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A WISH for Healing and a Peaceful Conclusion: Thoughts of New Group on Syracuse's Columbus Statue

File photo.

A new group is joining efforts to remove the Christopher Columbus statue in Downtown Syracuse.  Women of Italian and Syracuse Heritage of Central New York, or WISH, do not believe Columbus represents their values, immigrant heritage and identity, or their dreams for the future.  Group member Hilary-Anne Coppola says the group’s perceptions are different than other Italian-Americans who view Columbus as a hero.

“Because of that significance and that connection, in that way, we felt that’s why it was important to group ourselves around our heritage.  Because other groups of people who are against his portrayal as a hero do not have that connection to the figure, in that way.”

Coppola says another goal of the group is to acknowledge the racism and other difficulties Italian immigrants experienced when they came to America.  She says there are “pretty horrific” details about what Italian immigrants experienced that were not shared with her as a child.  Coppola thinks some people might want to keep the statue because Columbus has been viewed as a hero who protected their culture for so long. 

“I think that’s one of the reasons why Italian American groups do not want to give-up Columbus because that figure has been very helpful in maintaining safety and standing in this society.”       

Many people have painful histories when it comes to Columbus. The group’s vision for the city center is a space that includes and respects everyone who calls Syracuse home.

“We would love to see something that promotes healing, truthful education… a place that everybody can come to and learn from and move forward.”                  

Coppola says the Mayor’s office has been taking this issue slowly and trying to go about it the right way.  The next steps for WISH is to reach the community and develop educational materials.  Last night, the group held its first community outreach event with the Syracuse Community Choir on Zoom.  Click here to visit their website.  

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.