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They want Columbus from downtown America!
A local civic group meeting over the fate of a Christopher Columbus statue in downtown Brooklyn turned into an uproar, with attendees on both sides bringing charges of racism and discrimination – before the panel finally decided to back up their calls for the statue to be removed to reaffirm the researcher’s portrait.
The members of the park and youth committees of the local community board 2 confirmed a December 7th vote by the citizens’ group after a second joint hearing on February 4th, which included contributions from Italian-American organizations for the preservation of the monument, to send a non-binding letter to the park department to remove the marble image of the Italian sailor from the 15th century.
Supporters of the statue included the director of the Italian Historical Society of America, John LaCorte, whose father John N. LaCorte in the 1970s led then-Mayor John Lindsay for relocating the public works of art from Manhattan to Brooklyn after the southern part of the city was renamed Cadman Plaza to Columbus Park.
LaCorte noted Thursday that the artist was who modeled the piece in the 1860s, Emma Stebbinswas a trailblazer because she was a lesbian – what he called her “chosen lifestyle” – and hers was the first artwork in the park department’s collection to be made by a woman.
“Not only did she openly live her chosen lifestyle in the face of social condemnation, but then, by creating her exquisite marble statue of another pioneer, she broke the barriers that prevented female artists from entering the public venue and enjoying their artistic creations in New York and people all over the world, ”said LaCorte.
LaCorte was followed by the President of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, Angelo Vivolo, who described the removal of the statue as “irrational madness” and an attack on the Italian-American heritage.
“We know the history of bias against Italian-Americans in America. The hatred now extends to the work of a pioneering gay artist – when is it going to stop,” Vivolo said.
However, board secretary Jessica Thurston accused the moderators of using Stebbins ‘sexuality to distract from Columbus’ documented history of atrocities against Indians.
“As a strange woman and half-Italian, I really find the exploitation of the artist’s weirdness a means to justify a statue of a man who tolerated racism and sex trafficking and more human rights abuses in a disgusting and worrying manner.” She said.
Tension also escalated after South Carolina-based self-published author Rafael Ortiz took the stage to compare the colonist to black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Many other members were stunned.
“Imagine if this were Martin Luther King instead. Imagine his statues being destroyed and removed and people saying, “No, no, we are not attacking, we are not against the African American community, we are only against Martin Luther King because he was a bad guy.” said Ortiz. “That wouldn’t fly, that would be seen as discrimination, so it is with Columbus. You cannot separate Columbus from the Italian and Hispanic communities. “
The comment roused several listeners who blew Ortiz’s smooth comparison up.
“As a weird black woman, I am literally angry at the statements made about black historical figures and the association of weirdness with violence,” said CB2 member Samantha Johnson.
Several younger Italian Americans intervened to beat up the statue’s supporters. A Tennessee audience said Columbus was the worst stereotype directed against immigrants from the boot-shaped country.
“Columbus was worse than the Mafia,” said Abbeyrose Gelsomina. “He wasn’t just a wise guy, he was the boss. Columbus did everything the mob did, raped, killed, stolen, intimidated. “
Gelsomina recommended that the city hire a strange Italian-American woman to sculpt a new statue of Mother Cabrini from the current memorial, comparing the Columbus image to Confederate statues in the south.
“She was a great Italian Catholic immigrant who brought something beautiful to the world from Italian culture, a culture of caring for the immigrants and the orphans, and she has never committed genocide,” she said. “Holding the Columbus statue as I see it in NYC is the same as holding the Confederate statue on the lawn of the courthouse I lived on in Jackson, Tennessee.”
Another public participant, who described himself as a fourth generation Sicilian American from Queens, accused the board of only inviting Italian-American groups to support the statue and leaving out those who advocated its removal.
“Why didn’t you invite Italian-American organizations that oppose Columbus tonight,” said Daniel Raymond. “This discussion is incomplete and it is impossible for you to consider reversing your original vote without hearing from an Italian-American organization on the other side.”
After two hours of testimony, which were mainly decisive for the dismantling of the statue, the committee decided not to repeat the vote in December and to bring it to full board next Wednesday, February 10, before the purely advisory request for removal was sent to the city.