An Open Letter to Alessandra Biaggi

New York State Senator and Candidate for the Democratic Nomination to Congress for Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and the Bronx.

Dear Senator Biaggi,

I was privileged to know your grandfather Mario. I knew him as a man with an enormous heart and a love for the working poor, a man for all people. He put his life on the line as a police officer and public servant.

As a proud Italian American, he wore his heritage on his sleeve. Each year, in October, he marched up Fifth Avenue in the parade. When his legs failed, he mounted a float or vintage Alfa Romeo convertible. He rarely missed the annual benefit dinner that raised many millions to support students in financial need seeking a college education and a pathway out.

Your grandfather Mario once represented a portion of the Congressional district you now seek. And this is why I am writing to you today.

Nearly five decades ago, Representative Mario Biaggi led tributes and a wreath-laying ceremony with the Knights of Columbus, union delegates, and civil servants of Italian heritage at the base of the Cristoforo Colombo Memorial in Columbus Circle.

Earlier this month, on the campaign trail, you publicly called for the Columbus Memorial to be swept away in this tide of woke-ness with these four words:

“It should come down.”

You are an inheritor of six generations of sacrifice, toil, and sweat of tens of millions of men and women. Their lives and achievements are embodied and expressed in this sublime memorial.

Yet you seek to tear communities apart and tear our community down. And not just our community. Columbus, the greatest navigator of recorded history, sailed for Spain. Latinos march up Fifth Avenue every year to celebrate the Spanish culture that followed Cristobal Colon to the Americas. Your actions are an offense to the Latino community and their many great and progressive contributions.

Columbus can only be understood in the context of the times. The explorer encountered a world of great civilizations sustained by institutionalized slavery, child sacrifice, and cannibalism, all of which he opposed. Yet this false narrative continues because of an uninformed citizenry fueled by lies from people like Howard Zinn and others.

Now you seek to follow in the footsteps of your grandfather, may he rest in peace, upon the back of your community.

Senator, it is time to drop the hate and seek the truth. I hope you realize what it means to represent all the people respectfully. When you offend one culture, you offend all.

Today, we march for Columbus as a symbol of unity. He is emblematic of all immigrants’ highest hopes and ideals–from the prehistoric ancestors of the indigenous and all who followed. They faced a vast unknown, searching for liberty, opportunity, and a better life. Yet, they sacrificed and suffered ridicule, bigotry, and exploitation in the new world.

But to their children, they gave a world, a gift that each generation must celebrate and preserve. Together, united, we might seek to form a more perfect union.

Our impoverished forebears, strangers in a strange land, left us a message chiseled into the granite pedestal of the Columbus Memorial you seek to tear down. It is a truthful message, a message of unity.

“To the world, he gave a world.”

Let us not forget.

Angelo Vivolo
Columbus Heritage Coalition