explorers have been reconsidered in light of the harm they did to Native people. Several states and cities replaced Columbus Day, which is still a federal holiday, with Indigenous Peoples Day.

The statue in question stands at the southwest corner of Central Park in the center of a plaza.

New York City has a prominent Italian American community. The city holds a big celebration of Columbus Day with a parade largely held to applaud the contributions of Italian Americans. It’s also home to the famous Little Italy neighborhood, as well as an Italian American museum.

Letters: Honor the nation’s history on Columbus Day

Charles Marsala, Oct 13, 2019 – 6:00 PM

The Knights of Columbus march during a Memorial Day observance Monday, May 29, 2017, at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery in Slidell. The event featured an address by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a special presentation by Lakeshore High graduate Katie Gunther, a presentation of wreaths, a three-shot volley by the Louisiana Society Sons of American Revolution and the Northshore Honor Guard; and the playing of ‘Taps.’

Advocate staff photo by Scott Threlkeld

 As a country, we must seek to look for the best in others and that includes understanding that we all seek to honor our ancestors. My maternal grandfather was a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. By 1934, the Knights had done so much for America that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed Columbus Day a Federal Holiday. The Knights continue philanthropy. In 2018 The Knights gave $185 million to charity and performed over 75 million man-hours of voluntary service.

Contributing to the Columbus Day effort was Italian immigrant Generoso Pope. Pope arrived from Italy in 1906 at age fifteen. He became owner of Colonial Sand & Stone and a well-respected philanthropist.

The Knights were founded in 1891 to provide financial security for widows and orphans. When WWI started, the older Knights established warming huts for soldiers behind enemy lines.

Following the war, the Knights re-published books by the NAACP founder W.E.B. Debois titled “The Gift of Black Folk,” and “The Jews in the Making of America” by George Cohen. During this time period the KKK, which opposed Catholics, opposed the Knights.

As a show of commitment to America, Italians in New York in 1892 erected the Columbus Circle Monument. This support followed the 1891 Italian Lynching in New Orleans. Every year, a wreath is placed on that statue in honor of those lynched.

Columbus braved the ocean seeking a safer trade route which opened immigration. The Barbary Coast Pirates of North Africa were capturing residents and sailors from the seaside towns of Italy, Spain, and France and selling them into slavery or holding them for ransom. Columbus’s ship was attacked by pirates and sunk in 1476. He survived by swimming ashore.

On September 8, 1762 Barbary Coast pirates from Tripoli captured almost the whole village of Ustica, Sicily. By 1800 over 1,000,000 Europeans had been captured and sold. Thus, Columbus was chosen by the Sicilians and Italians in America as having paved a way for them to migrate. Many settled in Ascension Parish to cut sugar cane on the lands once inhabited by the Houmas Nation. Members of Louisiana’s large Sicilian community favor the new Great River Road Museum’s exhibits that showcase both Sicilian and Indigenous cultures.

Louisianans of Italian and Sicilian descent erected two monuments in the 1990s. One of Columbus in Baton Rouge and one of immigrants in New Orleans.

We support the concept of Indigenous People’s Day and hope that it will be on a different weekend so that we can participate in activities that honor their heritage as we offer for them to participate in our activities. On Columbus Day the nation should reflect on the reason why FDR elected to recognize those that practice philanthropy and work to end racism.

Charles Marsala

President, American Italian Federation of the Southeast

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