Columbus Obelisk Letter

Aug 13, 2018 1019

This is the open letter about the Columbus Obelisk that the Italian-American Civic Club of Maryland sent on July 22nd, 2018 to the Baltimore Mayor, the Baltimore City Council, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, and Honorable Nancy Pelosi; as well as all majors Italian-American associations in Baltimore, and the city press and media. 

The letter includes some pictures of the Obelisk today and in the past, which clearly illustrate the current status of neglect of this important monument.

Dear Honorable Mayor Pugh, City Council President Jack Young, and Council Members:

We are writing on the behalf of the Board of Governors and membership of the Italian American Civic Club of Maryland, Inc., to address important issues pertaining to the Columbus Obelisk on Harford Road, the oldest Columbus monument in the world. Members of the Italian American Civic Club would like to respectfully bring to your attention three important matters (the third of which is very recent and serious). We deem these issues both urgent and valuable for all of Baltimore’s citizens and especially for those of Italian ancestry (whose settlement in Maryland dates back to at least 1648) and who honor the sacred memory of the Admiral of the Ocean Seas.

It has come to our attention, unfortunately, that after the devastating and criminal vandalization of the Columbus Obelisk monument (perpetrated by criminals who are still at large) almost a year ago, the ornament of the said obelisk has still not been restored to its original form and purpose as it existed before the desecration. We respectfully urge you, Mayor Pugh and the City Council, to accomplish such restoration at the earliest convenience (preferably in time for the Columbus Day celebrations in Baltimore in early October) in order to fulfill the repair commitment previously made to our club members in October of 2017, when we met with you at our clubhouse, and when the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation was authorized to restore the memorial to its original state.

Secondly, we would like to express our outrage about the possibility being floated by the city councilman of the district to “rededicate” the monument to someone other than Columbus. We strongly oppose such a suggestion because we believe that it will irreversibly violate the historic monument itself, and since the original dedication (now unreadable after the vandalism) had these words: “Sacred to the memory of Chris. Columbus, Octob. XII, MDCCVIIIC.” Besides its historic integrity, the dedication to Columbus holds profound meaning for the Italian-American community, who embraced Columbus as the symbol of their struggles against hatred, prejudice, and violence.

After the 1891 lynching of eleven innocent Italians at New Orleans (the largest mass lynching in U.S. history), local Italian-American communities funded and built many Columbus monuments throughout Baltimore and the United States. From 1892 and on, monuments commemorating Columbus were erected by local Italian communities to never forget the New Orleans Lynching and to express their worth as both Americans and human beings during a divisive time when immigrants were the targets of assassination and became categorized as criminals. Like our forefathers, here again we stand in front of Columbus to protect our Italian heritage and we are appalled by the idea that such past struggles could be erased from history with a rededication of the obelisk to some other purpose. For some it might be a simple change of names, but for all of us it would be an unjust suppression of our own perseverance and accomplishments, which we rightly earned in Baltimore with our honest work and integrity.

But the third, and most disturbing of all things, is the fact that a few days ago the Columbus obelisk was again vandalized – this time with black spray paint on both sides (and subsequently whitewashed to cover up the attack - see attached photos) illustrating how the obelisk has again been the victim of yet another devastatingly criminal act. We are reaching out to you to continue our discussion about relocating the monument to a more secure location, perhaps to Baltimore’s historic “Little Italy,” a place where no more vandalism will occur to this historic and civic memorial that was donated to the City by the French Council in 1792 - a monument which was admired by President George Washington, who was present at its dedication. And the same monument that also - in a happier time - received a wreath of honor from none other than the Mayor of Baltimore, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., in 1950 during an official public ceremony which included the then 10-year old Nancy (D’Alesandro) Pelosi his daughter (see attached photo).

We are sure that you share our best wishes for a happy outcome here and are also all deeply concerned about the negative effects of such continuous destructive acts, and troubled by the current state of neglect that surrounds such a valuable piece of American history in our own city. Nevertheless, we are confident that our concerns will not go unheard, as we seriously hope that we will be able to attain a constructive solution for all. We would like to meet again with you to discuss
constructive next-steps for the monument’s restoration. Please let us know how we can schedule the meeting to take place, and we will be there, or as we indicated the last time you visited, you are always welcome to meet with us any Monday from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, as our guest for dinner at our Clubhouse at 1214 Saint Paul Street.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this important matter.

Most sincerely,

Marc De Simone
Marc A. De Simone, Sr., Ph.D.,
Chairman, Board of Governors
The Italian American Civic Club of Maryland, Inc.

Joseph Di Pasquale,
The Italian American Civic Club of Maryland, Inc.

Nicolino Applauso, Ph.D.
Secretary, Board of Governors
The Italian American Civic Club of Maryland, Inc.

SOURCE: Nicolino Applauso

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