Westborough Select Board of Directors re-evaluates Columbus Day name change


By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

WESTBOROUGH – Westborough Select’s board of directors recently elected not to welcome a motion to schedule and hold a public listening session on a proposal to change Columbus Day to
Indigenous Peoples Day.

Meeting for a September 28 meeting, the board decided to add the item to its next agenda due to concerns about how the proposal, which was unanimously recommended by the committee of the diversity and inclusion of Westborough, had been addressed previously.

“I think, frankly, there’s a part of me that thinks we should completely reset this and start over as a process, but it kind of feels like the cat is out of the bag.” , said Shelby, a board member for Select. Marshal.

A selected member of the Board of Directors and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee reflects on the process

Marshall, who is also a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said she had
heard numerous comments from community members that the process was less than ideal, which she said she takes full responsibility for.

At a meeting of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee on September 23, Marshall said that, in retrospect, the committee should have heard from opponents of the proposal who support keeping Columbus Day.

Vice-chairman of the board, Ian Johnson, said he had heard from people in favor of the motion being tabled and the lack of a public listening session because the state was already looking into the matter. .

Another board member, Patrick Welch, however said that while he has heard similar concerns from community members, the state is looking, in part, at how municipalities are handling this. problem.

“I actually don’t feel comfortable abdicating our responsibilities in the city,” Welch said.

The proposal drew opposition from the community

Although the holiday would still have been known as “Columbus Day” at the federal level, the
the proposal approved by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee would have changed the name to “Indigenous Peoples Day” in a local context.

“By instituting the new holiday, we will be celebrating publicly and raising awareness of the culture and history of Indigenous peoples,” said committee chair Cara Presley in July. “By replacing Columbus Day, we are honoring the perseverance of Indigenous peoples, despite their suffering at the hands of European settlers, led by Columbus, who invaded inhabited lands and committed genocide against Indigenous peoples. “

The proposal met with opposition, however, drawing a number of people to a meeting on August 24.

The petition to suppress Columbus Day presented to the committee was a self-fulfilling
prophecy because it was inherently biased against Columbus as a person, with no regard for historical facts, ”Ciaran O’Donnell said at the time.

Other supporters discussed the value of Columbus Day as a celebration of Italian-American
identity.

“From its inception, the proposal was tainted”

Earlier at the September 28 Select Council meeting, during an open forum, Diane Modica, chair of the Commission for Social Justice of the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Massachusetts of Italy in America (OSDIA), suggested that the Select Council table the question or vote “no” on the proposal. Modica said the Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s process, which stemmed from a petition she called “conclusive,” was flawed.

Modica said it appears the committee has reached out and spoken to Native Americans without making a similar outreach effort, either to Italian Americans in Westborough or organizations like OSDIA.

“A recent comment from DIC President Cara Presley indicated that in their process related to Diversity Matters, she believes that not all voices have the same weight,” Modica said. “It is clear that in the Columbus affair the Italian Americans had no weight, which means that from its inception the proposal was flawed.”

Presley said at a diversity and inclusion meeting on September 23 that she felt good about the way the
process had been processed. She said, however, that the committee would make some changes if it had to start the process again.

She also noted that the purpose of the committee is to elevate diversity, equity and inclusion in municipal government.

“This does not always mean that everyone’s opinion is taken into account in the same way, because fairness is
about dismantling systemic racism, in this case the topic of racism, and to do that it doesn’t always mean that all voices are on an equal footing, ”Presley said.

Presley clarified that this perspective does not represent diversity and inclusion
Committee as a whole, noting that this was his personal opinion.

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