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Wagon Trains Brought Italian Immigrants to the Wild West
- Significant Populations of Italian Americans Remain in the State, Today
- One of the worst mine explosions claimed the lives of 146 Italians in New Mexico

By Eric Bryan

Early Italian settlers in New Mexico Territory came primarily from Lucca in Northern Italy. In the 18th century, they joined wagon trains bound westward for California, but settled in New Mexico, either by choice or due to their circumstances. When the railroad arrived in the region in the late 19th century, the Italian population surged. The Italian immigrants were industrious merchants and entrepreneurs who established hotels, grocery stores and theaters. Their relatives in Italy made the same journey to share in the opportunities the territory offered.

Many Italians came to work on the railroad or in the mines, contributing significantly to the economy and growth of New Mexico. An explosion in a mine in Dawson on October 22, 1913, claimed the lives of 263 miners, leaving only 23 survivors. Of the number killed, 146 were Italian immigrants. The catastrophe was the second deadliest of the kind in U.S. history.

One of the top universities of America’s West is credited to Italians. Las Vegas College was established by exiled Italian Jesuits in 1877. Ten years later, the school moved to Denver to become Regis College and, then, Regis University. The institution remains a private co-educational Jesuit, Roman Catholic university.

Significant Italian communities can be found, today, in New Mexico, in Albuquerque, Farmington, Gallup, Raton, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe. Many new Italian immigrants in New Mexico work in engineering, medicine, research, or in the universities. Senator Pete Domenici (1932 – 2017) was the son of parents who came from Modena. He served in New Mexico’s legislative body for 36 years.

In 2007, Ronaldo Patrizio-Steiner inaugurated a four-day benefit event in Albuquerque celebrating Italian cinema in support of the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital. The fiesta included a dozen movies and a buffet of Italian cuisine. Evolving into an annual fete named the New Mexico Italian Film & Culture Festival, it became the largest such gala in the state. Patrizio-Steiner subsequently founded Italian Festivals of New Mexico (IFNM), a nonprofit organization to administer the event. The group’s members are volunteers who work in support of children’s causes through the promotion of Italian heritage and culture in New Mexico. A yearly bocce tournament is also hosted by the organization.

Editor’s Note: Pictures include a recent interior photograph of M’tucci’s, an Italian deli in Albuquerque, a wagon train symbolic of the kind Italian and other settlers made westward, a black and white photograph of the main hall at Regis University, founded by Italian Jesuits in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and a photograph of the late Senator Pete Domenici. The article was posted 8-23-23.


Melee in Massachusetts Begins Over Columbus Day
- Bills to Scrap Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day Are Reintroduced
- A New Ballot Initiative Parallels The Proposed Legislation
- Italian Americans Get Ready to Rumble

By Truby Chiaviello

Italian Americans are called to mobilize.

It’s back to Massachusetts!

The effort to wipe out Columbus Day in that state failed last year thanks to the Italian American Alliance, along with COPOMIAO and Sons of Italy lodges.

Now, comes the rematch. Italian Americans are getting ready for a political battle. A two pronged effort is sought by Columbus haters. The first, in the legislature and, the second, by ballot initiative.

Two bills now pending in the Massachusetts House and Senate are H2989 and S1976.

The proposed laws to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day are currently before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Christine Barber, of Somerville, and the Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Joanne Comerford, of Northampton. Both are Democrats.

October 3rd is the committee’s scheduled date for public hearing. The actual time and room location is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, the beginning stages of a ballot initiative for 2024 gets underway to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

A press release by the Italian American Alliance claims, “the ballot initiative must be approved by Attorney General, Andrea Campbell. Then, if approved, the petitioner will have to obtain the necessary amount of signatures (over 100,000 ‘raw’ signatures to obtain the required number of ‘certified’ signatures) to put the petition on the ballot to be voted on.”

“The text of this ballot petition is identical to the text of the the two bills before the legislature. If passed by the voters, this ballot initiative would circumvent the legislature and replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Tommy Damigella, chairman of the strategic planning committee of the Italian American Alliance, crafted the following statement:

“The people seeking to cancel Columbus Day are are using every tactic they can to make sure they erase our heritage and our holiday.”

“Thanks to your calls and emails to the legislature, the bills to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day died in committee and it is our intention to do the best we can to see that these bills and ballot initiatives fail again this year. We are committed to fighting the cancel culture movement that has unfairly seized upon Columbus as their scapegoat. These attacks are based upon lies and misinformation about his role in the history that followed the discovery of the New World.”

“We will continue educating people about Christopher Columbus so they can better understand that eliminating him from our history is unnecessary and hurtful to the Italian American community and to all Americans.”

“As we did last year, the Italian American Alliance will take the lead in monitoring these situations. We will keep you informed and we will let you know when and how to help.”

Editor’s Note: Please help the Italian American Alliance in their continuous battle to save Columbus Day in Massachusetts. The web site for the Italian American Alliance is Information on the committee to oversee the debate on Columbus in the Massachusetts legislature is linked here. Information on the ballot initiative to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is linked here.




Keep on Fighting…
- Last Minute Lineup Change of Justices Gives Unanimous Decision to Tear Columbus Down
- Columbus Monument Corporation Vows to Fight Onward

By Truby Chiaviello

Even the NY Yankees have to lose, once in a while.

That’s one way to consider Friday’s announcement by the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, in Rochester, that the Justices ruled 4-0 against the Columbus Monument Corporation and in favor of Mayor Ben Walsh and the City of Syracuse to allow the removal of the Columbus Monument at Columbus Circle.

The Columbus Monument Corporation has done an extraordinary job in fighting the good fight in Syracuse. Mayor Walsh and his woke allies in the media and academia have all the advantages. Yet, the Columbus Monument Corporation has shown itself a savvy, formidable force in chalking up one victory after another in the courts of public opinion and in law.

It was back on March 11, 2022 that Justice Gerald Neri handed a stunning victory for the Columbus Monument Corporation and their allied defenders of Columbus. Justice Neri made it clear that the city had no right to tear down the Columbus Monument at the first tier of the legal controversy at the New York Supreme Court, when a hearing convened there in January, 2022.

The case was appealed by the mayor for a legal rematch, this year, on April 3rd, 10:00 a.m., at the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, in Rochester. Almost four months later, a decision was announced. Yes, you can censor history. Yes, you can tear down art. So what, this statue has been there since 1934!

Back in April, the proceedings were live streamed. Folks got a glimpse of American justice at work. They saw many cases scheduled that day for a lengthy docket. And…last on the list: Columbus Monument Corporation v. City of Syracuse. And…just before the case started was the recusal of, not just one, but two justices! Substitutes were made. The switched lineup helped Mayor Walsh; as indicative of one justice who asked why all the controversy, since the statue has not been torn down, yet.

Not a good sign…

The lawyers for the Columbus Monument Corporation tried to remain optimistic after the appeal hearing. After Friday’s sad decision, however, they are now reviewing the opinion for the next round in the fight. Sources claim the Columbus Monument Corporation will appeal the ruling to a higher court in Albany.

We fight onward. We don’t give up. That’s the message from Syracuse!

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the Columbus Monument Corporation at their web site:

Underway is a Go-Fund-Me page to help keep the Columbus Monument in Syracuse:


In Trying to Scapegoat Columbus, Alderman Sanchez Commits Historical Blunder
- Social Media Shows True Colors of Embattled Chicago Politician

By Truby Chiaviello

Stay off Twitter!

Such is the message sent loud and clear to Alderman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez.

Social media increasingly looks to be a treasure trove of misstatements and misinformed opinions by the discontented pol.

Nothing is worse than a Columbus hater, except a Columbus hater who doesn’t know history.

Especially, the history of Puerto Rico, the ancestral homeland, touted by Alderman Sanchez.

It was Sanchez who made the most embarrassing of gaffes on her Twitter page around July 8th when she sponsored a poll to celebrate Italian American heritage. There, she tweeted multiple choice answers for worthy monuments to Italian Americans limited to Italian ices, espresso machines and…cannoli.

Ethnic bigotry was on full display; but Sanchez is ambivalent. She was just trying to be funny, she says, in a mea culpa, of sorts. She has yet to apologize. Intense condemnation by Italian American leaders in Chicago and elsewhere are ongoing. Calls for her resignation are increasing.

Italian Americans review past posts by the alderman.

Another gaffe is uncovered!

On August 4, 2022, Sanchez excoriated the legacy of Columbus in a Windy City rant to demand monuments and public artwork, devoted to the Genoese explorer, be forever erased in Chicago.

A tweet, among several that day, by Sanchez reads: “…making space for the man responsible of genocide against my Taino ancestors. Let the few racist Italians take the statues and put them on their lawns…”

It’s a failure of history for Sanchez.

Columbus was a hero to the good Indigenous People of Puerto Rico, according to the overwhelming assessment of historians.

Robert Petrone, an expert on Columbus, credits the Genoese explorer with the first underground railroad in the New World. Columbus saved the Taino people from the brutal Carib Indian tribe.

The Taino had been persecuted for years. The Caribs were the bullies of the Caribbean. They were larger in number, better armed, more violent and…cannibalistic. Columbus led his men to liberate Tainos from Carib villages. Men, women and children were freed from slavery, torture and cannibal sacrifice. Many Tainos were returned to their homeland, the island of Puerto Rico.

“Long before Harriet Tubman and Levi Coffin helped African-American slaves escape via the ‘Underground Railroad,’” says Mr. Petrone, “Christopher Columbus conducted the first North American Underground Railroad in the Caribbean, freeing Taino slaves from their Carib captors.”

The historical record contradicts the claims by Alderman Sanchez and others who scapegoat Columbus. She and others seek to besmirch the reputation of a man, dead for over 500 years, in an effort to deflect their failures in Chicago.

We Italian Americans remain vigilant in face of consistent anti-intellectualism by our antagonists. We know the history of Columbus. They do not. We are here to defend, advocate and overcome. We are here to win.

Editor’s Note: Please log on to the following link to read Alderman Sanchez’s anti-Columbus rant.



Chicago Alderman Makes a Fool of Herself
- Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, representing the 33rd ward, posted a Twitter poll asking how best to honor Italian Americans
- Choices included “Italian Ice Monument” “Bialetti (espresso maker) Monument”
- She liked the suggestion, “Cannoli Monument”

By Truby Chiaviello

How does a person like this get elected?

That’s a relevant question on the minds of many people in Chicago and elsewhere in the aftermath of the blunder committed by City Alderman Rosanna Rodriguez Sanchez.

She put her foot in her mouth by way of tweet.

Ms. Sanchez currently serves as an alderman representing Chicago’s 33rd ward in the northwest section of the city. A member of the City Council’s Democratic Socialist Caucus, Ms. Sanchez is best described as a run-of-the mill America hater. She has jumped on the band wagon to use Columbus as a scapegoat punching bag. Yes, she supports changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. Yes, she supports the tearing down of Columbus statues.

On July 8th, approximate, Ms. Sanchez hosted a poll on her Twitter page with the premise, “How best to honor Italian American heritage in Chicago?” She limited answers to the following: “Italian Ice Monument,” “Bialetti (Espresso Machine) Monument” and, finally, “Columbus Monument.”

From a barrage of suggestions by followers, Ms. Sanchez considered her favorite to be a “Cannoli Monument.” She replied, “How did I miss this? Yes.” She also liked a “Beef Juice Fountain,” as one acolyte proffered.

The Italian American community in Chicago and elsewhere was quick to condemn Ms. Sanchez.

Lou Rago, president of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago said, in a statement, about Ms. Sanchez, “Not only did she disparage and marginalize a community (that has) … contributed so much to the core and growth of this great city, she welcomed and encouraged others that follow her on social media to join in the ‘fun’ at the expense of the Italian American community. This is purely racist and unacceptable.”

Ms. Sanchez sought to save face. She didn’t apologize but, instead, said: “To be clear: this narrative isn’t based in reality. I deeply respect Italians, Italian-American history & their role in building our city amid discrimination faced by immigrant & minority communities.”

Ron Onesti, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, leads an effort to return three Columbus Monuments to their original locations, after Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered them torn down in 2020. In reaction to Ms. Sanchez’s tweet, he said, “She not only posted that as a backhanded slap in our face but also fostered community engagement from her followers that gave continual, negative, stereotypical, racist remarks, And she was complimenting them.”

Ms. Sanchez is currently seeking reelection. Residents of Chicago’s 33rd ward have seen the true colors of the alderman. They know well to send her to pasture and vote for any of the other candidate(s). Ms. Sanchez, obviously, is not interested in representing their needs in city council. Rather, her sole function is to make a fool of herself in an effort to disparage Italian Americans.

Editor’s Note: Pictured, Alderman Sanchez. Her email address is Robert Ferrito, president of the Commission for Social Justice of the Order of Sons and Daughters of Italy, has issued the following letter, dated July 10th, 2023, condemning the bigoted actions of Alderman Sanchez.


Alderman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez
Office of the 33rd Ward 3001 West Irving Pard Road
Chicago, Il 606618

The Commission for Social Justice is the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America. The Commission has, throughout the years, engaged in a wide variety of activities geared toward accomplishing its twin goals of promoting a positive image of Italian Americans and fighting bias, bigotry, and defamation.

I was disappointed to see the disrespect you have shown to the Italian American community as an elected official. Your Twitter poll asking “the best way to honor Italian-American heritage in Chicago” was nothing less than disrespectful, racist, and insulting to the Italian American community - a community that has built, supported, and died for this country so that you may enjoy the freedom of speech to insult it. Your failed attempt to appease the Italian-American community by issuing a statement that your tweet was meant to be lighthearted was an additional insult. What was even more egregious was the fact you responded in a jocular manner to the tweets you received from the community.

Why is it so easy for you as an elected official to disrespect the voting population of the Italian-American community in Chicago? I can see from your record, your Socialist views and anti-Columbus efforts you support are out of ignorance of the facts that have been presented over the years. Your actions toward the Italian -American community, has been nothing but disrespectful. I find them more insulting after hearing your lame and disingenuous excuse. I know now that those words were just that, words with no meeting and no sincerity behind them.

However, I believe that you still have time to mend the wrong that has been done to the Italian-American community in Chicago. I would request that you meet with the Italian American leadership and repair the wrong that was done to the Italian American community.

Please know that the Commission for Social Justice is committed to supporting elected officials that support our position and do not disrespect our community. We cannot support any elected official who does not show respect to the Italian American community and will work to that end.


Robert M. Ferrito
National President Commission for Social Justice
Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America


Primo Essay
How Learning Italian Changed My Perception of the World

By Susan Collina Jayne

The room was large and modern; the leather sofas, soft and inviting. The Italian and Chinese artifacts were as rare as the central heating in the harsh Beijing winter. The guests didn't wear designer clothes or expensive jewelry, but they were intelligent, confident, and healthy. I didn't really belong but was a family friend of the host's mentor. The Italians were too polite to assume I didn't speak their language or to ask why I was there. When we sat down to dinner, I wondered if the small roast would feed all eight of us. As the meal began, they switched to English.

There were many times in my work abroad that I was treated generously by Italians that I knew only vaguely. Even though I had seen many other beautiful countries, had too many other memorable meals, known other charming people, it was the sound of Italian that became associated with comfort, kindness, and ease when a near-death experience ruined my previous career and my life. So when I was forced into a disability retirement, I took a long vacation to Italy. I didn't contact my tangential friends, but traveled alone to lick my wounds. I spent a lot of time lost in the incredible countryside, backing up tiny streets in medieval towns, and retracing my steps for long distances after missed connections. I was delighted, entranced, frightened, confused, and frequently disoriented. I made a fool of myself daily, if not hourly, but I forgot much of the humiliation and fear of the previous couple of years.

When I returned home, I began studying Italian. A clever man, whom I respected, told me I might eventually be able to make myself understood in the language, but that I would never really understand it. What he couldn't know was that studying Italian would change my perception of the world and make me tougher.

To learn Italian, I attended Berlitz courses and grammar courses at the local community college available in the Washington D.C. area, and all the language tapes I could stand, Italian films were the next front. That's when the real education began. You must go beyond, “La Dolce Vita,” “Divorce Italian Style,” “The Postman,” and “Life is Beautiful,” and you must watch each one many times. Initially, it is surprising how different Italian films are from French ones, and how similar to American ones. Then you begin to see the differences. Are Italian and American lives really that different? Maybe, maybe not, but our histories certainly are. Perhaps it was just that I was so desperate to hear the language that I endured films more violent, sexually explicit, sillier, or, in other ways, more difficult than I would have endured in English.

Some great films describe the ambiguous, divided loyalties of the mid-19th century unification movement: “Papa Re,” “San Michel had a Rooster” and “I Gattopadro” (The Leopard). The injustice of the sharecropping system broke my liberal heart in “Tree of the Wooden Clogs.” The comedy “La Guerra” and the tragedies “Two Women,” “Love and Anarchy,” “General della Rovere,” “Open City” and my favorite, “Night of the Shooting Stars” tell of Italy's 20th century wars. The difficult post-war reality is documented in the neo-realist films such as the “Bicycle Thief”; sex, honor, and class warfare in “Swept Away,” “Stromboli,” and “Seduced and Abandoned.”

The uniqueness of Italian humor is illustrated in “The Icicle Thief,” “Palombella Rossa,” “Johnny Stecchino,” “The Gold of Naples” and my favorite, “Big Deal on Madonna Street.” I even learned to appreciate Toto, definitely an acquired taste. Still there are some comedies too silly, such as “A Lobster for Breakfast” as well as tragedies too tough such as “Seven Beauties,” “Battle for Algiers,” and, for personal reasons, “Henry IV.”

Because my ears were open and my emotions more accessible, I came to love what I had previously felt was caterwauling, Italian opera. I can cook some pretty good Italian meals, niente. Modern Italian films, opera, and literature have taught tougher lessons about the darkness of the human heart that can not be cured by therapy, chemicals, or religion. (Good wine helps, of course.) I understood, at last, about the destruction of the innocent and of innocence caught between forces that can not or will not be explained. Maybe these are not French concepts, certainly not American ones.

There I go again intellectualizing while the point is, that for once, I did not approach learning a language as a purely intellectual activity. I've found that while I still admire clever people, I no longer trust them. Perhaps, I could have mastered these harsh lessons without leaving home. Maybe it was a matter of timing, but the comfortable sound of Italian gave me the courage to face unacceptable realities. I faced them just to hear the language. I learned to understand the use of humor to approach dangerous ideas or people; the value of the outlandish gesture, the complexity of Sophia Loren's walk and of Toto's facial expressions.

A passion for life, for enjoyment, for making the smallest thing important or elegant is Italy’s most profitable export. That is simply marketing unless you understand that after the wars are over, the dictators are dead, slavery and share cropping gone or reshaped by modern technology, there remains the evil within us and the arrogance, ambition, ignorance, impotence, cowardice, cruelty, and simple carelessness worthy of Caesar, Stalin, Lucretia Borgia or Marie Antoinette. So you had better enjoy that last bite of pasta or the last rose of summer. Of yes, the roast in Beijing in 1986 was large enough for each of us to have one slice and for a couple of slices to be sent home to the cook's family. That is a more advanced Italian lesson.

Editor’s Note: The writer lives in New Orleans where she pens a number of articles, essays and commentaries for PRIMO and other publications.


A Full Court Press of Ideas and Action Unveiled by Basil M. Russo at This Year’s Meeting for COPOMIAO
Key Announcements Made June 17th Were:
- Gathering of Italian American Filmmakers To Convene This November At Event, Titled, “A Celebration of the Contribution of Italian Americans in the Entertainment Industry.”
- Italian American Future Leaders Youth Summit to Continue and Expand Next Year
- State and Federal Court Cases to Save Columbus Expanded
- This Just In - COPOMIAO Unprecedented Move to Change How Italian Americans are Defined in Federal Data, Not as “White,” but as European Mediterranean

By Truby Chiaviello

Eyes on the future. Eyes on the prize.

That’s the best way to sum up the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).

The preservation and propagation of our Italian American heritage is to be pursued in all facets of American society: In law, politics, business, education and, now, entertainment.

Convened on June 17th, inside the beautifully decorated Townhouse of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, at 8 E 69th St, in Manhattan, the gathering was preceded with a showing of “Cabrini,” the new film about America’s first saint, Sister Francesca Cabrini.

In person and by Zoom virtual link were the many member organizations in attendance for COPOMIAO’s annual meeting, including yours truly, PRIMO Magazine.

Judge Basil M. Russo kicked off the event with a headline making announcement. As the current president of COPOMIAO, he remains a unifying force in Italian America. Judge Russo knows well the art of political action. He seeks unique events to bring together an army of Italian American influencers; be it in Washington, D.C. to meet Italy’s Ambassador to the United States, Mariangela Zappia; be it in Rome to meet Pope Francis and, now, come this November…Hollywood…to meet Italian American filmmakers!

Judge Russo has recruited his sons, Joe and Anthony Russo, two of Tinsel Town’s most successful producers and directors, who have, thus far, grossed over $7 billion, to host this unprecedented event, now titled, “A Celebration of the Contribution of Italian Americans in the Entertainment Industry.”

“There are lot of successful Italian Americans in our country,” proclaims Judge Russo. “We need to reach out to them and let them know they are an important part of our family. The question is how do we connect with them. I think I have an answer.”

A reception is to be held at AGBO studios, in Los Angeles, where Italian Americans of the entertainment field can gather together with their colleagues of other professional domains at the creative headquarters for Joe and Anthony. “This is a very important undertaking,” said Judge Russo. “We will provide them an opportunity to come together to celebrate their heritage.”

News was made prior to the event when several key member national organizations broke away from COPOMIAO to start a rival group. No mention was made of this dissension.

Rather, new members announced to join the ranks, to outnumber those who abandoned ship.

The theme was wholly positive. COPOMIAO remains on offense. Orders are to movie forward. Achievements by Judge Russo include the doubling of membership.

“Past two years, in an effort to create a sense of national unity, we reached out to Italian American organizations all over the country,” said Judge Russo. “We now have an excess of 60 members. In California. Arizona. Nevada. Louisiana. Pennsylvania. We have groups from all over the country working together under the same umbrella. Something we didn’t have three years ago.”

COPOMIAO treasurer, professor of English at Middlesex College, in New Jersey, renowned translator of Sicilian literature, Santi Buscemi, commended Judge Russo’s leadership. “I just want to say something. I have been a member of this organization for six years and this man - Judge Russo - is a great leader. We owe him a lot.”

Everyone stood for applause.

One of the great successes, this year, was Italian American Future Leaders, a national meeting of Italian Americans, age 35 and younger, convened in January in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We want the heritage to live. We have to instill it in our grandchildren. We did that by posting this marvelous event. We look forward to posting that event annually,” said Judge Russo.

The architect for Italian American Future Leaders was none other the John M. Viola, one of the youngest to ever head a national organization, the former executive director of the National Italian American Foundation. Now, current host of the Italian American Podcast, a vice president at COPOMIAO, he comes with the tagline moniker, “professional Italian American.”

“We wanted to create a positive energy,” Viola said about Italian American Future Leaders. “We brought together 100 young people for two solid working days in Florida. I think it was a resounding success. We had wonderful participation across the board. We look forward to future events. We will be back next year.”

The state of young Italian America is strong, according to Viola. “I am very confident of the future in the hands of these young people. They want to work together no matter what. Ego is a slippery slope. They demand ego-free execution.”

It is George Bochetto, attorney for COPOMIAO, who leads, advises and strategizes a number of state and federal lawsuits now underway to save Columbus. He spoke at the event while awaiting an answer from the United States Supreme Court about a Writ of Certiorari he filed in May. He pursues a lawsuit, on behalf of COPOMIAO, other Italian American groups and Italian American individuals, to nullify an executive order in Philadelphia by Mayor Jim Kenney to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.

“One day, the mayor woke up and decided on his own to change the holiday,” says Bochetto. “Not just COPOMIAO, but I also represent an Italian American city councilman in Philadelphia. Why is that important? Because our charter states it is the city council, not the mayor, who decides our holidays.”

About the possibility of the case heard at the United States Supreme Court, Bochetto, admitted, “a long shot. More than 96 percent of cases are denied a hearing at the Supreme Court.” However, he believes, “this is an issue I think the Supreme Court with a conservative majority will want to hear.” He hopes to get an answer, within the next 60 days, as to whether or not the Writ of Certiorari is granted.

Bochetto shared an anecdote at the gathering about his tenacious battle with Mayor Kenney. He said, “Recently, I was in a restaurant in Philadelphia. The Saloon, one of the nicest Italian restaurants in Philadelphia. In walks Jim Kenney to eat. I called the waitress over, ‘serve this wine to the mayor and tell him, compliments of Christopher Columbus.’ Well, he stood up and was furious. The next day it was in all the newspapers.”

Activity is most prevalent at COPOMIAO. Judge Russo, a former majority leader of the Cleveland City Council, knows well the age-old political lessons of Machiavelli. To change laws is to first change minds. He sees an important issue to shape our future.

Judge Russo apprised attendees that the federal government is now reassessing its guidelines to collect data on race and ethnicity in America. COPOMIAO wants Italian Americans defined differently than they were in the past. A brief historical lesson by Judge Russo is how, “A hundred years ago, our government chose to identify all Americans based strictly on race, i.e, black, yellow, white, red. Eventually, the government then began to identify people according to geographic origins in lieu of skin color such as Asian Americans instead of ‘yellow’ and Native Americans instead of ‘red.’ Yet, our government still chooses to identify people from Europe as ‘white.’

The Office of Management and Budget is currently requesting comments to modify its data collection procedure to determine which racial and ethnic groups qualify for federal grants and entitlements. “Last month, we drafted a 28 page document on this issue,” says Judge Russo. “Thirty members signed to support this document (including PRIMO Magazine). The document requested that the term ‘white’ be replaced with European and further that Europe be subdivided into various categories with Italian Americans classified as European Mediterranean.”

A complex issue, admits Judge Russo, “This would require the government to collect data on Italian Americans as they have for other racial and ethnic groups. Whatever the data warranted, Italian Americans could then qualify as beneficiaries for appropriate federal programs.”

The focus is not on special privilege, but, rather respect, claims Judge Russo. “We demand the same rights under the law that are afforded to other ethnicities in our country. For decades and decades, our parents and grandparents were denied filing for federal programs that their tax dollars paid for. Why should we remain silent and allow our children and grandchildren to suffer the same plight? All our organizations should be actively supporting these changes.”

America needs to embrace greater parity among all groups, according to Judge Russo. “All we are saying is, if you want to refer to people from Asia as Asian Americans then you should refer to people from Europe as European Americans. Referring to people as ‘white’ is outdated and ridiculous. We weren’t treated as white people when we first came to America. We were treated as people of color which made our assimilation to this country extremely difficult.”

How Italian Americans were ethnically defined in the past retains its negative impact in the present. “This is a complex but important issue,” Judge Russo says. “There are examples of people here who have lost contracts because they were labeled as ‘white.’ A study done 20 years ago showed that in Ivy League schools, Italian Americans are 8 percent of the population but only 3 percent are accepted into Ivy League schools. Why? Because the other spots were given to other groups. There weren’t any spots left for Italian Americans. That’s not respecting us. That is not treating us fairly.”

Judge Russo urged broad support for this current effort. “We need to stand united on this to ensure we are treated fairly. Shame on us if we don’t demand this.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured are COPOMIAO officers, Treasurer Santi Buscemi, National Counsel George Bochetto, President Basil Russo, NY Consul General Fabrizio Di Michele, COPOMIAO Secretary Rosemary DeLuca, Vice President John Viola, Italian American Museum Director Joe Scelsa and Italian American Museum of LA Director Marianna Gatto. Filmmakers Joe and Anthony Russo are shown with props from the Captain America franchise. The web site for COPOMIAO is



There Is No Turning Back for COPOMIAO Under Leadership of Basil M. Russo
- The Time is Now to Fight for Columbus, Not Break Away from COPOMIAO
- PRIMO Endorses Russo and the Proud Members of COPOMIAO

There’s no going back.

That was the message given, loud and clear, by Basil M. Russo, at the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) convened on June 17th in New York.

Praise be the warrior.

Judge Russo seeks to face off against those who choose to tear down Columbus statues and dismiss Columbus Day; never mind the venue, be it in the courts, in the public square, even, in the White House.

The fighting spirit is cherished in Italian America.

Rocky Marciano comes to mind. So, too, Vince Lombardi. Who doesn’t love Joe DiMaggio?

Winners are most welcome. The call to battle is heard. Victory is ahead.

Too bad not all Italian American organizations feel this way.

Just prior to the meeting in New York was the breaking away from COPOMIAO by several key member organizations. They went ahead to develop a brand new organization to compete against COPOMIAO; now listed, the Italian American Leadership Forum, with the following members: Columbus Citizens Foundation; National Italian American Foundation, Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Supreme Lodge OSDIA, OSDIA Commission for Social Justice, OSDIA Foundation and the National Organization of Italian American Women.

The question begs…Why?!

The reason, Columbus!

What to do against a plethora of woke culture attacks against the founder of the New World? Basil Russo wants to fight.

Litigation is now being sought at the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the elimination of Columbus Day in Philadelphia by Mayor Jim Kenney. PRIMO Magazine, along with all members of COPOMIAO, are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. However, a key organization, who once belonged to COPOMIAO, did not want to be included.

The leadership of COPOMIAO by Basil M. Russo is wholly endorsed by PRIMO. We support his aggressive strategy to turn the tide against Columbus haters. We discourage any move by other national Italian American organizations to break away from COPOMIAO.

Now is not the time for the old ways of quiet resolve.

(More like, quiet desperation.)

The breakaway organizations seem to want to go back to the past of passive pride and celebration. They seem to yearn for the days of Italian advocacy within a forum of circumspection and careful consideration.

Di addio al passato!

Deliberateness does no good in the face of rushed executive orders by mayors who tear down Columbus monuments. Equivocation is nothing more than defeatism in the face of district attorneys who choose not to prosecute rioters who destroyed Columbus statues in Saint Paul, Baltimore, Richmond and elsewhere.

The legacy of Columbus is to be loudly defended, not quietly demurred.

We praise the Italian Americans who show up at the school board meetings to demand Columbus Day remain in school calendars. We salute those who stood in front of the Columbus Monument at Marconi Plaza to protect the statue from vandals. We cherish the attorneys who take our antagonists to court. We praise the front line warriors of Italian America in Syracuse, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Haven and elsewhere. They all deserve nothing less that the full support of national Italian American organizations.

Judge Russo understands this. His tenure as president of COPOMIAO has been nothing less than extraordinary.

Judge Russo has made every effort to reach out to Italian American organizations, both large and small, to stand together to defend the legacy of Columbus in America. As such, COPOMIAO has grown under his watch to unprecedented levels in membership. His summit meetings remain three for the record books: More than 400 Italian American groups in attendance. Under his watch, the organization members met Italy’s first female ambassador to the United States, Mariangela Zappia, and Pope Francis in Rome. He led COPOMIAO to spearhead a national drive to change the White House proclamation on Columbus Day. He gave orders for COPOMIAO to sponsor the first-ever Italian American Future Leaders Conference in Ft. Lauderdale to begin transferring the mantle of leadership to a new generation.

Now is not the time for dissension. Now is not the time for a “different approach.”

The days of silence are behind us.

PRIMO stands with Basil Russo and the proud members of COPOMIAO to fight onward for Columbus, to fight onward for our Italian American legacy.

Editor’s Note: The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Leaders is


Primo Interview
Jo-Ann Vega Pens “Wolf Woman & Other Poems”
“My goal is to encourage others to awake to the life-affirming possibilities within waiting to be discovered.”

Jo-Ann Vega delivers a new anthology of poems titled “Wolf Woman & Other Poems,” a sequel, of sorts, to her previous work, “Moments in Flight.” We spoke with Jo-Ann about what it means to be an Italian American poet.

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy?

I am a proud, third generation Italian American. My mom’s parents emigrated from Greci, Naples, Italy in 1903 and 1910. My dad’s parents emigrated from Palermo and Syracuse, Sicily, in 1913 and 1920. I spent my first decade+ in the south Bronx, near Yankee Stadium, among first generation southern Italians. My famiglia shared a two-family house with my paternal grandparents until my famiglia moved to the suburbs. I spent a lot of time with my mom’s large, raucous and warm famiglia. My recent memoir (“Moments in Flight”) is dedicated to their courage and stories.

Please explain the title “Wolf Woman”

An always aspiring wolf woman: earthy, authentic, with integrity, a stalwart protector of loved ones, and collector of bones, knowledge beyond time, the poem, “Wolf Woman,” anchors the anthology and completes the narrative set out in my memoir “Moments in Flight.” My goal is to encourage others to awake to the life-affirming possibilities within waiting to be discovered.

What especially attracts you to writing poetry?

I began with prose confessional poetry when I wasn’t able to express myself verbally. I started writing poetry during my senior year in high school when I experienced, what I describe in the introduction to “Wolf Woman,” as the loss of my future. I saw no options open to me that fit my aptitude, interests, gender and culture. More importantly, I believed I was powerless to do anything about it. I slid into a depression and turned to writing poetry to make sense of what was happening, and to find a way out of the abyss.

Writing has been a lifeline for me. I write poems to understand, start conversations, and for special occasions. Over the years my collection grew. As I prepared my memoir, I began to organize and select poems. This sparked creative embers and resulted in a number of new poems.

Wolf Woman contains over 40 poems divided into sections according to the eras of your life. One is titled “Unfurling my wings 1980-2000.” Please explain the title of this section and its meaning.

In essence, the section is about growing up, coming of age, taking on responsibility, losing important people in my life, and deciding to take risks, unfurl my wings, fly. The four poems (I figured out the source of my tension headaches, It seemed as though the weather was conspiring, You were a private man, and You’ve been gone a year) were composed for my cousin who succumbed from AIDS in 1983, before the age of thirty, during a time of sanctioned homophobia. His loss pushed me out of my comfort zone, ushered in a re-examination of my life, and prompted me to dream, reach for more, and take chances.

How do you still connect to your Italian ethnicity?

I love Italians, our energy, expressive and creative abilities, resilience, self-reliance, love of good food, and time spent enjoying each other’s company. Every time I make a comfort meal of pasta fagioli or gravy I remember and embrace my roots. Every time I serve it to others I embrace my roots. When I witness the natural energy of Italians in conversation moving around, gesticulating, and speaking with passion, I embrace my ethnicity. I keep abreast of Italian history and current events to stay connected and use that knowledge to present public and private workshops to fellow Italian Americans and others on Ellis Island, the Italian Diaspora, and Growing Up Italian.

What are your future writing plans?

I released my memoir as I recovered from a life-threatening illness during the height of COVID hospitalizations and deaths; a story for another day. The positive feedback I received, in tandem with my recovery, moved me to take more chances, eat the fear, and release my most personal musings to the world. I started to submit poems and personal essays and several were or will be published.

Now that I’ve published the memoir and the poetry anthology I’m concentrating on submitting both books to appropriate contests. Both books have received 5-star reviews. My debut poetry collection, “Wolf Woman & Other Poems” was awarded a Bronze Medal Winner in the Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Awards, 2022-2023, a bucket list item now checked off !

