Going to bat big time for Columbus

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Taking it to the streets in New York City

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has launched a major initiative on behalf of Christopher Columbus. The four-pronged campaign reached the readerships of two of the nation’s premier dailies, nearly 10,000 media outlets, the halls of Congress and the memberships of hundreds of Italian-American organizations.

Dubbed “The Columbus Project,” the campaign was kicked off with a full-page ad placed in the Sept. 27 editions of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. The ad highlights the importance of Columbus to the Italian-American community, touts his accomplishments, counters contentions he was a genocidal slave trader and calls on the nation to rebuild his legacy while erecting new monuments honoring other ethnic groups. The ad is capped by an arresting image of the Columbus statue in Rhode Island, which was doused in red paint by protestors. (See facing page.)

The placements were underwritten by a substantial grant COPOMIAO President Basil Russo obtained from a 501(c)(3) corporation he chairs. The ad was supposed to run simultaneously in The New York Times, but in a stunning suppression of free speech, the Ad Acceptability Team of the venerable daily refused to publish it.

In their response, the NYT team relied on deeply flawed and thoroughly debunked sources in its effort to refute COPOMIAO’s stance that Columbus wasn’t a genocidal slaver. They also took issue with the ad’s positions that Columbus reunited humanity after it was separated for 10,000 years, that statues in his honor are rooted in anti-racism and that Columbus was a dreamer. Both sides are entitled to their opinions, but absolutely nothing about COPOMIAIO’s points of view rise to the level of the sorts of patent falsehoods that would make it worthy of suppression.

“What is tragic is that one of the most respected newspapers in our country, with unlimited resources, is not willing to expend the least amount of time and effort to research this issue to attempt to confirm what is truthful,” Russo says. “Their decision manifests an unwillingness to allow any viewpoint to be published that is not consistent with their editorial position on the issue.”

A press release about the NYT team’s decision was sent to thousands of media outlets across the country.

The ad placements coincided with a barrage of letters to every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, urging them to preserve Columbus Day as a federal holiday. Targeted versions were sent to Democratic and Republican members of Congress, each highlighting support by major figures in their respective parties, but the core message was the same:

“Like many other ethnic groups celebrated in America, Italian Americans take pride in their storied past in building our great country up ever higher,” the letters assert. “Upon arrival in America, a vast majority of Italian immigrants were deeply impoverished, could not speak English and were persecuted regardless of geographical location. However, even as Italian Americans were being lynched in the streets of New Orleans in 1891, the Italian-American community was hard at work helping to build our greatest cities and making invaluable contributions to American culture.

“Through generations of strife, blood, sweat and tears, the Italian-American community advanced itself to be in the position that it is today. At the heart of remembering the struggles and achievements of the Italian-American community is Columbus Day.

“In recent years, there has been a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. COPOMIAO absolutely believes Indigenous peoples should have a day of celebration, but it should not be at the expense of the Italian-American community. America is an inclusive country, and we should not partake in cultural addition by cultural subtraction. There are hundreds of days Congress could declare as Indigenous Peoples’ Day that do not fall on Columbus Day. There simply is no need, nor any reason, for replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Russo shared details of the campaign with more than 300 community leaders at the COPOMIAO’s third National Italian American Summit, conducted via Zoom on Sept. 30.

For more, click here.

The above appears in the November 2021 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

About Paul Basile

Paul Basile has been the editor of Fra Noi for a quarter of a century. Over that period, he and his dedicated family of staff members and correspondents have transformed a quaint little community newspaper into a gorgeous glossy magazine that is read and admired across the nation. They also maintain a cluster of national and local websites and are helping other major metropolitan areas launch their own versions of Fra Noi.

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