GARY, Ind. (CBS/AP) — Gary, Indiana will be replacing Columbus Day with a holiday representing the late former Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher.
The Gary Common Council approved the move on Wednesday.READ MORE: Over 74,000 Unemployment Claims Filed In Illinois Last Week Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Hatcher, one of the first African-American mayors of a large, U.S. city, died on Dec. 13, 2019 at the age of 86. In the late 1960s, Hatcher and Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes were the first Black men to win the mayor’s office in a city with a population of over 100,000.
Elected in November 1967, Hatcher first took office in 1968 and served as mayor of the City of Gary for 20 years.
Hatcher attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to Gary in his 20 years in office, some of which was used to build low-cost housing and the first public housing units in the city in nearly two decades. He also got federal funds to pay for jobs training, repaved deteriorating streets and put many inner-city neighborhoods on regular garbage collection for the first time.
Councilman Ronald Brewer objected to the idea, saying Columbus Day had already been excluded from the city calendar – though it is still observed on the Indiana state and Lake County, Indiana level. Brewer said the holiday celebrating Hatcher should be Hatcher’s birthday on July 10.
But Gary Common Council President William Godwin said it made the most sense to have a holiday honoring former Mayor Hatcher on a day when people are already off such as the second Monday in October.READ MORE: Career Coach: When To Ask For Flexible Work Arrangements
Godwin also endorsed the idea of replacing Columbus Day with a day for Hatcher as “subversive.”
“It’s taking something that many people view as negative in terms of colonialism and conquering people, and turning it into something that’s positive focusing on a freedom fighter; a fighter for justice, a fighter for equality, a fighter for opportunity, and so we’re taking a holiday that everybody else is celebrating and turning it on its head to refocus our attention to freedom, justice, and equality through the life of Richard Gordon Hatcher,” Godwin said.
The council voted 8-1 in favor of the move.
There have been numerous pushes around the country to replace Columbus Day, honoring the Italian explorer. Many have replaced the holiday with Indigenous People’s Day, to honor Native American culture and acknowledge the effects of European colonization on indigenous communities.
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