I’m also working on personal essays and a chapbook of new poems. Fingers crossed, I may also publish a hybrid non-fiction/poetry book.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “Wolf Woman & Other Poems” at


Italian American Volunteer Bill Martin Briefs Baltimore’s Little Italy Lodge on Restoration and Potential Site for Pedestal and Statue
- The Sculpture was Destroyed July 4th, 2020
- The Columbus Monument was Unveiled in October, 1984

By Albert Marra

We enjoyed a very successful evening at Baltimore’s Little Italy Lodge Tuesday (June 13, 2023). Following some very tasty Italian cold cut sandwiches, drinks and fellowship, our regular monthly meeting featured  a presentation by local Italian American volunteer Bill Martin on the city’s famous Columbus statue.

Bill Martin’s talk included the background, history, destruction, reconstruction and possible future siting of the Columbus statue. The statue, funded by the local Italian American community and dedicated by President Reagan in 1984, had stood near the Little Italy neighborhood until protesters toppled it and dumped it in the harbor during the unrest of the summer of 2020. 

Groups of volunteers (including divers!) recovered the broken pieces of the statue from the Baltimore harbor shortly after its destruction. The pieces were then moved to a “secret” site, a workshop on the eastern shore of Maryland where artists and artisans, using the latest high-tech computer generated scanning and imaging techniques, were able to reproduce (not one, but two!) exact replicas of the original marble sculpture. They then employed a special marble chip resin composite — giving the appearance of genuine sculpted marble — to fashion the two new statues that are identical to the original.

That’s what I’d call Italian ingenuity at work!

Bill Martin also addressed how the repairs to the statue were funded, through a combination of private donations and public grant funds from NEH and NEA. He further discussed the as-yet-undetermined future placement of the statues, mentioning the competing possibilities of moving the statue to the offered safe haven in Harford County, Maryland, against the need to keep it close to Baltimore’s Italian center.

About 35 members and guests attended the meeting and stayed on for Bill Martin’s 25 minute presentation, which was followed by about 15 minutes questions and answers. While all attempts were made to remove politics from the evening, there was vigorous commentary on the city government’s lack of interest in either protecting the statue or prosecuting those responsible for destroying it.

Editor’s Note: Pictures show the unveiling ceremony in 1984 with President Ronald Reagan as guest of honor; a large section recovered after rioters destroyed the statue in 2020; Bill Martin speaking at the Little Italy Lodge in Baltimore on June 13, 2023. The author of the article is the immediate past president of the Sons of Italy Little Italy Lodge 2286 in Baltimore. Please visit the lodge’s Facebook page at


A Party System Reinforces Malrepresentation
- Power to legislate is at the state level; yet, power to elect is at the county level
- “…we are either cracked into numerous districts or packed into a few districts.”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

As many of you may know, I just finished my campaign for State Senate in the Democratic primary of the 18th Legislative District in New Jersey. I challenged the incumbent and lost. That is life. However, the unreasonable and unconstitutional advantages that New Jersey incumbents have are so bad, that I am now considering legal action to change the system.

New Jersey is a small state divided into 21 counties. Most New Jersey residents strongly associate with their county. However, county governments are the weakest in New Jersey. They have no control over the municipalities within their boundaries. All of their decisions can be, and often are, overridden by the State Legislature. All constitutional power to legislate on the issues that really matter in New Jersey are vested in the State Legislature.

This may not seem so shocking. After all, no state gives true sovereignty to its counties and/or municipalities. True sovereignty means that a “lesser” level of government, constitutionally, cannot be automatically overruled by a “higher” level of government. States cannot simply be overruled by the federal government (at least in many matters). However, in New Jersey, counties and municipalities can always be overridden by the state legislature.

Courts have ruled that states can give sovereignty to their constituent parts, but none, thus far, have done so. As a result, Middlesex County, where I reside in New Jersey, has no real political power. Neither do their municipalities. All power is at the state level.

Strange, then, how statewide political parties are much less powerful than county parties in New Jersey.

County parties, one for the Democrats and one for the Republicans, are given official, formal status by New Jersey law (although not necessarily by the New Jersey Constitution). They can raise unlimited amounts of money in certain months to give to candidates. Meanwhile, ordinary individuals can only contribute $2,600 in the primary and $5,200 in the general election.

County parties are allowed to endorse specific candidates who usually win because of privileged placements on ballots. The party line and the “bracketing system” are now being challenged in the federal courts.

How does all this affect Italian Americans?

You may be aware of malrepresentation. This is the process where Italian Americans are systemically underrepresented. New Jersey state legislative districts are apportioned based on total populations to include unauthorized residents. The voting power of Italians’ are thereby reduced. We are either cracked into numerous districts or packed into a few districts. Italian politicians often have to run in districts with few Italians, which leads them to oppose Italian American civil rights. Those in heavily-Italian districts tend to be Republican and tend to oppose Italian American civil rights as a matter of principle. Thus, the support for Italian American civil rights is weaker than it constitutionally should be.

Local elites select who will run. The voters then ratify this decision without really having any choice in the matter. Since most of the districts are non-competitive, the official candidate of the county party usually becomes the office-holder.

It is eerie how similar this is to the Chinese Communist system to guarantee one party rule. Consider how Republicans have not controlled either house of the state legislature in about 30 years. Malrepresentation makes the Republicans unable to take either house, so they are being unconstitutionally hindered.

How democratic is New Jersey, really? Few of the people who voted for my opponent in the 18th Legislative District even knew his name. They simply felt obligated to vote for the official party candidate for the nomination. The party line thus denies challengers like me any chance of meaningfully participating in the process.

To be a politician with real power, you need to be in New Jersey State government. However, to be a State Legislator, one needs the approval of county party leaders. I looked up one party committee’s composition and Italians were highly under-represented. So, Italians have little chance of getting elected if they have little support from county parties.

In my view, as a political scientist, this is an unconstitutional situation. Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and relevant provisions of the New Jersey Constitution, other groups are allowed to sue to rectify being denied their choice of candidate and proper representation. I believe that we Italian Americans are also entitled to this right.

The system in New Jersey denies Italian Americans of political rights, to lead to a denial of our civil rights. I plan on challenging this in two ways. I will grow my 501c3 non-profit Italian American civil rights group, the Italian American Movement and promote model legislation to provide more civil rights for us and other ignored minority ethnic groups. I will also run again for the State Senate in the 18th Legislative District and possibly challenge the party line in court.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist and Italian American civil rights activist. He is reachable at 732-549-2635 and 732-887-3914. If you are interested in his political campaign, potential litigation, his current suit against the State of New Jersey, or his non-profit group, the Italian American Movement, do not hesitate to contact him at those numbers or at his email, The views of the writer may not be shared by the publisher or staff of PRIMO.



Open Roads: New Italian Cinema Convenes at Lincoln Center
- June 1 to June 8 Was a Showcase of Contemporary Films from Italy
- Eleven films were selected for this year’s forum
“On celluloid from Italy is a group source of engaging dramas, enticing comedies and controversial material.”

By Truby Chiaviello

All roads lead to Manhattan.

Open Roads, that is; the title of an annual gathering of contemporary Italian filmmakers at Lincoln Center.

Critics, scholars and distributors came to see new films from Italy inside the Walter Reade theater at 165 W. 65th Street in Midtown Manhattan. The festival is sponsored by Film at Lincoln Center and Cinecitta, the massive film studio in Rome.

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema is the full name of the film forum convened from June 1 to June 8. Now in its 22nd year, the mission continues to introduce the latest fare of contemporary cinema from Italy. On hand, this year, for Q&A sessions, were Italian directors, producers, actors and actresses. Eleven films were chosen to cover tales of human interaction and drama set in unique locales ranging from a dystopian wasteland to a divorcee’s closet. The films may or may not be available at your nearby cineplex. However, they should be ready for streaming on Netflix and other online venues.

Italian cinema thrives in a global age, yet without the promotion of pioneering genres as the country was once famous for, so many years ago. Cinema across the pond has all but abandoned horror, Eurocrime, Giallo, westerns and niche sci-fi. What comes instead, is best described as “art house.” On celluloid from Italy is a group source of engaging dramas, enticing comedies and controversial material. Italian films, today, convey tales of hope and danger; of societal strife and individual redemption; of past atrocities and present-day conflicts.

These films represent the latest and greatest from Italy, as shown in Lincoln Center. They are listed according to the clockwise direction of the above film stock photographs.

Dry (Siccita)
“Dry” is the apt title for Paolo Virzi’s exploration of class conflict in a time of drought in Rome. The film is, in some ways, a throwback to the apocalyptic theme created in Italy in the early 1960s, most notably, “The Last Man on Earth,” starring Vincent Price, a precursor to the zombie phenom. Characters and subplots abound in a time of water shortages and quotas in “Dry.” A natural calamity undercuts the goals and aspirations of thirsty Italians. An actor in the film, Tommaso Ragno, was on-hand at a press conference during the Open Roads festival. When asked how he prepared for his role in the film, he claimed hours upon hours were spent on social media by him as means of inspiration. What did he find so appealing about today’s digital forums? “I am attracted to stupid things,” he said. “The more stupid it is, the more free it is.”

Michele Vannucci, a documentary filmmaker, was living in Bologna, near the Po River, when he conceived his script for “Delta.” He wanted to make a film about people whose livelihoods depend on natural environments. The current conflict in the Po Delta in northern Italy is central to the story. The two main characters are Elia, a fisherman, played by Alessandro Borghi, and Osso, a wildlife warden, played by Luigi Lo Cascio. The filmmaker said, at a press conference, that he neither judges nor condemns either side in a battle to preserve or exploit the natural landscape. He wants the film to be indicative of the many conflicts worldwide, today. Battles are not between countries, Vannucci says. Rather, conflicts are more remote, within provinces, between the people who live there to fight over the future control of natural resources.

The life of Saint Clare of Assisi is conveyed in a new, inventive film, titled “Chiara.” Latin and the vernacular of Umbria were the languages of dialect. The film’s title is based on the baptismal name of the revered saint, with a feast day on August 11th, the daughter of privilege, born on July 16, 1194, Chiara Offreduccio. The 19-year-old actress Margherita Mazzucco portrays Saint Clare in the time before and after her vow of poverty to follow Saint Francis. It was at a news conference, hosted by the Open Roads festival, where the actress commented on the relevance of Saint Clare today. “She was a feminist of the medieval period,” Mazzucco said. “We all know about Saint Francis; but we know little of Chiara. This film captures a woman of great bravery and enlightenment.”

The Hummingbird
Francesca Archibugi, arguably, had the most difficult challenge this year among Italian filmmakers at Open Roads. She was tasked to adapt to cinema Sandro Veronesi’s Strega Prize-winning bestselling 2019 novel of the same title, “The Hummingbird.” The book was praised for its unorthodox narrative in retelling the life of the main character. The film attempts the same approach with Pierfrancesco Favino portraying protagonist, Marco Carrera. A man’s life is transmitted, out of sequence, with peaks and valleys, from childhood to different stages of adulthood. Archibugi’s eye for taste and beauty are on great display as most scenes were shot on location in the finest cafes and salons of Paris and Florence.

The first film by Giuseppe Fiorello is based on a true story about two young homosexuals murdered in Sicily in 1982. Samuele Segreto and Gabriele Pizzurro play fated male lovers, who hide their relationship on the outskirts of Catania. Fiorello was on hand to answer questions at a news conference convened at the Open Roads forum. He claimed “Fireworks” was “a very delicate story to tell. Instead of focusing on the crime, the murder and mystery, I chose the relationship as the means for a film.” From the tragedy, he says, the largest gay association in Italy began in Catania. He is most proud of his native Sicily in leading the way for greater tolerance and understanding of gays and lesbians.

Lord of the Ants
Gianni Amelio brings to the big screen the life and controversial trial of poet and playwright, Aldo Braibanti. An avowed communist who fought in World War II to free Italy from fascist and Nazi rule, Braibanti was arrested in 1964 on the grounds of “plagiarism of the mind”; a legal concept whereby a person is accused of corrupting the morals of another. A complaint was filed against Braibanti by the father of Giovanni Sanfratello, a 23-year-old artist who had a romantic relationship with the older Braibanti in Rome. Luigi Lo Cascio portrays Braibanti as the quizzical writer caught up in a salacious trial. A former partisan, he was abandoned by his political comrades, friends and family when prosecutors accused him of degenerate behavior. Only Sanfratello, who underwent electroshock treatment in an effort to dispel his homosexual tendencies, while the legal ward of his father, remained resolute in exonerating Braibanti.

The first film by Niccolò Falsetti follows the saga of a punk band on the verge of their biggest break. They are hired to open for an established rock group at a concert in Bologna. Things go astray, however, when the event is cancelled and the young bandmates seek to host their own show in Grosseto. What follows is a comedic turn of events when characters are enmeshed in a world of egos and legal technicalities to organize an outdoor performance. Falsetti claimed, at an Open Roads press conference, that his film was indicative of contemporary times. He sees the digital age as presenting places and settings for people to see and hear, yet not really experience. His film, he says, transports the audience to the back roads and small villages of the Emilia-Romagna region.

Like Turtles
Actress Monica Dugo conceived her debut film when she and her husband finalized their divorce. “What struck me most were the empty spaces left behind from his absence,” she says. The actress-turned-director benefitted from a mentorship program to allow her and other first-time filmmakers to master work behind the camera. “Like Turtles” chronicles the sad fallout of a family in ruin after a middle age husband and father leaves his wife and two children. He empties his side of a wardrobe closet, only for the abandoned wife to move in to take refuge inside the void. It is left to the children to persuade their mother to leave the dark enclosure to rejoin society.

Toni Servillo, now in his 70s, remains Italy’s biggest star, a mainstay of cinema there in comparison to the endless parade of teen idols who come and go endlessly to dominate American cinema. In “Strangeness,” the actor portrays the great playwright Luigi Pirandello, in 1920, when he returns to his native Sicily. There, while visiting a cemetery, he meets two gravediggers, who, as it turns out, are struggling actors named Onofrio and Sebastiano, played by Salvo Ficarra and Valentino Picone. Pirandello is intrigued by the duo’s amateurish productions in theater. A wave of inspiration overcomes him while he rediscovers his joy of writing, thanks his newfound friends.

The human side of Italy’s migrant crisis is explored in “Princess.” The film might be reminiscent of Federico Fellini’s “Nights of Cabiria,” except the titled character is a Nigerian immigrant. Glory Kevin plays a prostitute who who lives and works near a forest in Rome. There she meets Corrado, a man foraging for mushrooms, who takes her outside her surroundings to see the possibilities of a better life. “Princess,” written and directed by Robeto De Paolis, is at times comedic and tragic. The film continues the Italian tradition to bring to the screen the stories of those who reside at the lowest rung of Italian society.

My Summer with the Shark
David Gentile’s first film is about a 13-year-old boy name Walter, played by Tiziano Menichelli. After the untimely death of his father, Walter must spend the summer with relatives along the Roman coast. Bored with his immediate surroundings, he bike rides the countryside to discover an abandoned villa. On the palatial estate is a large swimming pool where the boy imagines himself on the open seas chasing a great white shark. The interior of the villa provides a treasure trove of relics for the main character to believe murder and other sinister activities occurred there by the former owners. The film is noted for taking a traditional story to reinterpret for contemporary audiences.

Editor’s Note: The web site for Film at Lincoln Center is


The call of history…
Italian Americans Seek Hearing at U.S. Supreme Court
- Basil M. Russo and COPOMIAO Are Petitioners, Along with The 1492 Society, Philadelphia City Council Member Mark F. Squilla and, Philadelphia Italian American, Jody Della Barbra
- Attorney George Bochetto Pens Writ of Certiorari Submitted on May 18th
- Save Columbus Day in Philadelphia

By Truby Chiaviello

History is made.

Italian Americans have kept quiet long enough. The time has come to make our stand. The time has come to make our case.

We come to the highest court in the land.

To the nine learned Justices of the United States Supreme Court, we say, “Hear our case!”

To save Columbus Day in Philadelphia and elsewhere in America is to seek protected status. The armor of constitutional law is to withstand the tyranny of cancel culture.

Italian Americans were harmed, in 2021, when Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, by executive order cancelled Columbus Day, a federal holiday directly and symbolically associated with our ethnicity. We suffered when Mayor Kenney demonized Christopher Columbus, a hero to the great majority of Italian Americans. We were hurt when he reference us, in the aggregate, to make a point about immigration reform, as “Cousin Emilio” and “Cousin Guido.” We were discriminated against when he singled out our holiday and hero for dismissal; but not those of other ethnic groups.

What past wrong made Mayor Kenney despise Italian Americans is a question for the ages. He will seemingly do anything and everything to vex and exasperate us. Not just Columbus. He took down a statue of Frank Rizzo, the first and only Italian American mayor of Philadelphia. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mayor Kenny “lowered the priority” for Italian Americans to receive the needed response.

Such shameful acts were duly noted by Attorney George Bochetto at, both, the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania and then, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. At issue was how Mayor Kenney overstepped his authority when he dismissed Columbus Day. The case was made for Italian Americans to be deemed a protected class when their constitutional rights are subverted by an antagonistic mayor.

Sadly and wrongly, both courts ruled against us.

The justices wholly ignored what is obvious to the non-political observer.

Especially distressing was the appeals court decision this past January. No only did they rule that Italian Americans were not harmed when Columbus Day was cancelled, but they ruled that Italian Americans did not even have standing to bring their case to court!

Bad rulings are usually mistakes in law.

Hence, the time has come for judicial review.

Italian Americans, under the leadership of Basil M. Russo, have called on the U.S. Supreme Court to get the law right. Overturn the wrong rulings of the appeals courts in Pennsylvania. Properly interpret the constitution. Set the right precedent. Give us standing to make our case.

On May 18th, a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court by Attorney George Bochetto, on behalf of petitioners Judge Russo and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), The 1492 Society, Philadelphia Council Member Mark Squilla and Jody Della Barbra, a longstanding resident and activist of the city’s Italian American community.

Mr. Bochetto serves as the legal counsel for COPOMIAO. He said, ”No other Italian American organization has ever weighed in with the U.S. Supreme Court on a cultural issue or devoted so much time and resources to protecting the Italian heritage as has COPOMIAO under the stewardship of Honorary Basil Russo, his distinguished peers, the 1492 Society and Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla.”

Mayor Kenney did not realize the resolve of the Italian American community when he flipped Columbus Day for Indigenous People’s Day. Nothing doing was the message sent out loud and clear to him by Judge Russo and members of COPOMIAO. The green light was given to attorney Bochetto and his outstanding legal team to sue Mayor Kenney in federal court. Nothing less than the return of Columbus Day was the goal in what has been, thus far, two years worth of legal proceedings.

The time of reckoning has come.

“The latest petition, filed with the U.S. Supreme Court this week, seeks, in part, to declare Italian Americans as a protected class under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution,” explains Judge Russo. “Such protections would aid in the preservation of Columbus' statues and holidays throughout the country.”

In late 2022, Mr. Bochetto won a contentious battle to save Philadelphia’s 147-year-old Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza. It was a bitter defeat for Mayor Kenney, who was openly criticized by Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick over his attempt at removing the statue. Mr. Bochetto then filed a federal suit to bring back Columbus Day. A pattern of discriminatory efforts against Italian Americans by Mayor Kenney were highlighted in the pleading. Italian Americans should be deemed a protected class, claimed Mr. Bochetto, when municipal leaders, such as Kenney, penalizes one ethnic group to appease another.

We are reminded of March 14, 1891, a day of infamy for Italian Americans. It was on this day when the call rang out in New Orleans to abduct 11 Italian immigrants to hang em high.

The worst case of mass lynching in America’s history remains a lesson for us all. Eleven men were hung for one reason, and, for one reason, alone: They were Italian.

As Judge Russo said, some months ago, “There’s much to fight for — and much to look forward to — as Italian Americans young and old come together to honor their ancestors.”

Stoicism is the cherished virtue passed down from Ancient Rome. Roman Catholicism imbues us with quiet resolve. We are to tough out challenges. We are to suffer in silence.

Such is the way of the past before political correctness. Silence is no longer golden in the Cancel Culture age. To let others seal our fate is to lose our history, our traditions, our culture. We must, therefore, engage. We must advocate. We must persuade.

To the third branch of government, we come. To the U.S. Supreme Court, we make our plea: Do not quash the call of history. Let Italian Americans be heard. Grant us Certiorari.

Editor’s Note: The web site for COPOMIAO is



Garibaldi-Meucci Museum Acquires New Sculpture

By Truby Chiaviello

The Tower of Light has arrived!

To Staten Island.

The edifice, completed by Venetian master sculptor Giorgio Bortoli, was unveiled on May 21st, on the grounds of the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum,
owned and administered by the Sons of Italy Foundation and New York State Grand Lodge of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America.  

The sculpture measures 39 feet. The structure consists of high gauge steel and surrounded by Murano glass. It is an artistic representation of the twinning of the Tower of San Marco, in Venice, Italy and the Metropolitan Life Tower, in New York City. This unique piece was realized and created by the master sculptor Bortoli in 1999, with the intention of evoking a gesture of friendship between the two cities. Venice and New York are both characterized by water, art, and Venetian culture, as the Metropolitan Life Tower was modeled after the Tower of San Marco.  

Signor Bortoli said, “A very special dream is about to be realized- the permanent placement of ‘La Torre Di Luce’ in a most significant place. The sculpture symbolizes a twinning of two cities surrounded by water, bridging Venice and New York. Most importantly, it represents a bond of friendship with our brothers and sisters of Staten Island and the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America. ‘La Torre di Luce’ will serve as a beacon that will illuminate the Rosebank community and bring the well-deserved attention to the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum and its honorable history.”
The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, a home to Inventor Antonio Meucci and his wife Esterre was built in 1843 and became the home to General Giuseppe Garibaldi from 1851-53 during his stay in New York. Artifacts are preserved at the Museum which is also the site for many programs that include classes in Italian at various levels, as well as children’s programs, lectures, visitations by many from the USA and abroad, especially Italy. 

Carl Ciaccio, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners/Directors of the Garibaldi Museum, in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the Tower of Light, stated with much enthusiasm, “ The Venice-New York project has been a labor of love for the past four years, shared by numerous protagonists without whom such a complex project could not finally be on the verge of coming to fruition. ‘La Torre di Luce’ aptly named by its sculptor, Giorgio Bortoli, is a truly exceptional work of art, which will undoubtedly serve as a beacon that will attract a multitude of visitors from far and near.”

In speaking with the President of the Sons of Italy Foundation (SIF), Comm. Joseph Sciame indicated: “This is an incredible addition to all that the OSDIA has preserved since 1919 taking over the grounds and house now called the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum.  This piece will enhance the current grounds and attract thousands of people we hope in the spirit of ‘light’ that oftentimes exists in a darkened world.”  
Editor’s Note: The Garibaldi-Meucci Museum is located at 420 Tompkins Avenue, Staten Island, NY. Please visit the website at


Laccetti Foundation's Zoomcast To Foster Environmental Awareness

The Silvio Laccetti Foundation will present WorldCast23, an environmental studies seminar for and by high school students around the world. This is the third consecutive program of its kind for this highly anticipated broadcast. The premier is on You Tube at 10AM EDT, June 8th.

Past year participants included: NJ schools Lyndhurst, Point Pleasant Boro, Watchung Valley Regional, Marco Polo School in New York City, select high schools from Venice and Novarra, Italy and 2 schools from Serra Negra in Brazil. Becton Regional presented last year and will do so again. For WorldCast 21 and 22, Ca' Foscari University, in Venice, Italy, hosted the.zoomcast in cooperation with the Consul General of Italy in New York City.

This year, the new non-profit Emigration and Empathy (E & E), will provide the platform for the broadcast. E & E was founded by Francesco Ponteriero, a top honor's student at Delbarton Academy in Morristown, NJ. He was the 2022 winner of the Silvio Laccetti Foundation's Garibaldi Award for excellence in Italian Studies and Community Service. Francesco serves as the producer, master of ceremonies, and film editor of WorldCast 23 - an amazing undertaking for a student heavily involved in school extra-curriculars.

Commenting on his experiences, Pontoriero stated, "Facilitating WorldCast 2023 in conjunction with the Silvio Laccetti Foundation has been an eye opening experience for me. I’ve communicated with students and faculty members from all around the world and have helped make an impact not only of fostering awareness of global environmental issues, but promoting change. My WorldCast23 experience  will help me with so many later pursuits, whether they be profound like operating my global nonprofit “Emigration Empathy”, or simple, like meeting new friends and colleagues.. I am greatly indebted to Dr. Laccetti for providing me this opportunity."

The uniqueness of WorldCast is in presentations by high school students who live and learn in environmental hot-spots. This adds immediate and personal dimensions to the program. The research is unencumbered by political ideologies or pre-conceived notions about problem areas. This year, we expanded the reach of the program, adding 4 new topics and schools in 3 new countries. Here is the program:

* Glenstal Abbey School, Limerick, Ireland: The Deterioration of the Gulf Stream
* St. Clare's College, Griffith, ACT, Australia: Perils to the Great Barrier Reef
*Kirmayr School, Brazil: Threats to the Rain Forest
*Becton High School, New Jersey, USA: Endangered Species Amid Urban-suburban sprawl
*HHX Aalborg School, Saxograde, Denmark: Windmills and Clean Energy
*Delbarton School, New Jersey, USA: Jockey Hollow National Park

A keynote address will be delivered by Logan Bateman, of Montclair High School, NJ. Logan was the 2022 winner of the Charlie Kontos Environmental Activist Award given by the Laccetti Foudation. Bateman will urge all viewers to become involved in locally significant projects which benefit the environment, citing the example of his own work in organizing a group of students that restored and reopened a wildlife reserve near his home town.

WorldCast23 will have its premiere on YouTube on June 8th at  10 AM. Thus it can be seen during school hours in a classroom or in an auditorium setting. The general public is also invited to attend the premiere. It will be available thereafter on demand at any time for various uses by schools and environmental groups. Viewers may go to the website WorldCast2023 where they will find a countdown clock to broadcast time. Afterwards, the program will be accessible at any time.

The Silvio Laccetti Foundation promotes Italian heritage studies and activities world-wide, particularly through its Garibaldi Award Program which recognizes high-achieving students who embody the values and social consciousness of Italian America.

Editor’s Note: Francesco Pontoriero, may be reached at Dr. Laccetti may be reached at


A Clandestine Thriller is the Latest Fare from the Russo Brothers
- Now Streaming on Amazon is “Citadel”
- The $200 million TV project circles the globe
- Another Russo, sister Angela, helped produce the series

By Truby Chiaviello

The Russo Brothers take over.

They conquered the big screen with their Marvel comics’ phenom “Avengers Endgame” shown all over the world in movie theaters everywhere; the second highest grossing film in history. Then, in 2022, it was Netflix. “The Gray Man” was released on the streaming platform to coincide with theatrical showings to win rave reviews from critics and audiences, alike.


“Citadel” is the latest from Joe and Anthony Russo. They serve as executive producers for the TV series, now streaming on Amazon Prime.

It’s the word out on the street: “Citadel” is a winner!

The Russos know action. The first scene of the the first episode of “Citadel” is full of fist fights, gun play and explosions. Move over James Bond. “Citadel” contains the heroes, gadgets and sinister villains to make this another espionage thriller for audiences to watch and cherish.

The news from LA is the involvement from a third Russo. Their sister, Angela Russo Otstot, is President of Creative at their Hollywood studio, AGBO, which produced “Citadel.” The Brothers were also the producers of the Academy Award-winning Best Picture, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

We live in an interconnected world. A plethora of communication devices put us in contact with people in every continent. The Russos know this. Hence, “Citadel” is made with a global audience in mind.

Consider the locales: Italy, Oregon, Virginia, Chicago, Zurich, Switzerland… And that’s just the first episode!

No wonder the price tag for the TV project was a cool $200 million, as bankrolled by Amazon Studios. The plan is to have other series spin-offs in different parts of the world, utilizing native actors in native vernacular, such as “Citadel: Italy,” “Citadel: India,” and others to come.

Deep State pervades the collective consciousness of Americans. Conspiracy theorists abound with what goes on behind the scenes. Is America, and, for that matter, other countries of the world, controlled by a cabal of elites in government and business? According to the storyline of “Citadel,” the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

The first episode ushers in the remnant of the spy agency, named Citadel. Their members are to be scattered in different parts of the world after their arch rival, a criminal enterprise, Manticore, undid their organization from within. Richard Madden plays Mason Kane, a former agent whose memory has been erased. He is tracked down by his old handler, Bernard Orlick, played by none other than Stanley Tucci. The purpose is to re-engage Kane. He is to team up, again, with his partner, Nadia Sinh, played by beautiful Priyanka Chopra, one of India's top actresses, to restore the agency and fight Manticore.

“We’ve had the good fortune of being able to tell stories that travel around the globe, and we’ve seen the effect that those can have on audiences,” said Anthony Russo in a recent interview with The New York Times.  “But those were Hollywood-centric narratives that traveled. The idea that we could create a story that not only traveled around the world but was created around the world seemed like a very exciting movement forward."

Proud advocates of their Italian heritage, the Russo Brothers are lifelong members of Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), and six years ago they founded The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, which, to date, has provided 48 grants to independent filmmakers who have created movies that depict the Italian American experience in positive ways.

Anthony and Joe are the sons of Basil & Patricia Russo. Basil currently serves as President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) and National President of Italian Sons and Daughters of America. 

Editor’s Note: “Citadel” is now showing on Prime. Date of article 5-10-23


By Elisa Revello

In Honor of Flora Revello…

I remember as a kid traveling to foreign lands of other people’s houses and staying for dinner, and the family cooking what they called spaghetti and a glass jar with a mustachioed cartoon man. I remember eating something unfamiliar and saying thank you, but I did not tell them that it’s not called sauce. 
I did not tell them of cramped hot kitchens in summer
of a master curled over the stove stirring with a crooked hand
of olive oil in a can hidden under the sink and cast iron and
mounds of garlic and garlic turning gold and permeating the house 
of thick paste and handling raw meat and tying meat with strings 
of rolling and kneading and tossing flour 
of Romano that is pulled from the depths of the freezer 
of handfuls of salt and pepper and leaves and dashes 
of ingredients that can never be measured or revealed
of wooden spoons and sizzling and snaps of oil 
of parsley that you cut with your teeth
of hauling jugs of wine from the basement
of a massive pot and a long slow simmer 
of waiting for a deeper richer red
a color that is only known to few 
of armies of tasters lifting the lid 
and releasing the scent of promise
and dipping bread in the pot 
when no one is looking and 
storytelling that seems like yelling
of grating the cheese because 
you’re the kid and the kid gets the worst job 
of the grater that hurts your hand 
and a slippery paper plate 
holding a mountain of cheese
of boiling water and steam 
of huddling around a flame 
and working a whole day 
cooking. But you—
you are not just cooking
in your family. Your family— 
are makers of

Editor’s Note: The writer’s email address is


- A Letter to the OMB to Change How Italian Americans are Categorized

(The following is an edited letter by Dr. Binetti to OMB on the U.S. Census future ethnic delineation of Italian Americans)

My name is Christopher R. Binetti and I am writing to you today as an Italian American with a Ph.D. in political science; as the President of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 non-profit organization to advocate for Italian American civil rights. I am asking, on behalf of my organization, myself and my Italian American people, that the recommendations in the comments of the IALDHEF and COPOMAIO/NIABA submissions be enacted by the OMB. I agree with both sets of comments; in both spirit and logic. I now offer additional recommendations in lieu of my personal experiences as an Italian American.

As IALDHEF rightly advises, the minimum categories should be eliminated. I see any continued embrace of racialized categories as deeply problematic for Italian American and other Mediterranean ethnicities. However, I recognize, as does the COPOMAIO/NIABA, that you are unlikely to ever eliminate racialized minimum categories. Hence, I support the recommendation by COPOMAIO for OMB to create a new category titled, "European Mediterranean.”

I agree that Mediterranean groups, as now currently proposed to become the "Middle Eastern and North African" category, have the right to form their own group; as long as it does not relegate Italian Americans to the "white" or "European" category of U.S. Census. A Mediterranean group to include "Middle Eastern and North African" ethnicity, while not preferable over a "European Mediterranean" delineation, is vastly preferable to the possibility of Italians and other Mediterraneans being stuck in a "white" or generic ”European" category.

We want to avoid the deprivation of civil rights among Italian and other Mediterraneans, i.e., Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, etc., by being forced into a "European" or "white" category. Hence, we would rather be in a larger Mediterranean group, if that was our only option, to avoid being stranded inside the “European” or “white” category.

All of this is consistent with the comments of the IALDHEF and COPOMAIO. If you simply created a "European Mediterranean" category to house those ethnic groups, tied together by the Mediterranean region, originally denied a category by your initial proposal, the Italian American Community, including the Italian American Movement, would be ecstatic.

As a side note, I suggest the OMB ask different Jewish ethnic groups how they wish to be identified. We did not deal with this in our COPOMAIO comments because I was tasked with whom to include in our definition and forgot the Sephardim, Mizrahim and Askenazim subsets of Jewry. These groups should be asked by OMB if they prefer to be with us in the "European Mediterranean”category, or, instead, the "Middle Eastern and North African" category, or the "European"/"white" category. They should not be denied this choice simply because I forgot to write them in our joint comment.

My letter might be confusing to outsiders; who do not understand Italian Americans. We are not "white.” The perception by others of our "whiteness" comes without the real privilege of such a distinction. Instead, we suffer real-world consequences by being defined as “white.”

I am challenged with four diagnosed disabilities. However, being Italian is a bigger social disability than my actual afflictions. I have a PhD in Political Science from the University of Maryland, a Masters Degree from Rutgers-Newark in Political Science; and before that, six published peer-reviewed scholarly articles, three years of independent teaching experience at a community college and I am a volunteer Political Commentator at PRIMO, the nation’s largest independent Italian American magazine. I am on the General Council of the Northeastern Political Science Association. I am now running for State Senate, independent of my duties as President of the Italian American Movement. Nevertheless, I still had to go back for a second Master's Degree at Rutgers-Newark in History because I lost my job due to the pandemic and could not get a new one; not even an adjunct job in New Jersey and New York.

I am absolutely convinced that I unable to gain academic employment because I am an Italian American. Hence, the reason I am currently suing New Jersey is because the state’s policies make it virtually impossible for a highly-qualified Italian American, like me, to get an academic job. I support affirmative action and DEI for all current groups and seek Italians and other Mediterraneans to be included.

After I sued New Jersey for systemic ethnic discrimination, I experienced retaliation against me as an Italian American seeking justice. There was a compensation arbitration committee for lawyers organized under the New Jersey Supreme Court desperately seeking laypeople. I showed interest, but was never contacted. I am almost certain that the State was retaliating against me for being an Italian standing up for justice for his own people. I had my State Senator refuse to represent me. He ceases to communicate with me. He did not appoint me to the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. I complained about him to the ethics committee in Trenton, but was told that such retaliation is mandated by New Jersey law. This experience motivated me to run for State Senate against the man who has blocked every chance at bettering myself or the Italian American community.

The Division on Civil Rights is an agency under the Attorney General of New Jersey. It has systemically discriminated and retaliated against me and other Italian Americans. The DCR does not keep statistics on Italian Americans. When I once filed an OPRA request (similar to a FOIA request), I was given the record for the only case that the DCR handled in 10 years regarding anti-Italian discrimination; and of course, the DCR ruled against the Italian.

The DCR and the State of new Jersey can get away with this only because Italian Americans are declared "white" and not as the minority we are. When our statues are torn down, in violation of the law, people do not call it a hate-crime. When our politicians or broadcasters are fired, while other groups' politicians and broadcasters are not for committing the same offense, no one seems to care. When CUNY violates its promises to include Italian Americans in affirmative action, no one cares. When the Super Mario Brothers celebrate ethnic slurs against Italians, or the Simpsons supports mob stereotypes, or Italian actors only get to be stereotyped characters, the "social justice warriors" do not support us.

