When You Ask Italians to Give Up Columbus | Syracuse Cultural Workers

When You Ask Italians to Give Up Columbus

by Jack Manno

Island people (Sicilians, Irish) are vulnerable to looters, conquerers,
Storms, imperial schemes, thugs. 
Its an old story for our people; it breaks our heart
And compromises our integrity, more; our souls. 

When you ask Italians to give up Columbus
You need to know how we lost our soil and our souls. 
We were tough people: small in stature and bent by work and the fear 
Of the Padrones, the landowners, 
and their Mafioso who kept us all in check by terror. 

A very long time ago the Roman empire went on a conquering spree 
(It’s always the empires and want-to-be’s) 
against Native Italians (Sicels, Elymians, Apuani, Ligurians, Celts and many more). 
In order to survive, we made a desperate pact with the empire’s thugs. 
Let my children live, let me take care of my family, our land, I won’t ask much more. 
I’ll forget. I’ll pray. 

For a long time, Italians of the south, Calabrese, Siciliani 
managed as farmworkers and fishermen, paying “protection” to stay alive. 
Crop failure, diseases, land grabs and globalization put them over the edge.
Millions left for America. They were not often welcomed. 
Most shunned them, even the unions. They came poor and would stay poor unless:

They organized. One such effort became The Knights of Columbus; 
a mutual aid society; A form of health and life insurance for the poor. 
It was started by An Irish priest, the eldest of 13 children, 6 who had died in infancy or
childhood, a father who’s illness and death left them paupers. 
The Knights of Columbus took its name in the 19th century when Non-Native Americans
bought the lie that Columbus was a brave and brilliant hero 
and Italians said, “look, he’s one of us,” 
We saw it as an entryway into the American dream.  To becoming fully “White.”  

Which eventually meant: losing awareness, compromising our intelligence, 
Denying the Holocaust on this Land, Ignoring Columbus the murderer who set it off, 
Forgetting our connection to the earth and each other. And to the Creator.
Joining a global catastrophe rampantly destroying the only home we have together.
NO!  Let us Remember. 

Let us celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day together
Let us break bread: Fry Bread and Pizza Frite. 
Let us look at the Columbus Legacy with a good mind and a healing heart
Let us share our stories of oppression and resistance. 
Let us remember the Peacemaker and Francis of Assisi. 
Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Elder Brother Sun, Grandmother Moon………………………….