Akron City Council has wrapped up a three-year long process to do away with Columbus Day. Beginning in 2021 because of the pandemic, the city will celebrate Italian-American Heritage and Culture Day each October. September will be known as “Welcoming Month.”
Eliminating Columbus Day in Akron was first introduced in 2017. Councilman Russel Neal Jr. proposed renaming it Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate the state’s original inhabitants.
The measure didn’t pass, in part, because many Akron Italian-Americans were against it.
City council has worked since then with Akron’s 16 Italian American organizations, Black leaders and local clergy to reach consensus, said Council Vice President Jeff Fusco.
“Many in our community have significant problems with Christopher Columbus so it’s taking that pain away and yet honoring the Italian community in terms of what they’ve offered Akron,” he said.
Designating September “Welcoming Month,” is expected to work with Akron’s existing effort as a welcoming community for refugees and immigrants. As Welcoming Month, September will feature community discussions focused on improving relationships to and promoting tolerance among all residents, Fusco said.
“There’s so many differences between all of us we need to have those discussions so we can better understand one another,” he said. “And understand that truly at the end of the day there’s so much more that brings us together than differentiates us.”
In 2018, Akron’s council also unanimously voted to make the first Monday in October “North America First People’s Day.”