Within our community are the so-called "Redeemers" who want to liquidate our ethnicity. They support affirmative action only for other people. Since academia only hires "Redeemers,” the government thinks that the 80-90 percent of us who support affirmative action for all, including Italian Americans, are the minority when, in fact, we are the majority!

As the Supreme Court is threatening affirmative action for all, the OMB should recommend that affirmative action be available to any ethnic group (detailed category) that is severely underrepresented in employment or school admissions. This is almost certainly constitutional. There is no discrimination if all individuals in all detailed categories are treated similarly.

As a final thought, I want to ask you to consider my story and hopefully, after reflecting on this, you will give us the hope of salvation of "whiteness" that is the "European Mediterranean" category. With this category, we can get affirmative action and DEI. With this category, we can unify our community, convince the "Redeemers" that we do not have to give up our ethnicity to get jobs. Many Italians are pro-Colombo, while others support a type of out-spoken Catholicism. Still others want more support for the Italian language in America, which scares Anglo-whites. Ninety percent of the Italian American Community supports affirmative action (and DEI) for Italian Americans. If you grant us this "European Mediterranean" category, you are freeing Italians from now-urgent and brutal choice of being an unemployed academic with great credentials like me or giving up one's authentic self and ethnic identity to become a "Redeemer". I will never give up my Italianness. Help us end this terrible choice forever!

Dr. Christopher R. Binetti,
President of the Italian American Movement

Editor’s Note: Some of the views espoused by the writer may not be shared by PRIMO. The writer can be emailed at



Primo Interview
First-Generation Sicilian American, Carlo Treviso, Pens a Saga Set in His Family’s Homeland in “Siciliana.”

Carlo Treviso grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in film directing. Traversing the worlds of Hollywood and advertising, Treviso has written and produced commercial broadcast campaigns for well-known brands all over the world. The son of a Sicilian immigrant, Treviso enjoys bringing his passion and appreciation for Sicily to his readers. He is a proud advocate and supporter of conservation organizations UNESCO, LIFE ConRaSi, and World Wildlife Fund—all of which work to protect the beauty and grandeur of Sicily's engrossing past, resilient culture, and vibrant biodiversity. Treviso resides in Chicago, Illinois.

PRIMO interviewed Mr. Treviso about his latest novel, “Siciliana.”

1.) Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.
The Treviso family came from a small fishing village called Porticello, outside of Palermo.

2.)  What led you to write "Siciliana"?

I’m the first-generation son of a Sicilian immigrant family, and growing up, I’ve been long weary of that mafia-centric stereotype of Sicilians in popular entertainment—a people and culture often portrayed as a hotbed of mobsters and gangsters. So I aimed to change the narrative and challenge these stereotypes head on by creating an epic historical thriller set in a time when Sicily once considered its own kingdom filled with forbidden knights, forgotten fortresses and fallen kings.

3.) The book is set at the time of the Sicilian Vespers. Tell us why this so important to so many Sicilians today.

The Sicilian Vespers was a harrowing, world-shaping event that delivered an oppressed people from the scourge of tyranny and fundamentally forged the identity of a Sicilian nation. The event serves as a potent reminder of the passion and power that exists within the Sicilian spirit to affect change when we come together as a unified force. Rebellamentu! 
4.) What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “Siciliana”?

What I found most challenging about writing “Siciliana” is taking great care to create Sicilian heroes that the reader would become invested in. History has good records of the French villains who actually existed back then which I feature in the novel. However, there’s not as much that exists about the Sicilian rebels who fought blade to blade in the narrow streets and alleyways. This allowed me to take creative liberties with the history and create an original cast of Sicilian heroes. I decided then to base the character Aetna (who is destined to become the Siciliana) on my own sister.
What I found most rewarding is two-fold. The first is that the writing of “Siciliana” brought me ever closer to my heritage and culture. It could be said that the act of writing “Siciliana” was my own knight’s quest to discover my own history. The second is how well the book has been received. I get many reviews and comments from readers thanking me for bringing a story forth that portrays Sicily and Sicilians in a heroic light.  

5.) What are your plans for the future? Any other books in the making?
I currently have a second novel in the works. I’m not quite ready to discuss details yet, though I will say it will be a thriller once again set in historical Sicily with a formidable female hero.
Editor’s Note: “Siciliana” was given an excellent review in PRIMO. To purchase this novel, please log on to Amazon.


The Rematch is On…

By Truby Chiaviello

It’s showtime!

The rematch is on for this April 3rd, 10:00 a.m., at the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, in Rochester.

Columbus Monument Corporation v. City of Syracuse!

You can tune in to the proceedings!

Italian Americans, from anywhere in the country, can watch their paisans in Syracuse take on Mayor Ben Walsh…again!

The appeals court will live stream the proceedings at the following link:

At issue, for the second time, is whether or not the city of Syracuse has the legal right to tear down the Columbus Monument inside Columbus Circle.

Justice Gerard Neri said no, back on March 11, 2022, after the case was initially tried at the New York Supreme Court that January.

Justice Neri ruled for the Columbus Monument Corporation after their lawyers showed an agreement had been made by the city to maintain and preserve the statue in Columbus Circle (formerly, Saint Mary’s Circle), first erected in 1934.

Trial victory came without gloating. The Italians of Syracuse reached out to their adversaries. They offered an olive branch, one of many, to Mayor Walsh.

What do you say, Mr. Mayor? How about if you agree to let stand the Columbus Monument; and in return, we Italians will donate $20,000 to a multi-ethnic art exhibition to be displayed at a nearby park?

Non c’e modo!

Ben Walsh is, perhaps, the youngest among a group of mayors from Chicago to Philadelphia who irrationally hate Columbus. The mayor of Syracuse was born just two years after the release of Star Wars. He neither belongs to the Democrat nor Republican Parties, but, rather, he is proud member of Independence and Reform Parties of New York. Now 43, a year into his second term, he seethes with an obsession to get Columbus, at any cost.

Mayor Walsh follows a cynical playbook to blame the ills of a city on the Genoese explorer who died over 500 years ago and who, by the way, never set foot on the mainland United States.

The time is now to decry the failings of Syracuse. Consider for a moment how the city has a 36 percent poverty rate under Mayor Walsh. That’s 123 percent more than the national average!! Consider how crime has gotten so bad that the mayor seeks to pay gang members to stay out of trouble! The price tag registers between $100 to $200 per hooligan, according to the new proposed program.

Everyone knows that the removal of a statue will not alleviate such urban ills. Yet, the young mayor is insistent to tear down the sculpture, at the cost $150,000 in legal fees, paid for by taxpayers!

The Italians of Syracuse are tough. They mobilized effectively when Mayor Walsh announced his intentions to strike down the edifice. A combination of savvy politics, creative public relations and stalwart legal advocacy on the part the Columbus Monument Corporation has kept the Columbus Monument in place.

Nicholas J. Pirro, the Onondaga County Executive for some decades, now retired, was able to craft a formidable defense of Columbus. A stacked deck against the Italians encompassed city hall, the local legislature, the local historical society, Syracuse University and the local press. The Columbus Monument Corporation circumvented censorship of their cause through an excellent web site to accompany frequent emails to win supporters. The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, under the leadership of Judge Basil M. Russo, provided the Italians of Syracuse with national exposure and, even, went so far as to file an amicus brief to support their case in the current appeal. Mr. Pirro and company created lawn signs delivered to thousands of citizens with the message to keep Columbus Monument in Syracuse!

Winning in the court of public opinion came with winning in the trial court last year. Now, it is time for a rematch. It is time for a second victory in court!

A number of the best and brightest attorneys of upstate New York have volunteered their time and expertise to help the Columbus Monument Corporation. Anthony J. Pietrafesa has done an exceptional job in leading the legal team. They include Senator John DeFrancisco (ret.), Marc Malfitano, Judge Anthony Aloi (ret.), Frank Veronese, Judge Anthony Paris (ret.), John DiLauro, Anthony Rivizzigno and Mike Vavonese.

Italian Americans can tune in to see the work of these exceptional attorneys in a cause we all support. We pray for their victory!

God save the Columbus Monument of Syracuse! God save Columbus Day in America!

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about the Columbus Monument Corporation at their web site:

Underway is a Go-Fund-Me page to help keep the Columbus Monument in Syracuse:

The appeals court case will be live streamed this Monday, April 3rd at the following link:

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations features their web site at


Basil M. Russo and COPOMIAO Make The Case for Italian Americans to be Deemed a Protected Class
- Attorney George Bochetto Petitions The U.S. Supreme Court
- All Things Change If Italian Americans are Victorious
- Petition Filed on March 14th, The Day of Infamy When Italians Were Hung by Lynch Mob in New Orleans

By Truby Chiaviello

Basil M. Russo remains resolute.

The fight is onward.

To the U.S. Supreme Court we go!

The next battleground is the biggest.

Judge Russo leads the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO). This past January, he and COPOMIAO made history when, through their youth committee, headed by John Viola and Patrick O’Boyle, convened the first-ever national Italian American youth summit.

Hence, the strategy is to offer a carrot and stick by Judge Russo and his team at COPOMIAO.

The carrot: Entice coming generations to proudly embrace their Italian American heritage.

The stick: Keep fighting! We advocate our cause and defend our legacy at school board, municipal and city meetings, and, of course, in the courts; and now, the third co-equal branch of the United States government.

The U.S. Supreme Court!

COPOMIAO has as its attorney, the incomparable George Bochetto, a weaver of legal miracles against Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia to win one court case after the other in that city. Mr. Bochetto has now been given the green light by Judge Russo and COPOMIAO to bring their case to the highest court in the land.

If the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, and if Italian Americans win, then everything changes. No more Columbus Day eliminations at the municipal and state levels. No more tearing down Columbus statues. No more denying the contributions of Italians in our elementary and secondary schools.

We will be, and rightly so, deemed a protected class.

Mr. Bochetto filed his petition to the U.S. Supreme Court on March 14; a day of infamy for Italian Americans. It was on this day, in 1891, when the call rang out in New Orleans to abduct 11 Italian immigrants to hang em high.

The worst case of mass lynching in America’s history remains a lesson for us all. These 11 men were hung for one reason, and, for one reason, alone: They were Italian. Hence, we cannot rely on others to do our fighting for us. We have to come together to take our cases to court, to advocate our cause in government, to defend our legacy at school board and municipal meetings.

We can no longer remain complacent. We can no longer remain silent.

Consider for a moment the reaction to the mass lynching in 1891. How most people in power felt about Italians then (and now) were best displayed by the likes of The New York Times and Teddy Roosevelt. America’s newspaper of record praised the lynchings! Uncle Teddy, in a letter to his sister, sided with the mob! He wrote: “Personally, I think it a rather good thing.”


Was Italy about to declare war against the United States? Yes, indeed! And for good reason. How would America feel if 11 of her citizens were taken from their homes and killed in another country for no reason? That’s how Italy felt!

Never mind we knew we could win a war against Italy. America had become one of the strongest nations by then. No, a conflict was to be avoided because many Americans shared Italy’s indignation at what happened in New Orleans. Most Americans did not cheer the mass lynching of Italians as did the New York Times and Teddy Roosevelt. Quite the contrary, most were outraged and disgusted. War with Italy was to be prevented. The diplomatic crisis was averted thanks to the first Columbus Day and subsequent cultural celebration built on inclusion and assimilation. 

It was a night of horror on March 14, 1891. Hard to imagine now…or is it? Back then, prominent New Orleans citizens — including future mayors and governors — led the largest lynch mob ever to assemble on U.S. soil. Today, we see, not future mayors and governors - but present-day mayors and governors! - cheering on the violent mobs who destroy Columbus statues. We see the New York Times, who endorsed the lynching of Italians, as the only national newspaper who refused to run a paid ad by COPOMIAO in defense of Columbus! Message then and now: It’s okay to attack the legacy of Italians in America.

Numbering in the tens of thousands and wielding torches, rifles and rope, the mob of vigilantes stormed into New Orleans’ Parish Prison and murdered 11 Italian immigrants, all of whom had either just been acquitted or were falsely implicated in the 1890 murder of Police Chief David Hennessy.

The victims included:

• Antonio Bagnetto, fruit peddler: tried and acquitted
• James Caruso, stevedore: not tried
• Loreto Comitis, tinsmith: not tried
• Rocco Geraci, stevedore: not tried
• Joseph Macheca, fruit importer and Democratic Party political boss: tried and acquitted 330 × 190
• Antonio Marchesi, fruit peddler: tried and acquitted
• Pietro Monasterio, cobbler: mistrial
• Emmanuele Polizzi, street vendor: mistrial
• Frank Romero, ward politician: not tried
• Antonio Scaffidi, fruit peddler: mistrial
• Charles Traina, rice plantation laborer: not tried

The modern spin encompasses The Godfather mentality. These 11 men were lynched because…they were Mafia!

Mob conspirators claimed that Mafia influence swayed jurors, despite no evidence; and according to, the court proceedings surrounding Chief Hennessy’s murder marked the genesis of Italian American mafia tropes that persist today (from boorish Saturday Night Live sketches, to Hollywood’s repetitive stereotypes).

Italian Americans and leaders of the kingdom of Italy were outraged by the mass lynching. Italy broke off diplomatic relations and recalled its ambassador from Washington, D.C. Then-President Benjamin Harrison, in turn, removed the U.S. legation from Rome. 

With a looming presidential election and a deepening diplomatic crisis, President Harrison urged communities across the nation to celebrate Columbus and show their patriotism.

It was a major success, as more than one million people gathered in New York City on Oct. 12, 1892, to honor Columbus Day and cheer on the 40,000-strong parade (the larger-than-life NYC celebration took place exactly 400 years after the navigator first landed in what was deemed the New World, and it also jumpstarted the mass dissemination of the freshly scripted Pledge of Allegiance).

The next day, on Oct. 13, 1892, the towering Columbus Circle statue was unveiled in front of thousands of people. And just like that, the deep cultural connection between Columbus and Italian Americans was cemented.

President Harrison had successfully quelled the boiling diplomatic tensions, but he would ultimately lose the presidency to Grover Cleveland.

Despite the outpouring of support, Italian Americans would go on to experience crushing suppression across the United States.

At least 40 more lynchings of Italians took place on U.S. soil, and during WWII, 600,000 Italian immigrants and Italian Americans were deemed enemy aliens by order of the U.S. government — despite the fact that more than one million Italian American soldiers were fighting and dying in Europe and the South Pacific to protect America’s freedoms.

Many of these “enemy aliens” were surveilled, stripped of their livelihoods and native language, and were forced to leave their homes; and some were even sent to internment camps. Infamously, Joe DiMaggio’s father, a fisherman in California, had his boat commandeered by the U.S. government.

Columbus statues and monuments were installed in Italian communities across the U.S. to fuel assimilation and combat discrimination during this decades-long period of widespread racism and sedition.

They were paid for by poor Italian Americans who spent years rounding up funds to pay for the statues.

Columbus Day became a permanent national holiday in 1934 when Congress, after lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, authorized President Franklin D. Roosevelt to declare Oct. 12 as the designated date. In 1971, Columbus Day was made a federal holiday on the second Monday in October.

Despite this history, Columbus statues have been reinterpreted as symbols of hate, enslavement and colonialism by misguided reformists (the irony is astounding).

If only everyday folks knew the full story, they’d understand why a large segment of today’s Italian Americans are fighting to preserve the Columbus statues and parades.

In 2022, COPOMIAO (led by Italian Sons and Daughters of America President Basil M. Russo) worked directly with the White House in crafting the latest federal Columbus Day proclamation, which examines and clarifies this overlooked and under-appreciated history.

The Conference of Presidents is also working closely with the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission (NJIHC) on the national rollout of an equitable, diverse and inclusive curriculum model that uses heritage as a guide to better educate U.S. students in both public and private schools. It is titled: The Universality of Italian Heritage.

In Syracuse, N.Y., the Columbus Monument Corp. won a lawsuit in March 2022 that blocked the removal of the city’s Columbus statue. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh has appealed the ruling, and, in the process, is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on the misguided legal effort.

In Chicago, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans is working with city officials in the hopes of promoting Columbus and easing the violent crime that has plagued the city. JCCIA President Ron Onesti told WGN that Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas has agreed to hear arguments over returning a historic Columbus statue to Grant Park.

In Pittsburgh, Italian Sons and Daughters of America is suing to save the city’s Columbus statue. The suit is currently in the appeal process.

And finally, after a decade of holding class on the second Monday in October, Columbus Day will once again be celebrated during the 2024-25 school year in New Canaan, Connecticut.

The New Canaan Board of Education passed a motion 5-4 this past January to reestablish the holiday.

As Judge Russo says, “There’s much to fight for — and much to look forward to — as Italian Americans young and old come together to honor their ancestors.”

Editor’s Note: The web site for COPOMIAO is


- The new international museum dedicated to the ninth art opens in Pordenone, Italy

By Truby Chiaviello

The acronym says it all.


Palazzo Arti Fumetto Friuli is akin to a punch, slap and kick when abbreviated. Such are the words for action endeared by many in the pages of superheroes and other figures of the comic book world.

PAFF! comes with the sub title - International Museum of Comic Art.

A main commune in Italy’s northeast, Pordenone will host the next great tourist attraction to celebrate another aspect of visual stimuli found all over Italy.

PAFF! officially opened on March 10th.

Italy’s Ministry of Culture is touted a key sponsor for the museum along with the Regional Authority of Friuli Venezia Giulia and the Municipality of Pordenone. The world’s greatest comic book artists will be featured in “a new permanent collection, boasting a multimedia library and, by the end of the year, an archive with climate-controlled storage,” says Cecilia Sandroni, a representative of the museum.

Giulio De Vita is the founder and artistic director of PAFF! He sees an in-depth study of comic book art as most appropriate for Italy, when compared to other museums with a similar mission elsewhere in Europe and the United States.

An expert in comic book art will be the museum’s curator, Luca Raffaelli. His task will be to manage the permanent collection of some 200 pages of famous comic book artists to accompany 500 sketches, scripts and designs. On display, also, will be copies of rare comic books and the films and television shows they inspired; all within a renovated villa to contain a space of almost 24,000 square feet.

PAFF! will compose nine sections of extraordinary comic book art by the likes of Carl Barks, Milton Caniff, Giorgio Cavazzano, Will Eisner, Floyd Gottfredson, Chester Gould, Benito Jacovitti, Magnus, Milo Manara, George McManus, Andrea Pazienza, Hugo Pratt, Alex Raymond, Charles M. Schulz and Art Spiegelman.

“A sculpture by Ivan Tranquilli will also be on display,” says Miss Sandroni, “while Davide Toffolo has created a board for the museum introducing ‘proto-comics,’ illustrated stories (for example those decorating Trajan’s Column or drawings in nineteenth-century publications), which came before the birth and success of the comics industry.”

Comic book art is about 100 years old, claims Luca Raffaelli. He says, “We encounter first the birth of the Sunday pages in color supplements of American newspapers, and later strips and comic books. Meanwhile, in Italy we find the newspaper format (like that used for Corriere dei Piccoli) and the strips of Tex, which then led to the success of the eponymous format.”

Besides the United States and Italy, key countries in the development of comic books were France and Japan.

PAFF! will be unique among other comic book museums because the curator and staff will seek to compare the original artwork with what eventually was shown in newspapers and books. “The museum emphasizes the surprising formats adopted for the publication of some works, and demonstrates interaction between comics and other disciplines (cinema, painting, fashion, design, the avant-garde, theatre and literature) and fields (education and entertainment),” says Miss Sandroni. “It also clarifies better than ever before the relationship between comics and the communications industry, enabling audiences of different cultures, ages and origins to explore new themes and languages.”

Form followed function to dictate the creation of comic book art. “A good example of this is the Sunday comic Flash Gordon, in a large and eye-catching color version, then reduced to a black-and-white pocket format,” says Miss Sandroni. “Another is L’eternauta, a science-fiction comic first created in horizontal ‘Argentine format’ in the fifties (renowned for having foretold the tragedy of Los Desaparecidos), which became a success in Italy in the vertical Lanciostory format twenty years later. And then there is Maus by Spiegelman, which began life as a supplement in an underground magazine and a distribution of just a few thousand copies, before becoming one of the most famous graphic novels globally, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.”

The stages of comic book publishing are featured in the permanent collection. The museum hosts 56 touch screens, to provide visitors a multi-media interaction with comic art.

PAFF! will be at the forefront in the preservation of comic book art for future generations. Miss Sandroni says that “by the end of 2023, the International Museum of Comic Art will also boast an archive with climate-controlled storage for original pages, drawings and publications in the Museum’s collection. The archive will be equipped with a precision high-energy-efficiency system to keep the environment at a constant temperature for relative humidity.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured are examples of current exhibits of comic book art at PAFF; Giulio De Vita, Chairman and Artistic Director of PAFF! International Museum of Comic Art and Luca Raffaelli, curator of the PAFF! permanent collection International Museum of Comic Art. Source: Cecilia Sandroni. The web site for PAFF is


Opinion Writer and Reporter for PRIMO Seeks to Represent the 18th District
- A liberal Democrat in the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- Proud Italian American, Proud Roman Catholic
- PRIMO endorses

Dr. Christopher R. Binetti writes for PRIMO’s web site about issues concerning Italian Americans. His essays and opinion pieces stem from his passion for his Italian identity and for political science; the latter of which is the subject of his doctorate earned from the University of Maryland.

Dr. Binetti announces today that he is running for the Democratic nomination for the New Jersey State Senate in the 18th Legislative District. The primary election is scheduled for June 6th. Unaffiliated, or independent, voters can register as a Democrat at their respective polling places before they cast a ballot. Republican voters have to re-register in April to vote in June.

“I am an Italian American,” Dr. Binetti proudly proclaims. “I am the only Italian American running for State Senate in the 18th Legislative District of New Jersey in 2023.”

Edison, East Brunswick, Metuchen, Highland Park, South Plainfield, South River and Helmetta make up the 18th district. “If you live in these towns and are registered to vote, I am hoping that you will vote for me,” says Dr. Binetti.

In the past, Dr. Binetti has written critically of Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., a Democrat and current state senator representing the 18th district. “Senator Diegnan has not been responsive to the needs of Italian Americans,” Dr. Binetti says. “I am trying to ensure that a bill is passed in the (NJ) Legislature to recognize Italian Americans as a minority group, so that we can finally achieve civil equality and get diversity, equity, and inclusion and affirmative action benefits. However, Senator Diegnan has opposed this bill for years. I have tried to get him to sponsor it, or at least support it, but he refuses.”

Not only proud to be an Italian American, Dr. Binetti is also proud to be Roman Catholic. He considers himself moderately pro-life and a liberal Democrat, in the tradition of President Franklin Roosevelt. Dr. Binetti is also disabled. “The Democratic Party establishment and the State of New Jersey have made things hard for me,” he says. “Most people of my district are moderately religious and oppose late-term abortions. However, Senator Diegnan has voted in favor of the New Jersey Democrats’ support for abortion, even protecting all late-term abortions.”

Dr. Binetti sees systemic discrimination as firmly established in New Jersey. The targeted groups are Italian Americans, Catholics, pro-lifers and the disabled. “When I sued the State of New Jersey, partly for its systemic ethnic discrimination against Italian Americans, the State laughed at me,” he says. “The interconnected nature of the Party and the State vaguely resembles the system in China, though too a much, much lesser degree. Representatives pick their constituents, not the other way around.”

New Jersey is no stranger to the gerrymandering process to ensure one party stays in power. However, Dr. Binetti claims a new trend is to target areas of specific ethnicity, religion and other demographics to stifle their voices. He says, “The State has drawn legislative districts that suppress the votes of Italians, Indian Americans, and the religious, among others, by using total population, including the unauthorized population, rather than obeying the State and federal constitutions to only count the legal population.”

Dr. Binetti hopes to unite the interests of residents who claim lineage to Italy with those who claim lineage to India. He utilizes a term called mal-representation; to indicate how illegal immigration and gerrymandering diminishes the constitutional rights of these of his main constituents. “Italians and Indian Americans have much in common,” says Dr. Binetti. “I will seek to form a broad coalition in order to defeat Senator Diegnan.”

Dr. Binetti remains an active advocate to save Columbus Day and Columbus statues. He says, “My father’s grandparents were all from Italy, three from the Bari area in Puglia and one from Sicily. I run a small Italian American civil rights 501c3 non-profit organization called the Italian American Movement. I was active in saving the Colombo statue in New York City from an Antifa Go Fund Me. I tried to get the New Jersey Reapportionment Commission to properly represent Italian Americans. I was once assaulted by anti-Colombo Italian outside one of these meetings.”

It was during an ethics hearing in Trenton where “one of the members of the committee told me to get involved in the political process. So I run because of that,” says Dr. Binetti.

The announcement to run for state Senator came with a host of promises by the journalist and Italian American activist. Dr. Binetti says, “I will fight for Italian American civil rights. I will fight for the rights of the disabled. I will end legal ideological discrimination against pro-lifers and conservatives (really against everyone). I will fight to restrict abortions that occur before fetal viability (and no further than that). I will look into restrictions for abortion funding. I will return sanity to the Democratic Party in New Jersey while still being a left liberal. I guarantee that I will annoy everyone at least a little bit, even you.”

“My opponent does not represent his district well and his Republican opponent cannot win in November. Only by registering as a Democrat and voting for me on June 6, 2023, can you defeat the incumbent.”

Editor’s Note: PRIMO knows Dr. Binetti will make an outstanding state senator in New Jersey. We urge residents of the 18th district to vote for him this June. Dr. Binetti invites prospective voters to speak with him directly by calling him at 732-549-2635.


A Nightmare Is Now Anchored Off The Coast of Piombino
- For Rome, the orders of the EU override protests of Italians
- Threat of environmental catastrophe is now ever-present for fishing village
- What sanctions against Russia have wrought
They are shills.

By Truby Chiaviello

Today’s leaders…

You can be in a whole different country. You can be 1,800 miles (2,877 kilometers) from the place of concern. You can have no connection, no agitation, no danger from a conflict far, far away.

Yet, you - the good people of Piombino - must pay the price!

Thus, says Mario Drahi. Thus, says Giorgia Meloni. Thus, says Italy’s parliament. Thus, says the European Commission!

Piombino is a city by the sea in Italy with not a scintilla of historical connection to Russia or Ukraine. Nevertheless, she is to face a daily threat of environmental destruction due to the war that began more than a year ago in Eastern Europe.

Look out the windows in Livorno…

She’s arrived!

The Golar Tundra.

She is a dark marvel of engineering; a seaboard re-gasifier. She is a floating petrochemical plant. She is a big boat full of chlorine bleach.

She is now anchored in Piombino’s harbor!

Sorry, good people of Piombino. You’re just fishermen. You’re just vessel captains, merchant mariners and farmers. You’re unemployed steel workers. You did everything you could. You protested. You held banners. You plodded and pleaded.

But, in the end, the Italian political class - left, right, middle - likes big governments. Piombino is small. The EU is mighty.

Mario Draghi will go down in history as Italy’s worst prime minister. His successor, Giorgia Meloni, may go down as second worst. Their message: To hell with Piombino.

Super Mario, as the praetorian guard press termed him, was in Rome for just two years when the Italian people ousted him. Rightly so. He did almost nothing for Italy. He was to be a godsend, was he not? He was supposed to show a mastery of governance equal to his rule at the European Central Bank. Setting interest rates, however, with help of super computers, is a lot easier than meeting the needs of 60 million people within the peninsula. Mario was more of a man of the EU than he was Italian.

Russian troops breached the snowy borders of Ukraine in late February, 2022. Now was the time for the West to get tough. The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, under the leadership of Ursula Von Der Leyen, lodged a barrage of sanctions, against Mother Russia. “Bring her to her knees!” was the clarion call from Brussels. Not a single molecule of oil or gas was to be purchased from Russia!

Never mind Western Europe ranks near the bottom of oil and gas reserves. Never mind that Italy might refine and distribute oil; but she doesn’t drill it. Never mind that Italy brokered treaties with Russia to get the raw material through pipe lines and container vessels to the benefit of Italian cities and industries. The European Commission, gave an order. That’s that!

Mario was always a good soldier. His political life was drastically shortened when, without Russian oil or gas, household gas prices rose almost 70 percent in Italy. The shortfall was intense.

Snam S.p.A., an energy infrastructure company, partly owned by the Italian government, had an idea. The EU liked it. Mario had to do it.

Re-gasifier ships are a rarity. Rightly so. There is no need for them. Why have a ship to turn liquefied gas into regular gas, when you have pipelines to deliver the raw material to your plants and factories? Then again, tax revenue is constant. The Golar Tundra was paid for, in part, by the Italian government. She was ordered to anchor off the coast of Piombino. The journey was to be a long one. The vessel was somewhere North.

The decision from Rome was made with zero input from the people or Piombino. There was no deliberation. No consideration.

Last summer, the houses of Piombino were empty. Where were the people? They were out in the streets, day and night, demonstrating against the eventual arrival of the Golar Tundra. Could they succeed? Could they change the minds of Italy’s national government? Could they stop the Golar Tundra from coming to their harbor? The odds were against them. Yet, summer passed. Then came fall, winter, a New Year. The re-gasifier was still nowhere to be seen.

And then…yesterday…March 20, 2023…it happened. There she breaches! The Golar Tundra has come!

What a nightmare! Golar Tundra is the ultimate burden with no benefit. The people of Piombino will get nothing out of this. No jobs. No money. No security. Just the ever-present danger of an explosion, or a massive toxic leak, an environmental disaster of some kind.

Italy’s leaders rule on behalf of the European Commission not on behalf of Italians. The Russian-Ukrainian war fulfills the addicts of international machinations. Italy is there for them to help realize a nirvana in geopolitical stimulation. They are confederates. They are fixers. They are shills.

To the good people of Piombino, PRIMO stands with you.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the Golar Tundra re-gasification vessel entering the harbor of Piombino, 3/21/23. The photograph comes by way of Cecilia Sandroni, a former resident of Piombino who now heads ItaliensPR,





Committee Chair, Joseline Pena-Melnyk, 410-842-3502


Sponsoring Delegate, MARLON AMPREY 410-841-3520

Cc Antonio Nino Mangione Maryland Representative District 42A

Here is what Albert Marra of Maryland wrote:

Dear Delegate Atterbeary:

Please join me and 268,000 Marylanders of Italian descent to oppose House Bill 446, which would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Replacing the Columbus Day holiday is not only a disservice to America's 63 million Hispanics and 17 million Italians, but an insult to the five million Native Americans in the US, who surely deserve better. Besides being against national policy (Columbus Day is still a Federal holiday with banks, post offices and federal offices closed), HB 446 would cause confusion in our region.

Please don't sanction replacing the history of our nation and the world with popular revisionist beliefs that Columbus hated, enslaved, and mistreated natives. Objective historians know the opposite is actually the true story.

I thank you and 17 million Italian Americans thank you!


Dr. Albert F. Marra,
2021-2023 President
Little Italy Lodge 2286, OSDIA
(Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America)


Thomas Damigella, vice president of the Italian American Alliance, had this to say:

Dear Sir,
I believe such an act would be a divisive and insensitive action to the Italian American community who's heritage is very closely aligned to Columbus. Also, it is unfortunate that people have been seriously misinformed about Columbus an his actual role in history. He has been maligned and blamed for actions and historical tragedies that he was not associated. Instead , they are conveniently using him as a scapegoat for the purpose of debating social justice issues of Native Americans by our own US government that took place centuries after Columbus expeditions to the New World. 
Lastly, why doe the State of Maryland pass a law that is in absolute contrast to President Biden's recent Proclamation of Columbus Day as a National Federal Holiday and it's special connection to Italian Americans.
Would it not be better to have Native American celebrate their own day on August 9th which is International Indigenous People Day by the UN and also have November be National Native American Heritage Month which was already designated by President Bush in 1991.
I hope my comments give you pause to consider not to pass this bill.


Thomas Damigella
VP of IAA 


This is what Rosalinda Mannetta wrote:

This is offensive and hurtful, based on mistruths and ignorance and inspired by persons who don't know the full history of the day. This devalues ALL of the sacrifices, discrimination, and suffering endured by our ancestors, my parents and maternal grandfather included, who came to this country from Italy with ideals, dreams, strong family ties and work ethic, receiving NO help from ANYONE.

At what point do one ethnic groups' rights supercede those of the ones that helped build this country, many times at wages lower than their fellow workers. We need to promote simply being correct, respectfully learning each other's history. There are 364 other days in the span of one year, so pick another day! Also, National Indigenous People's Day is already celebrated on June 21st. Please STOP the hate! Could this be classified as reverse discrimination?

Most historians believe it's very sad and clear that many have NOT read primary sources, and in turn, don't know the truth about Columbus. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. Those who partially read of Bartolomeo de Las Casas, a 16th century Spanish landowner, friar, priest, bishop, famed early Spanish Dominican missionary, historian, and social reformer, who arrived in Hispaniola as a layman. For 12 years, he too took advantage of the 'encomienda' law , a Spanish royal land grant including ownership of Indian inhabitants, his slaves, legally abolished in 1523. 

The 4 voyages of Columbus are considered a turning point in human history, marking the beginning of globalization. On his 1st voyage, Columbus left 39 of his crewmen to trade for gold, while he sailed back to Spain. He returned to the European settlement 11 months later to find it, along with the surrounding Indian village burned and ALL of his men and the villagers, dead.

If one thinks that indigenous tribes did not war against each other, kill, rape and slaughter each other for territory, they are sadly mistaken. The Carib tribe were even cannibals who ate other natives and also Europeans. All humans have engaged in ugly practices, as ALL nations, or tribes, were born with blood, NOT benevolence. It's a sad attribute of the human race, but a fact. Most importantly, in this case, Columbus did not commit the atrocities or genocides ascribed to him by misinformed malcontents of today. Those atrocities were at the hands of many Spanish administrators such as Roldan, Orvando, and Bobadilla.

So, PLEASE, READ the full history before attempting to destroy a great explorer's good name and maliciously tearing down his statues.




Primo Interview
Retired NYPD Detective, Anthony Celano, Pens a Fascinating Tale of Mystery in “The Case of the One Eared Wolf.”
- The author brings real-life police experience to writing fiction
- One of three novels in his Sgt. Markie series

We all love a good mystery. What attracts us is not only the circumstances of murder, but the lead character recruited to find the killer. Anthony Celano, retired NYPD detective, gives us a character, Detective Sergeant Al Markie, who is equally intriguing as he is likable. PRIMO interviewed the author about his second installment in the Sgt. Markie series, “The Case of the One Eared Wolf.”

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

My dad's family came from Abruzzi and my mother from Calabria. Both parents were born in NYC. My mother, born in 1916, lost her parents when she was two years old. She was raised by her grandmother. My father, born in 1907, and his five siblings, were placed in an orphanage until his mother, a widow, remarried. The children were then taken out of the orphanage and a half brother and step brother were added to the family. Tough times.

The Case of the One Eared Wolf” is a wonderfully written novel. What led you to write the book?

I retired from the NYPD after 22 years. I started a security business in Midtown Manhattan and retired a second time after 17 years. At that point, to keep busy, I started writing my Sgt. Markie mystery novels. I felt that since most mystery writers were never cops, I should have a credible voice. The books have ongoing characters. The Case of the One Eared Wolf was the third installment in which my characters continually evolve. The more you read about them, the more revealing they become. Fictional characters take on a life of their own and a writer plods along.

