Some Italian Americans were not happy to learn San Francisco replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day last month, but on Tuesday City Hall took steps to honor their contributions as well.
Supervisor Catherine Stefani introduced legislation that would recognize the second Monday of October not only as Indigenous Peoples Day — as the Board of Supervisors voted to make it last month — but also Italian American Heritage Day.
The legislation comes in response to pressure from Italian-American groups seeking redress. They said they were caught off guard by Supervisor Malia Cohen’s legislation that replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, which advanced a nationwide movement to cease honoring the Genoa explorer and instead focus on the victims of colonization.
Italian-American groups argued that the proposal was divisive and The City shouldn’t take away a day honoring Italy’s culture.
Earlier this month, the Coalition of Italian American Organizations launched a signature gathering campaign to bring before voters in November a measure to repeal Cohen’s ordinance. The group said it would withdraw the effort if Stefani’s legislation is adopted.
“As a proud Italian-American, I am introducing an ordinance today to celebrate and recognize everything that the Italian-Americans have brought to this city and continue to bring,” Stefani said. “This ordinance will recognize the second Monday in October as Italian American Heritage Day, in addition to being known as Indigenous Peoples Day.”
She added, “It is my hope that on this day, the city and county of San Francisco can celebrate the rich diversity and contributions of both its indigenous and immigrant communities.”
The proposal appears likely to be approved, as it is co-sponsored by Cohen and has the support of Supervisor Aaron Peskin. Peskin, who represents North Beach, The City’s historically Italian neighborhood, was the only board member to oppose Cohen’s legislation.
“We owe a great deal of gratitude to the Italian immigrants and Italian Americans who have made innumerable contributions to our city’s society, culture, landscape and history and I think we need to tell them that,” Stefani said.
She noted that The City was named after the Italian friar St. Francis of Assisi and has had three Italian American mayors.