Residents Share Polarized Views on Future of Pittsburgh’s Columbus Day Parade | News | Pittsburgh

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CP photo: Amanda Waltz

The statue of Christopher Columbus in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh

About 30 community members joined in a virtual community meeting on September 29 to discuss the Columbus Day Parade in Pittsburgh which is scheduled for Saturday October 9 in the Bloomfield neighborhood. At meetings hosted by the Bloomfield Development Corporation, four people had the opportunity to address the group, and they strongly shared views for and against the continuation of the parade and Columbus Day that were rooted in their personal legacies.

“[The business district committee of BDC] realized fairly quickly that the conversation wasn’t necessarily about how the parade was to be held at all – less about the road closures, more about the strongly polarized feelings about this particular historical figure, ”said the CEO of BDC, Christina Howell, after the meeting.

The discussion was led by moderators and they guided the virtual meeting participants through a series of reflective questions, allowing people to speak in smaller chat rooms before and after people had a chance to speak. ‘address to the whole group.

Of those who provided personal information during questions, eight members of the meeting live in Bloomfield or just outside Bloomfield, and several others are from Coraopolis and other suburbs south of the city. Those who live in Bloomfield have all lived there for less than 10 years. About half of the meeting members indicated their age between their mid-20s and early 40s.

When asked to place a dot along a spectrum of Columbus’ legacy being personally important or personally problematic and harmful, community members primarily placed their dots along the farthest boundaries of each. side of the spectrum. Only three placed their dots in the middle, although all leaned for a negative view of Columbus.

The community’s disagreement over the legacy of Christopher Columbus has a history in pittsburgh. The statue of Columbus which has been in Schenley Park since 1955 is now wrapped in plastic amid a standoff between the city, which voted to remove it, and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, who obtained an injunction against the deletion.

Those who spoke in favor of Columbus Day and the parade cited Italian-American heritage and previous discrimination against Italians in the United States Basil Russo, an Italian-American who never lived in Bloomfield but who has participated in the Columbus Day Parade for about six years, about lynching of 11 Italians in 1871 in New Orleans. These lynchings, along with the anti-Italian sentiment of the time – especially against the southern Italians, who were particularly discriminated against at the time and even lynched – led to the first Columbus Day in 1872 as an attempt to Italian-American calm indignation.

“Columbus Day is the day that the Italian-American community chose to celebrate its heritage. We want to celebrate our contributions to America. We want to recognize the sacrifices our ancestors made. It’s our way of saying thank you to our country, ”says Russo. “The story of Columbus is very, very important and intimately linked to Italian-American history.”

Russo also cited the lie that Columbus never owned slaves and that Columbus adopted a native child Taino to claim that Columbus was a good person. Columbus started the slave trade of indigenous peoples by Europeans, subjected enslaved indigenous peoples to sexual abuse, and decimated the indigenous Taino population on Hispaniola. He did adopt a teenager Taino, who would later be known as Diego Colón.

“Honoring Columbus, organizing a parade in his honor, is nothing more than a celebration of the genocide and educating our children and our citizens on a sanitized account of what colonialism really was,” said Benjamin Orr, who is a descendant of the Amerindians. . “I don’t think we should be celebrating this man. I believe we should celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day as many other states are beginning to do. ”

Many in the community have expressed a desire to respect multiple legacies, including Brian Tedeschi, an Italian-American who does not want to reject the contributions and legacy of Italians and Italian-Americans. Tedeschi hopes community members find a way to compromise, but others expressed uncertainty as Columbus’ actions and legacy were directly damaging to Indigenous peoples.

“As a Mexican, the legacy of Christopher Columbus is always like a burden, like a violation of my existence,” said A. Ene, who asked to use a pseudonym. “I, as an immigrant and homosexual, am all for celebrating diversity and heritage. I hope there are ways to celebrate them in a way that recognizes the harm done, and does not elevate the structures of the colonizer and white supremacy.

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