Like your protagonist Sergeant Markie, you were a police detective. How much is Markie modeled after you?

Markie is a combination of many people I've crossed paths with. He's a combination of different personalities, both positive and negative. There are definitely some characteristics we have in common. Markie is human, and not perfect. To make him more interesting to the reader, I've expanded the good and bad. I approach character development in a Jekyll-Hyde fashion. 

The book weaves an amazing tale of murder, robbery and narcotics; all based on a cold case to turn suddenly hot. How often do cold cases reappear for a new investigation, based on your police experience?

Cold cases grow warm for various reasons. In my experience, I've found that informants are a good source in solving previously unsolved cases. Sometimes, picking up an old case and reviewing it years after the incident can also lead to solving a cold case. People die/perpetrators die, etc., and circumstances change over time. People become more willing to provide information they previously withheld when the threat is removed.

What are the key attributes to being a good detective?

Tenaciousness and determination to keep digging is key. Having street smarts also goes a long way. Thinking a bit like a crook is helpful. Having the ability to communicate with  people in various ways, depending on circumstances, is also an asset. 

What did you find most challenging in writing "The Case of the One Eared Wolf"?

Identifying the time an author is most creative is a key challenge. Early morning, middle of the night, etc. Finding your creative sweet spot saves time and reduces frustration. Knowing what to cut out of a novel is also a challenge. As you write, re-write, re-work, etc…sometimes you put too much down on paper. This needs to be trimmed to tighten the story and keep it within the parameters you desire in terms of words and pages. As far as “The Case of the One Eared Wolf,” figuring out a way to conclude the story was most challenging. For me, I travel many roads easily. However, at some point I must arrive at a finale. Finding a creative appropriate end at times can be difficult.

Editor’s Note: PRIMO gave rave reviews to “The Case of the One Eared Wolf,” and other novels by Detective Celano, i.e., “The Case of the Crosseyed Strangler” and his brand new, “The Case of One Too Many Wives.” These novels are available at Amazon at the following link:



How Many Italians Are There Worldwide?
- What are The Most Important Issues for People of Italian Ethnicity Outside Italy and United States?
- Australian and Brazilian of Italian Heritage Express Their Views to the Author

By Dr. Silvio Laccetti

Americans, particularly Italian Americans, are barely aware of the dimensions of the Italian diaspora - the settlement of Italians across the globe.

People of Italian heritage have played major roles with significant presence in a number of countries. A brief listing shows that:

1. Italy has 60 million people
2. Brazil has 32 million people of Italian heritage, or 15 percent of that country’s total population
3. Argentina has 25 million people of Italian heritage, a whopping 62.5 percent of that country’s total population
4. The United States has an estimated 17 million, about 6 percent of total population. Are we being undercounted. The the National Italian American Foundation thinks so. They claim the number could be as high as 25 million, since the census department stopped asking about Italian ethnicity in this century.
5. Venezuela, 1.7 million, or 6 percent, of this country’s population are of Italian heritage;
6. Canada, 1.5 million, or 4.5 percent of this country’s population have ancestors who were Italian;
7. Australia, 1 million or 4.4 percent, are Italian
8. Uruguay, 1 million, but 40 percent of that country’s population are Italian ethnicity.

If you are wondering, U.S. cities, with the most Italian Americans, are: New York City, 1 million, followed by Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston with 500,000 each. The biggest concentration of Italian Americans is in the Northeast with New York and New Jersey leading the way. The municipality with the highest percentage of Italian Americans is Fairfield, New Jersey, at 50 percent of that town’s population.

I was intrigued by these statistics, and so decided to ask two individuals associated with the work of my Foundation about issues facing their Italian communities, one from Brazil, the other from Australia. It would appear that the two uppermost issues for Italian Americans concern 1) the Columbus controversy and 2) Italian Studies in public schools. How does this compare to the interests foremost on the minds of Italian Brazilians and Italian Australians?

First, I inquired of Bill Macina to give me the lay of the land in Brazil. The peak Italian migration to Brazil occurred at about the same time in the United States, 1870-1920, with a smaller flow occurring after World War II. Atypically, Bill is a triple mover. His paternal grandparents came to the the United States from Italy. As a student, Bill lived in Paramus and afterwards, in Washington Township. In later adulthood, however, he moved to Brazil to establish his successful business, ITAMBRAS.

With regard to the two issues of importance to Italian Americans, Bill states that Columbus in a non-issue for him in Brazil. There are very, very few monuments dedicated to Columbus in Brazil, which, after all, was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Cabral. October 12th is celebrated there as a quasi-religious "Children's Day"! On the second matter, about the maintenance and expansion of Italian language and cultural studies. Unlike here in the United States, the younger generations in Brazil are concerned with this matter. They lobby for more Italian Studies in their respective school’s curriculum to display a strong interest in obtaining dual Italian-Brazilian citizenship. These trends are particularly evident in Bill's adopted hometown of Serra Negra, outside Sao Paolo, which garners an impressive 90 percent of population of Italian heritage.

My second contact is Italian Australian, Zack Facione. He is an amazingly accomplished world class scholar-athlete, a seven time All-American track star who is finishing up a Master's degree at Wake Forest University, North Carolina. Interestingly, in the heart of that state, Zach is identified by peers and associates as Australian, rather than a person of Italian heritage!  

Regarding the Columbus controversy, in Australia, as in Brazil, there are very few markers to pay tribute to the Great Navigator. Of course, Australia was "discovered" by the Dutch in 1606 and re-discovered by British Captain James Cook in 1770, long after the Columbian voyages to the New World.

As for Italian Studies, as we saw in Brazil, there is a growing interest among young Italian Australians to learn more about their heritage, perhaps as tourism to Italy is rising. But in schools and universities, Italian language is being cut out, totally. Indeed, one university has ceased teaching any foreign languages, stating that this study is not compatible with its mission, whatever that may be! No wonder why Australia is called the "graveyard of languages.”

Zach lives in a suburb of Sydney, a major city to feature its own "Little Italy.” There is no such place in his American home of Winston-Salem. The best he can do is visit Dioli's Italian Market for some Italian specialities!

I conclude by urging all readers to delve more into the dynamics of today’s Italian diaspora and consider the topics raised in this essay in connection with the geography and politics of your respective hometowns.

Editor’s Note: Silvio Laccetti, Ph.D. is a retired professor of history who had been a national columnist for 20 years. His self-named Foundation promotes Italian heritage and culture in the United States and abroad. 3/14/23


America’s Foremost Catholic University Will Let Students View Pornography but Not Murals of Columbus
- Sexually Explicit Films Can Be Seen Anywhere on Campus
- Not So for Paintings Depicting Columbus’ Journey; They Remain Covered in Sheets at Old Main

By Truby Chiaviello

Students at the University of Notre Dame, the country's most famous Catholic institution of higher learning, in South Bend, Indiana, will have no problem watching a bare all film, such as "Deep Throat," on campus.

However, paintings by Luigi Gregori depicting Columbus' discovery of the New World, at the campus main building, will remain hidden from view.

The student senate voted, last week, not to ban pornography from campus WIFI. Yet, the Columbus murals, located inside the main building, are covered in sheets, as deemed, in 2020, offensive by some faculty members and school president, Father John I. Jenkins.

False and unfounded accusations to claim Christopher Columbus was a sex trafficker, among other nefarious deeds, were among key factors in the censoring of murals, 12 total, at Notre Dame. Yet, a number of pornographic films, such as "Deep Throat," made in 1972, are clouded by credible accusations by female stars, who say they were forced to make the films under threats of violence and blackmail. Such assertions were not persuasive, in contrast with those made against Columbus, in the debate to allow pornography at Notre Dame.

Last year, Pope Francis spoke out against pornography when he said, "The devil comes from there [pornography]. The pure heart that receives Jesus every day cannot receive this pornographic information."

Nevertheless, Notre Dame students will be free to watch, on their desktop and laptop computers and smartphones, anywhere on campus, "Deep Throat," and other films with such titillating titles as "Babylon Pink," "Hotel Erotica," and "Flesh Gordon," just to name a few.

The mission of Notre Dame reads, in part, "...a Catholic academic community of higher learning, animated from its origins by the Congregation of Holy Cross."

As commissioned by Notre Dame in 1880, Italian artist Luigi Gregori sought to capture the fullness of Columbus's discovery by painting 12 murals inside the campus main building. An image of the Holy Cross underscores the introduction of Christianity to North and South America by Columbus.

Last year, Pope Francis made an address at Saint Peter's Square to expound on that day's Gospel reading. An excerpt from the Book of Matthew contained the words, "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Pope Francis defended the image of the cross when he said, "There is no true love without the cross...the cross is not scary, because He is always at our side to support us in the hour of the most difficult trial, to give us strength and courage."

Paintings of Columbus to contain Catholic symbols at various phases of his cross-Atlantic journey, may be considered non-inclusive or, perhaps, derogatory, even insulting, by Notre Dame officials. One mural shows Columbus at first landfall, with arms raised, giving thanks to God, with the cross behind him. A restrictive policy remains in place: Such an illustration of salvation to proffer the life of Columbus is not allowed for public view at Notre Dame.

Editor’s Note: The article was posted on 3-11-23.


Primo Interview
Eugene DiCesaris Journeys to the Prairies and Hills of the Wild West in His New Book, “Clayton Sharp: Messenger of Warning.”
“…the Western has always appealed to me largely because of its emphasis on individualism, the sprawling beauty of the landscape, the diversity of cultures and lifestyles, and the ultimate struggle between right and wrong.”

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

My family came from several locations in Italy: my father's paternal line came from the Ferentillo area, and his mother's line came from Sicily, primarily from the San Cataldo/Caltanisetta region. Mom's paternal line was mostly in northeastern Italy--Udine, and the such, with her mother's genealogy located near and around Naples. Parenthetically, I've never been to Italy, but my wife and I are hoping to go next year. We're really excited about this, and are starting to learn some Italian.

What led you to write a Western?

I grew up watching westerns in the late fifties and early sixties. It seems--and I think I’m only slightly exaggerating--that there must have been a thousand cowboy programs on TV during that stretch. Also, living behind a large diary in Artesia for a few years when I was kid, lent the "flavoring and coloring" if you will. Nothing like the smells of cows, horses, droppings, and hay to whet a kid's developing sense of realism. Seriously though, the Western has always appealed to me largely because of its emphasis on individualism, the sprawling beauty of the landscape, the diversity of cultures and lifestyles, and the ultimate struggle between right and wrong.

As the title indicates, the key protagonist is Clayton Sharp. An interesting trait is his Mormon faith; where you show him in scenes of prejudice and persecution because of his religion. An overlooked negative of American history was the persecution of Mormons. What led you to make the main character a Mormon?

The idea for the story didn't start out the way it was eventually written. Honestly, I had no idea where to begin. I didn’t use an outline. I had no idea what time frame the story would be set within. Who would be my characters and how many should I have? What would be the plot? I decided to begin with Clayton (at first, he was actually named Ephraim, but that seemed cumbersome) riding into a dumpy town in what would become the opening chapter, and suddenly it all simply coalesced. I decided to write about what I knew, or in other words, to write through the lens of Mormon history. You see, though I was Catholic when I was a kid, my parents separated when I was ten and my church-going habits abruptly came to an end. For sixteen years I didn't step foot into a church, but when I was twenty-six, I made friends with a few people who were Latter-day Saints. They told me about their church, and of course,  encouraged me to join, which I did a while later, remaining a Latter-day Saint for thirty years until I went back to Catholicism in 2010 when I was fifty-six. Still, I'd come to love LDS history--especially the westward pioneering aspect of it--and found my book naturally developing into a tale I had become very acquainted with, influenced by my personal reading, and also from teaching the many church classes I had been privileged and called to conduct. Persecution was very real in LDS history, and one simply cannot dismiss it as occasional happenstance. In a very real way, the violence thrusted upon the LDS people served not only as a great sifter of the weak from the strong, but also served as an incredible bonding glue to solidfy the faithful to their beliefs. My book practically wrote itself when I decided to go in this direction. Clayton exemplified both sides of this history: at first, the reader learns Clayton used to persecute Mormons himself, but then, converted to the very faith he earlier despised. If nothing else, I think that clearly demonstrates how fluid, and subject to reassessment, our own perceptions can be at times.

The book provides engaging insights into the Wild West. What was the message you are trying to convey to readers?

I guess I was just trying to write an entertaining story. I didn't want to come off preachy, but I did want to show that people can and do change if circumstances and peripheral observers will allow. Also, I tried to portray the vast openness of the prairies, along with its mixture of beauty, peace, loneliness, and potential for danger. 

What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “Clayton Sharp”?

The most rewarding aspect of the book was that I actually wrote it! It was my beautiful wife, Eva, who suggested I try my hand at writing again. (I had made a fling of it years earlier, but got nowhere and basically gave up.) Without her loving encouragement, the book simply wouldn't exist. The most daunting challenge of writing the book, I guess, was in trying to develop a serious storyline readers would find interesting and thought-provoking, while at the same time, writing it in such a way where I could employ a little humor and light-heartedness.What are your plans for the future? Any other books in the making?

The second book in this series, "Clayton Sharp: Life or Death," is scheduled for release a few weeks from now in mid March. I'm really excited about this project because I think I actually have a stronger storyline, a wider array of compelling characters, and fast-moving action scenes that, I hope, will keep the reader turning the pages!

Editor’s Note: 3-6-23, pictured is the author, Eugene J. DiCesaris with his wife, Eva. His book, “Clayton Sharp: Messenger of Warning,” is available at the following link on Amazon.


Christopher Columbus Monument in Central Park Vandalized…Again!

By Angelo Vivolo

The malicious defacing of the Columbus memorial in Central Park late Sunday night, February 24th, is only the latest hate-inspired attack of vandalism by cowards and criminals.

Hate underlies each and every one of these incidents. Vandals have struck the Central Park statue at least three times, including this most recent attack. We have witnessed more than a dozen recent attacks on Columbus memorials across the five boroughs.

We urge the Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to prosecute this case as a hate crime— to the full extent of the law— and set an example and a warning that hate crimes will not be tolerated in New York.

The Latino community has a special connection to the Columbus memorial inside Central Park, the design of which predates all but one of the memorials devoted to Columbus in New York. The memorial is the work of the Spanish artist Jeronimo Sunol y Pujol, inspired from his previous work in the Plaza de Colon in Madrid in 1885.

New York City’s oldest memorial to Columbus was designed by pioneering artist Emma Stebbins, an icon in the gay community. That statue has been vandalized at least two times.

In 2019, when the woke culture set their sights on its takedown, the Columbus Heritage Coalition led the fight to keep Emma Stebbins’ statue in downtown Brooklyn.

Rest assured, we’ll continue the fight to drop the hate and seek the truth.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the Columbus statue vandalized and its sculptor, Jeronimo Jeronimo Sunol y Pujol. Mr. Vivolo is the president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition. The organization’s web site is


Columbus’ Revenge...
She Caved in to The Woke Mob to Remove Three Statues of Columbus
- Italian Americans of Chicago Kept a Promise of Electoral Payback
- First Time in 40 Years a Mayor Loses Reelection in Chicago
Take note other mayors of America! Your political lives will be short ones when you attack Columbus!

By Truby Chiaviello

Oppose Columbus at your peril.

That’s the key message to the stunning reelection defeat of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Touted as the first openly gay, first black female to head the city of Chicago, Lightfoot was praised as a history-making figure. Well, she has made history again: She is the first mayor in Chicago in 40 years to lose reelection.

Call it…Columbus’ revenge.

Mayor Lightfoot lost big on February 28th, coming in third with only 87,935 votes behind challengers, Paul Vallas, 173,630 votes, and Brandon Johnson, 104,306 votes. Since the top two candidates did not register more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election is to be held on April 4th between Vallas, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, and Johnson, a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, representing the first district.

A lot went wrong in Chicago the four years after Lightfoot became mayor. Mayhem and murder gripped the city. Crime went unchecked. The city posted a devastating 800 homicides in one year. Municipal services ran amok. Key corporations, most notably Boeing, left Chicago.

Mayor Lightfoot needed all the electoral help she could get. In a city of slightly less than 3 million, Italian Americans number almost 500,000. To antagonize this core constituency in Chicago was a big mistake.

In the early morning hours of July 20, 2020, Mayor Lightfoot went back on her word. She ordered not one, not two, but all three Columbus monuments in Chicago removed from their respective pedestals.

Take note mayors of America! Your political lives will be short ones when you attack Columbus.

No matter the cancel culture obsessions of today’s mainstream media and academia, most Americans do not like the removal of public works of art. People love the statues and monuments in America’s cities. Only a loud and abrasive minority will seek statues of Columbus torn down.

Mayor Lightfoot could see from the front window of her home in Chicago’s northwest side the gathering of angry youth in the early evening of July 19, 2020. The mob was intense, unruly and threatening. Chicago saw several nights of senseless riots and vandalism, as did other cities, in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Yet, Mayor Lightfoot had promised the Italian American community in Chicago that monuments of Columbus were to remain standing in their respective locations of Grant Park, Arrigo Park and the Drake Fountain. Under duress, the mayor caved in to the anti-intellectual mob. She played Judas to order all three statues removed after Midnight on July 20th.

Humiliated, Italian American residents convened a press conference to promise that a political price was to be paid for such gratuitous betrayal.

Three years later, they got their way.

Mayor Lightfoot is out.

Columbus will return.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Columbus Monument before and after removal in Grant Park, Chicago. Date of article, 3-2-23.


The Story of McPherson Square in Washington, D.C.
- Italian Americans Fight to Preserve America’s Public Spaces

By Truby Chiaviello

It’s not just about Columbus.

It’s about every public park and monument in the United States.

Italian Americans fight the good fight to retain Columbus in bronze, marble or granite. We are on the front lines to change the hearts and minds of Americans. We seek to preserve and maintain public art and urban grasslands as places of beauty, respite and reflection as originally intended; rather than a stomping ground of discounted anarchists, social protesters and the enclaves of homelessness.

Look no further than McPherson Square in Washington, D.C.

Centered between K, I and 15th Streets in the nation’s capital, the two acre containment of grass, trees and art was, for years, alienated from its original purpose. A natural refuge for city workers and pedestrians was off limits after the encampment of social protesters arose in 2011, only to morph into the bivouacs of homeless individuals to make the area unseemly and unsanitary.

To offset the rise of the Tea Party movement, the passions of discontented youth were unleashed to assist the reelection of President Barack Obama. Occupy Wall Street soon became Occupy DC when college age sons and daughters conquered McPherson Square. One of the first acts of occupiers was to throw a blue plastic drape, decorated with stars, over the 136-year-old statue in the center of the park.

Major General James B. McPherson was the park’s namesake, some years after his death in the battle of Atlanta in the Civil War. An Italian sculptor, Louise Rebisso had, by then, emigrated from Genoa to Cincinnati. He was commissioned to erect a bronze statue of the Union general. Sitting proudly on a horse, atop a granite pedestal, was the figure, unveiled by Rebisso on October 10, 1876.

One of many outstanding works of art in the nation’s capital contradicts the urban legend of sculpted horse hooves. Two in the air, in bronze, are supposed to indicate the death of the figure in battle. One is to indicate he was wounded in conflict. Four hooves on the ground means he died of natural causes. Although General McPherson was killed in battle, his horse, as depicted by Rebisso, shows one hoof raised, instead of two.

Back in 2011, rumor had spread among some DC occupiers that Rebisso’s statue depicted a Confederate general. Yes, McPherson was born in Tennessee, a slave state at the time of the Civil War. Yet, he served as a high ranking Union officer throughout the conflict under Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, before he died for the Northern cause in 1864.

Rebisso’s statue was covered in a symbolic gesture, consistent with the manifesto of Occupy DC to claim, in part, “Those with power have divided us from working in solidarity by perpetuating historical prejudices and discrimination based on perceived race, religion, immigrant or indigenous status, income, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability, among other things.”

In 2012, Occupy DC participants were forcibly removed; yet, after a model of illegal encampment was established in McPherson Square. Although homeless shelters are available in the city, the mayor and city council allowed individuals, many of whom suffer from narcotics addiction, to erect tents inside the park without threat of eviction.

This year, on February 15th, the Park Police, a federal agency under management of the Department of Interior, finally cleared out McPherson Square, after years of complaints by residents. A chest high fence now surrounds the park to allow the redemption of grass, plants and flowers.

Italian Americans lead the fight to preserve statues and monuments of Columbus in urban parks. By doing so, we help to change the minds and hearts of Americans. We take our case to court, we defend ourselves at municipal and school board meetings, we advocate eloquently on radio, television and social media. Ours is a cause without equivocation. We seek to turn the tide against the decay and destruction of our cities and urban centers. We seek a return to law and order. We seek the rightful maintenance and sustenance of all public spaces. We seek a better America.

Editor’s Note: Photographs show McPherson Square before and after the removal of the homeless encampment.


Italian-American Political Action Committee Wants UN’s August 9th as Indigenous People’s Day
- Columbus Day Remains It’s Own Day in October

By Truby Chiaviello

Touted the largest political action committee for Italian Americans is I AM PAC.

Based in Whitestone, New York, Italian-American Political Action Committee had considerable impact in last year’s congressional elections. Not just supporting candidates, however, I AM PAC now leverages its resources to retain Columbus Day as the exclusive holiday celebrated in New York and elsewhere on the second Monday in October.

I AM PAC is a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, as led by Judge Basil M. Russo. The political action committee president, James Lisa, vice president, Robert Fonti and board member, Joseph Scelsa, Ph.D., were present at a recent meeting convened by the Columbus Heritage Coalition in Manhattan. They updated members about their proposed resolution for the state of New York to adopt August 9th, as declared by the United Nations, as Indigenous People’s Day. By doing so, Columbus Day will have no interference as a celebration of the heritage and customs of Italian Americans.

“The Italian American PAC (I AM PAC) has taken declaring the United Nation’s August 9, Indigenous People’s Day not only to the NYS level but to the Federal level,” claimed the organization’s leaders. “I AM PAC has been and is still meeting with members of the Italian American Caucus in Washington and with the NYS Italian American Caucus in Albany. I AM PAC is gaining great support and is very optimistic in achieving our goal having both Federal and State recognize and join the United Nations in declaring August 9, Indigenous People’s Day.”

Leaders of other ethnic groups have been contacted by I AM PAC for purposes of gaining allies to ensure October is for Columbus Day and August is for Indigenous People’s Day.

Complimenti I AM PAC! Continua così!

Editor’s Note: Updates on efforts by I AM PAC are available on the organization’s Facebook page:


Basil Russo Enters the Legal Battle to Save The Columbus Monument in Syracuse
- COPOMIAO Files Amicus Brief in Appellate Court in New York
“…an important part of COPOMIAO’s mission is to speak on behalf of the Italian American community.”

By Truby Chiaviello

On to Syracuse…

Basil M. Russo is in no mood to rest on his laurels.

As president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian Americans Organizations (COPOMIAO), he can look back to January with a proud achievement.

From all accounts, the Italian American Future Leaders conference was a grand success. As conceived and organized by Judge Russo, John M. Viola and others of the organizations’ Youth Committee, the gathering of young Italian Americans from January 13-16 in Fort Lauderdale, reached heights beyond all expectations.

“We continue to receive written testimonials from attendees of our Italian American Future Leaders Conference expressing how excited they were to be part of our program,” says Judge Russo. “Some groups of attendees have scheduled follow up meetings in their respective communities so that they can build upon the relationships they developed at the Conference.  We will keep you posted on some of the creative ideas and programs that are initiated as a result of those meetings.”

Now…the time has come to get back into the ring.

From the warm sunny environs of Florida, it's on to battle in the cold snowy hills of upstate New York.

Judge Russo looks forward to the fight. He has given the green light to general counsel, George Bochetto, to file an amicus brief in New York’s appellate court to keep the Columbus Monument standing tall in Syracuse.

The Columbus Monument Foundation, under the leadership of Nick Pirro, a native son of Syracuse, five term political office holder, former county executive of Onondaga County, has won repeatedly, in both, the legal and public relations bouts, brought on, unnecessarily, by Mayor Ben Walsh. The Columbus Monument, as erected in 1934, remains a beautiful work of public art inside Saint Mary’s Circle, more commonly known as Columbus Circle, along Onondaga Street in Syracuse. The Columbus Monument Foundation is one of COPOMIAO’s newest members and, as such, has the backing of Judge Russo and fellow member Italian American organizations, both large and small.

“Members of the Columbus Monument Foundation, and their attorney, Anthony Pietrafesa, asked COPOMIAO to file an amicus brief with the Appellate Court expressing our support for Judge Neri’s ruling,” says Judge Russo. “An amicus brief may be filed by an organization that is not a party to a case, as is the situation here with COPOMIAO, to provide the court with information that has a bearing on the case.”

Judge Gerald Neri ruled on March 11, 2022, that Mayor Walsh had no authority to try and tear down the Columbus Monument. Before and after the showdown in court, the Columbus Monument Foundation sought to settle the dispute. They went so far as to offer, to the tune of almost $30,000, funding for other works of art by other ethnic groups in the city. Mayor Walsh pushed away the olive branch to wither in the snow. He remains adamant to upkeep the expense of taxpayers to fight the Italians in the city.

“Since an important part of COPOMIAO’s mission is to speak on behalf of the Italian American community, our legal counsel, George Bochetto, filed an amicus brief with the court expertly explaining the historical tie the Italian American community has had to Columbus, and why we support the retention of Columbus statues,” says Judge Russo.

Editor’s Note: The web site for COPOMIAO is The web site for the Columbus Monument Corporation is:


Poet and Activist, Robert Agnoli, Wants to Show the Best of Italian America to the People of the United States
- A 10 point plan for a new event
- A poem to inspire
“…Have we heard any clarification of the president’s neutralizing comments regarding Columbus Day?”

By Truby Chiaviello


Robert Agnoli, poet and Italian American activist, calls for a national venue to bring together the best and brightest among Italian Americans. The goal is to help resist the potential elimination of Columbus Day by fostering greater understanding of Italian American heritage and culture.

“As the New Year - 2023 - quickens, have we heard any clarification of the President's neutralizing comments regarding Columbus Day?” asks Mr. Angoli. “For now, I suggest we convene a public relations gathering designed to  communicate to the country, at large, who WE, Italian Americans are.”

A lead figure among Italian American creators of New York, Mr. Agnoli is a member of the Italian American Writers Association, not to mention, also, a member of the Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge, Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America. He applauds the outstanding leadership of Basil M. Russo and the unrelenting dynamism of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO). He considers “a great first step” the Italian American Future Leaders conference, as organized by John M. Viola, held in January in Fort Lauderdale.

“In my opinion, to reach beyond our community,” says Mr. Agnoli, “we must impact the thinking of America at large, the organization of a Public Relations event, which attracts nationwide coverage, as I have proposed, could achieve the next step.” 

Mr. Angoli proposes a 10 point plan to include the following:

1. Assemble a Team to Organize (5-7 members).
2.   Determine Topic and Sub-Topics.
3.   Create list of Italian Organization to Approach several re provision of Tax Exempt Status and Donation Pledge of $3,000. - $4,000 with a GOAL OF $30,000 - $50,000.
4.   Research and select a Public/Commercial Venue at which event can be held (such as a Hotel or Social Meeting Place).
5.   Seek a venue with space to accommodate circa 150-200 guests at tables with provision of Food, Drink and Stage Space for Event Chair, Leaders and Speakers. Project 4-6 hour time frame.
6.   Provide voice/video recording and microphones.
7.   Determine cost per individual attendee (circa $125-$200).
8.   Select Panel of Leaders/Celebrities to attend/speak.
9   Assemble list of Press and Media contacts.
10. For solicitation of attendees, plan initial notification a minimum of three months prior to event.

Mr. Agnoli is now looking for Italian Americans to serve on the organizing team. Meanwhile, for meditation, he offers the following words by Lisi Cecilia Cipriani, circa 1923.

Aspire To Aspire
Dedicato all'Italica Gente di Mare
The Christ bearing dove Columbus
Brought the cross unto this shore.
Hallowed us for love and duty
Evermore and evermore.
We are coming oh Columbus,
For we hold this country dear.
Glad to work and strive as you did.
Oh Columbus, we are here.
Heaven granted through Vespucci
At the call of God, Cabotto.
Westward, forward, Verrazzano
we are coming as you did.
Now! Gente di Mare. We are here.
Let us follow in your footsteps,
You who made our two countries great.
We hold this country dear
Are glad to work and strive as you did.
Our Fathers, we are here.

Editor’s Note: Please contact Mr. Robert Agnoli if interested to serve on the organizing team for his proposed national Italian American gathering. His email address is: Mr. Agnoli offers an anthology of his original poetry in “Edge City. The Chronicles of Bobby A. Un Italian in the USA,” now available at Amazon. The above article was published February 6, 2023.

Primo Interview
Marc DiPaolo Takes Readers on a Humorous Fun-Filled Ride Back to 1980s New York and Italy in “Fake Italian: An 83% True Autobiography with Pseudonyms and Some Tall Tales.

As more writers hark back to their youthful days in the 1980s, a question arises as to what the decade was really like. Marc DiPaolo provides a humorous and insightful new novel about life as a teenager and beyond in Staten Island. He conveys a realistic view of the decade of Reagan, New Wave music, Heavy Metal and big hair.

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

I’ve always thought of myself as Neapolitan. Mom’s recent genealogy work has qualified this idea a little. My closest relatives on her side were from Armento - and we still have extended family there. My dad’s family was from Salerno.

“Fake Italian” is a wonderfully written novel. What led you to write the book?

Since moving to Oklahoma in 2009 for work reasons, I miss my Italian family. Also, now that I live in a rural, mostly Southern Baptist community and eat mostly Tex-Mex cuisine, I have missed the New York and New Jersey Italian food, the more Catholic and more diverse tri-state area communities and the vibrant arts culture I grew up with. The memoir was a way for me to reconnect with all I had lost when I moved away from the East Coast. I also want my Oklahoma-born kids to know my story and about the branch of the family we haven’t lived near as they have grown up.

Why the title, “Fake Italian?”

I’ve always thought the best way for me to be Italian was to be a Renaissance man: immerse myself in art and science and opera and Fellini movies, study history and literature, eat great food, dress flashy, and commit myself to behaving religiously and politically like Saint Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis. It may have been my bad luck, but growing up, I knew a lot of Italians who cared for none of those things, kinda just modeled themselves after characters from Goodfellas, and thought I was a “fake Italian.” The book is the story of my journey figuring out that there are many ways of being Italian - by embracing my roots, studying abroad in Italy, and meeting Italians who were Italian in the same way I was. The moral of the book is, since the cultures of the different regions of Italy are all so different – with their own unique languages, foods, and world views – the very idea of differentiating between real and fake Italians is kinda stupid and destructive. It fosters bad blood between different kids of Italians throughout Italy and Italian America - and between homeland Italians and Italians who immigrated to other countries.

The book provides engaging insights into families, ethnicities, urbanity; in a humorous coming-of-age saga. What was the message you are trying to convey to readers?

When I tell my family stories to my friends who are from India, or who are Jewish or Black or Korean, they all tell me, “That sounds like my culture and my family.” The closer we look at our family dynamics, our home cultures and our histories as immigrants, the clearer it is that all the American families and immigrant communities have more in common than not. If we really think about our Italian American history, and what it is like to live in an enclave and be victims of prejudice, Italians, like me, should stand in solidarity with all newer immigrants and not oppose their being made welcome in America and treated like human beings. Our stories – Italian stories - deserve to be told. Also, stories from other cultures deserve to be told. This message is especially important as different kinds of ethnic literature is being banned from classrooms for being too “political” and not Puritan or pro-Confederate enough. I don’t think Italian stories should be banned. I don’t think Black stories should be banned, either. Still, nobody likes a sermon, so I had to make this point by telling a human and engaging story.
Also, a lot of movies and books about Italians are bloody depressing. I wanted to make my book as funny as possible for a nice change of pace. (Also…no gangsters!)

The book is primarily set in Staten Island, in the 1980s. The decade remains popular in so many areas; especially in pop culture. What makes the 80s so prolific?

A lot of folks making movies and writing books now, grew up in the 1980s. I think that’s the main reason. Also, politically, America has been a bit 80s over the past few years, and that’s a point that the Stephen King movie It really drives home. Still, a lot of these recent stories, like Stranger Things, are about a superficial revisiting of the 80s: “Remember E.T.? Remember legwarmers? Remember this Culture Club song?” I wanted to bring the whole of the 80s back, talk about news stories of the time, and recall what it really felt like to be alive then. As a wacky bonus, I’d tell the story from a NY Italian perspective, which we don’t see as often, even in this 80s nostalgia moment.

I had another goal. Even when I was being nostalgic, I didn’t want to be nostalgic in the same way a lot of classic Italian stories are. After all, most stories about Italian American families are WWII generation or Baby Boomer narratives. I wanted to write about what it was like to be a Gen X Italian American. We don’t get a lot of those stories, either. It’s time we got a chance to speak up and tell our tales.

What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “Fake Italian”?

My uncle was one of the first people who died during COVID 19. He’s one of the last of his generation. Most of the relatives I’ve grown up with have gone. In writing this book, I wanted to pay homage to and immortalize all the relatives I knew growing up who are no longer with us. I wanted to paint a loving portrait and a funny one, but also a realistic one. This meant if someone suffered from depression, had an unhappy marriage, or sometimes made jokes in questionable taste, I’d include all that in the book - not to run them down, but to make them fully fleshed out characters. (I also did plenty to show my own shortcomings when I wrote about the main character based on me: Damien.) A realistic ethnic novel isn’t worth much if it is just a sanitized, Disney-like family tale. My calculation was, the more “real” I made the characters, the more beloved they would be by readers who didn’t know them personally. That is exactly what has happened. Some of the most morally grey and flawed figures are far and away the most popular characters with people who are reading this book as a novel.

Basically, I was nervous writing the book because I wanted to be “fair” in my writing. Now there are a number of villains in Fake Italian – especially in the opening chapters about teacher and student bullies in a horrifyingly toxic junior high school – but I didn’t want any characters inspired by relatives of mine to come off as evil. My worry writing the book, and my reluctance to tell my family members I was writing and publishing it – came from my fear that they would be morally outraged that I: a) told family stories it was not my place to tell, b) made too much fun of people in a comedy like Marty when the book should have been a drama, and c) immortalized grotesque and inaccurate fictionalized versions of real people.

What I hoped would happen was that my family members would say, “YES! You brought that beloved relative back to life in these pages!” I also hoped that, if they had any issue with anything in the book, they’d thank me for presenting it as mostly a novel, making composite characters, compressing time, and changing everyone’s names. In the end, I’ve had a mix of these reactions. I think my mom has had all of these reactions. She tells me that, in the end, she likes the book – even if she prefers the funny second half to the sadder first half. I’ve got to give her credit. She read it and gave me a fair review.

Meanwhile, I have other friends and relatives who were so offended that fictional versions of them were “in” the book - whether they read it or not - that they won’t speak to me anymore! My fellow college professors who teach creative nonfiction writing tell me that is the main pitfall of writing both traditional autobiography and something like Fake Italian, which can be called an autobiographical novel, or autofiction, or a biomythography. I’m trying to be as Zen about this as I can be, but it is very upsetting. I didn’t write this book just to piss people off. My friend Fred Alsberg tried to comfort me by saying, “You’re not alone! Everyone from William Faulkner’s home town hated him and his novels.” I told him, “Yeah, that doesn’t make me feel better…”

The upside of all this is I’ve written a book that I’m very proud of. It works well as a mix of fact and fiction. It feels honest and fair. I actually enjoy reading it myself, and it seems to speak to a lot of people, Italian and not.

