Some Italian Americans angered by treatment of Christopher Columbus in Essex County
City offices were closed Monday in Newark in recognition of Indigenous Peoples' Day. Those offices were open when the day was still observed as Columbus Day in the city.
A member of an Italian American group says that Italian Americans are being mistreated as more cities distance themselves from Christopher Columbus.
“Italian Americans should not be treated this way,” says Italian American One Voice Coalition executive board member Andre DiMino.
DiMino defends Columbus Day as a symbol of Italian Americans. He says that he welcomes the celebration of Native Americans, but thinks that it should be reserved for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People in August and Native American Heritage Day and month, instead.
“Aug. 9, the day after Thanksgiving and actually the whole month of November. So why take away such an important day to American history and especially Italian Americans?” DiMino asks.
He is also outraged over the treatment of a Columbus statue that was removed from Newark’s Washington Park earlier this year and the removal of a Columbus monument in West Orange.
But there are others who say that Columbus should not be celebrated.
“I think it’s good to recognize the people who were here before. I think it’s about time,” says Shaquille Henry, of Newark.
Henry immigrated to Newark from Guyana and says that given the history of his own country and South America overall, the debate over Columbus Day resonates with him personally.
“He didn’t do anything that was worthwhile and he didn’t really discover anything,” Henry says. “You can’t discover something that’s already been there and already inhabited by someone else. That’s not discovering, that’s kind of coming and taking over.”
DiMino says that those who are against Columbus believe a false narrative written by historian Howard Zinn. He recommends other historical texts.
“Like ‘Debunking Howard Zinn,’ like the books by Rafael Ortiz and actually books by Columbus’s son and you could see that whatever Howard Zinn put out there is a total distortion about the facts of Columbus,” DiMino says.
But Henry is not buying it.
“I don’t believe anyone’s sentiment thinking Columbus is a hero or that he’s a discoverer – because he’s not. He’s a liar,” Henry says.
DiMino says that not recognizing Columbus Day and taking down statues and monuments is a violation of the 14th Amendment. He has entered federal litigation over the monument that was removed in West Orange. He says that he believes that it could go as far as the Supreme Court.
The Italian American One Voice Coalition has not received a response from the city of Newark regarding the handling of its former Columbus statue.