Italian Americans and all Americans can be proud of the great success of the National Columbus Day Parade in New York City, viewed by large crowds of marchers and spectators along the Fifth Avenue Parade on a crisp, picture-perfect autumn afternoon.
WABC-TV devoted three hours of live programming plus live streaming nationally and worldwide. Once again, WABC 770 Radio hosted wall-to-wall coverage of the October 10 spectacular, with yours truly providing color commentary.
Mayor Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell were among the New York City elected officials marching behind banners and posters, waiving Italian and American flags, enthusiastically greeting friendly crowds, and celebrating Italian heritage and contributions.
And once again, the National Columbus Day Parade served as the unofficial kickoff to the fall election season, focusing on the competitive race for Governor of New York. Throngs of reporters and cameras covering the parade pivoted to the side streets off Fifth Avenue, where candidates Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, held separate press conferences as they waited for their turn to fall into the march.
A few days earlier, the New York Post reported both candidates oppose cancelling Columbus Day in favor of a day for indigenous people celebrations. Of course, we have long opposed such a substitution or even the idea of a joint Columbus Day-Indigenous People Day. “Half a holiday” is hurtful and insulting to both groups. Striking down Columbus Day is a real threat, with proposed legislation now under consideration in the Senate and Assembly.Honoring the indigenous with their holiday is the proper course and the pathway we support.
Rep. Zeldin was the first to speak up with community leaders in Astoria alongside a Columbus memorial targeted for graffiti strikes and takedown threats by radicalized Columbus opponents. “There is a growing attack now targeting the Italian American community to try to get rid of their heritage,” he said.
The Post quoted the Governor’s aide, Hazel Crampton-Hays, as follows: “We generally do not comment on legislation that has not passed both houses, but Gov. Hochul does not support eliminating Columbus Day. She looks forward to again marching in the Columbus Day Parade and proudly proclaiming Columbus Day this year. She will continue to be a strong supporter of the Italian American community.”
Last year Governor Hochul issued two proclamations, including one acknowledging Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day.
This year, I asked the Governor to please end the confusion and respect the Columbus holiday. I repeated my request to her publicly. Last week, I received a copy of the Governor’s 2022 Proclamation declaring October 10, 2022, as “Columbus Day in the Empire State.” Her proclamation states in part:
“On Columbus Day, we join to honor one of the most celebrated sons of Italy and his contributions to world history;
“Our state and our nation pay tribute to the legacy of Christopher Columbus, an explorer from Genova, Italy…;
“Here in New York, celebrations of Italian American heritage take place in communities across our state, with many Columbus Day parades honoring the life and Legacy of Christopher Columbus and his contributions to our nation;
“We take this occasion to celebrate the Spirit of Discovery that opened the door to the New World to so many, including the founders of our country and others who forged our reputation as the gateway to freedom for generations of immigrants;
“It is fitting for all New Yorkers to join with friends and neighbors of Italian heritage in commemorating Columbus Day and its associated events and activities held throughout our state and nation.”
Through our diligence, we are having our voices heard. Those in a position to support our community are responding. Now we must intensify our vigilance against those who seek to marginalize our community and we must continue to bring light to the truth.
Columbus Heritage Coalition