What are your plans for the future? Any other books in the making?

Right now I’m co-editing a collection of academic essays on Italian and Italian American science fiction, fantasy, and horror books, movies, and TV shows. The essays will focus on storytellers like Dorothy Fontana, Dario Argento, and Carlo Collodi. Italians around the world produce a lot of genre works, but we tend to be associated with only crime and literary fiction. I wanted to rectify that with my fellow editors, Anthony Lioi and Lisa Debora. Also, if I can gather the courage to do it, I want to write a sequel to Fake Italian about my time as a reporter working for The Staten Island Advance in the 1990s that ends with how 9/11 changed my life. As with this first book, it will be a funny and realistic examination of very serious issues. But…I have to find a way to not be worried about people getting mad at me and return to a place where I can write the best autobiographical novel I can and make the most honest art I can.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the author, Marc DiPaolo, now an associate professor of English at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Dr. DiPaolo is secretary at the Society of Multiethnic Literature of the United States. His book, “Fake Italian,” is available at the following link on Amazon


In Sunrise, Florida…
First-Ever Italian American Future Leaders Conference
- Young Delegates Vow to Keep Their Italian Legacy Alive and Well in America
- Basil M. Russo Gives an Impassioned Keynote Address

By Truby Chiaviello

The future is bright!

That is the message sent forth by organizers and attendees, alike, in the wake of the first-ever Italian American Future Leaders conference.

A week after the January 13-16 event, the assessment is summed up, loud and clear - Florida Forward!

“The weekend produced results beyond our wildest expectations,” says Judge Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), key sponsor of Italian American Future Leaders. “I believe that 20 years from now we will be looking back at this Conference as one of the most important events to have ever occurred in the Italian American community. We are committed to making this an annual event, and we anticipate doubling the number of attendees next year.  John Viola and his committee did an exceptional job.”

While much of the country was coping with the cold doldrums of winter; in Florida, the sun shined bright and warm for Italian Americans, 21-35 years old, to convene at the FLA Live Arena, outside Fort Lauderdale. The beautifully designed sports and entertainment complex, where the Florida Panthers hockey team currently plays, was temporarily transformed into an Italian American home away from home for young attendees.

Judge Russo gave, what may well be, the best speech of the year for Italian Americans. He welcomed delegates at Italian American Future Leaders with an impassioned keynote address to emphasize the importance of preserving and expanding our shared legacy. He conveyed how many of the greatest achievements of civilization were made by Italians, and how the torch is now passed to this new generation of Italian American leaders.

John M. Viola, chairperson of COPOMIAO’s Youth Committee, was point man to organize Italian American Future Leaders with help from committee members Patrick O’Boyle, Stephanie Longo, Rosemary De Luca, Rosella Rago and John Deike.

Mr. Viola was a model for young delegates to follow. He was the youngest person to ever head a major non-profit organization, when, at 28, he was elected chief operating officer and president of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). He served in that position for some six years. A simple Google search displays his impressive work history: Host of the Italian American podcast, co-vice president for New York City of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), member of Boards of Directors of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago, La Scuola d’Italia-Guglielmo Marconi in New York City, the Two Sicilies in America Foundation, and the American Initiative for Italian Culture (AIFIC) in Washington, D.C.

In an exclusive interview with PRIMO Magazine, some days prior to Italian American Future Leaders, Mr. Viola expressed his hope that the event could one day emulate the mighty ComicCon, the massive annual gathering of action comic book fans in San Diego. An important step in that direction, no doubt, came with this year’s surprise guests, Anthony and Joe Russo, Hollywood’s top titans, who directed Marvel Comics’ box office smashes, “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: Endgame.” Most recently, they were producers of the science fiction drama, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a likely nominee for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards. The Russo Brothers, as most film fans readily know them, were there at Italian American Future Leaders to greet and meet young delegates and, no doubt, inspire some to follow their extraordinary path in cinema.

For Anthony Russo, the older half, by one year, of the filmmaking duo, it is the legacy of his ancestors to motivate him. He said, “Our family immigrated to the U.S. from four small hill towns in the Abruzzo and Sicily. We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to those places and connect with our roots because we love and value the role our Italian cultural heritage has had in our lives.”

How Mr. Viola conceived the idea of a national gathering of Italian American youth stems from his anthropology studies at Fordham University and his community work experience. “As a person who participates in a lot of different identity groups, I started to feel like the the way people interact in person nowadays is less about a weekly meeting and more about an annual event,” he says.

Italian American Future Leaders had, in attendance, more than 100 young delegates. The gathering hosted both large and small groups of young Italian Americans to discuss different ways to preserve and celebrate heritage. Rapport among participants was had in the way of a unique game where delegates were recruited as players to conceive the best new strategies to reach Italian American youth. In the evening, there were parties, dinners and fun at the Karaoke bar singing and dancing to Italian songs.

Mr. Viola is optimistic that Italian American Future Leaders can become an annual event in the years to come. He developed a strategy for the next five years of gatherings.

Judge Russo was most enthusiastic about the outcome. “I left for home sincerely believing that our younger generations not only share our passion to preserve and celebrate our heritage, but have the talent and desire to get the job done” he says. “We all need to immediately find ways to begin entrusting leadership positions to them in our respective organizations.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Italian American Future Leaders and how young Italian Americans can participate, please log on to
The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is


Those organizations, and the number of their participants are:
Italian Sons & Daughters of America - 20
Association of Italian American Educators - 4
Garibaldi Meucci Museum - 7 
Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America - 6
Filitalia International- 5
JCCIA Chicago - 3
Columbus Monument Corp. - 3
Italian Enclaves - 2
La Festa Italiana - 2
National Italian American Bar Assn. - 2
Italian American Club of Southern Nevada - 2
Italian American Alliance - 1
Italian American Women of Iowa-1
Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture - 1
Italian American Museum - 1
Milford Columbus Committee - 1
Italian American Museum of Los Angeles- 2
Sacred Constantinian Order of St. George - 1
San Francisco Italian Athletic Club Foundation - 2
According to COPOMIAO, the remaining participants “were from outside COPOMIAO including two young men and a young lady who traveled all the way from Italy.”

To view photographs of Italian American Future leaders, please log on to


Primo Interview
Carmine Sarracino Revisits His Home in Providence, Rhode Island, for His Memoir, “Of Blood & Love, Growing Up on Federal Hill”

One of the most prolific of Italian American neighborhoods remains Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island. Carmine Sarracino looked back on his time growing up there for his memoir, “Of Blood & Love, Growing Up on Federal Hill.” Our interview with Mr. Sarracino covers his background and how the old neighborhood has changed.

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

My grandmother was from Colorno, just north of Parma. Her family was well to do, and she met my grandfather, who was from the south of Italy, when he traveled to her family's residence to tailor for them. He travelled to where customers could afford tailoring. The two fell in love. When she told her family, they were incensed that she was involved with someone from "basa Italia" ("lower Italy") and disowned her. So she and my grandfather Immigrated to America!  Amazingly romantic, no? A sort of a Romeo and Juliet story.

“Of Blood & Love: Growing Up on Federal Hill” is your memoir. What led you to write this book?

I was 52 when my son Dante was born, and 58 when my daughter Carina was born. Their children, should they have them, will not know me in the flesh. So, then, I wrote the memoir to fill out my children's knowledge of my life, and also to present myself in a tangible way to their children. It was a labor of love for family and friends,

Federal Hill in Providence is one of the celebrated Italian neighborhoods in America. What are some of the distinguishing qualities of this neighborhood that you highlight in the book? 

When I grew up on Federal Hill, in the 1950s, the adult population consisted overwhelmingly of Italian immigrants and their first generation children. The immigrants and their children remained settled on "The Hill." But those of us comprising the second generation aspired to live in homes rather than tenements, surrounded by grass and foliage rather than cement. So we moved off the hill, and took up residence in Cranston and Mount Pleasant suburbs.

Federal Hill when I grew up there was a "Little Italy" where pushcarts filled the main thoroughfare, Atwells Avenue. On summer nights, vendors pushed carts of popcorn and peanuts, crabs, and snails, along with Dell's lemonade and ice cream trucks.  

The tenements were abandoned until the wee hours. Neighbors sat together on stoops and smoked cigarettes, drank iced coffee, shared plates of pickled peppers, crusty bread, and provolone.They laughed and gossiped. 

We kids played "Kick the Can," "Wild Horse Jump the Fence" and tag football. With asphalt roads, granite curbs, telephone poles and passing cars, it was a contact sport and not the chummy game of suburban lawns.

Federal Hill was a "tough" neighborhood, a mafia stronghold, but there was no street crime, and we all left doors unlocked.  Everybody knew everybody. And the parish they belonged to.

How much has Federal Hill changed?

I have not spent a lot of time on The Hill since I left for grad school in1968. I have lived most of my life in Pennsylvania, the last 25 years in Hershey-- which has its own Italian immigrant history. Some remnants of the old days live on, mostly in the "feasts" on saint days. La festa di San Giuseppe is a good example. Lots of music in the streets, delicious food, wine, and dancing.  

But in other ways Federal Hill is an imitation of itself, and a poor one. The restaurants are upscale, elite, where dinner for two will set you back a couple of hundred dollars. A plate of la tripa, fad food du jour, will cost you the entire food budget for a month of a '50's immigrant, who bought tripe at twenty five cents a pound. 

Most of all, the demographics have inevitably changed, and Italian immigrants are as hard to find as baccala. Or a gallon of Cribari.

What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “Of Blood & Love”? 

I have a very good memory, which is a blessing and a curse. There are a lot of funny stories that had me laughing aloud. Others were hard to recall, painful, and had me wiping my eyes, but not from laughter. All in all, I found that recalling the stories of my life was like life itself. Beautiful. And painful. And beautiful.

What are your plans for the future?

I love writing, so I will always find something to write. I wrote a Civil War novel some years ago that is now out of print, and the rights are mine. I will rewrite it. Having had some tim-e to reflect on it, it's a challenge I want to take up again.

I also plan to learn to walk again. In 2019 a tick bit me, infected me with Lyme disease, and thus began a long struggle to regain health. But here too, blood and love: the support of my family has been invaluable beyond words.  If I walk again-- I mean, when I walk again-- the credit will be all theirs.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the author, Carmine Sarracino in Nevi, Italy. We pray for his recovery from Lyme disease. His Book, “Of Blood & Love, Growing Up on Federal Hill” is available at the following link on Amazon


Primo Exclusive
Organizer of First-Ever Italian American Youth Conference
- “So this is my tribe. This is where I'm safe. This is where it feels familiar.”

By Truby Chiaviello

Destinazione Florida!

Such is the call nationwide to start 2023 with the first-ever national gathering of young Italian Americans from January 13-16 in Sunrise, Florida.

Italian American Future Leaders is the titled event to organize, inspire and reinvigorate young Italian Americans to embrace their Italian heritage.

No conference is comparable.

Italian American Future Leaders is a unique idea to belong to John M. Viola, a key figure in today’s Italian America. Still in his 30s, Mr. Viola has a resume synonymous with the most important organizations and events in our burgeoning ethnic community. He is an unapologetically proud Italian American.

“We have a phenomenal culture and community that is surprisingly vibrant, yet never gets the credit for its vibrancy,” said Mr. Viola in a recent interview with PRIMO. “We have the best of the U.S. and the best of Italy, and I wouldn't want to be born anything else. You know, with all the respect that I have as an anthropologist for other cultures, I'm so glad that I was born Italian American.”

The lands south of Rome is from where Mr. Viola’s family originates. “I have a grandmother from Salerno in Campania,” he says. “My grandmother's family is from the town of Sansa. And then I have my dad's father. Although he was born near my grandmother, his family actually came from Basilicata. My mom's mother from Bari and my mom's father from Palermo. So I got a whole southern mix in my DNA.”

Married with a child, Mr. Viola says his wife is a dual citizen of the United States and Italy. “She is a daughter of immigrants. Her dad came here from Abruzzo and she also has some Lazio in her DNA. And her mom's family is Tuscan.” To cover all of Italy, “We hope our daughter marries somebody from Piedmont or Valdosta or Milan and we will be in good shape.”

To inspire children and grandchildren to embrace the in-depth history and culture of Italy becomes increasingly challenging in the multitude of diversions brought upon by today’s technology. Hence, this is a key reason to create an annual event for people from 21-35 to celebrate the culture of their Italian ancestors.

“We tend to forget that the experience changes over generations,” says Mr. Viola. “I think of myself as kind of the last tail end of the generation that was sort of staking our claim to mainstream America. For these kids, they don't have to do that. They don’t have to join the community because of any need; but, rather, because of an enthusiastic desire to participate and hopefully give back.”

Italian American Future Leaders hopes to bridge the gap between a digitized existence most appealing to Millennial and Z Generations with a more traditional forum of in-person networking and camaraderie. On their web site, Italian American Future Leaders seeks conference attendees who are “visionaries, disruptors, creators and can-doers…”


Mr. Viola says these are people who are “not necessarily doing things in the organs of the lodge or the club or the foundation but… creating their own initiatives, utilizing modern technology, new opportunities, new identity.”

Mr. Viola admits to being someone most comfortable in established settings. He likes to be the doer inside an organization with deep roots. He is a born leader with Hollywood looks and an approachable demeanor to bring people together to get things done. He was, perhaps, the youngest person to ever head a major non-profit organization. At 28, he was elected chief operating officer and president of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). He served in that position for some six years with subsequent involvement in Italian American activities. A simple Google search displays an impressive work history: Host of the Italian American podcast, co-vice president for New York City of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), member of Boards of Directors of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago, La Scuola d’Italia-Guglielmo Marconi in New York City, the Two Sicilies in America Foundation, and the American Initiative for Italian Culture (AIFIC) in Washington, DC.

Of all the organizations, however, it remains the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), under the dynamism of President Basil M. Russo, where Mr. Viola has likely found his true calling. He is chairperson of that organization’s Youth Committee, where the idea of a youth conference was conceived and developed. Mr. Viola was called upon to plan the event and provide the necessary details for support among members of COPOMIAO. The Cleveland chapter of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and Judge Russo provided seed money for the conference. They agreed to pay hotel rooms for young people coming to the event. Member organizations of COPOMIAO were invited to sponsor an attendee with only having to pay for the plane fare to the location outside Fort Lauderdale.

How Mr. Viola conceived the idea of a national gathering of Italian American youth has a lot of do with what he learned about contemporary society in college. As an anthropology major in Fordham University, he knew well how the alienation of modernity made harder the selling of civic participation.

“Everybody told me that the ‘bowling alone’ conundrum was what was going to be the death of institutional organizations within the community,” Mr. Viola says. “The idea that nobody joins bowling leagues anymore. They all go out, you know, when and if they want. As a person who participates in a lot of different identity groups, I started to feel like the the way people interact in person nowadays is less about a weekly meeting and more about an annual event.”

It was at an annual gala for NIAF in Washington, D.C. where Mr. Viola had his epiphany. As a young adult, he realized the fullness of his ethnic identity to embark on a path of greater involvement and eventual leadership in the Italian American community.

He recalls, “A dear friend of our family who had worked with my dad…said to me, Oh, you know, you you should be my date for the NIAF gala. And I had never heard of it. Well, I was at the adult table, and frankly, I thought it was pretty boring. I didn't know there was a youth gala downstairs. It was only after I got to the lobby of the Hilton where somebody was playing Jerry Vale on the piano, and all of a sudden, all these kids my age came up from the youth gala and started singing and it was like, okay, I am really cool right now because I know all the words. So this is my tribe. This is where I'm safe. This is where it feels familiar. And I started going with my friends from college every year after that and, you know, subsequently got more and more and more involved. I think we need that again, but we need it where that portion of it is not necessarily an accidental overflow of excitement.”

A goal in place for Italian American Future Leaders has already been reached, according to Mr. Viola. The number of hotel rooms, originally slated, were filled at total capacity with 100 attendees. More rooms had to be added to house sponsors and staff. Such is the better-than-expected outcome for a national conference without precedence in the Italian American community.

“This is all new,” admits Mr. Viola. “Other models that we've tried to benchmark against were very different. So I think if it grows the way we would like to see it grow, I think eventually having a the multiple components to it, maybe one of them that is high school and college leadership, part of the problem that we encountered as we discussed it was, you know, get the scheduling and getting people in high school and college that were free at the right time to come in and participate.”

Mr. Viola is optimistic that Italian American Future Leaders can become an annual event in the years to come to help sustain our Italian American way of life. “I think it's just a matter of getting people's attention and then delivering to them an experience that's worth the time. And I hope we can do that. That's the big goal.”

Photographs: John M. Viola co-hosts the Italian American Podcast with Rossella Rago and Patrick O’Boyle, pictured, and Dolores Alfieri Tarantino and Anthony Fasano. Mr. Viola is pictured next to Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, who is a key sponsor of the Italian American Future Leaders. Mr. Viola was, likely, the youngest person, at 28, to lead a major non-profit, as he did for the National Italian American Foundation.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about Italian American Future Leaders and how young Italian Americans can participate, please log on to To read John M. Viola’s bio and other offices of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to

The Christopher Columbus Memorial Stays in Place in Front of Borough Hall

By Angelo Vivolo

Pioneering 19th-century artist Emma Stebbins might well have been the latest victim of the irrational frenzy that seeks to wipe away all memory of Christopher Columbus.

Stebbins, a trailblazer who was gay, was the first woman awarded a New York City art commission for her interpretation of the Great Admiral of the Ocean Sea. In 2021, a small group known as Take Down Columbus set their sights on ridding Stebbins’ Columbus statue, commissioned in 1863 and one of her earliest works. Determined to prevent Stebbins and Columbus from being carried off into the night, a group of courageous New Yorkers stepped forward, demanding that Community Board 2 in Brooklyn Heights reject Take Down Columbus. Nearly two years later, I am proud to report that Emma Stebbins and her Columbus memorial in Columbus Park have prevailed, thanks to a coalition of activists and their appeal to drop the hate and seek the truth.

As we begin 2023, we thank all who have supported the Columbus Heritage Coalition and its mission, as we say, to “Drop the hate. Seek the truth.” We are proud of what we all have achieved together. The new year will bring new challenges, including a proposal in the New York State Legislature that abolishes Columbus Day and renames the holiday Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Rest assured, we will continue to reach out, build bridges and protect our statues, holidays, and heritage.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Vivolo is the president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition. The organization’s web site is


The Parliamentary Representative for Italians Living in North America Looks Forward to 2023
A Christmas & New Year’s Message

By Andrea Di Giuseppe

First, I want to give you my thanks for 2022. You shared and followed my political activity and you are the reason for my change of life.

The legislative session, now underway in Italy, seeks to solve the main problems of our country. The budget law was approved before Christmas. This is a fundamental measure for the economic planning of Italy.

Some weeks ago, I felt it appropriate to present a bill to the Foreign Affairs and Budget committees. My proposal will amend article 17 of the law of February 5, 1992, number 91, re-opening the terms of reacquiring citizenship. This bill will now follow the amendment process. I am sure that it can see the light as a state law in a short time.

The theme, which I consider central to my political activity, will be carried forward with other important legislative initiatives. The challenges that await us in the next year will not discourage us from following our fixed objectives. I have no intention of backing down from realizing the program for which you have voted me (in), and which for me is the only possible compass to guide me in my parliamentary activity.

From me, you will have only the facts and not empty promises. For me, it is a great honor to represent the fundamental political challenges that allow the various generations of Italians abroad to obtain the many rights they have been seeking for many years. With the new center-right government, these battles will finally be won, making us feel, notwithstanding the ocean that divides us, even more proud of being Italian. 

I also want to thank my family, who, notwithstanding the sacrifices related to the distances due to my parliamentary commitments, continue to support me. I thank my staff who, with professionalism and dedication, allows me to achieve the predefined political goals.

Thanking you for your trust and support, I send to you, to your families and to all my staff a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
With affection,

Editor’s Note: Mr. Di Giuseppe is a member of the Brothers of Italy party and represents Italian citizens who live in North America in Chamber of Deputies, lower house of Italy’s parliament. His letter was written in Italian and translated to English by Dr. Christopher Binetti. Mr. Di Giuseppe’s web site is


Primo Exclusive, 12-19-22
- New Parliament Member Represents Italian Citizens in North America
- Member of the Fratelli d’Italia
He and his party were the restorers of Italian Democracy

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

I was honored to interview, last week, L’Onorevole (The Honorable) Andrea di Giuseppe, a member of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Italy’s parliament. Mr. di Giuseppe currently represents Italian citizens who live in North and Central America. He is a member of the Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), now led by Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s current and first female prime minister. The interview was conducted primarily in English, but my ten main questions were in Italian. I was very excited to speak with an Italian parliamentarian, as being a dual citizen is one of my life goals. I was not disappointed.

The international media may unfairly brand members of Fratelli d’Italia as bigots, racists, misogynists, Fascists and far-right. I believe, after talking to Mr. di Giuseppe for almost an hour, that none of these labels are accurate. I say this as a left liberal. While I found Mr. di Giuseppe to be very conservative, I did not see him as a threat to liberal democracy, defined as majority rule with minority rights. He persuaded me that his party seeks neither a radical agenda for Italy, nor for the European Union nor NATO.

Mr. di Giuseppe referred to the European Union as “Europe” multiple times in the interview, without any trace of irony or bitterness. His best line was “more Europe in Italy and more Italy in Europe.” He made clear his opposition to European federalism, defined specifically as the European Union being able to undermine Italian sovereignty. Unlike me, he does not oppose a European army. He wants to look at the details and mechanisms to ensure any military structure serves Italy’s best interests and not just those of France and Germany.

Mr. di Giuseppe is less concerned about qualified-majority voting than I am. He made clear the preservation of Italian sovereignty must underline all negotiations on the expansion of current power within the European Union. The Eurozone, he argued, was ultimately good for Italy, as long as small and medium-sized businesses, which, he claims, makes up 85 percent of his country’s total, were protected. The ability of Italy to control, to some extent, her own economy, while participating fully in the “European” economy is very important to him.

Mr. di Giuseppe’s openness to the European Union was unexpected. Frankly, I think that he was more open to it than I am, and I am a leftist. However, despite our differences, I grew quickly to like and respect him. He is reasonable, pragmatic and, although very conservative, he did not strike me as radical or reactionary in any way. I was a little surprised by this, to be honest.

Mr. di Giuseppe said point-blank that he and his party will not change the abortion or LGBT civil rights laws. He made clear that racism in immigration policy had no place in Italy. I am skeptical that Matteo Salvini, current deputy prime minister and leader of Lega Nord, will obey such a doctrine. Nevertheless, I remain impressed at how moderate on immigration are the Fratelli. Mr. di Giuseppe acknowledged that unauthorized entry by foreigners in unlimited numbers, plus a lack of support from the European Union for Italy and Greece, were the only major issues on immigration for his party; not race, religion or culture.

In terms of foreign policy, Mr. di Giuseppe endorses military aid to Ukraine, and, along with Prime Minister Meloni, remains extremely supportive of NATO.

The sole radical element of L’Onorevole di Giuseppe and Prime Minister Meloni is a fierce commitment to democracy. This is my observation. For instance, Mr. di Giuseppe supported my interpretation of liberal democracy. I simply asked if democracy was “majority rule with minority rights,” and he supported the definition wholeheartedly, right away. He does not like to get stuck on words; but, rather, he cares deeply about concepts.

Mr. di Giuseppe blames the coronavirus crisis and subsequent disarray in Italy for the rise of Giuseppe Conte and Mario Draghi to absolute power status. “The professors,” as he referred to both former prime ministers, were not dictators, and Italy was not a dictatorship, he said. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that democracy disappeared for a while in his country.

I agree with Mr. di Giuseppe that Fratelli d’Italia restored democracy to Italy. That is the fundamental truth here; that conservatives, with whom I fervently disagree on many things, were more supportive of my core liberal democratic values than the Democratic Party of Italy or the center-left parties. It is a sobering thought.

Mr. di Giuseppe supports Italian federalism. He insists regions must not lose their power no matter the claims of any strong willed prime minister. This actually happened under Prime Ministers Conte and Draghi during the coronavirus crisis. Mr. di Giuseppe argues that the word “federalism” is less important than the concept. Many in Southern Italy may associate federalism with the bad old days of Lega Nord’s racism towards them. As I wrote before, L’Onorevole di Giuseppe does not obsess over words, but cares about concepts.

According to Mr. di Giuseppe, a federal Italy will allow regions true sovereignty and autonomy in local matters, while retaining power to the national government on national matters. This works with his nuanced approach toward the European Union. The lawmaker wants certain powers to be delegated by Italy to the European Union. Think not a three-tiered federation, but, rather, a confederal or hybrid approach in the Italian-European Union direction and a federal approach in the national-regional direction within Italy. He wants Italian sovereignty to show itself internally in two levels and externally on a third level.

All of this adds up to a strong vision for Italy, NATO and the European Union, even if I do not personally agree with some proposals. Fratelli’s platform, as offered by Mr. di Giuseppe, will seek to make Italian conservatism more modern. These are not the ideas of reactionaries, whether one disagrees with them or not. These are the ideas of the restorers of democracy in Italy, like it or not.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a Political Commentator and Op-Ed writer for PRIMO, a political scientist and an Italian American civil rights activist. He can be reached at 732-549-2635 and

Give It Up, Mr. Mayor!
BOCHETTO  -  2  
- Appeals Court Rules In Favor of The Italians
- Columbus Monument to Stay in Philadelphia
The plywood box to imprison the statue is to to be torn down. Now!

By Truby Chiaviello


Second time is a charm…

Not, so, if you’re Mayor Jim Kenney.

He lost…again. On appeal.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued their ruling today in favor of the Italians: The Christopher Columbus Monument, inside Marconi Plaza, Philadelphia, stays.

It’s another victory for George Bochetto. The attorney extraordinaire, former candidate for the U.S. Senate, won at the initial trial phase in August, 2021. Judge Paula Patrick, of First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Civil Trial Division, ruled, then, that the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, as sculpted by Emanuele Caroni, was to be kept where it has been in Philadelphia since 1876. Mayor Kenney’s effort to take down the statue was not supported by law, ruled Judge Patrick.

Instead of settling the matter, Mayor Kenney opted for a rematch. He boarded up the Columbus statue in a spiteful display; only for the Italians to one-up him. They painted the box in the colors of the Italian flag, red, white and green. The mayor appealed Judge Patrick’s decision to the three-paneled Commonwealth Court. Arguments were heard from both sides in June.

Now comes the appeals court decision: No ifs, ands or buts. The Christopher Columbus Monument is to remain in Marconi Plaza. The plywood box to imprison the statue is to to be torn down. Now!

Mayor Kenney has wasted a lot of taxpayers’ money with this petty, unnecessary fight. The cancel culture premise to wipe out Columbus’ legacy in Philadelphia has been nullified. The basis for a villainous spin of Columbus by Howard Zinn, in his polemic rant titled, “A Peoples History of the United States,” has been proven false and libelous. The Italian American community in Philadelphia will not to be intimidated by the woke mob. They will not sacrifice their worthy hero, Columbus, for the sake of political correctness. They are right to retain attorney Bochetto and his outstanding legal team, most notably, Matt Minsky, to advocate effectively, backed by sound precedent.

Now, what will Mayor Kenney do? Will he demand a rematch to the rematch he lost?

“He can appeal this decision to the State Supreme Court,” says Joe Mirarchi, a loyal son of Philadelphia and petitioner in the case. “But it is not likely to be successful.”

Attention Philadelphians: The time has come to demand your mayor give up this charade. There are more important matters at hand; instead of fighting a losing case to divide the city. Crime is out of control. Living standards have plummeted in the City of Brotherly Love. Residents want to regain what they lost in Covid-19 lockdowns. Now is the time to move forward with sound city management. The case against Columbus is nothing more than an effort by Mayor Kenney to deflect attention away from his failure to alleviate social problems to plague the city. Philadelphia deserves better.

Any appeal is frivolous. Move on. Let it go. Give it up, Mr. Mayor!

Editor’s Note: Marconi Plaza is located in Philadelphia at 2800 South Broad Street. To learn more about George Bochetto and his legal work, please log on to To learn more about ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, pleas log on to



An Expert on Columbus Blasts The Latest Attempt to Deny Columbus’ Ethnicity
- Recap: The 500-year-old body of a Spanish nobleman was exhumed in November, 2022, for purposes of DNA comparison with biological relics of Columbus. The project is sponsored by the Galician Columbus Association, an organization in Northwest Spain that seeks to prove Columbus was Spanish, not Italian.

By Rafael Ortiz

Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. Anyone who says otherwise is not a historian but a conspiracy theorist. There is NOT one single primary source that says Columbus was NOT from there. All primary sources, including Columbus himself, claim he was from Italy.

Here is what the primary sources say:

1. Andrés Bernáldez (1450 - 1513) said, “There was a man of Genoa… that was called Christopher Columbus.” (“Obo un hombre de Génova… que llamaban Christoval de Colon…” “Historia de los Reyes Católicos,” by Andrés Bernáldez, Tomo I, Cap. CXVIII, p. 269. Translation from Archaic Spanish to English by author, Ortiz.)

The Archbishop of Seville, Bernáldez was a historian, not to mention, also, a good friend of Columbus. The explorer was a guest at Bernaldez’s house on several occasions. 

2. Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (1484 - 1566) described Columbus, “the illustrious Genoese Christopher Columbus…” “History of the Indies,” by Las Casas, Book One, Ch. 3, p. 15.

Las Casas was a friar, priest, bishop and historian who personally knew Columbus. He testified Columbus had a foreign accent.

3. Peter Martyr d'Anghiera (1457 - 1526) wrote that, “A certain Christopher Columbus, a Genoese, proposed to the Catholic King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, to discover the islands which touch the Indies, by sailing from the western extremity of this country.” “De Orbe Novo,” by Peter Martyr, The First Decade, Book I, p. 57.

Martyr was a historian, scholar and chaplain in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel. A friend of Columbus, he was also Italian. Martyr was born in Arona, Piedmont, almost 120 miles from Genoa. If anyone knew Columbus was not Italian, it was him.

4. Christopher Columbus, himself, said he was born in Genoa, Italy. In a letter he wrote in 1498 to secure his eldest son’s rights of primogeniture (institución de mayorazgo), he said, “I was born in Genoa [and] I came to serve you [the king and queen] here in Castile.” (“... que siendo yo nacido en Génova les vine á servir aquí en Castilla..” “Relaciones y Cartas de Cristóbal Colón,” p. 248)

In the same letter, Columbus requested his heir to always help someone of “our lineage” in the “city of Genoa” because “from there I came and from there I was born.” (“... que tenga y sostenga siempre en la ciudad de Génova una persona de nuestro linaje que tenga alli casa é mujer, é le ordene renta con que pueda vivir honestamente, como persona tan llegada á nuestro linaje, y haga pie y raiz en la dicha Ciudad, como natural della, porque podrá haber de la dicha Ciudad ayuda é favor en las cosas del menester suyo, pues della salí y en ella nací.” “Relaciones y Cartas de Cristóbal Colón,” p. 254)

Part of the above quote was used in the meme at the top of this article. The ellipsis was made to fit the sentence in the meme. The full letter is available here (in Spanish):

5. Amerigo Vespucci (1451 - 1512), from whom America’s name is derived, was another Italian explorer who had met Columbus. Vespucci himself delivered a letter Columbus wrote to his eldest son, Diego, in 1505.

Like Martyr, Vespucci would have known for sure if Columbus was Italian or not. 

6. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (1478 – 1557) wrote: “Christopher Columbus, according to what I know from people of his nation, was a natural of the province of Liguria, which is in Italy, where… Genoa is.” (“Chripstóbal Colom, segun yo he sabido de hombres de su nascion, fue natural dela provincia de Liguria, que es en Italia, en la qual cae la cibdad é señoria de Génova.” “Historia General y Natural,” by Oviedo, Lib. II, Cap. II, p. 12. (Translation from Archaic Spanish to English made by author Ortiz)
At the time, Genoa was a republic. Today, Genoa is the capital of Liguria, Italy. Oviedo was a Spanish historian who served in the king and queen’s court during the times of Columbus’ discoveries.

If Columbus was a Spaniard, then how come neither his Spanish friends nor Spanish historians knew about it? Were they that foolish? Columbus’ Italian friends knew he was Italian. Were they duped? Or, were they just plain dumb?

7. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1549 – 1625 or 26) wrote: “Don Christopher Colombo, which for easier pronunciation was called ‘Colón’, born in the city of Genoa.” (“D. Chriftoval Colombo, à quien por mas comoda pronunciacion, dixeron Colòn, nacido en la Ciudad de Genova…” “Historia General,” by Herrera, Década I, Lib. I, Cap. VII, p. 11. Translation from Archaic Spanish to English made by author Ortiz)

Though Herrera was not alive during the times of Columbus, his historical work is considered one of the best.

Italian historian, Paolo Emilio Taviani, brings more evidence of Columbus being born in Genoa in his book, “The Grand Design.” He shares the testimonies of several ambassadors from this period: 

1. Pedro de Ayala was the Spanish Ambassador to the English court. In 1498, he wrote to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella concerning John Cabot, (who was Italian as well) and his discoveries. In the same letter, Ayala affirmed Columbus’ Genoese birth.

2. Nicolo Oderico was ambassador of the Republic of Genoa to Spain. In a letter on April, 1501, he praised Spain for their discoveries under Columbus’ leadership by saying, “our fellow citizen, illustrious cosmographer and stedfast leader.”

3. Angelo Trevisan was chancellor and secretary to Domenico Pisano, the Venetian Republic’s envoy to Spain. Trevisan wrote to Domenico Malipiero, a member of Venice’s Council of Pregadi, “I have succeeded in becoming a great friend of Columbus... Christoforo Colombi, Genoese, a tall, well-built man, ruddy, of great creative talent, and with a long face.”

4. Gaspar Contarini was Venice’s ambassador to Spain and Portugal. In November, 1525, as he was reporting to the Senate of the Venetian Republic on the whereabouts of Hispaniola, he spoke of Admiral Diego Columbus, who was Columbus’ son. He said, “This Admiral is son of the Genoese Columbus and has great powers, granted to his father.”

All of the above is in Chapter II of Taviani’s book. In Chapter III, Taviani brings more evidence of Columbus’ Genoese origins, where he, his father, grandfather and other family members are mentioned in Genoan contracts, documents, deeds of sale and the like. Here are a few examples: 

A 1429 contract mentions Columbus’ grandfather, Giovanni.  Another document indicates he was dead by 1444. Columbus’ father, Domenico, is mentioned as a master weaver in 1447.  Records indicate Domenico was appointed as a warder of Porta dell’Oliviela, in Genoa. 

At some point, Domenico moved, as he is mentioned as working in Savona in 1470, but six months later he moved back to Genoa with Columbus. Both names, Domenico and Columbus, are mentioned in a contract. 

Another document shows Domenico selling his house in Genoa in 1473. In another, Domenico was a witness to a notarial deed drawn up in Genoa on 30 September 1494, etc.

Taviani reminds the reader that subsequent historians and geographers, who affirmed Columbus was a Genoan, came from Spain, Portugal, Germany, England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Turkey. 

