WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The president of the Greater Waterbury NAACP is among the many calling for the Christopher Columbus statue to be removed from the front lawn of Waterbury City Hall.
“Which I call the people’s house. And if one group is offended by that statue being there, which we are, and it’s not just one group, it’s many groups, then that statue has to go,” said Ginne-Rae Clay.
But where should it go has become the million dollar question. Mayor Neil O’Leary has told News 8 he is waiting to speak to many different groups before deciding if it should stay or go.
Clay is in discussions with a collector of African-American historic items. She would like to see an African-American Museum and Cultural Center open downtown next to the Mattactuck Museum across from the Green. And, in a move that might surprise some, Clay says an African-American Museum and Cultural Center would be a good future home for it.
“It wouldn’t be placed there to glorify Christopher Columbus at all as we’ve been taught to believe that he’s just an absolutely wonderful person who discovered America, which he didn’t,” Clay said. “It would be to preserve the history and what we’re learning now about Christopher Columbus. He is part of African-American history.”
The collector Clay is in discussions with has more than 3,000 historic items relating to the history of African-Americans. They range from shackles used on slaves; to newspapers in the 1800’s detailing write-ups about runaway slaves and slaves for sale; fast forward to the Civil Rights Movement and he has four stools from the lunch counter in Woolworth in Greensboro, North Carolina that launched that famous movement that forever changed history.
“When the four African-American students from North Carolina A&T decided they wanted to have lunch there and were denied countless times,” said Jeffrey Fletcher.
Fletcher said his parents had collected many of those items and passed them down to him. Fletcher telling News 8 he’d like to open up an African-American museum to honor his parents’ legacy growing up in the south.
He’s also in talks with the city of Stratford to possibly open a museum there. Clay, of course, is hoping to they can open one up in Waterbury and she says downtown near The Green would be perfect. She’s eyeing some vacant buildings in that area.
She also says it could bring economic benefits to the city too if it does indeed become home to the only African-American museum in New England.
“To have one located in the city of Waterbury would be awesome,” Clay said. “And the primary purpose of that would be to hold the artifacts but also, as museums do, preserve our history and to give people an opportunity to come and learn about that history in a safe environment.”
All of this is in the very early stages — just discussions and an idea at this point.
That statue was beheaded in the very early hours of the morning of July 4th — the crime caught on surveillance video. Waterbury police arrested 22 year-old Brandon Ambrose of Port Chester, NY for the beheading. They say he climbed to the top of the statue and hammered off the head.
When the head fell to the ground, the nose fell off. Police say Ambrose then picked up an object off the ground and ran away. The head to the statue was found on the ground hours later.
But, the police chief told News 8 detective work led them to Ambrose. The chief telling News 8 Ambrose tried to sell the nose on the street and that led them to him.