And Leif Erikson Day too. Why do we always ignore him?
...In the spirit of complete honesty--I have never really celebrated Columbus Day. It was just one of those holidays I did not have to endure Kid Prison so any such day as that was aces in my little book of childhood joys. I spent the day watching cartoons, writing stories, playing music, playing with dolls, or sleeping in. I never went to any parades or cracked open a book about him.
When I got older and the deepening of the indoctrination began, I was taught by my Wardens that this was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad man who did unspeakable things to my (unconfirmed) Ameri-Indian ancestors. I was already semi-skeptical of what I was being spoon fed, but I felt no particular desire to research any further and just took what they said as the truth. I remember being told--besides he killed, stole, and destroyed--that Ameri-Indians are called such because when he first landed, he thought he was in India.
Being an imaginative child, I pictured in my mind him giving his navigator the business.
"Ti ho detto di girare il culo sinistro!"(That's from Google Translate, so who knows if it's correct!) Alas, I saw this as no real reason to degrade the man. He brought with him much of what has shaped our nation today. I can't imagine who, what, or where we would have been had it not been for his contributions. I can hear my friends and family now. "Oh Charli, this is nothing but your drooling fangirling over all things Italian, including the men." Yeah. And? Italian men are beautiful! And they were some rocking explorers and inventors and artists. And did I mention they are beautiful? Good Lord, they are beautiful!
Especially This One!!!
I'm sorry, what was I saying? Oh! Right! Columbus! Given that in the past I could pretty much give or take this day, one might ask why I should even care if there is a name change or celebration shift. That's a fair question. I will be treating this day as I always have; reading, writing, playing. That is until my children are born and homeschooling begins and I have to teach them about the history of this nation. So I really can't get behind this whole Indigenous Peoples Day trend. Not just for my yet to be born children, but for a few other reasons as well. 1) From what I understand about this shift is people see this day as a celebration of the violence committed against Ameri-Indians by White men and have now decided they don't want to acknowledge it anymore. But to buy into that, one would have to believe that the Ameri-Indians did not slaughter and slay and "steal" from each other without abandon before anyone else even sailed over here. So even if we do shift celebrations, aren't we just celebrating the violence and destruction and "land stealing" that was going on before Chris and Leif even showed up? Giving it a different name or focus won't change the actions of the past. 2) It just spits in the face of our Italian American brothers and sisters. This is their history and they should not have to dismiss it because #TeamTomahawk lost. You know who else's history it is? 3) Those of African and Spanish descent. Because Pedro Alonso Niño that's why. And my fellow sisters of the Ovarian persuasion... 4) ...Who funded the expedition? Queen Isabella I! Are we just going to shut our Ancient Mother out like that? Now, do I say all of this because I don't believe we Indigenous descendants should have a day to celebrate? Of course not! There were some pretty extraordinary women and mighty warriors amongst them. It's not like they were that easy a win. They fought hard for what they believed was theirs. Those of us of Indigenous descent should be able to celebrate the good, bad, and ugly of our folk. Just don't hijack another group of descendants to prove an empty point. Pick another day! We have plenty to choose from. And make it more specific. Pick a powerful Indigenous Person. Let us all know what they did and how they contributed to this nation of ours. Tell the boys in Washington this person deserves a parade, a lesson devoted to them in Kid Prisons, a monument at the Mall, and a very special day that families can be free from Wage Slavery and Kid Prison to barbecue and love each other.
Now who could say no to yet another day off? Happy Columbus and Leif Erikson Day!!!
I was 19 years old when I learned of Vernon Johns and it was from this excellent movie. Up until then, I thought I was pretty familiar with most of the civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 1960s. The evening I watched this film--and after realizing that neither of my parents, who came of age right in the middle of the movement knew about him--was the evening I learned that I was only familiar with what others chose to teach me.
There was never a more frustrating time--during my stint in kid prison--than Black history month. Every year, we little inmates were given a steady diet of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Jesse Jackson. Over and over and over again as though they were the only three who made any real moves towards civil rights for Black Americans. You would think Southern Blacks sat in pathological complacency until these three gave them instructions. Not much was taught about Medgar Evers or Malcolm X.
And we were never told about Vernon Johns who was Pastor at Dexter Ave. directly before Martin Luther King Jr. Reverend Johns planted the seed for Dr. King so that by the time he came along, the people were already fired up and ready to move mountains.
I was wondering the other night why he was never part of my kid prison curriculum. Was he too bold, too abrasive? Was Martin Luther King Jr. more palatable for the masses? Or did he just have more political connections? Just how does this work?
There were many people who were part of this historic movement that we are never going to learn about. Maybe that is the way they wanted. Civil Rights is hardly about feelings or accolades, but rather doing what is most kind and fair, without even thinking twice about it. As Vernon Johns father would say...