The house Columbus grew up in as a child is now a museum in Genoa, Italy.

I’m not writing any of this because of “my heritage” since I’m not an Italian American. I’m writing all this because facts are facts, and truth still matters.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Ortiz has written a number of informative books on Christopher Columbus, available at the following web site:

Commemorative U.S. Postage Stamp Sought for Father Vincent R. Capodanno, Jr.,
- The Italian American Alliance Leads The Effort

By Truby Chiaviello

We have stamps for all kinds of Americans.

Celebrities. Politicians. Inventors. Even cartoon characters.

How about heroes?

We have them, also. Over the years, the U.S. Postal Service has issued a number of stamps depicting a unique class of American warriors.

John Basilone immediately comes to mind. He was a World War II Marine gunnery sergeant commemorated on a U.S. stamp in 2005. Basilone was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor as were others to be adorned on stamps such as Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCloy and Marine Sergeant Daniel Daly.

The time has come, now, for Father Vincent R. Capodanno, Jr. to get his stamp.

The Italian American Alliance has taken up a special cause for all Italian Americans to support. On November 16th, the Newton, Massachusetts based organization initiated a campaign to persuade the U.S. Postal Service to bestow a stamp for Father Capodanno.

“We, as leaders of some of the leading Italian organizations ask the Congress of the United States to recognize Navy Chaplain Lieutenant Fr. Vincent Capodanno with a Memorial United States Stamp. Like many Italian Americans, he served his country in the manner in which he was called, and he did it well,” so reads part of the formal request as conveyed by Tommy Damigella, chairman of the strategic planning committee of the Italian American Alliance.

Count this one of many commendable crusades continuously undertaken by the Italian American Alliance. The group made headline news earlier this year when they defeated proposed legislation in the Commonwealth to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. An active member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, the Italian American Alliance is a key frontline fighter in defense of our Italian American legacy in Massachusetts.

Dominic Amara, Ph.D., chairman of the Italian American Alliance, considers a stamp to commemorate Father Capodanno, “a worthwhile endeavor in which ordinary Americans of every stripe can have a voice. We have no standing ‘committee’ as such. Just a group of individuals and groups who are trying to highlight the life of a great American who exemplified the best of American, Italian American values.”

The effort for a Father Capodanno stamp was announced at a recent ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial in Newton. “Many individuals and organizations have already voiced their support of the initiative,” says Dr. Amara. “Although the Italian American Alliance and the Pirandello Lyceum got the ball rolling, so-to-speak; since then many others have become equal participants. If you or your organization would like to participate please contact us.”

Since this is the first time the alliance has tried to win a stamp for an Italian American hero, “we sincerely solicit suggestions and hands-on assistance. This is very grass roots,” says Dr. Amara.

Colonel Vincent Basile, (RET), currently heads the effort on behalf of the alliance, “to recommend to the U.S. Postmaster General that a commemorative stamp be created to keep alive the memory of this outstanding Italian American who gave the last full measure of his life for God, family and country,” says Dr. Amara.

Father Capodanno remains one of the great heroes of the Vietnam War. Serving as a chaplain in the 1st Marine Division, 5th Marine Regiment’s 3rd Battalion, he was there to witness heavy combat on September 4, 1967. Father Capodanno left his post to assist a Marine unit in the field, soon to be overrun by the enemy. His self-sacrifice encompassed rescuing comrades, caring for the wounded, bestowing rites and prayers for the seriously injured. He was hit by mortar fire but refused medical care. He gave up his breathing mask to one Marine pinned down in a trench when poison gas was unleashed by the enemy. That day of battle proved the last for Father Capodanno. He was killed by enemy fire when he tried to rescue a medic.

Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, posthumously, in 1969, Father Capodanno’s name has since been attached to many landmarks inside and outside the military; most famous, perhaps, is the USS Capodanno, a navy frigate, commissioned in 1973.

Born on Staten Island in February 13, 1929, Vincent Capodanno was the 10th and youngest child to an immigrant father from Gaeta, Italy, and an Italian American mother. As a young adult, he took night courses at Fordham University while employed as an insurance clerk. He became a priest in 1958 after he entered the Maryknoll Missionary Seminary in Ossining, New York.

Although a number of military men and women may have stamps to commemorate their service, Father Capodanno will, nonetheless, be a unique addition if approved by the postmaster general. “Only a handful of chaplains have earned the Medal of Honor,” claims Mr. Damigella. “Navy Lt. Vincent Capodanno, whose bravery and selflessness were exemplified during the Vietnam War, is one of them.”

A stamp to commemorate Father Capodanno will not only highlight his courage under fire, but, underscore the important contributions made by priests, ministers and rabbis in service to the military. Mr. Damigella says, “Chaplains are not just religious advocates for service members. They’re also relied upon for moral and spiritual well-being, with an ability to be calm in the most harrowing of circumstances.”

A Navy chaplain by definition, Father Capodanno saw himself a full-fledged Marine. “He earned the nickname ‘Grunt Padre’ for living, eating and sleeping in the same conditions as the Marines with whom he served,” says Mr. Damigella. “In the community where they were stationed, he organized outreach programs, started libraries and gathered and distributed gifts for the local people. He spent hours reassuring the weary, consoling the grieving and listening to confessions.”

Father Capodanno requested, and was given, a six month extension when the original period of his service ended. He had two months remaining in Vietnam when battle ensued to take his life.

Editor’s Note: If your organization wants to support the effort underway by the Italian American Alliance to bestow a stamp for Vincent R. Capodanno, Jr., please contact Dominic Amara, Ph.D., at and/or Virginia Gardner at



Grave Digging in the Spanish Region Seeks to Disprove Columbus Was Italian
- A Morbid Phase in Columbus Hate
- Testing Bones of a Corpse
- Has Any Ethnic Group Ever Had a Hero of Theirs Suffer Such Abuse?

By Truby Chiaviello

Italian Americans have had to endure the ignominies of their hero more than any other ethnic group in history.

Christopher Columbus.

His holiday erased. His statues and monuments toppled. His legacy falsely libeled.

Now…his ethnic identity is up for denial.

The best and brightest of Europe cannot accept that Columbus was Italian.

The latest phase turns to the morbid affair of grave digging.

A  small, select group of researchers in Spain have, for years, claimed Columbus is not Italian. Since evidence is lacking, the bones of a dead man are sought to verify their theory.

The gravesite of a Spanish nobleman named Johan Marinho de Soutomaior was exhumed on November 21st in Galicia, an autonomous region in northwest Spain. The endeavor is sponsored by the Galician Columbus Association, a group who believes the cousin of Columbus is a 15th century Spaniard buried in the grounds of the church of San Martín de Sobrán in Vilagarcía de Arousa. They plan to dissect the carcass for comparison with the available remains of Columbus and his sons. They hope to prove, once and for all, that Columbus was never from Italy, Genoa to be exact; instead, the explorer was from - right there - in one of their beloved hometowns in Galicia.

Never mind the established fact of Columbus’s birth in Genoa in 1451. Regional fervor gives way to nationalistic obsessions. A minority of people from different parts of Spain will claim the explorer came from their specific towns and provinces. Meanwhile, there are Portuguese who claim Columbus came from Portugal. There are Greeks who claim Columbus came from Greece. There are Poles who claim Columbus came from Poland. And so on.

Back in 2004, a set of relics of Columbus with biological material were collected for purposes of DNA analysis. The technology was only recently available to cross examine and compare burial remains, according to Spanish scientists.

The effort to disprove Columbus’ ethnic identity by way of an obscure corpse reveals the zealotry of haters, deniers and doubters of the great Genoese explorer. Nothing is off bounds in the ongoing effort to besmirch and redefine the discoverer of the New World.

Italian Americans are right to be outraged by this latest endeavor. One wonders how the Irish would feel if a body of an obscure Irishman was retrieved from inside a crypt in Dublin to debunk Saint Patrick was Irish. Or, how might the French feel if the grave of a historically insignificant figure was exhumed from the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris to disprove Charles DeGaulle was French. Or, how might the Russians feel if a coffin containing the body of a little known aristocrat was unlatched in Moscow to try and prove Leo Tolstoy was not Russian. And so on.

The defense of Columbus continues to challenge the patience of Italian Americans. The assaults are seemingly endless. Historical revision and political opportunism were once the sole domain of insults cast at our worthy hero. Now, the boundaries of mortuary science are to be trespassed. Sacred ground is to be unearthed. The dead are to be probed. The call of Columbus haters can be heard throughout the land: Non riposare mai in pace Colombo!


African Communities Arise in Rome and Naples
- Most are from North Africa
- Most Come to Start Businesses
“The entrepreneurial dreams of immigrants convey a certain sense of rebirth in Italy.”

By Laura Ghiandoni

There are about 1 million Africans who, after leaving their homeland, have chosen Italy as a nation to seek a better life. Discovering these communities means going beyond stereotypes. Wonderful stories of redemption will color an undergrowth of migration little known to most Italians.

It is worth taking a look at the numbers released by Italy’s Ministry of Labor and Social Policies. The Moroccan community holds first place for the number of inhabitants with 429,000 people, followed by the Egyptians, 141,000, the Tunisian and Nigerian communities, 100,000 and 98,000, respectively.

The numbers, even if essential, tell of protagonists who embrace the momentum towards private initiative. The entrepreneurial dreams of immigrants convey a certain sense of rebirth in Italy.

First up is the Moroccan community. Some 65,000 individual companies in the industrial and commercial sectors were started by immigrants from Morocco. Their businesses are found in all parts of Italy, especially in the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna.

The second position goes to the Egyptian community, where some 20,000 companies have been set up in the construction sector. The third place goes to the Tunisian community with 16,000 companies engaged in both industry and construction.

The employment figures speak for themselves: There is a substantial difference between female and male employment, the former accounting for less than a third of the latter. Dr. Laila Maher stands out among the few Moroccan female entrepreneurs with a pharmacy she owns in the territory of Rome. “The role of Moroccan women in Italy is mostly still limited to childcare,” says Dr. Maher, recipient of a medal from the president of the Italian Republic for becoming the first Arab woman in the business and social sector. “Integration?” she asks rhetorically. “It is something that works if both parties commit themselves. The question of the country’s language is fundamental: Sometimes Moroccans do not speak Italian even after many years in the country.”

Dr. Maher, after the excellent results obtained with the pharmacy, is expanding her activity in other sectors such as imports, exports and alternative energies. "Before the 90s most people came for study or tourism,” she says, “but after the 90s illiterate people arrived, who cannot write in Arabic and do not learn Italian. For these people, it is often impossible to understand what they can and cannot do in Italy.”

While active women such as Dr. Maher are an exception among Moroccan immigrants, the Nigerian community offers a completely different perspective. Some 16,000 companies in Italy are currently owned by immigrants from Nigeria. Women make up 40 percent of the managers employed in Nigerian businesses. Vivian, who has been in Naples for about 10 years, tells us what it means to arrive in Italy to open her business. "In Italy it is not easy to start your own restaurant,” she explains. “There are an infinite number of laws and procedures to be respected, many security measures today are also linked to the Covid-19 epidemic.” She resides in Naples’ San Lorenzo district, a small African enclave of stalls and street traders. "Most Africans feel a lot of nostalgia for their country. They come to eat at my restaurant to savor the flavors of home. Here, we all feel like brothers and sisters. In Naples, there is the culture of hospitality. I like it.” Although satisfied with her new life in Italy, she acknowledges a consistent. obstacle. What is it? The language: "I still have difficulty speaking Italian well; I can't express myself.”

Korie Chidimma is a nurse who specializes in transplants and dialysis treatments in Rome. She currently serves as president of the association titled, “Break Your Bread for the Less Privileged.” We meet her in the parish of Saint Ambrose after the celebration of Mass. "We volunteer at the Policlinico Umberto I to promote the health of those who do not speak Italian,” Korie says. "When Nigerian patients arrive in the emergency room or in the hospital ward, we help them understand medical prescriptions and book medical examinations.”

Not mastering the Italian language will be a key reason for difficulty in becoming a well-integrated immigrant. According to the latest Ipsos survey, Italians perceive Nigerians as one of the largest groups of foreigners currently in the country. Yet, they remain a modest community to represent only two percent of the total population.

According to another survey, carried out by MigrAction, a majority of Italians, in 2019, were convinced that all foreigners represented over 30 percent of Italy’s population. In fact, the figure is just seven percent. Hence, newspapers and media tout a distortion of the Italian perception regarding the presence of foreigners. Italy joins other European countries to restrain from offering new policies to better manage the integration process. In addition, various disputes between Italy and several African countries has pushed for more enforcement measures to block migration.

The internal dynamics of the world of immigration was introduced by Souad Sbai, president of the association of Moroccan women titled, Acmid. “The immigrant in Italy has no opportunity to arrive legally,” she says. “Even those who want to visit Italy or stay for tourism purposes have difficulty to get a visa.” Also for this reason, some immigrants risk traveling by sea to land in Lampedusa, an island off the coast of Sicily. The reconfirmation of the controversial agreement between Italy and Libya, for the reduction of migration flows, was signed in July, 2021. This treaty guaranteed the Libyan Coast Guard to help stop illegal migration. The arrangement costs Italy some 10.5 million euro while migrants in Libya are locked up in prison-like "centers” to suffer mass violence and torture.

Other laws protecting migrants have been stationary in recent years. Starting with the Ius Solis, a rule to allow citizenship for those born in Italy with one parent who might be foreign and the other an Italian citizen. Even the "International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families,” signed in 1990 by 20 United Nations member countries, has never been signed by Italy. As European countries become increasingly reluctant to welcome foreigners. The resilience, strength and courage of migrants becomes increasingly evident to all. Such qualities lead to the growth of nations whose economic stability has been widely demonstrated. Stories that Old Europe tends to forget, while on other coasts they are much easier to be remembered.



The poem is offered on the occasion of the coming elections this November 8th.

By Gerardo Perrotta

I am for the republic
But am not a republican
I am for democracy
But am not a democrat
I am for social justice
But am not a socialist
I am for the common good
But am not a communist
I am for liberty
But am not a libertarian
I am for tradition
But am not a conservative
I am for progress
But am not a progressive
I am for freedom
But am not a liberal
I am for a good party
But am not a partier
Whatever else I may need to be for
Let it be for content
And not discontent
For in the great hall of opposites
better to face the music face to face
than to tweet and shout.

Editor’s Note: Gerardo Perrotta is retired from the University of Cincinnati Department of Pathology where he worked in various capacities. He researches, writes and gives presentations on Italian American history in the Greater Cincinnati area, where he currently resides.


State Senator Jessica Ramos Seeks to Replace Columbus Day with a Depressing, Dispirited and Divisive Indigenous People’s Day
- No flag waving, no floats, no parades
“Indigenous People's Day…an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide…”
- Sound like fun?

By Truby Chiaviello

Everyone loves a good parade.

Except Jessica Ramos.

The New York Democratic state senator, from the 13th district, in Queens, wants to put an end to good times on October 12th, or its equivalent date. She sponsors a bill, still in finance committee, to end Columbus Day as an officially recognized holiday in New York. In place of the Italian American celebration will be Indigenous People’s Day.

Not a holiday, mind you, in the traditional sense. Indigenous People’s Day, as envisioned by Ramos and some others in the legislature, will reject festooned floats and marching bands up Fifth Avenue. Don’t expect folks to trade in their mariner hats for feathered headwear. Don’t expect children with smiling faces.

Indigenous People’s Day is to be a day of commiseration.

Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, held nothing back in his email late September informing Italian Americans about the pending legislation. He wrote that the “flawed legislative language relies on an invidious, divisive construct that pits one group against others. The bill cynically ignores the many positive contributions of the Spanish and Latino cultures to the Western Hemisphere and the hundreds of millions of immigrants who followed Columbus in search of a better life.”

The effort in the state legislature to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day is not to be ignored, according to Mr. Vivolo. There is an identical bill in the state assembly to indicate passage in both chambers for a governor to sign or veto the bills.

Senator Ramos is the sponsor of Senate Bill S2759. She seeks October 12th, or its equivalent, the second Monday in October, to be a 24-hour period of mass resentment at the history of the United States. Ingratitude, not gratitude, is the overriding theme. Instead of thanking Columbus for connecting the New World with the Old, people are urged to curse the day Europeans made their way across the Atlantic.

Is the proposed legislation really that bad? Judge for yourself.

The summary of the bill reads accordingly:

Christopher Columbus did not discover America. Indigenous People's Day reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous people in the Americas, to organize against current injustices and to celebrate indigenous resistance.

Sound like fun?

Neve mind the lamentable spirit of the proposed legislation. Most disturbing is how violence can be interpreted from the last line: “…to organize against current injustices and to celebrate indigenous resistance…”

In what way, senator, do you foresee such “resistance”? Do you want native Americans and their supporters to riot in New York on said day? Do you see October 12th as a day to vandalize and, perhaps, destroy landmarks that, in your mind, represent “colonialism”?

Senator Ramos is, no doubt, angry at America. The reason remains mystifying. From all accounts, the United States has treated her well. She needs to be more grateful. She needs to ask herself, where else can a daughter of immigrants from South America rise to lawmaker status. By the age of 33?!

Speaking about Ramos’ background, what country did her parents come from? You guess it…the country named after Columbus…Colombia!

All Italian Americans in New York are urged to contact their state representatives to request this bill be tossed onto the ash heap of failed legislation. That’s Senate Bill S2759. A similarly worded bill, A10728, is also pending in the second legislative chamber, the state assembly. That bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes, who represents District 51, Red Hook and parts of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn.

The senate and assembly bills to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day are currently in finance committee. If passed in committee, the bill is to be scheduled for a vote in the Senate and Assembly. If the bill passes both chambers, then the governor has a choice to sign or veto the bill.

Editor’s Note: Please contact your New York State representatives to vote against changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. You can log on to the following web sites to monitor the proposed bills.

Senate bill:
Assembly bill:


Primo Interview
George Vercessi Weaves an Intriguing Story of Mafia High Crimes and Misdemeanors in “King of the Hill.”
- “Nothing indicated a criminal presence in the Washington, D.C. area. Consequently, I felt it was a perfect setting to depict the mob’s transition into ‘white collar’ crime.”

George Vercessi caught Potomac fever while on the faculty at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Subsequently stationed in the Pentagon, he went on to achieve the rank of captain in the Navy. Now residing in the middle Atlantic region, he puts his knowledge of Washington, D.C. to good use in his entertaining crime novel, “King of the Hill.”

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

Both sets of my grandparents were born in Italy. My father’s parents were from San Damiano al Colle, in the Lombardy Province of Pavia. My mother’s parents were from Chiaromonte, in the Basilicata Province of Potenza. I was born and raised in the Bronx.

“King of the Hill” is a crime novel unlike most others. Not to give away too much of the plot, Julius Vittorio is the main character, a young lawyer who gets involved with organized crime while he networks his way in Washington, D.C. in the 1960s. What led you to write this novel?

The idea for this historical novel came from a claim I heard in the early seventies while stationed in San Diego with the Navy. At the time, it was rumored that U.S. organized crime families wanted to install someone of high moral character in the White House. They believed such a person would direct his administration’s efforts to noble social causes which, in turn, would allow organized crime greater opportunities to pursue its criminal activities. At first, the notion sounded fanciful but the more I read about the size and scope of the criminal empire and its infiltration in society, the more I believed I could craft a credible story.

Most stories about organized crime and the Mafia are usually set in New York or Chicago. Although "King of the Hill" includes scenes in New York, much of the story takes place in Washington, D.C. Considering ours is the home to the FBI and Secret Service, one does not connect mafiosi to the nation's capital. How involved was organized crime in Washington, D.C.?

During my research phase I read many books and news articles about organized crime activities leading up to, and during the period in which my story is set. Nothing indicated a criminal presence in the Washington, D.C. area. Consequently, I felt it was a perfect setting to depict the mob’s transition into “white collar” crime. Furthermore, I was able to use my knowledge of the region to add additional color to the story.

What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “King of the Hill”? 

One of the most challenging aspects of writing this story was developing a credible plot to explain how to skim a steady stream of millions of dollars from the federal government and launder it without detection. Doing so required submerging myself into computer operations and anti-theft measures. This, at a time when computers were being introduced to day-to-day business operations. Locating and interviewing government technocrats who could help me explain in nontechnical terms how to accomplish the skim was rewarding in itself.

What are your plans for the future?

In response to positive feedback from readers, I am developing another novel in my NCIS Agent Jerzy Shore series.

Editor’s Note: Are you looking to read an entertaining and informative novel about organized crime? Look no further than George Vercessi’s “King of the Hill,” available at Amazon



Children’s Author, Robert DiDonato, Give Us an Inside Look at Creating Stories for Children
“…the challenge has been in trying to connect to these very young readers and to present the story on their level in an interesting way.”


By way of Pittsburgh, Robert DiDonato pens two wonderful children’s books, titled “The Nevergreen Tree” and “Giraffe Has a Bug.” Not just a writer, Mr. DiDonato is also a skilled illustrator. PRIMO interviewed him about his passion for conveying stories for children, of all ages.

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

My father, Aladino DiDonato, and his family came from the region of Abruzzo in the town of Manoppello. My mother, Rose Marie Ereditario, and her family came from the region of Campania in the city of San Salvatore Telesino.

What led you to write (and illustrate) both children’s stories?

I have taught elementary school for over 30 years and would hear first-hand the situations that would arise in the classroom. "Giraffe Has a Bug" tells the tale of discussing problems in a calm manner, while "The Nevergreen Tree" is about not being envious of others.

Do you write first, or illustrate first? Tell us some of the process in creating your stories.

I decide on the story to tell first, with an arc to capture the interest of a young reader. Then I usually storyboard the illustrations to get a feel for the characters and how they move on paper. The final step, after editing the text, is to draw all final copies while including specific color and movement to create an exciting narrative.

All children’s stories try to impart a bit of wisdom to children. “The Nevergreen Tree” and “Giraffe Has a Bug” does this in rhyme and colorful illustrations. Without giving away too much of the respective plots, please tell us what children can learn both stories?

In "Giraffe Has a Bug" children can learn to 'talk out' their problems. In "The Nevergreen Tree" children can learn to be proud of who they are and to not be jealous of others.

What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “The Nevergreen Tree” and “Giraffe Has a Bug”?

For both of these books, the challenge has been in trying to connect to these very young readers and to present the story on their level in an interesting way. The most rewarding experiences have always been watching their reactions of being read to and seeing the excitement in their faces.

What are your plans for the future? Any other books in the making?

My plans for the future is to find a publishing house that believes in my work as much as I do and to then market and distribute my work. I have two other books I am writing and illustrating and hope to have completed by the end of 2023.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Robert DiDonato’s “The Nevergreen Tree” and “Giraffe Has a Bug” at


Cincinnati Residents Optimistically Embrace The Effort to Replace The Stolen Statue
- A Newly Made Bronze Sculpture of The Capitoline Wolf Could Be Installed as Soon as February, 2023
- No eyewitnesses?

By Truby Chiaviello

The people of Cincinnati love their Lupa.

That’s one way to interpret the latest developments in the replacement of the stolen statue.

The bronze replica of the she-wolf of legend, who nurtured Romulus and Remus, was detached and abducted from Eden Park in Cincinnati in the dead of night on June 17th. What was left was a pedestal to display the sudden abandonment of the suckling founders of Rome.

A new animal statue is sought by a partners in the cause, Cincinnati Parks Foundation and a local lodge of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy. “Capitoline Wolf - Returning a Classic to Eden Park” is the title of a web page to gain donations. The Capitoline Wolf, along with “educational signage, is to come back to Twin Lakes at Eden Park, where the statue has stood for nearly 100 years.”

Joe Mastruserio, president of the Sons of Italy Cincinnatus Lodge 1191, reports, “$30,000 of the initial replacement budget of $50,000 has already been received from two anonymous donors!” All Italian Americans can make a donation to help restore the Capitoline Wolf.

The abduction of the bronze sculpture might have been disastrous if not for the discovery of a “plaster copy in Florence…verified as a near-exact replica of the Eden Park statue,” claims Mr. Mastruserio. A foundry can now recreate the figure in Italy. “We will be sending the remaining base with the twins to Florence to have the wolf replaced. The remaining paws that were removed will be sent along with the base and melted into the new casting. The foundry in Florence will send us back a ready-statue for installation in its original location in Eden Park.”

A positive outlook is the only outcome in what remains an unsolved crime. The thieves are still out there. Law enforcement is stumped: No arrests. No suspects. No leads.

The Capitoline Wolf is not the type of contraband to be easily hidden. Surely, there must be an eyewitness somewhere in the city who saw the crooks transport the heavy bronze out of Eden Park.

What was the motive? Greed, maybe. Melted bronze can sell on the black market; albeit not the easiest way to make a dollar considering the haphazard nature of the crime and felonious penalties. More likely, the culprits were moved by political considerations. The Capitoline Wolf was one of many statues created in Italy under orders of Benito Mussolini to celebrate the legacy of Ancient Rome. One could imagine a member of Antifa or some likeminded group hellbent to destroy the statue once a spurious connection is made to Fascism. Historical context is lost in a heated environment of radical politics. For the record, the statue was not a gift from Fascists. Rather, the Italian community in Cincinnati sought a means to show their appreciation to the land of opportunity. The statue was acquired from Italy at little or no cost to eventually be dedicated in 1932.

Prevention of future crimes in and around the bronze sculpture is a key priority. “Security features such as lighting, cameras and alarms are being planned for the site and will be finalized prior to the installation,” said Mr. Mastruserio. He informed members of Sons and Daughters of Italy via email that “we hope to have the statue ready by the end of February in time for the Order Sons & Daughters of Italy Cincinnatus Lodge’s 100th Anniversary celebration.”

Editor’s Note: To read the latest on replacement efforts for the stolen Capitoline Wolf of Cincinnati and to donate to help the cause, please log on to




One’s Identification Derives from a Host of Factors
- Many Italian families had to change their last names because they sounded “too ethnic”

By Alfonso Guerriero

When I was growing up, I never liked my name.

It was always mispronounced. Anytime a teacher called attendance he/she/they always butchered my name. Every morning, I would slowly sink into my chair and brace for the inevitable; “Alfanzo Gurer’…I mean, “Gua-ri-ero.”

The awkwardness brought on by adults sounding out my name was usually followed by some hesitation, “How…How do you say your name?”

No doubt, my forename and surname did not sound very American. I was not John Peterson, Peter Smith or George Washington.

One day in elementary school, a classmate of mine called out, “Hey Al.” Uncertain to who he was addressing, I did not turn around. When he tapped me on the shoulder, I realized he was calling - me - Al.

I immediately liked the moniker. It was quick and concise. My identification now arose from just two letters and one syllable, instead of the multisyllabic and very ethnic-sounding, Alfonso.

Retrospectively, the acceptance of my new nickname was a way to deflect the unwanted attention, that I firmly believed, my birth name attracted. It was not until my mid-twenties, when I joined the American Society of Geolinguistics, that I began to realize: We all have beautiful names and we should be proud of their origins.

In America (and most likely other parts of the world), first and last names that sound “too ethnic” will push a family away from their ancestral roots to choose a different name. Such decisions are made, in part, because of the assimilation process. This notion forced me to ponder the question: Did my name automatically make me Italian-American, or American (without the hyphen) Italian? The duality of cultures through my name was truly an awakening.

I am my father’s namesake. Hence, I am identified as Alfonso Junior (Jr.). The etymology of Alfonso is Germanic, brought over by Visigoth invaders to Spain after the fall of the Roman Empire. In German, Alfonso derives from hildis-funs (always ready) in English. In the 6th century, the Visigoths became the rulers of the Iberian Peninsula. The name became popular, pushing aside many of the current Latin names that were already utilized by the Romans.

Popular names have influenced families for centuries. In this case, many Spanish nobles named their sons Alfonso. It was the name of several kings of Aragon (a region in Spain) from the 11th to the 15th centuries. During this period, the name Alfonso was brought over to Southern Italy.

The Hohenstaufen family from Germany ruled much of the territory below Rome in the 12th and 13th centuries. A daughter from the German family married a Spanish prince from Aragon consolidating the two noble clans. They reigned for more than 500 years in Southern Italy. An influencing figure in the region was King Alfonso V (1442-1458), nicknamed the Magnanimous. The monarch’s popularity encouraged my paternal family to adopt his name for generations.

My great-grandfather's first name was Alfonso. My father was the second son and was, thus, named after his maternal grandfather. He had several cousins named Alfonso and a female cousin named Alfonsina. My paternal uncle named his last son, Alfonso, and, years later, my brother named his first-born, Alfonso. Alfonso is not only popular in my family, but, today, is a popular first name and surname in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and parts of Latin America. A number of variants have arisen to include: Alfonzo, Alonzo, Alfonsi, Alfonseca, D'Alfonzo, Fonzo, Fonsato, Fonsatti and many more.

The name’s long and distinguished history even applies to food and wine. There are olives called Alfonso. In Spain, as well as in Italy, there is a delicious red wine called Principe Alfonso. Although the last King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, abdicated in 1931, his legacy lives on with a cocktail named, The Alfonso.

My last name is equally interesting. Many think it is Spanish (Guerrero) or Portuguese, but it is spelled with an i--- Guerriero. In Italian, guerriero, (or in Spanish) means "warrior,” as derived from guerra, “war” in Latin.

There are several ways how European last names developed.

Prior to the Modern Age, some English surnames derived from the father’s trade like Miller, Baker or Carpenter. My last name may have originated from this category since guerriero was a hired soldier during Ancient Rome. His identification may have begun as a nickname—to describe a personality trait of a belligerent (argumentative) person.

Surnames may have also arisen from patronymic descriptions. The father's Christian name applied to his offspring, such as Peterson, the son of Peter, or Fitzgerald, the son of Gerald. This is like Spanish last names that end in ez, which means the "son of.” Hence, Gonzalez was the son of Gonzalo, Ramirez, the son of Ramiro, and so forth.

Place can be another factor. For example, Leonardo da Vinci, the famous Renaissance painter, really means Leonardo from the town of Vinci. Italian locative surnames include Tarantino, Romano and Abruzzo. This method of naming should not be confused with surnames derived from monikers.

English surnames that began as nicknames are Armstrong, Goodfellow, Lowell and Darling. As the European population expanded, last names became just as important for common folk as for aristocracy.

The subject of names continues to fascinate me with a popular story about my paternal grandfather.

He was a captured soldier in World War II, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Every morning, roll was called to make sure everyone was accounted for in the prison barracks. His name was Liberato Guerriero, translated to mean, liberated warrior or soldier.

One day, the officer did his usual rounds. He called out my grandfather, who immediately stood at attention and said, “Present!” The officer followed by saying, in a sardonic tone, “We should all be Guerriero, Liberato,” liberated soldiers.

The jailer’s remark is a valuable reminder of the profound meaning behind our names. Never mind the mispronunciation that triggers a level of discomfort in ourselves especially when we are young. We should all embrace our names.

Editor’s Note: Alphonso Guerriero is a professor at Baruch College in New York. He has written an outstanding book about the history of Italian monikers and nicknames, titled, “From Fra Angelico to Frankie One Eye.” The book can be purchased at Pictured is the author, who shares his name with King Alfonso V, a type of olive and wine.



Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Allegory of Inclination” Descends from Casa Buonarroti Ceiling in Florence
- In-progress restoration on public view until April 2023

By Linda Falcone

Florence’s home-museum dedicated to the memory of Michelangelo embarks on the restoration of Artemisia Gentileschi’s “Allegory of Inclination,” (1616), one of the first paintings the artist created during her seven-year sojourn in Florence. From now until April 2023, the painting will be restored in public view, at the Casa Buonarroti Museum, following its removal from the gallery ceiling. Artemisia’s allegorical figure depicting “the inclination to produce art” was originally painted nude, only to be censored, in the 1680s, with the addition of drapery and veils.

This conservation project, dubbed “Artemisia Unveiled,” and co-funded by British not-for-profit Calliope Arts and British philanthropist Christian Levett, will use modern diagnostic and imaging technologies, to discover what the painting looked like, as Artemisia created it. The project includes an exhibition at Casa Buonarroti, from September 2023 to January 2024, spotlighting the project’s findings, for the refurbishment of select areas of the museum, including a full re-design of the Galleria’s lighting, so that Artemisia’s painting – part of a cycle celebrating the glories of Michelangelo that includes paintings by 14 other up-and-coming Tuscan artists of her time – will be revealed in their full splendour.
International Support for Casa Buonarroti

“To see Artemisia’s painting come down from the ceiling was very emotional, because none of us had ever seen a painting descend from there before,” says Casa Buonarroti Foundation president Cristina Acidini, “Most likely, it has never been taken down, since it was painted in 1616. So, this is the first step of a great adventure, for which we are extremely grateful to our generous donors.”

“Artemisia Unveiled” was created in conjunction with Casa Buonarroti Museum and Foundation, as supported by Calliope Arts, a not-for-profit organization based in Florence and London. Founded in 2021, it promotes public knowledge and appreciation of art, literature and social history from a female perspective, through restorations, exhibitions, education and a magazine and YouTube broadcast “Restoration Conversations.” The project’s major donors are Calliope Arts co-founders, British/Canadian philanthropists and retired lawyers Margie MacKinnon and Wayne McArdle, and British art collector Christian Levett, founder of the Mougins Museum of Classical Art in France and the Levett Collection home-gallery in Florence, featuring artworks by major female Abstract Expressionists.
Artemisia uncensored
“Artemisia Gentileschi lived in a world where women were excluded from the study of anatomy – a gender-based limitation that continued until the early 1900s. Her painting of the nude figure representing “Inclination” not only proved she was up to the challenge of anatomical drawing and painting – but that, as a woman, she could very skillfully put the female body at the centre of the canvas,” says donor, Margie MacKinnon. The drapery and veil were added in the 1680s by Tuscan artist Baldassare Franceschini, known as Il Volteranno, by order of Lionardo Buonarroti who lived in the palazzo and wanted to protect the decorum and modesty of his wife and children. “This project aims to restore Artemisia’s first Florentine painting and investigate what lies beneath Volterrano’s later additions,” McArdle adds. “What is the condition of the original paint and canvas? What will we learn about Artemisia unveiled? These are the project’s guiding questions, and we are excited to support and follow the conservation process, in hopes of finding the answers.”
In-progress at the Museum
From October 2022 to April 2023, during museum opening hours, the art-loving public will have the opportunity to see the “Allegory of Inclination” restoration in progress, thanks to a worksite set up in Casa Buonarroti’s Model Room. The conservator will be available to answer questions from the public, on Fridays. This home-museum, brainchild of Artemisia’s patron Michelangelo the Younger, was a venue Artemisia herself frequented during her stint as a court painter in Florence, hobnobbing with her patron – whom she called “godfather” – and renowned members of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Europe’s first drawing academy, of which Artemisia became a member in 1616. Her fellow members include Galileo, with whom the artist corresponded, even after his exile. The compass her allegorical figure is holding is thought to be a nod to the renowned scientist and his controversial theories. As a sidebar, just steps from the in-progress restoration, visitors will find the museum’s Marble room, newly restored by Friends of Florence and Michelangelo’s Madonna della Scala and Battle of the Centaurs, from whose central figure Artemisia sought inspiration for the positioning of her allegorical figure.
Detective work
“Through working photographs, diagnostic imaging and analysis, we will be able to determine the exact technique Artemisia used, correctly map the work’s condition, and monitor our treatment plan for the painting,” says US Florence-based conservator Elizabeth Wicks, who heads the project’s state-of-the art team comprising expert technicians and restoration scientists, under the supervision of Casa Buonarroti Director Alessandro Cecchi and Jennifer Celani, official for the Archaeological Superintendence for the Fine Arts and Landscape for the metropolitan city of Florence. “Due to the historic nature of the repaints, it is not possible to remove them from the surface, but the scope of our diagnostics will facilitate the creation of a virtual image of the original that lies beneath the surface of the painting, as we see it today,” Wicks explains. “Next week, we start our virtual journey ‘beneath the veil’ under diffuse and raking light sources, followed by UV and infrared research. Hypercolormetric Multispectral Imaging and examination by digital microscope will then help us learn as much as possible about the condition of the original painting technique and the later repaints. X-ray and high-resolution reflectography and other analytical techniques will follow.”
Refurbishment and TLC for Casa Buonarroti
“We’d like to look at this project as the start of something bigger,” says project co-donor Christian Levett. Beyond the painting’s restoration, the project includes a refurbishment of the museum entrance, the renewal of its signage, and the redesign of the Gallery room’s lighting. This museum has an amazing story to tell, and we want to shed more light on it—literally.” This ‘tender-loving-care’ for the gallery will be completed by the end of 2023, and enhance the visitor experience, particularly of the seventeenth-century wing, a treasure trove designed by Michelangelo the Younger over the course of 30 years, whose genius conceived the first-ever architectural and artistic tribute to an artist, his great uncle, ‘Michelangelo the Divine’.
‘A’ is the beginning
“The conservation and research project surrounding Artemisia’s ‘Inclination’ is the start of a wider project that will transform into a future exhibition at Casa Buonarroti, scheduled to run from September 2023 to January 2024,” says museum director Alessandro Cecchi. “The show will spotlight conservation findings and explore the context surrounding the painting’s creation, including the significance of her Florentine debut and her key relationships with Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici and the city’s cultural milieu.” Its English language exhibition catalogue (The Florentine Press, 2023) will be flanked by the Italian language publication ‘Buonarrotiana’ series (2023 edition) featuring specialist studies on Artemisia and her time, followed by a lecture series with major scholars in response to the show.  
Who’s involved?
The project brings together restoration scientists, technicians, photographers and filmmakers to compile, analyse, document and share findings. The project’s players include: Italy’s National Research Council (CNR) and National Institute for Optics (NIO), Teobaldo Pasquali for X-ray and radiographs, Ottaviano Caruso for diagnostic images; Massimo Chimenti of Culturanuova s.r.l. for digital image creation; Olga Makarova for video and reportage photography.

