People’s Stories and The Italian Hall Memorial

There’s a discussion underway in Calumet right now about the design of a new Italian Hall Memorial. We contributed the following thoughts to that discussion today.

To the Italian Hall Memorial Group and The Village of Calumet,

As producers of 1913 Massacre, the feature-length, 2012 documentary film about the Italian Hall disaster, we strongly support the effort to bring the public into the process of deciding what the new Italian Hall memorial should look like.

As outsiders, it’s not our place to express any strong preferences or opinions about the
design of the memorial. But we think it’s important for us to share one big lesson we
learned in the course of our work on the film and at screenings of 1913 Massacre we did at the Calumet Theatre, around the country, and in Europe over the past five years.

People’s voices matter profoundly when it comes to remembering their history.

There isn’t just one Italian Hall story; there are many, and there will be many more as long as the stories of the Italian Hall are passed down, told and retold.

How should the victims of Italian Hall be honored? Some people visit the cemetery or the Italian Hall site. Others light candles. Some tell stories or share pictures or hum Finnish tunes they learned from grandparents or uncles and aunts. Some people knocked down the Hall itself; that was their way of coming to terms with the story. Others still remember the victims in the way Woody Guthrie memorialized them in a song.

Everyone has his or her own way of remembering and making sense of the events of December 24th, 1913, and the public should be given a strong voice — or many voices, a chorus of voices — in the deliberations of the Memorial Group and the Village.

We encourage you to keep this process open and transparent to the public, and to listen to everyone who wishes to be heard. We look forward to seeing the results of your work next time we are in Calumet.

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