The abrupt decision of the Human Rights Committee last week to recommend to the City Council and mayor that the city replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day and that the Revere Italian-American community “find” another day to celebrate its heritage and culture was disappointing on a number of levels.
The committee’s agenda did not inform the public that it would be taking such an action. The agenda item for this topic states, “6) Topics for Discussion…d. Columbus Day-Indigenous Peoples Day.”
In our view, this notice falls short of both the letter, and certainly the spirit, of the Open Meeting Law in light of the ultimate action taken by the commission. If the commissioners are going to do more than simply engage in a “discussion” on a particular topic, they should make it clear in their agenda that they will be taking a vote on a motion pertaining to that topic.
We suggest that the commission use the agenda of the City Council as a model for informing the public of the motions and other actions it intends to pursue in order to provide full and clear transparency to all Revere residents.
In addition, the commission’s action was totally lacking in sensitivity to all of the stakeholders on this issue. By not hearing from any of the groups or individuals who might be affected by their decision before taking a vote, the commission failed to adhere to its own Mission Statement.
We agree wholeheartedly that the idea of “Columbus Day” should be reviewed and that the idealization of Christopher Columbus — who personally was responsible for the enslavement and torture of indigenous people — as an historical figure should be completely re-examined.
But we recognize that there are many different points of views as to how we best can accomplish those goals. In addition, while it is important to take into account the historical implications of what happened 500 years ago, it also is important to recognize how the idea of a national Columbus Day came about (the first Columbus Day came into existence in 1892 in the aftermath of the lynching of 11 Italian-Americans in New Orleans in 1891) and in particular, how Columbus Day has been observed in the Revere community for the past 80 years.
We urge the Human Rights Commission to continue this important and timely discussion, but to do so in a manner that brings together, and listens to, all of the stakeholders who might have an interest in this matter so that the commission can make a recommendation that is both fully-informed and respectful of all points of view.