A statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. The Italian’s legacy is under renewed scrutiny.
A Baltimore City Council bill to officially change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day throughout the city, at a time where the Italian explorer’s legacy is under renewed scrutiny amid a massive reckoning over racial injustice.
It’s the latest public re-examination of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore. A group of protesters tore down a Columbus statue near the Inner Harbor on the 4th of July and Councilman Ryan Dorsey has introduced a bill currently making its way through City Hall to rename another Columbus monument in the city.
Councilman John Bullock introduced the Indigenous Peoples’ Day bill at a council meeting last week. It has the support of City Council President Brandon Scott, as well councilmembers Dorsey, Sharon Green Middleton, Shannon Sneed, Bill Henry, Kristerfer Burnett, Edward Reisinger and Leon Pinkett. All are Democrats. Scott attempted to change the holiday’s name in 2016, but his bill failed by a narrow margin.
Bullock, who represents West Baltimore, said at a Tuesday afternoon hearing that the purpose of the bill is to identify and honor indigenous peoples.
“History, oftentimes, has left a lot to be desired,” Bullock said.
Bullock’s bill received unanimous support from indigenous community members who spoke at the hearing, such as Jennifer Aphelion, who is Cherokee, Pueblo and Aztec.
“Children often gain confidence when they see reflected images of themselves and family in the home, and Baltimore is home to many urban Indians like myself,” Aphelion said. “Moving to have Indigenous Peoples Day, that is to see ourselves reflected in Baltimore City.”
Some Italian-Americans who testified at the hearing opposed the bill, citing long-running pride for Columbus throughout their community.
“If you are going to eliminate Columbus Day, you should rename it for another iconic Italian-American,” John Pica, a former Maryland state senator who represented Baltimore City from 1983 to 1996, said. “If that’s not done, that’s an insult to Italian-Americans.”
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