Despite the very short emergency appeal call to attend the Columbus Circle Rally on May 11th, around 200 people attended the event to protest yet again, the act of demoting Christopher Columbus in this country. This time, the Board of Education of the City of New York made the decision to change the calendar for the coming school year declaring that October 12th will be marked as the “Italian American Heritage, and the Native Indigenous American Day,” in the school calendar, totally obliterating the name of Columbus. Appalled and alarmed, the Columbus Citizens Foundation President, Mr. Angelo Vivolo, called upon other Italian American organizations to make their opinion known by meeting at Columbus Circle on Thursday morning.
Most of those present, despite it being a working day, and the Covid-19 shut down restrictions, were mostly leaders and officials representing more than 100 organizations.
Among those present we saw Dr. Joseph Scelsa, President of the Italian American Museum in Little Italy, Mr. Joseph Di Pietro, President of the Queens Federation of Italian American Organizations, Signora Josephine Maietta, President of the Association of Italian American Educators and Mr. Ralph Contini, of the Coccia Institute from New Jersey. Unico National was represented as well, as were the Conference of Major Italian American Presidents representing 50 local organizations, the Columbian Association of Italian American Lawyers and Jurists, the Columbus Heritage Coalition and many others.
There were several New York City Unions representing the Firefighter Organization, the Police Department, the Correction Department, the Sanitation Department and others.
Among individuals of note that we saw in the multitude, the presiding New York State Court of Appeals Judge for the Judicial Districts of Kings County, Queens and Staten Island Michael Pesce. We even saw Curtis Sliwa, the legendary head of the Guardian Angels of New York. Besides Mr. Angelo Vivolo, President of the Columbus Citizen’s Foundation who introduced the Board of Education issue, there were Joe Piscopo–the radio and television personality who served as the Presenter for the occasion—and other distinguished speakers: John Fratta, President of the Sons and Daughters of Italy, who said, “We’ve had enough of this. They need to put Columbus Day back in the school calendar.” With respect to Native Americans, he said that “they already have two days: August 9th and the day after Thanksgiving Day. And they also have the month of November. They [native Americans] can have all they want, but they cannot have Columbus Day.”
Roberto Ferrito, President of the Commission for Social Justice, lamented the fact that “Mayor De Blasio preaches ‘Inclusion,’ but not when it comes to Italian Americans.”
Arthur Aidala, a senior trial attorney, now president of the Columbian Trial Lawyers and Jurists Association, said that he knew Mayor De Blasio well, and that he knows the mayor is proud of his Italian heritage; but that he was “so disappointed” to find out the mayor’s position on Christopher Columbus. Mr. Aidala added that, “Columbus had literally turned this world upside down for the better.” He further added that his association would explore all the means the legal system has to offer to save Columbus Day.
Joseph Bonelli, from the New York City Council, gave a well-structured presentation and reminded those present that “only 60 feet from the Columbus Circle, “and from around this city, “you will find several statues dedicated to the ‘fathers ‘of nations. You’ll find statues of Jose’ Marti’, Simon Bolivar, Juan Pablo Duarte, Theodore Herzl, Lee Shay Sheng (Sp.), Joan of Arc. These statues are beautiful and make this city vibrant. Columbus symbolizes our joint humanity, and the immigrant struggles, perfectly enough to have his statue in this city… This is what the Left [Party] represents. And if this guy [Columbus] is not perfect enough, then I don’t know who is that person perfect enough to deserve statues in this city.”
At the end of the presentations Joe Piscopo said “Keep Columbus Day…keep Columbus Day” and the people present all chanted in unison, “Keep Columbus Day,” many times over.
The major radio and television medias were well represented, as we were there to record this historic moment of protest for the Italian American community.
The readers of La Voce di New York can listen and view the entire unaltered and unedited recording of this rally at: https://youtu.be/89RtWknWbOU