Brooklyn lawyers march in Columbus Day parade to show how far Italian-Americans have come
Just as they do every year, members of the Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn joined the Confederation of Columbian Lawyers Associations in making the traditional march along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as part of the Columbus Day Parade.
The two groups meet before the parade, which is held each year in celebration of Italian-American culture, and join together for the march. Afterwards, a lunch reception was held at Postino Ristorante Italiano on East 49th Street.
It’s a long-standing tradition, and for Maria Aragona, president of the confederation as well as the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Brooklyn, it was a great day to reflect on her culture and her career.
“What people miss is that Columbus Day is not just about Columbus the man,” Aragona said. “Columbus Day is a symbol for Italian-American pride in this country. It’s our only day to celebrate and recognize accomplishments of our people in this country.”
Monday’s march up Fifth Avenue included about 50 members of the association and their families. During the march, Aragona even spotted an old friend in Anthony Giordano, from the Columbus Citizens Foundation.
Giordano was the person who interviewed Aragona over 20 years ago for a scholarship that allowed her to attend Christ the King High School in Queens and later St. John’s University. When she graduated St. John’s early, she said the foundation was more than happy to apply the difference to her law school education as well.
“They give scholarships to underprivileged students,” Aragona said. “My father died when I was 10 and my mother raised me and my brother by herself. There is no way I become a lawyer without their help.”
Those scholarships are a big part of why Aragona marches in the parade as she has done every year for the past 20 years. Sometimes, she said, marching is a sacrifice because of protests against Christopher Columbus the person.
“Columbus has been a hot-button issue for at least the last 10 years or so,” she said. “Protests were actually on the rise, the last few years, but this year there seemed to be fewer. It’s unfortunate because people don’t understand that he’s just a symbol for Italian-Americans who suffered a lot of discrimination and prejudice when they first came to this country.
“That’s part of the reason why we march as a group of attorneys, because when our families came here in the late 1800s and early 1900s it was hard for them to get jobs,” Aragona continued. “Because of their inability to speak English, a lot of them were forced to take manual labor jobs like factory jobs and construction. Many of us who marched today were the first lawyers in our families.”
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