Students weigh in on Glen Rock’s proposed (and rejected) Indigenous People’s Day

Residents+of+New+York+watch+members+of+the+Navy+Band+Northeast+march+up+New+York+City%27s+5th+Avenue+while+playing+a+wide+spectrum+of+music+during+the+64th+annual+Columbus+Day+Parade.+This+2008+parade+was+sponsored+by+the+Columbus+Citizens+Foundation+as+part+of+Columbus+Day+Celebration.
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Students weigh in on Glen Rock’s proposed (and rejected) Indigenous People’s Day

Residents of New York watch members of the Navy Band Northeast march up New York City's 5th Avenue while playing a wide spectrum of music during the 64th annual Columbus Day Parade. This 2008 parade was sponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation as part of Columbus Day Celebration.

Residents of New York watch members of the Navy Band Northeast march up New York City's 5th Avenue while playing a wide spectrum of music during the 64th annual Columbus Day Parade. This 2008 parade was sponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation as part of Columbus Day Celebration.

Residents of New York watch members of the Navy Band Northeast march up New York City's 5th Avenue while playing a wide spectrum of music during the 64th annual Columbus Day Parade. This 2008 parade was sponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation as part of Columbus Day Celebration.

Residents of New York watch members of the Navy Band Northeast march up New York City's 5th Avenue while playing a wide spectrum of music during the 64th annual Columbus Day Parade. This 2008 parade was sponsored by the Columbus Citizens Foundation as part of Columbus Day Celebration.

by Sydney Baig, Staff Writer

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In a small New Jersey town, a debate over 500 years in the making was taking place. The municipal building was packed with townspeople and interested outsiders, each bringing an opinion of their own to the floor.

Should the town of Glen Rock switch the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day? Some people believed that, yes, the holiday’s name should be changed. Others argued against it, saying it should stay the same.

On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, a crowd waited as the day grew darker while the Glen Rock Borough Council debated and then cast their votes on this highly controversial topic. The Council unanimously voted to keep the name of Columbus Day.

Among the crowd were members of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, who believed that Columbus Day should stay.

A board member of the Coalition, Andre DiMino, in an interview with NorthJersey.com, stated, “The reason Columbus is targeted today in such a hateful and arduous manner is because he brought Western Civilization values, including Christianity, to the New World, which is why so many of these activists hate him. Please don’t fall for this hoax.”

While student voices went unheard during this municipal meeting, the school was filled with opinion over the next few weeks. Student Council Representative to the Board of Education, Abby Stern, a junior, thought that DiMino didn’t understand why others opposed Columbus. Stern was appreciative of the role that Columbus played in bringing Christianity to the Americas, but she was critical about his role with indigenous people.

“I think the qualms that people really have with Columbus is the fact that he led a genocide,” Stern said.

At the Council meeting, Glen Rock resident Rebecca Coll argued in favor of the change to Indigenous People’s Day. “We should be straightforward about what we are doing and call it ‘Italian Heritage Day.’ We should not continue to celebrate a man who did terrible things to human beings,” she said in an interview with NorthJersey.com.

While there were those at the high school who supported Coll’s position, others wondered why Glen Rock became the focal point for this argument.

Student Council Vice President Jeremy LaVine wondered why this was the issue drawing so much attention in Glen Rock when others went below the radar. “I think it’s distracted us from the real issues that this town faces. We have an aging Fire Department in which we’re running out of volunteers, but I don’t see anyone talking about that,” he said. “All I see is people talking about divisive politics with Columbus Day. And I think the issue should be brought back to Glen Rock instead of Columbus Day.”

Student Council members Abby Stern, Gabby Mangome, Takeru Kashida, Jeremy LaVine, and Lauren Amram sit in the courtyard in the springtime.

Stern thought the bitterness with which the two sides debated underscored deeper issues.“People were so mean to one another on both sides. And it was shocking,” she said.“The bottom line is that we should just be kinder to one another and more accepting of everyone’s ideas.”

While the two Student Council members didn’t get to voice their perspectives, they had their own stance on how to vote.

Stern supported the Council in retaining the name, but she criticized the heated way it was debated. She also thought it was important that people had the opportunity to make their voices heard.

“I think it’s the right decision for now,” she said. “I think that there was a lot in this argument of people trying to be silenced and kind of silence other people’s opinions. And I felt like it was great to just get to hear and see what people thought, and everyone has a right to say what they think and what they believe.”

LaVine said that he personally is happy Columbus Day is here to stay, but he is definitely not opposed to the idea of a new holiday being created to celebrate indigenous people. He described it as a two-sided argument and said that people had to look at it both ways.

“Once you take away Columbus Day, what’s stopping you from going against these other people, let’s say, for example, George Washington,” he said. “As you speak out more, there’s a gray line, and you just keep on going until you’re not celebrating any holidays.”