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Italian-Americans to rally against canceling Columbus Day in school

Italian-Americans to rally against canceling Columbus Day in school

Italian-American activists will hold a rally Wednesday urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to restore Columbus Day to the school calendar after city officials last week removed the famous explorer from the official holiday in his name.

The 11 a.m. event will be held — fittingly — at Columbus Circle.

“We’ve got to stop this cancel culture. What they’re doing to Columbus is a slap in the face to Italian-Americans,” said John Fratta, who heads the local chapter of the Commission of Social Justice/Sons and Daughters of Italy.

The controversy exploded last Tuesday, when the city Department of Education put out the new school calendar, referring to Oct. 11 — Columbus Day — as “Indigenous People’s Day.”

An uproar from Italian-American politicians and activists ensued and the DOE and the mayor, clearly in damage control, updated the calendar to say it would close schools on Oct. 11 for “Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Aside from opposing canceling Columbus, Italian-American civic leaders said it was wrong for the city school system to celebrate Italian-Americans and native Americans on the same day.

“This is what we call destructive pluralism. It pits one group against another,” said Joseph Scelsa, president of the Italian-American Museum.

“You’re supposed to support each group. Each group should have their own day,” said Scelsa, who chaired a multicultural advisory panel under former schools chancellor Nathan Quinones.

The rally will be held at Columbus Circle on Tuesday.
The rally will be held at Columbus Circle on Tuesday.
Robert Miller

De Blasio claimed that both he and new Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter were completely blindsided by the move by their own education department — even though he’s had total control over the school system for nearly the past eight years.

Fratta of the Sons of Italy scoffed at the mayor’s claim that he didn’t know that Columbus’ name was stricken from the school calendar.

“If you believe that I have a bridge to sell you,” he said.

An ad promoting the event says: “New York City Mayor Bill de Balsio and his education department are violating the civil rights of Italian-Americans….The mayor and his appointees have pitted racial group against racial group. Rather than uniting our gorgeous mosaic, they sow confrontation and feed anger and destroy unity and understanding.”

Reps from the Columbus Citizens Foundation, the Columbus Heritage Coalition, Italian One Voice Coalition, UNICO National, and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian-American Organizations are also expected to attend the pro-Columbus event.

A movement has gained steam to end recognition of Columbus, citing the explorer’s role role in enslaving and mistreating native-Americans.

De Blasio has no intention of reinstating Columbus because the school calendar still celebrates Italian-Americans.

“I don’t agree with protests against Italian Heritage Day. Italians have done so many things for New York City. Our two greatest mayors are Italian,” said City Hall spokesman Bill Neidhardt. “(Bonus points if you guess correctly).”

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Italian-American lawmakers slammed City Hall’s cancellation of Columbus and demanded the explorer reinstated.

About the author

Evan Lewis

With a knack for storytelling, Evan started News Brig about a year ago. Covering substantial topics under the Sports,, he helps information seep in deeper with creative writing and content management skills.

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