Editor’s Note: The article was submitted by The Florentine and Restoration Conversations. Their web sites are and

Son of Calabrian Immigrants Praises The Importance of Family Traditions

The Silvio Laccetti Foundation has announced Francesco Pontoriero of Warren, New Jersey as this year’s winner of their prestigious Garibaldi Award.

Finalists were chosen from among 14 North Jersey high schools whose students excel in Italian Studies and who have advanced the Italian American legacy in their communities. Francesco is a junior honors student at The Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey.

For years, Francesco has been active in school and community theater groups. He currently has the lead in Delbarton's version of Shakespeare's “Love's Labour's Lost.”
Francesco’s essay was a superb exposition of how Italian traditions and family values are remarkably interwoven within themes of personal identity and contributions to America. It has been published in several Italian American publications

More Than Maiale
By Francesco Pontoriero

It’s 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday.

I groan at the sound of my alarm clock as I suddenly remember why the heck I woke up so early.

It is ‘nduja weekend.

I eat a Stella D’Oro cookie, drink a cappuccino and depart on the half hour pilgrimage down Route 78 to the house of Vincenza Pontoriero, my nonna.

The weather is cold and overcast. I feel winter’s aggressive breeze as I stroll through the Ironbound. I step along the dirty, tobacco-filled sidewalks to the only house with a tile roof on Garden Street: number 96. I open the black, rusty gate to walk up bluestone steps. I ring the old, deteriorated bell. The door opens. Bello mio! Come ti senti? Sei tanto grande! I’m flooded with the aggressiveness and excitement of an old, Italian woman who I know like the palm of my hand.

Facciamo la‘nduja oggi! 

It is about eight in the morning when I enter my nonna’s basement in Newark. Her kitchen is dilapidated. An old table in the middle of the room is accompanied with dusty, lightly stained cabinetry to contain an encyclopedia’s worth of pictures inside drawers.

A massive pig lays on the table wrapped in a large translucent bag. My nonna opens it while holding a footlong knife. She begins to butcher the animal: piece by piece, cutlet by cutlet. This goes on for hours until there is no longer a pig, but mounds of pink pork and white intestines; not one piece to go to waste.

My nonna brings out the grinder. The machine is turned on for me to hand her pink filets. She throws the large lumps of meat into the steel contraption. The grinder groans on to transform the carcass into a massive pile of ground pork.

At this point you may be wondering: what is this “‘nduja”? ‘Nduja (pronounced an-doo-sha) is a spreadable sausage that originates from my family’s village of Spilinga in Calabria. Once considered an underground and underrated delicacy, the cured meat has become popular in the United States in recent years. What you may find sold in supermarkets is far less authentic than what my family has made since the time we emigrated from Italy in 1971. 

A second day of labor is necessary in the creation of ‘nduja. We fill the sausage liner (the pig’s intestines) with the ground meat, before tying ends with withered string. Tubes of meat are hung inside a smokehouse in my nonna’s backyard. A few weeks must pass for the curing process inside a dark and cold chamber of blackened walls, the remnants of newspapers, cardboard and pork bits on the floor.

I grab a piece of ‘nduja to place in the smokehouse, strategically based on its length and girth. Longer in the corners, shorter in the middle, since the shorter ones are further from the fire, my godfather once told me. I put the ‘nduja on a two-by-four slat to hang. The tube suddenly swings. POOMPH! The two pound piece of raw ‘nduja falls down from the ceiling to hit me in the face with its foul odor and cold, mushy texture. My uncle comes quickly to my aid only to laugh hysterically at my being slapped by sausage.

Throughout the ‘nduja process every year, 80’s Italian music blares into worn speakers while my uncles make vulgar jokes about each other, their childhoods and society. Few people understand why this tradition holds such great value for my family. Most just take it at face value: your family makes sausage out of a pig for fun every year. What they don’t realize is that although the process may come off as gross, the work unites us with pride in ourselves, our origins and each other.

Whether your sister is working the press or your uncle is pretending to be productive while watching a soccer game, a family connects through work. Although making ‘nduja takes hours out of a weekend I could be spending with my friends, I make lifelong memories with my family.
Making ‘nduja reminds me of the rolling hills of western Calabria, where clocks roll at a slower pace, where the elderly are refreshed by the ocean breeze through olive groves. When I eat ‘nduja I am reminded that Spilinga, in the province of Vibo Valentia, is my home, even though I’ve only been there once. Making ‘nduja reminds me of the sacrifices my nonni made to come to the United States with nothing but a bag’s worth of clothes. I remember the conditions that my dad, uncles and grandparents endured living in a one-room apartment in Newark, opening a pizzeria and praying for its success.

When I taste ‘nduja’s I remember my family’s accomplishment in attaining the American dream - coming from nothing and becoming something. Making ‘nduja doesn’t just serve as a bonding experience in the unnecessary murder of a pig. It’s my past.

Families all over the world share intimate customs from their homelands. Unfortunately, many traditions fade away through generations, as people get caught up in their daily lives and seemingly important activities. The preservation of the past is one of the most important and beautiful things a family can do. Traditions reassert the importance of a connected family, the value of knowing one’s origins. Traditions give people a sense of pride, a sense of belonging that no job or school can fulfill.

Wherever I go, I consistently seek to show others the importance of such traditions, and encourage them to maintain their own family traditions, no matter how frivolous they may seem.

Editor’s Note: We congratulate Francesco on his wonderful essay. Pictured is the young writer hanging sausage for curing, with his grandmother and family and with Silvio Laccetti at Delbarton Courtyard in New Jersey.


Letters to the Editor
- Strong and Resolute Depiction

With all of the fanfare about Columbus Day with all of the portraits and statues of him, one would hope that someone besides our good man, Professor Robert Petrone, would have a real portrait for our hero.

Some of those said portraits are hilarious. My favorite is that bug eyed fat banker.

There was only one artist who actually lived during Columbus's lifetime and ever saw, met and painted him at the Spanish Court. His name was Lorenzo Lotto and Columbus's son upon seeing the portrait, commented and marveled at the likeness.

Columbus had red hair and green eyes.

The only person I know who, without knowing any of the people in the lineup of portraits of Columbus, picked out the right one, passed away a few years ago. When I asked him how he guessed it he said "All of those other guys look like wimps. In those days to be the Captain of a ship, one had to be a tough S.O.B."
Actually, he was right.

Rich Russo
Pleasanton, Texas


Thought you two might like to see the email I sent to my bank upon its closing for Columbus Day/Indigenous People's.
I was angered by the double "holiday" and wanted to make my ire known. I'm still in the fight.

To Santander Bank:
     Thank you for this new information.
      It has always been a pleasure banking with the people at Santander. Their friendliness and helpfulness are exceeded by no one.
      So, this is not about them.
      Today, I went to my branch, forgetting it was a holiday, to do some business, to find it closed, with the sign about the bank's closing saying, "Closed for Columbus Day/Indigenous People's Day".
       This raised my ire in such heights as to make me want to write to you.
       There is NO Indigenous People's Day Federal Holiday, no matter how many people deride Christopher Columbus. 
        There IS a federal holiday for Christopher Columbus, the founder of The New World.
       Your inclusion of this so-called "indigenous People's Day" on the same day we celebrate the founder of the North and South American continents is an insult to me. It is not only an insult as an Italian American but an insult to me as an AMERICAN who sees your bank, and the people who have the authority to use the term of which I am writing about, as part of the Cancel Culture that has become so pervasive in our country.
        I have no problem with Indigenous People's Day, as long as it is celebrated on any other day than COLUMBUS DAY. Why this has to overlap on a long-standing, Federal holiday honoring a great man is just another way to divide us as a nation.
       Again, I have no problem with Indigenous People's Day being another day during the year, but your collusion in the Cancel Culture does not help these problematic matters, it only serves to throw the proverbial oil on the fire. At least it did on mine, and I wanted you to know it.
        I certainly am not going to end my relationship with my branch of Santander. But I wanted to pass along the anger I felt seeing the double reason my branch was closed.
         To me, and countless others, COLUMBUS DAY is the RIGHTFUL reason Santander should be closed. Any other is just plain nonsensical.

Very truly yours,

John Primerano
Philadelphia, PA



Basil Russo Wins a Revision in the Annual White House Proclamation
- Italian Americans Flooded the Executive Branch’s Communication Network
- Columbus Day 2022 Showed Intense Outpouring of Enthusiasm
- Oh No!…Biden Issues a Supplemental Proclamation for Indigenous People’s Day

By Truby Chiaviello


What a day!

Maybe the best Columbus Day of the 2000s.

Italian Americans came out in glorious enthusiasm for festivals, ceremonies and parades, from Boston to Baltimore, from Syracuse to San Francisco.

Amateur photographs and videos from endless smart phone uploads flooded social media yesterday to show hundreds of thousands of participants in this year’s Columbus Day.

The weekend celebration began with a bang.

Big news from Washington.


The outcome was at hand over the annual Columbus Day proclamation by the White House. Would the message be a repeat of 2021? Would President Joe Biden again insert text to taint the legacy of Christopher Columbus with reminders of past injustices committed by others against native Americans?

Niente da fare!

Basil M. Russo came through. He sent out a call for all Italian Americans to get involved. As president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), Judge Russo structured a well-managed grass roots campaign. Italian Americans were urged to contact the White House by emails, texts and phone calls. The mission was to demand this year’s proclamation be about Columbus, only.

Italian Americans flooded the communication lines of America’s executive branch. The message was heard loud and clear inside the West Wing.

The White House Office of Public Engagement turned to Judge Russo about the specific wording of this year’s Columbus Day Proclamation. Unacceptable was any wording to diminish the legacy of Columbus or taint the celebration of a day of great importance to Italian Americans.

No repeat of 2021: There was no of Indigenous People’s Day or the past injustices of native Americans.

This year’s White House proclamation, posted on October 8th, praised the courage and vision of Columbus, along with the acknowledgement of contributions made by Italian Americans to the United States. That was what we wanted.

The effort is indicative of what Italian Americans can do when mobilized. When we speak up, we will be heard by our elected officials.

Victory is to be cherished. Defeatism avoided. Cynicism contained.

There will be those to remind us that, not one, but, two, White House proclamations were made this year. One for Columbus Day, the other for Indigenous People’s Day. This was also done in 2021. Yet, unlike last year’s, the proclamation set aside for this Columbus Day was solely focused on the Genoese explorer and Italian Americans. That’s a big step forward in lieu of a Democratic president and administration tied to a host of interest groups to embrace political correctness and historical revision.

President Biden is, no doubt, an experienced politician. He knows the ways of Janus. He turned one side to Italian Americans to ensure Columbus Day was exclusively issued as our ethnic holiday. Another side was turned the other way toward American Indians and supportive minority groups to claim the duality of October 10th, for Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day.

Machiavelli would be proud.

Like it or not, Columbus Day has become a hot button political issue. Hence, leaders such as Basil Russo and others, with experience in politics and grass roots campaigns, are to be supported and followed.

The struggle continues. We have to keep up the pressure in all corners of the United States. From City Hall to the Halls of Congress. From Governors’ Mansions to the White House. Italian Americans are called upon to petition their elected leaders to ensure the survival of Columbus Day for future generations. We must educate ourselves about the true achievements of Columbus to defend our hero against any and all revisionists who seek to destroy his reputation. We must engage. We must stay on offense.

We take heart in the Italian American One Voice Coalition, as founded by the late Dr. Manny Alfano. Here is a group that is unceasing in their frontline advocacy. They have Andre DiMino, a natural born speaker, with the necessary charm and eloquence, who was on more radio and television shows this year than in years past to offer his vital defense of Columbus Day.

Moving forward is a theme to make this year’s Columbus Day so special.

The Columbus Day parade up 5th Avenue in New York remans the stellar event. An incredible display of Italian American pride was in full force with festooned floats, boisterous bands and fervent flag wavers. Shown on local television, the occasion marked a time when the federal holiday was one of the city’s top events. The Columbus Citizens Foundation, an organization devoted to all things Italian American, as founded by Generoso Pope in 1944, once again did an outstanding job in organizing the Columbus Day parade. Meanwhile, the Columbus Heritage Coalition, as led by Angelo Vivolo, has established wide range political support. Vivolo was most pleased to hear Mayor Eric Adams say on the Arthur Aidala Power Hour radio show, yesterday, “Uplifting the heritage of groups doesn’t have to tear down other groups. We have room in this country to uplift all groups because all of us contribute to what we call the American Dream.”

Festivals from Boston to San Francisco saw more attendees than in years past. The reason was, in part, due to a continued reduction in Covid-19 restrictions, not to mention conducive weather in most places. Sunny blue skies were seemingly everywhere. Here are some highlights:

Columbus Day Italian American Heritage Parade in Philadelphia started at the 1700 block of south Broad street between Moore and Morris on Sunday, October 9, high noon. This year’s grand marshal was Deana Martin.

Also, in Philadelphia, was the first-ever Acme Festa Italiana at 1901 Johnston St in South Philly from 12-4pm, October 8.

In Baltimore, the Italian Heritage Festival convened from 1-5 p.m., along Stiles and Exeter Streets in Little Italy on October 9.

In Hunterdon County, New Jersey, the Columbus Day Parade was held on Sunday, October 9, in Seaside Heights. The grand marshal was the Honorable Gilda Rorro Baldassari.

In Chicago, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans hosted the 70th annual Columbus Day Parade up State Street, from Wacker Drive to Van Buren Street, on October 10th, 1 p.m. The parade saluted Angelo and Romana Caputo.

In San Francisco, the Italian Heritage Festival & Parade was held in North Beach.

In St. Louis, The Italian American Heritage Festa and Parade, formerly known at the Columbus Day Parade, begins at 12 noon on the Sunday before Columbus Day at the corner of Macklind and Botanical.

In Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, The Pittsburgh Columbus Day Parade was held on October 8 at 11 a.m. near the West Penn Hospital on Liberty Avenue with a reviewing stand in front of Saint Joseph Church.

In Watertown, Massachusetts, a whole month’s worth of events have been ongoing in celebration of Italian American Heritage Month. In East Boston, The Columbus Day event at Tall Ship Park had thousands in attendance.

In Cleveland, the Columbus Day Parade began at noon on October 10th after a morning Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood. The parade was sponsored by the Italian Sons and Daughters of America with grand marshal Paola Allegra Baistrocchi, Consul of Italy in Detroit. Special parade guests were Phyllis Lippardo, Marie Frank and Joe Frank.

In Queens, New York, the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Queens, Inc. presented the 45th Annual Queens Columbus Day parade, Saturday, October 8, 2022. This year’s grand marshall was Vito Giannola, executive vice president, chief retail banking officer of Provident Bank.

In Manhattan, the 2022 Columbus Circle Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony was held on Sunday, October 9, in Columbus Circle as organized by the National Council of Columbia Associations and the Columbus Citizens Foundation.

In Manhattan, the 78th Annual Columbus Day Parade began at 11:30 am along Fifth Avenue. This year’s grand marshal was Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex.

In Washington, D.C., the Holy Rosary Church and Piazza Italiana held a Columbus Day ceremony on October 9.

In Washington, D.C. the National Christopher Columbus Association held a ceremony a the National Columbus Memorial on October 10th. Honored was the Ambassador to Italy to the United States Mariangela Zappia and the Ambassador of Spain to the United States Santiago Cabañas.

In Syracuse, New York, the Columbus Monument Corporation hosted their annual Columbus Day Wreath-Laying Ceremony at Columbus Circle with a luncheon celebration that followed.

In Fairfield, New Jersey, the Italian Columbus Festival was presented by Unico National on October 9 at the Fairfield Recreation Center from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Below is the full text of President Joseph Biden’s 2022 Columbus Day proclamation and excerpts from White House proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from the Spanish port of Palos de la Frontera on behalf of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, but his roots trace back to Genoa, Italy.  The story of his journey remains a source of pride for many Italian Americans whose families also crossed the Atlantic.  His voyage inspired many others to follow and ultimately contributed to the founding of America, which has been a beacon for immigrants across the world.

Many of these immigrants were Italian, and for generations, Italian immigrants have harnessed the courage to leave so much behind, driven by their faith in the American dream — to build a new life of hope and possibility in the United States. Today, Italian Americans are leaders in all fields, including government, health, business, innovation, and culture.

Things have not always been easy; prejudice and violence often stalled the promise of equal opportunity.  In fact, Columbus Day was created by President Harrison in 1892 in response to the anti-Italian motivated lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans in 1891.  During World War II, Italian Americans were even targeted as enemy aliens.  But the hard work, dedication to community, and leadership of Italian Americans in every industry make our country stronger, more prosperous, and more vibrant.  The Italian American community is also a cornerstone of our Nation’s close and enduring relationship with Italy — a vital NATO Ally and European Union partner.  Today, the partnership between Italy and the United States is at the heart of our efforts to tackle the most pressing global challenges of our time, including supporting Ukraine as it defends its freedom and democracy.

In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage 530 years ago, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, and modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), as amended, has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as “Columbus Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 10, 2022, as Columbus Day.  I direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and all who have contributed to shaping this Nation.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-seventh.
                               JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we honor the sovereignty, resilience, and immense contributions that Native Americans have made to the world; and we recommit to upholding our solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, strengthening our Nation-to-Nation ties.

I learned long ago that Tribal Nations do better when they make their own decisions. That is why my Administration has made respect for Tribal sovereignty and meaningful consultation with Tribal Nations the cornerstone of our engagement and why I was proud to restore the White House Council on Native American Affairs. To elevate Indigenous voices across our Government, I appointed Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary, along with more than 50 other Native Americans now in significant roles across the executive branch.

These efforts are a matter of dignity, justice, and good faith.  But we have more to do to help lift Tribal communities from the shadow of our broken promises, to protect their right to vote, and to help them access other opportunities that their ancestors were long denied.  On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we celebrate indigenous history and our new beginning together, honoring Native Americans for shaping the contours of this country since time immemorial.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 10, 2022, as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.  I also direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and the Indigenous peoples who contribute to shaping this Nation. 
                               JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.



Call to Action
Proposed Meeting at the White House Goes Without Resolution
- Italian Americans Must, Now, Make It Happen
- Judge Russo Calls for a Grassroots Campaign to Persuade President Biden to Meet with Him and Other Italian American Leaders about Columbus Day
- This Year’s Presidential Columbus Day Proclamation Must Not - Again - Be Linked to Indigenous Peoples Day

By Truby Chiaviello

Just a few minutes of your time…

That’s not too much to ask for President Joseph Biden from the Italian American community.

And yet, Judge Basil M. Russo’s request for a White House meeting about the coming presidential proclamation on Columbus Day remains unanswered.

The waiting is over. The time has come for action.

Judge Russo calls for all Italian Americans to contact the White House today to urge President Joseph Biden to set the date. Mr. President, please meet with Judge Russo and other Italian American leaders about Columbus Day. Hear our complaint. Understand our concerns. Work with us to find the best way forward.

We, Italian Americans, will not stop celebrating Columbus Day. This is our day. This is the only federal holiday set aside for us, for our legacy, for our ancestors. We understand and support the need to, not only acknowledge, but, celebrate Indigenous People’s Day…but not at the cost of Italian Americans. We will not allow for the unjust warping and false demonizing of Christopher Columbus.

Last year’s proclamation by President Biden was a terrible disappointment. He broke away from tradition. Instead of praising Columbus, the spirit of discovery, Italian and Spanish Americans and the legacy of immigration, President Biden’s proclamation inserted Indigenous People’s Day to be celebrated in tandem with Columbus Day.

Why would the president do this?

Because, we, Italian Americans are too silent. We don’t speak up. We don’t make demands.

That must end. Now!

Yes, President Biden, like every president, has a full itinerary concerning national and international affairs. From the war between Russia and Ukraine to new fears of a recession at home, his concerns are many.

Especially, the midterm elections.

This November could spell disaster for the White House. Republicans are in position to take both chambers of Congress by considerable majorities. If so, the president will be in a much weaker position.

As leader of the Democratic Party, the president needs to stem a red tide.

Italian Americans hold the key to political victory or defeat for the president.

We number around 20 million. (Likely more, as possibly under-counted by the U.S. Census.) Our votes remain considerable in swing states such as in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. We have taken up residence elsewhere to make districts more competitive in Virginia, North Carolina and Arizona. Other states have also experienced a new wave of Italian American migration to change their political landscapes

We have the numbers. We have the votes. We, now, need to have a voice.

The White House will hear from all Italian Americans from every district in every state. They will recognize our electoral significance. They will hear from all of us. They will keep Columbus Day for Columbus, only.

Here’s what every Italian American can do:

Step 1: Open this link —

Step 2: Click Message Type and select “Contact the President”

Step 3: Fill in your name, phone number, email address and street address

Step 4: Copy the letter (below) and paste it into the “What would you like to say?” field. Then, click SEND!

To President Joseph R. Biden:


Last October, the Italian American community at large expressed its concerns over a pair of proclamations issued by you. The proclamations implied that Indigenous Peoples Day should be celebrated on Columbus Day, even though the entire month of November is duly recognized as Native American Heritage Month, and August 9th is recognized as the international celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day.

The first national Columbus Day proclamation, recognizing the 400th anniversary of the landing of Columbus in the New World, was signed in 1892 by President Benjamin Harrison as a way of easing tensions between America and Italy after 11 innocent Italian immigrants were lynched in New Orleans. Thousands of people witnessed and cheered on the carnage; it was the largest lynch mob ever to assemble on U.S. soil.

By celebrating both holidays on the same day, you’ve promoted the culture of one group at the expense of another. This of course is not a demonstration of a unifying policy, but rather something less. Italian Americans request separate holidays on separate days, enabling us to properly observe and honor our proud heritage and history, as well as allowing Indigenous People to honor their heritage.

For the past year, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has requested a meeting with you to resolve this issue. I ask that you show our community the same respect that you’ve extended to so many groups in our country and meet with the COPOMIAO leadership to resolve this issue.

Learn more about COPOMIAO, and its Member Organizations, here:

Thank you for your time.

Editor’s Note: Now is the time for action. Please support Judge Russo’s call for a grassroots effort to save Columbus Day at the White House. Thank you!



Basil M. Russo’s Letter to the White House Calls for an In-person Meeting to Resolve Columbus Day Issue
- A Call to Eliminate Inclusion of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Annual Columbus Day Proclamation
- Full Text of Russo’s Letter
- Full Text of Biden’s 2021 Columbus Day Proclamation
- Highlights of Past Presidents’ Columbus Day Proclamations

By Truby Chiaviello

The annual Columbus Day proclamation, as issued by the president of the United States, has been grossly politicized and negatively warped.

The future is upon us.

Italian Americans must stand united to urge the White House to change back wording to the original intention of the Columbus Day proclamation.

Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), along with member organizations, including PRIMO Magazine, has rightly submitted a letter, dated September 9th, to President Joe Biden to request a meeting at the White House to ensure the wording of this year’s scheduled Columbus Day proclamation is about Columbus, and, only Columbus.

In 2021, President Biden incorporated Indigenous Peoples Day with Columbus Day, to the shock and disappointment of the Italian American community, not to mention other ethnic and civic organizations, most notably the Knights of Columbus.

President Biden stated in his first Columbus Day proclamation, last year: “Today, let this day be one of reflection — on America’s spirit of exploration, on the courage and contributions of Italian Americans throughout the generations, on the dignity and resilience of Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities, and on the work that remains ahead of us to fulfill the promise of our Nation for all.” After the U.S. Congress made Columbus Day a federal holiday in 1937, all presidents, since Franklin D. Roosevelt, made an official announcement, just prior to October 12th, to praise Columbus and his discovery of the New World.

Year after year, presidents celebrated Columbus’s legacy as a key precursor to the development of the United States as a beacon of democracy and freedom for the rest of the world. The values of international relations, immigration and a celebration of Italian Americans were always applauded on Columbus Day.

The interaction between European explorers and indigenous people was never mentioned in any Columbus Day proclamation until President George H. W. Bush did so in 1990. He spoke positively of how ideas and technology were exchanged between the people of the two hemispheres.

In 2014, President Barack Obama broke tradition. No longer was Columbus Day solely positive. He devoted several sentences to the suffering of native Americas. His was a negative view of American history to taint Columbus Day until the end of his presidency.

President Donald J. Trump returned the Columbus Day proclamation to its original mission. He did not mention the plight of indigenous peoples in his first annual address in 2017. In 2020, he went so far as to include a whole paragraph to oppose the historical revision that sought to demonize the Genoese explorer.

President Biden has adopted Obama’s precedent, but, with more words than before devoted to the plight of native Americans. His Columbus Day proclamation goes a long way to infer the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples’ Day day on Columbus Day.

Judge Russo wrote how President Biden, “left the nation confused as Indigenous Peoples’ Day was linked to the historically celebrated Federal holiday (Columbus Day) originally recognized and enacted by President Harrison in 1892.”

The Biden White House focused on historical wrongs committed against native Americans, not Italians, in last year’s Columbus Day address. This was in stark contrast to the original adoption of the holiday, in 1892, by President Benjamin Harrison. Columbus Day was meant to heal the national wound wrought by the mass lynching of Sicilian men in New Orleans for crimes they did not commit.

Judge Russo’s letter claims, “Last year’s proclamation implies that Indigenous Peoples’ Day should be celebrated on Columbus Day. We understand your efforts to bring unification to the Nation after two unwieldy years from managing a national health crisis. However, the optics of contaminating the focus and purpose of a recognized traditional Federal holiday for Columbus, with another purpose or focus, rewards one group of Americans politically, at the expense of another. This of course is not a demonstration of a unifying policy, but rather something less.”

Every Italian American organization defending Columbus Day recognizes the contributions of native Americans. Judge Russo conveyed this point in his letter to the president. “To be clear, the Italian American community across America respects and supports an Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration, which should be celebrated with a singular focus in November or by expanding the existing international celebration of Indigenous Peoples on August 9th either of which the Italian American community happily supports. At the same time the Italian American community requires the same level of respect for our historical, traditional celebration of Columbus Day which reflects the value of all immigrants and their added value to the fabric of this Nation.”

Future Columbus Day proclamations should not seek to divide Americans. “This action, to remove a day celebrated by Italian Americans for generations, although unintentional, was clear and most disrespectful to the upwards of 20 million Americans who identify as having roots in Italy,” writes Judge Russo.

As midterm elections approach, Judge Russo calls upon President Biden to meet with the Italian American community to resolve the Columbus Day issue. “We would appreciate a few moments of your time to reach common sense solutions. This will allow all of us to come away from this more united, not divided. The magic of democracy is most notable when each of us can celebrate our unique heritage and cultural traditions and accomplishments, as well as respecting the traditions and accomplishments of all ethnic groups, which make up the fabric of America.”

Editor’s Note: The the web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is

Below is the full text of Judge Russo’s letter, the full text of President Joseph Biden’s 2021 Columbus Day proclamation and highlights from previous presidents’ Columbus Day proclamations.


September 9, 2022

Dear Mr. President,

In October of last year, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) wrote to you to express our community’s collective concern with respect to the proclamations you issued pertaining to Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day. Those proclamations left the nation confused as Indigenous Peoples Day was linked to the historically celebrated Federal holiday originally recognized and enacted by President Harrison in 1892. That year’s Federal holiday, recognizing the 400th Anniversary of the landing of Columbus, was adopted as a way of easing tensions among America and Italy after a brutal lynching of eleven innocent Sicilian men in New Orleans, the largest mass lynching in our history.

Last year’s proclamation implies that Indigenous Peoples Day should be celebrated on Columbus Day. The entire month of November is duly recognized as Indigenous Peoples month and August 9th is recognized as the international celebration of Indigenous People Day.

We understand your efforts to bring unification to the Nation after two unwieldy years from managing a national health crisis. However, the optics of contaminating the focus and purpose of a recognized traditional Federal holiday for Columbus, with another purpose or focus, rewards one group of Americans politically, at the expense of another. This of course is not a demonstration of a unifying policy, but rather something less.

To be clear, the Italian American community across America respects and supports an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration, which should be celebrated with a singular focus in November or by expanding the existing international celebration of Indigenous People on August 9th either of which the Italian American community happily supports. At the same time the Italian American community requires the same level of respect for our historical, traditional celebration of Columbus Day which reflects the value of all immigrants and their added value to the fabric of this Nation.

This action, to remove a day celebrated by Italian Americans for generations, although unintentional, was clear and most disrespectful to the upwards of 20 million Americans who identify as having roots in Italy.

Most recently, Mr. President, you have stressed that our democracy is on the line in the upcoming mid-term elections. Indeed, that is true. But an equally profound threat to our democracy is any policy of exclusion, of favoring one group of Americans over another.

We would appreciate a few moments of your time to reach common sense solutions. This will allow all of us to come away from this more united, not divided. The magic of democracy is most notable when each of us can celebrate our unique heritage and cultural traditions and accomplishments, as well as respecting the traditions and accomplishments of all ethnic groups, which make up the fabric of America.

We therefore again respectfully request the opportunity to meet with you and your staff advisors, in person, to discuss more specific language recognizing the contributions of Italian Americans in this year’s Columbus Day proclamation from the White House.

A meeting with you and your staff would provide an opportunity for a discussion to avert unintended misperceptions and help move the nation closer to unification, without promoting the culture and heritage of one group of Americans at the expense of another.

Kindly contact my office prior to September 14th to schedule this important meeting and discuss any required security clearance protocols for our attendees.

Basil M. Russo
President, Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO)


More than 500 years ago, after securing the support of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, Christopher Columbus launched the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria from the coast of Spain in 1492. While he intended to end his quest in Asia, his 10-week journey instead landed him on the shores of the Bahamas, making Columbus the first of many Italian explorers to arrive in what would later become known as the Americas.
Many Italians would follow his path in the centuries to come, risking poverty, starvation, and death in pursuit of a better life.  Today, millions of Italian Americans continue to enrich our country’s traditions and culture and make lasting contributions to our Nation — they are educators, health care workers, scientists, first responders, military service members, and public servants, among so many other vital roles.

Today, we also acknowledge the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities. It is a measure of our greatness as a Nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past — that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them. For Native Americans, western exploration ushered in a wave of devastation:  violence perpetrated against Native communities, displacement and theft of Tribal homelands, the introduction and spread of disease, and more. On this day, we recognize this painful past and recommit ourselves to investing in Native communities, upholding our solemn and sacred commitments to Tribal sovereignty, and pursuing a brighter future centered on dignity, respect, justice, and opportunity for all people.

In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage 529 years ago, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, and modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), as amended, has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as “Columbus Day.”  Today, let this day be one of reflection — on America’s spirit of exploration, on the courage and contributions of Italian Americans throughout the generations, on the dignity and resilience of Tribal Nations and Indigenous communities, and on the work that remains ahead of us to fulfill the promise of our Nation for all. 

Now, therefore, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 11, 2021, as Columbus Day.  I direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and all who have contributed to shaping this Nation.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth. Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Both Democrat and Republican presidents have made Columbus Day Proclamations. Here are highlights:

John F. Kennedy, 1962
“Whereas his westward course was followed by millions of others from the Old World who came with the same enterprising spirit to build this Nation and other nations in this hemisphere, and to create an indestructible bond between the two hemispheres which continues to grow closer and stronger…”

Lyndon Johnson, 1965
“Whereas Christopher Columbus four hundred and seventy-three years ago journeyed westward across forbidding and unknown seas to open the way for the eventual establishment of our Nation and its free institutions…”

Jimmy Carter, 1979
“We are the inheritors of Columbus' legacy. As a nation which has always striven for the same qualities as the Great Navigator, we must continue the search for new horizons.”

Bill Clinton, 1995
“A native of Genoa, Columbus' courage and commitment led him to leave safe shores in pursuit of his goals. But he could not have made his trips without the support of the Spanish crown. People of Italian and Spanish descent continue to energize communities across our Nation, enhancing every occupation and sector of American society. We are grateful for their tremendous contributions and for the ingenuity of spirit that is Columbus' enduring legacy.”

Barack Obama, 2014
“In a new world, explorers found opportunity. They endured unforgiving winters and early hardship. They pushed west across a continent, charting rivers and mountains, and expanded our understanding of the world as they embraced the principle of self-reliance. In a new world, a history was written. It tells the story of an idea -- that all women and men are created equal -- and a people's struggle to fulfill it. And it is a history shared by Native Americans, one marred with long and shameful chapters of violence, disease, and deprivation.”

Dwight David Eisenhower, 1958
“Whereas we who long for the attainment of this goal may draw inspiration from the vision and courage of Christopher Columbus, who sailed across an uncharted sea and found a western continent and opened a new world…”

Richard M. Nixon, 1973
“Columbus launched the great age of discovery in the Americas. For five centuries, the spirit of discovery has continued to flourish here. On this Columbus Day, we can usefully reflect on the many ways in which that spirit still lives on, not only in our efforts to expand our physical horizons but in everything we do which helps us broaden our understanding of our world and of ourselves.”

