Skip to content

Black Catholic rower, first African American to cross the Atlantic, to feature in NYC Columbus Day Parade tomorrow

A history-making Black rower is being feted tomorrow at the nation's premier Columbus Day Parade in his hometown. He's also a devout Catholic.

(USA Today/Justin Odendhal)

Don Victor Mooney, an NYC-based HIV/AIDS activist known for sailing the Atlantic from Africa to Brooklyn, will be featured in tomorrow’s annual Columbus Day Parade in the Big Apple.

Now in its 77th year—and in-person for the first time since the onset of the pandemic—the annual event celebrating Italian culture runs on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and features marching bands, floats, groups, and public figures.

Among them this year is Mooney, a devout Black Catholic who received a papal blessing from Pope St John Paul II in 2004 before his first attempt at the daunting oceanic feat.

It was meant to honor the late Cardinal John O’Connor, Mooney’s personal friend who passed in 2000.

“I wanted to do something in his honor… for HIV/AIDS,” Mooney said in 2009 before his second attempt. His brother died from AIDS in 1983.

Mooney completed the feat in 2014 on his fourth attempt, aboard his “Spirit of Malabo” seacraft sponsored by the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, making him the first African American to make a transatlantic solo trip by boat.

Termed by Mooney the “Goree Challenge” (in reference to the Senegalese island where Mooney’s first attempts began), the feat was also meant to commemorate the Middle Passage, in which enslaved Africans were brought along a similar route to the Americas.

The Columbus Citizens Foundation, which organizes the New York parade, supported Mooney throughout his attempts.

Their invitation for Mooney to join tomorrow’s event came officially to his H.R. 1242 Resilience Project, which promotes the celebration of African-American history, much like its congressional legislation namesake.

The Project’s next event will be a giveaway for children on Tuesday, comprised of items collected at the U.S. Open grand slam last month in NYC.

Tomorrow's parade begins at 11:30am ET and will be streamed on

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

Want to support our work? You have options.

a.) give on Donorbox!

b.) create a fundraiser on Facebook

Black Catholic Messenger
Black Catholic Messenger. 1.718 vind-ik-leuks · 580 personen praten hierover. Nonprofit media in the tradition of Daniel Rudd’s ‘American Catholic Tribune’ (1885-1897). Amplifying Black Catholic...
(Tax-deductible. No fees.)