As part of the nationwide effort to remove statues of historical figures who were key parts of brutal systems of racism, nearly 3,000 Minnesotans have petitioned to take down the monument of Christopher Columbus in the state capitol of St. Paul. Instead, they want to replace it with a monument in honor of a state native more associated with good rather than a foreign invader responsible for genocide: Prince.
“I spend a lot of time at our State Capitol. It’s a space that already does not feel inviting or inclusive to communities of color. So to see Columbus every day in front of the building does not make it feel more welcoming,” petition organizer Wintana Melekin told Watch the Yard. “So I put the petition together because I wanted to see someone, Prince, at the capitol because he represents a part of Minnesota that we are all proud of.”
The petition, titled "Replace Columbus Statue with a Prince Statue and One Chosen by the Native Community," echoes the current mood of many in the United States. Across the country, there is a desire to make public monuments more respectful and to reframe how citizens interact with the nation's complex history in their daily lives.
“Across the nation, city governments are choosing to remove statues of white supremacists, slave owners, and those who threatened the livelihood of Black people," the petition statement read. "Here in Minnesota, communities are reigniting the demand to bring down state’s monument to Christopher Columbus, a man who murdered, raped and enslaved Black and Native peoples in the Americas. We, the undersigned, do not believe that Columbus represents the values Minnesotans carry. Rather than glorify a man who wanted to extinguish Black and Native peoples, we should honor members of our community whose leadership we find inspirational.”
Prince was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the music icon has become a natural point of pride for locals. Columbus and the statue honoring his violent legacy, however, have long been a source of pain and anger for people of color and their allies, resulting in protests at the capitol and the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The choice seems an easy one, as Watch the Yard points out that, in contrast to Columbus, Prince is generally a "very unifying symbol" across the state of Minnesota.
"Prince represents Minnesota values," Melekin states straightforwardly on the petition page. "And Columbus does not.”
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters/Mike Blake