Gerald R. Ford, 1975
“We can all take great pride, as we look forward to our Bicentennial celebrations, in honoring the memory of the epic accomplishments of Christopher Columbus which led to the development of the Americas and the founding of this great Nation.”

Ronald Reagan, 1986
“Americans of Italian descent are proud to say that Columbus, a son of Genoa, was the first of many Italians to come to America and a powerful reason the United States and Italy share the unique friendship they do. Those of Spanish descent likewise point out that Spain made Columbus's voyages possible and that he is the first link in the friendship of the United States and Spain. All Americans share in this just pride.”

George H.W. Bush, 1990
“Seizing an opportunity to pursue his dreams and theories and to expand the realm of the known, Christopher Columbus not only introduced European culture and technology to the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere but also obtained for his countrymen an alluring glimpse of their rich lands and exotic customs. In so doing, he began a long, fruitful exchange of knowledge, resources, and traditions between the Old World and the New.”

George W. Bush, 2005
“Since 1934, when President Roosevelt first proclaimed the national holiday, our Nation has observed Columbus Day to mark the moment when the Old World met the New. As we recognize Columbus' legacy, we also celebrate the contributions of Italian Americans to our Nation's growth and well-being. Americans of Italian descent are musicians and athletes, doctors and lawyers, teachers and first responders. They are serving bravely in our Armed Forces.”

Donald J. Trump, 2020
“Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus's legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions. Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister. They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy. We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.”


Extreme Political Ideologies Threaten Survival of EU
- EU is Needed to Counter Russian Aggression
- Liberalism and Progressivism are Different from Each Other

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

I have been frustrated for years with political polarization. In the United States, people who claim to be liberals are really progressives. They have hijacked the American left to marginalize true liberals. Meanwhile, conservatives in America get more and more right-wing, even reactionary. Both sides accuse each other of Fascism and both are somewhat correct. In Europe, political polarization is qualitatively different, but quantitatively just as bad as it is in the U.S.

Both, the far-right is increasingly Fascistic. However, the progressives, who, in Europe, do not pretend to be liberal, are also increasingly Fascistic. The first group wants to tear down the European Union (EU), partially or completely, while the second group wants to turn the EU into a federal or, perhaps, unitary state. There are few real liberals in Europe it seems.

In America, liberalism was the dominant leftist political ideology until about 10 years, when progressives took over, often still pretending to be “liberals”. Liberalism is about fairness for everyone and a balance between equality and equity, with a bias towards equality. Everyone’s rights are to be protected in what is called a liberal democracy, which balances majority power with minority rights. Liberals believe in the rule of law and the balance of power while progressives do not. That is why liberals are often the first to be marginalized when progressives take over.

Liberalism was never as powerful in Europe as it was in the United States. However, things have gotten worse on both sides. In the far-right perspective in Italy, for example, there is nothing worth protecting about the EU. The far-right sees the EU as too diverse, too “non-white” (oh the irony!), and too secular to be allowed any real power. The far-right would not merely leave the eurozone, but, would, in fact, tear down the EU, itself. Matteo Salvini, leader of the The League party in Italy is the primary architect of the far-right, along with Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy political party, who may become Italy’s next prime minister.

If the EU is just a giant dominion out to destroy Italian sovereignty, as viewed by the far right, the scary part is that the progressives, seen by the international media as mainstream, feel the same way! Matteo Renzi, leader of the Italia Viva party, seized power a number of years ago when he ousted a duly-elected prime minister in Italy. He has said explicitly that to want sovereignty for Italy is morally bad. He wants to eliminate Italy as a sovereign nation to be replaced as a province of the EU.

I do not subscribe to either extreme vision. I believe Italy should be allowed to leave the Eurozone, if she so chooses. However, I also believe that the EU is worth defending for a number of reasons. First, it is a much-needed counterweight against Russia, the foremost enemy of liberal democracy. The EU, in some form, needs to be strong enough to help the U.S. and others deter Russian aggression, as best exemplified in the current Russian-Ukrainian War. Second, the EU has helped control extremism within Europe with its economic incentives. It helped to stop Hungary and Serbia from embracing far-right nationalism, while it kept Scotland and Catalonia from becoming far-left, revolutionary countries.

The EU works well with NATO and the U.S. to protect democracy, even if it is not always liberal democracy. We need to bring the EU back to its roots as an intergovernmental organization. We must strip away the current state-like attributes and pretensions of the EU. Italy should remain part of the EU; not as a province, but as a sovereign nation.

Editor’s Note: Pictured are leaders of Italy’s right wing triumvirate: Matteo Salvini, of The League, Giorgia Meloni, of Brothers of Italy and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the political party, Forza Italia. Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist and president of the 501c3 organization, the Italian American Movement. He can be reached at 732-549-2635 or The views expressed may not be shared by PRIMO’s publisher and staff.


Primo Review
“Qui Rido Io” (The King of Laughter) Is a Film for All Americans to Watch
- The Film Depicts an Early 20th Century Court Case That Sought to Ban Satire in Italy
- A Theme Most Relevant for Today’s Cancel Culture Tyranny

By Truby Chiaviello

“Qui rido io” should be required viewing for all Americans.

The Italian import, translated directly as, “Here I Laugh,” was rebranded as, “The King of Laughter” for American audiences. The film conveys an obscure event in Italian history to indict our current cancel culture age.

Today, we may watch the Oscars, once a gala parade of class and distinction for Hollywood, only to see the likes of actor Will Smith, believing himself entitled, leave his seat to slap comedian Chris Rock on stage for telling an off color joke. We may remember a rodeo clown some years ago who was immediately fired after wearing a caricature mask of President Barack Obama. There was the recent saga of comedian Dave Chappelle who was almost banned from Netflix for joking about transgenders.

Such are just a few examples of McCarthyite tyranny where blackballed and ostracized are those who laugh away the opinions and beliefs of the ascended intelligentsia.

Censorship is in. Shunnings are trendy.

Such was also the state of Italy at the turn of the 20th century. A court case reverberated through the land when two luminaries of stage, one, a writer, the other, an actor, opposed each other. To be decided was the freedom of expression for comedy.

In 1904, the poet, playwright, novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio sued Eduardo Scarpetta for plagiarism. The source of the dispute was the lyrical play by D’Annunzio titled, “The Daughter of Iorio,” a masterful work compared to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The accusation of plagiarism was just a means to an end. D’Annunzio, among others of Italy’s elite, sought to expunge satire and parody from theater.

D’Annunzio took himself seriously as did others among Italy’s best and brightest. “The Daughter of Iorio” was set in the mountains of Abruzzo, where D’Annunzio was born and raised. The story was about a shepherd named Aligi who is betrothed to marry a woman he does not love. The village outcast, Mila, daughter of a pagan worshiper, captures the eye of the young man. What follows is a romantic tragedy in poetic verse to underscore the superstitions of peasants depicted. The play was heralded a masterpiece. The writer was acclaimed a king poet of his time.

Scarpetta was one of many in Italian theater, at that time, impressed by D’Annunzio. The actor, by then, had dominated the stage in Naples in bourgeois comedies based on translated plays from France. He thought D’Annunzio was ripe for parody. He sought out the writer to discuss a satirical interpretation of his latest play.

Reminiscent of Universal Horror, in the film, is when Scarpetta, portrayed by the always outstanding Toni Servillo, treks through a dark rainstorm with his associate to meet D’Annunzio inside a Tuscan villa. The interior is seemingly Gothic with black mahogany walls, stained glass windows and decorative grotesques. D’Annunzio greets his guests dressed in a bathrobe. He resembles the devil with sharpened goattee and sardonic smile. To observe the visit from upstairs are prostitutes who look more like witches in heavy make up.

The whole display is cunningly surreal. D’Annunzio seems to give his blessing, and, yet not, for Scarpetta to lampoon his work. One wonders if the meeting was a setup. In a following scene, fans of D’Annunzio infiltrate the audience for a planned assault to shout down Scarpetta, his troupe of actors and actresses at opening night for the parody.

D’Annunzio then sues Scarpetta for plagiarism. The roots of comedy are to be legally questioned. Should satire be allowed? Scarpetta sees his reputation turned upside down. He is now a pariah. He is a dinosaur past his time. He is seen as out of touch. He descends the common denominator to poke fun at works far beyond his acumen, according to intellectuals who testify in court against him.

The motivation of authors and playwrights is partly envy at the monetary success of Scarpetta. His plays sell out theaters all over Naples. He is rich enough to afford the largest villa where he and his wife can raise their three children, in luxury and comfort, along with his in-laws, his nieces and nephews. A conspiracy is hatched among Naples’ literary elite. “We must ensure that Neapolitan theater regains its popular purity,” says one author. “Ours is a cultural battle for the theater of art.” Another writer exclaims: “Look around you. Trades people, lawyers, doctors. They adore Scarpetta as they identify with his easy-going characters. There is no violence. Tragedy? Heaven forbid! Only laughter. So they go home happy and satisfied. And what happened to life? The drama in life is found in the street, among the poor.”

Mario Martone is the director and co-writer of “Qui rido io.” His task was large and complex since Scarpetta was connected to other key figures of Italian theater. The director thought it necessary to highlight the back story of other famous Italians depicted in the film. It turns out Scarpetta had many liaisons, most notably with his wife’s sister, Luisa De Filippo, played by Christina Dell’Anna. The couple had three children, one of whom was the famous playwright Eduardo De Filippo and his brother, Peppino, the actor.

Naples in the early 1900s was a combination of Rococo ambience and late Victorian style. The film’s set designers, Laura Casalini and Francesco Fonda, captured the glorious interiors of theaters, villas and salons of the era. The costumes by Ursula Patzak are a time capsule of festooned headwear for women and top hats for men. Neapolitan cuisine is on full display when tomato sauce doused spaghetti is hurriedly twirled and consumed by the astutely dressed diners.

There is much to like about “Qui rido io.” The acting is excellent as is the design and flow of the film. A flaw, however, is the director’s equitable focus on the goings-on of children. Considerable time in the two hour film is spent on the innocent inquiries, playful interactions and slight dramas of infants and pre-adolescents. Such meanderings take away from the film’s central conflict, engrossingly relevant for today, as to the extent of artistic freedom.

The film’s ending is one to remember. Servillo embraces the role of Scarpetta in the ultimate test of true integrity between the artist and literary intellectuals. The audience is ripe to remember where Italy went in the years to follow this court case. As Scarpetta’s star eventually faded, his adversary, D’Annunzio, ascended the heights of celebrity from theater to politics. He emulated the gross intolerance and authoritarianism to later plague the mid-20th century. D’Annunzio embraced the violence of World War I to eventually organize a militia to illegally invade Fiume at war’s end. He set himself up as dictator for a year until the world community pressured his surrender. Such militaristic belligerence served as the perennial model for Benito Mussolini. The rise of Fascism soon followed for D’Annunzio proclaimed its godfather and celebrated supporter.

That fact alone should remind us to support the Scarpettas of today’s cancel culture war. Censorship, shunning and ostracism should never be tolerated by any and all artists. Scarpetta said it best in one telling scene of the film: “By condemning me, you condemn an entire art form…The truth is, in Italy, you can’t deride anyone close to those in power. Freedom is in danger.”

Editor’s Note: “Qui rido io” (The King of Laughter) can be seen in a host of streaming sites on the Internet. The film was made in 2021 for release in Italy, only to arrive in America this summer.


Just Call Him…
- Newark’s Mayor Goes Nuclear on Columbus Monument Pedestal
- Opts to Demolish Statue Base, Instead of Compromise
- Italian Americans Call for Governor Murphy to Investigate
- Meanwhile, in New York, Radical Legislators Target Columbus Circle for Destruction

By Angelo Vivolo

If you think the upcoming Columbus holiday is safe, or that a statue in your community of the man who united two worlds with a rickety wooden caravel won't be carried away in the middle of the night, you're dreaming. Some legislators have proposed wiping away the holiday here in New York. Its sponsor in the state senate, Jessica Ramos, also wants all statues of Columbus removed. "As the daughter of a proud indigenous woman, I would love to see a statue honoring the people whose land has been stolen," she says.

Who can argue with the need to respect and honor the contributions of those who preceded the new waves of immigrants that followed Columbus?

But why destroy a statue or a holiday commemorating the man who sailed from Spain? Indeed, Columbus brought the Hispanic language and Hispanic culture to the Western Hemisphere, and led the way for hundreds of millions of immigrants to follow his path? And if you think that Senator Ramos is alone in the belief that recognizing the first indigenous settlers must be entangled with a wrongful demonization of Columbus and the cultures that followed, it's time to rise from slumber.

A survey of candidates by the Jim Owles Democratic Club, earlier this year, turned up responses from eight Senators, including Senator Ramos. All are in favor of removing the memorial from Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

"I support removing the Christopher Columbus statue," wrote a member of the state assembly. "I would support replacing it with an indigenous hero and believe we should work with activists to determine who that would be."

In 2018, the U.S. Department of the Interior honored the Columbus Circle Memorial's historical value and aesthetic excellence with recognition in the National Register of Historic Places. This protection was made possible by a dedicated and united group of volunteers and community groups, including the Columbus Heritage Coalition.

Our beautiful memorial and symbol of the contributions of all immigrants, especially the Italian American immigrants who built it-- isn't going anywhere. But we must remain united and vigilant.

Sadly, no such designation protected the 93-year-old Columbus memorial in Newark's Washington Park historic district. Instead, by order of the City of Newark, the statue was taken under cover of darkness in 2020 to parts unknown, eventually turning up in a storage cage in Trenton.

Community activists and historic preservationists advocated for the return of Columbus. They also strongly supported a plan to honor Harriet Tubman, the famed abolitionist. But the City rejected the possibility of returning the Columbus memorial to its pedestal.

The base of the statue, by itself, was worthy of historical and artistic recognition. Master craftsman, architect and sculptor, Giuseppe Ciocchetti, created bronze relief plaques to depict Columbus's commissioning, embarkation, voyage, and landing. These depictions were attached to the statue’s pedestal.

Ultimately, the matter was referred to the state's Historic Preservation Council. The panel urged the City of Newark to explore alternate locations within George Washington Park, renamed the City Harriet Tubman Square. The council strongly suggested the City pursue a plan to allow the Columbus and the proposed Tubman memorials to "co-exist in the park."

Restoring Columbus and welcoming Tubman seemed a proper compromise. But the city administration rejected any possibility of restoration as it would "undermine the City's stated goals to foster a more inclusive park setting and therefore [was] dismissed by the City."

Rejecting the Tubman-Columbus compromise, Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, ruled that the arrangement does not meet the "project need to replace the former Christopher Columbus statue with the Harriet Tubman monument."

La Tourette approved the removal of the pedestal under certain conditions placed upon the City, including bringing in a consultant to ensure proper handling of historical materials as per federal preservation guidelines.

Instead, the City came through with a wrecking crew last week and wiped the site of any trace of the Columbus legacy. "In essence, this was a done deal from the outset," said activist Guy Sterling. "I highly doubt the city did much or any of it before it pulled the trigger on taking down the statue's pedestal."

This outrageous behavior cannot go unanswered. Therefore, we are asking New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to launch an investigation into this gross violation of process by the City of Newark that totally ignored the state's requirement for the proper retrieval of Ciocchetti's reliefs and other historical material.

We live in a democratic country of laws that are supposed to protect the rights of all citizens equally. We live by the principle to respect all cultures and ethnicities for their accomplishments and contributions to America. Tearing down a statue and erecting another in its place offends all cultures and violates the values for which this country stands.

Governor Murphy, you were elected to represent all the people. Right this wrong! Stand up to those who seek to divide, rather than unite, us.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Vivolo is the president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition. The organization’s web site is


The Resignation of Mario Draghi as Italy’s Prime Minister is a Good Thing
- Prime Minister in Name Only; Draghi was a Dictator
- Enemy of Federalism
“He was a unitary absolutist who was subservient to both the international business community and the European Union.”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

Everyone in mainstream media loved Mario Draghi.

He alone was to save Italy. He, alone, was the essential progressive to merge technocracy with populism.

I am a man of the center-left in the United States, so it is appalling for me to see Draghi as the face of the center-left in Italy. This man was nothing more than a dictator for his 18-month tenure as prime minister. His fall is a good thing for democracy, especially liberal democracy. So why is the international media so enamored by this disgraced dictator?

To be fair, Draghi was popular for a while. He was unelected with absolute power. In the depths of the coronavirus, he took over from the (even more) heavy-handed Giuseppe Conte, prime minister of Italy from June 1, 2018 to February 13, 2021. The people of Italy understood Draghi to be temporary, in the tradition of the Roman Republic, whereby an all-powerful leader might serve for a period of six months.

Draghi had no respect for regional autonomy. He was a unitary absolutist who was subservient to both the international business community and the European Union (EU). He was entirely out of tune with the future of Italian politics. He wanted to turn Italy into nothing more than a province of the EU. He had no interest in federalizing Italy’s regions.

Draghi ranted about the far-right, to the extent that any opponent of his dictatorship was declared far-right. This only empowered and emboldened his political enemies, especially Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy political party and quite possibly Italy’s next prime minister. Remember that the worst far-right actor, Matteo Salvini, of The League, supported Draghi’s dictatorship in one form of another. Fascists on the far-right seem little different from the fascists who claim to be progressives.

I visited Italy during Draghi’s dictatorship and, frankly, it was a little frightening to be there. His fall has to be a good thing.

Now, everyone is terrified that the far-right will take over. However, is not a liberal democracy, a concept seemingly forgotten by European Union elites, about majority rule with protections for minority rights? Draghi trampled on both. Free and fair democratic elections are now coming to Italy for the first time in years. Yet, even liberal leftists like me will not contact Meloni and the Brothers of Italy for an interview, even a critical one, because of fear of being branded Fascist or far-right. I am a little ashamed of myself, actually.

The rise of the far-right is an awful thing, but, at least, it is democratic. Progressive dictatorship was not very progressive but very dictatorial. Its demise is to be replaced by far-right democracy. The international business community and the European Union elites want someone to “govern” Italy for them. They vastly prefer a “good” dictatorship over a “bad” democracy. This is not right. You either believe in some form of democracy or you do not.

Italy needs to govern herself. Flaws in the country’s constitution allowed for this dictatorship to occur. The time has come for Italy to move to a presidential or semi-presidential system, where the chief executive has a defined term and must be elected directly by the people. The proportional representation system needs to be retained. Yet, a new constitution must make impossible for politicians to simply seize absolute power as did Matteo Renzi, Conte and Draghi. Citizens should vote for a paramount leader. Perhaps a semi-presidential system, where the prime minister and a president could share power might be a good idea. Currently, Italy’s president is not entirely powerless, but he is not directly elected by the people, as he should be.

Italy’s fundamental problem remains her unitary format where all power is kept in Rome. The regions have autonomy only at the discretion of Rome unlike, here, in the United States, where the states have real sovereignty. Dictators hate federalism. Hence, the main reason to establish a system for Italian regions. Federalism will make it harder, if not impossible, for a dictator to take control of the country. Regional autonomy will limit the power of the far-right or far-left when either group takes control of parliament.

Two equally horrifying forces in Italy are now far-right democrats and centralist (pro-unitary) dictators. Neither force is acceptable. We need the rise of a federalist center-left democratic bloc in Italy. This is really the only way to save Italy’s liberal democracy.

Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist and an Italian American civil rights activist from New Jersey. He can be contacted in Italiano or English at and in English at 732-549-2635 and 732-887-3914. The views expressed by the writer may not be shared by PRIMO’s publisher or staff.

Discoverer of The New World Has Become The Convenient Fall Guy for Today's Cancel Culture
- Villain Status Based on Lies and Disinformation by Howard Zinn
- Just 8 Pages!
- All Wrongs of American History Blamed on This One Man?!
“The time is now for a more sensible effort of intellectual precision to convey the greater truth of Columbus.”

Tom Damigella
VP Italian American Alliance

No one can deny Columbus' discovery of the New World had a long-term impact on the Indigenous People of North and South America. It was Columbus's life-long mission to discover a shorter sea route to the Far East, not only for new trade, but, also, to find an unobstructed path to Jerusalem, then occupied by the Muslims. Not only was Columbus an incredible navigator who brought his crew safely to an unknown world, he was a pious Christian whose devotion was to spread the word of God.
It was never in this man's heart to brutalize, rape, or, as some people have accused him of, creating purposeful genocide. Columbus was a noble man who was nothing like the villainous exploiter as attributed to him by Howard Zinn in “A People’s History of the United States.” This character assassination has unfortunately been repeated unwittingly by those who use just eight pages of Zinn's book to teach the life and times of Columbus.

That's right. Zinn wrote only eight pages of unmerciful lies and misinformation about Columbus to set the stage for a smear campaign against the United States. He wanted people to believe that the United States, along with the whole Western World, were nothing more than executioners of all minority people. In order to defame America, Zinn had to first defame Columbus.
Tragically, some 90 percent of the native population died of diseases brought here by explorers and settlers from Europe. The Indigenous People lacked the natural immunity to withstand such epidemics as Small Pox and Malaria. There was no intent on the part of Columbus, not to mention other explorers and settlers, to purposely inflict these diseases upon the natives. This cannot be called an act of genocide, but, rather another example of the Tragedy of History. The Black Death of 1345 to 1347 was transmitted from China to eventually kill up to one third of the European population. (Sound familiar?) It was estimated that 25 million people died in a five year period! This was horrific, but should we blame China or accuse Chinese historical figures of genocide? Of course not. It was due to microbes, not people. 

These facts are not meant to excuse the many broken treaties and wars against Native Americans by the United States government. Rather, my point is to bring intellectual precision to this historical discussion of Columbus. 
Yes, there were atrocities committed against the Taino people, but not by Columbus. Indeed, he went so far as to ally himself with the tribes of Hispaniola against their historical enemies, the Caribs. Columbus sought only to befriend and treat fairly the Taino. He made efforts to baptize the Taino into the Christian faith to make illegal their enslavement. He never threatened to cut off their hands or forced them to dig gold. These are lies and myths. Columbus never owned any slaves, although at that time, human bondage was acceptable in every corner of the world. Columbus never raped or condoned the raping of Taino women. He punished his own men who rebelled against his authority to commit such felonies. This is all recorded and documented by Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish priest who lived in the 16th century to publish a personal account of the Indies. Father de las Casas attributed most crimes to the conquistadors who followed Columbus to the New World. 

An extensive list of scholarly sources are available today that support my viewpoint. For instance, the eight page defamation of Columbus by Howard Zinn is thoroughly disproved by such works as “Debunking Howard Zinn Fake History,” by Mary Grabar, “Columbus Hero,” by Rafael Ortiz, “Columbus and His Quest for Jerusalem” by Carol Delaney and “Admiral of the Sea” by Samuel Morrison, just to name a few.
To solely lay the blame on Columbus for the inhumane acts, wars and conflicts to occur after his death because of mass migration, the clash of cultures and the introduction of diseases is absurd on its face and libelous in its action.
Columbus is a legitimate historical figure who helped change the world for the better. The positive contributions to humankind far outweigh the unfortunate tragedies that came with development and discovery of the New World.

Yes, Native Americans deserve to have their day of special recognition for us to proudly celebrate their culture, history and heritage. They remain a significant part of the United States. Such recognition can and must be formalized, but not at the expense and insult to Italian American communities who have so proudly associated themselves with Columbus for more than 130 years.

It is unfortunate that some people do not understand the historical connection of Columbus to our grandparent’s generation who endured incredible oppression and bigotry. This emotional connection of pride to Columbus cannot be ignored if one is to truly understand why we defend Columbus against uninformed and misguided critics.
Since our nation's founding, we have honored Columbus by naming cities, buildings and statues for his discovery of the New World. Because of Columbus, the United States has existed to do more for the betterment of all people than any society or nation in the history of the world. The world is a far better place because of America, regardless of Zinn's poisonous telling of our country’s history.
The efforts made by those, today, who use Columbus as their scapegoat to push a political agenda is unnecessary and unwarranted.

We are all better than that. The time is now for a more sensible effort of intellectual precision to convey the greater truth of Columbus.
Editor’s Note: The author was a key leader in the successful effort to stop the most recent attempt in Massachusetts to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. The Italian American Alliance web site is


Professor Anthony Tamburri, of the Calandra Institute, Crafts an Inexcusable, Vicious Attack on Judge Basil M. Russo
- Dean Unhinged
- Many Convoluted Connections in Hatchet Job Disguised as Academic Treatise
- Expression of Catholic Enthusiasm Reminiscent of Taliban?
- Tamburri actually voted for Russo in 2020!

By Truby Chiaviello

From the halls of academia…

After a positive, productive summer national meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) on July 23rd, where Judge Basil M. Russo was unanimously reelected to serve another term as president and just prior to a major victory this past week by Italian Americans in Massachusetts to retain Columbus Day, there came to Italian American leaders a sample writing lesson in takedown tracts.

An uninvited excoriation of Judge Russo by none other than Dr. Anthony Tamburri, Dean of the Calandra Institute, was sent by mass email.

“‘Where Ignorance Reigns, Life Is Lost’: The Dangers of Neglecting History” is the title of a verbose tirade by the professor submitted to PRIMO and leaders of the Italian American community.

What might seem an academic treatise turned out to be nothing more than a bitter hatchet job, replete with falsehoods and exaggerated misjudgments, perpetrated against Judge Russo.

Not to mention a dose of irony.

In a beginning paragraph, Professor Tamburri accuses Judge Russo of “Self-referential oration”, albeit in a piece the scholar publishes for his immodestly titled, “Anthony’s Newsletter.”

Dr. Tamburri, no doubt, worked overtime to search every nook and cranny to try to find fault with the president of COPOMIAO. Statements by Judge Russo are grossly taken out of context. Rash judgments are made by the professor from convoluted connections. The writer makes mountains from molehills. Or, better yet, skyscrapers from lego pieces.

First up, religion.

A delegation of Italian Americans to Rome led by Judge Russo earlier this year is spuriously connected to the Taliban by Dr. Tamburri. Outrage is the scholar’s reaction to the following statement by Judge Russo after meeting, in person, Pope Francis: “it was most important that COPOMIAO leaders reaffirm their faith and publicly pledge their allegiance to their Church.”

What was, no doubt, an expression of enthusiasm in line with the mission of a devout Catholic to spread the Gospel is unnecessarily warped and twisted by Dr. Tamburri into something negative and ugly.

Judge Russo is accused by Dr. Tamburri of “religious essentialism” and “consequential exclusion.” How does the writer know this? Did he interview Judge Russo to solicit his intentions? No, instead, he extends the matter to an absurd conclusion. He writes: “No other US ethnic group, save one or two that may be based in a Taliban-like belief system spouts a separatist discourse as stark as what Russo is stating here.”


So, in other words, the elected president of COPOMIAO is no different than Ayman al-Zawahiri. Such a bizarre conclusion comes from a man whose profession mandates the use of reason and logic.

Every facet of Judge Russo’s presidency, ranging from election process to policy, is denounced by Dr. Tamburri.

As the Trump campaign questioned the 2020 presidential election results so too does Dr. Tamburri question the election of Judge Russo, president of COPOMIAO. The professor makes the stunning claim that Judge Russo was, “appointed in that role, not selected through a contested election as is usually the case with such organizations.”

Delegates of the member organizations gathered at the annual meeting of COPOMIAO on October 24, 2020. Records show Dr. Tamburri was present at that meeting as one of the voting delegates and cast his vote in favor of electing Judge Russo president of COPOMIAO. Clear misrepresentation of this and other facts by Dr. Tamburri completely undermine his credibility and call into question his motives.

Wait, there’s more…

At a COPOMIAO meeting on March 27, 2021, attorney George Bochetto made a presentation about the federal lawsuit he intended to file in Philadelphia. He asked if COPOMIAO would agree to serve as the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. This was a federal lawsuit for Italian Americans to be designated as a protected class under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution to prevent the city’s mayor from arbitrarily issuing an executive order to cancel Columbus Day, and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Again, records show that Dr. Tamburri attended that day’s meeting as a member delegate and cast his vote to have his organization included in the pro-Columbus lawsuit as the lead plaintiff. A few days later, when Dr. Tamburri realized that he and his organization were to be publicly identified as supporting a pro-Columbus lawsuit, since his organization was to be listed as a member of COPOMIAO in the text of the lawsuit, he withdrew his organization. Does Dr. Tamburri’s vote indicates he was willing to stand with the Italian American community and support Columbus secretly, but did not have the courage of his convictions to do so publicly? Or does his organization’s withdrawal indicates that his true beliefs are with the anti-Columbus segment of academia? Such ambiguity comes from a man who touts himself an expert on the Columbus issue.

Judge Russo is seen by Professor Tamburri as wholly allegorical. He’s devoid of flesh and blood.

It’s the age-old mantra for character assassins…I condemn “what he represents” not “who he is”.

And what does the reelected president of COPOMIAO represent? An “example that underscores the dangers of not knowing,” writes Professor Tamburri in his introduction.

Exactly, what are you are trying to say, sir?

That Basil M. Russo, who holds a BA  in political science from John Carroll University and a JD from the Marshall College of Law…is a man who never went to school?

That Basil M. Russo, one of youngest to ever get elected to the city council of Cleveland, to serve in that body for some eight years, unanimously elected and reelected majority leader by representatives of different races and ethnicity, who sponsored and passed the first anti-redlining law of any major American city, who sponsored and passed, what may be, the first law of any American city to mandate smoke detectors in all homes, who passed a law to ensure public transportation was equipped to meet the needs of the elderly and handicapped…is a cold-blooded man who doesn’t understand the needs of society?

That Basil M. Russo, a judge of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, a judge of the 8th District Court of Appeals, a respected lawyer with 50 years experience…is a man who never read a book?

That Basil M. Russo, the initiator of the Bishop Anthony Pilla Italian American Studies Program at his alma mater John Carroll…is a man who knows nothing about Italian American history?

Any rational reader is unable to accept such a conclusion by Dr. Tamburri that Judge Russo poses “dangers in not knowing.”

Hence, the question begs: What could be the motivation for such a mean and unwarranted diatribe by Dr. Tamburri?

Did Judge Russo wrong Dr. Tamburri in a previous life?

The answer is…Christopher Columbus!

Judge Russo leads the way to stop this cancel culture assault on a man most Italian Americans feel is their hero and Dr. Tamburri probably hates it.

Judge Russo tirelessly supports those at battle with mayors, city councilors and school board members who seek either to tear down depictions of Columbus or eliminate his national holiday. Judge Russo has been there to offer his legal expertise, organizational skills and experienced advocacy to countless groups fighting to keep Columbus, in one form or another, in their cities, counties and states.

Where, then, is Dr. Tamburri?

Is he there with Judge Russo and others to defend the Columbus Monument at Columbus Circle in Manhattan? Is he there with Judge Russo and others to help the good people of Philadelphia to stop the Columbus Monument at Marconi Plaza from being boarded up by their mayor? Is he there with Judge Russo and others to answer the call of Italian Americans in Pittsburgh to prevent the removal of their beautiful statue of Columbus in Schenley Park?

It is always easy to stand on the sidelines to jeer and pelt snow balls. It is another thing to step into the arena to defend our cause. Judge Russo has been there from the beginning as a tireless advocate in defense of Columbus. After the tragic death of George Floyd in 2020, when vandals destroyed statues in Richmond, Saint Paul, Boston, Baltimore and elsewhere, it was Judge Russo, and so many others like him in COPOMIAO, not to mention other Italian American organizations, Italian American individuals and those of many other ethnicities, who stood up against this incessant assault.

Very little is positive in this scorching screed by Dr. Tamburri. Verbose and haughty, the piece seeks nothing but to tear down a decent man with noble intentions who has broad support in the Italian American community. Much like the hateful vandals might tear down statues of Columbus.

At one moment of self-reflection in this exhaustive hit piece, Dr. Tamburri wonders if he is being “too strong” in his critique of Judge Russo. Nah, he concludes. Then, lo and behold, he finds common ground with the subject of his disdain. He agrees with Judge Russo for Italian Americans to stay united.

Thanks but no thanks.

Editor’s Note: PRIMO is a proud member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. The magazine enthusiastically voted in favor of reelecting Basil M. Russo this past July as president. We support his leadership. The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is


- Italian Americans Come Out for a Strong Win to Keep Holiday
- Bills for Indigenous People's Day Die in Summer Session of State Legislature
- Legislators Return Home

By Tom Damigella, Italian American Alliance
Save Columbus Action Group

Our collective voices were heard!

We believed that this Bill was unjust and unfair and divisive not only to the large Italian American community of 800,000, but also to many other Massachusetts residents who support and celebrate this National Holiday.

At the same time, we do support that the Native American community should have their own day of celebration and recognition of their proud heritage to be the day after Thanksgiving as proclaimed by President Obama in 2009, and that the Month of November should be Native American Heritage Month as proclaimed and voted on by Congress in 1990.

The many personal contacts and emails that were made to House Speaker Mariano and other legislators made the difference to Save Columbus Day in Massachusetts!

Thanks go out to all those who took up this cause and supported it with your actions.

In the meantime, we need to make it clear to our own legislators that we will not support them with our vote if they insist on supporting this bill in the future.

I have listed for your attention those legislators who were petitioners in support of this Bill to replace Columbus Day. If they happen to be your representative listed below, then don’t hesitate to continue to let them know your own position is one of opposition and a no vote for them.

Joanne M. Comerford, Jack Patrick Lewis, Jason M. Lewis, Kay Khan, Rebecca L. Rausch, David Henry, Agosky LeBoeuf, Erika Uyterhoeven, Carmine Lawrence Gentile, Elizabeth A. Malia, Patricia D. Jehlen, Steven C. Owens, Mary S. Keefe, Tami L. Gouveia, Cindy F. Friedman, Michael J. Barrett, Adam G. Hinds, Julian Cyr, Mindy Domb, James B. Eldridge, Patrick M. O’Connor, Lydia Edwards, Jack Patrick Lewis, Brandy Fluker Oakley, Lindsay N. Sabadosa, David M. Rogers, Christine P. Barber, Michelle L. Piccolo, Carmine, Lawrence Gentile, Jay D. Livingstone, Danillo A. Sena, Kenneth I. Gordon, Natalie M. Higgins, Mary S. Keefe, Joan Meschino, Marjorie C. Decker, Natalie M. Blais, Vanna Howard, James B. Eldridge, Kevin G. Honan, Mike Connolly

Editor’s Note: Please help the Italian American Alliance in their continuous battle to save Columbus Day in Massachusetts. The web site for the Italian American Alliance is


Ambitious Way Forward Touted at Summer Gathering for Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations
- “Italiamericon” Italian American Youth Summit Set for 2023
- Four New Members; Columbus Monument Corporation of Syracuse Praised
- Universality of Italian Heritage Curriculum Model to Be Aggressively Pushed
- Judge Russo Demands Face-to-Face Meeting with President Biden to Stop Indigenous Day Inclusion in Columbus Day Proclamation

By Truby Chiaviello

Hot and muggy outside, cool and productive inside.

That’s one way to describe the summer national meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) on July 23rd in New York.

Inside an air conditioned brownstone building, a block away from Central Park, was where delegates deliberated on an ambitious agenda. The stunning baroque setting was provided by the Columbus Citizens Foundation, a mainstay organization of Italian American engagement and activism in New York, as headquartered on 69th Street and founded by the original publisher of the National Enquirer, Generoso Pope.

Italian American leaders from all over the country got down to morning business while a heat wave covered the region outside with temperatures near triple digits and barometer readings not too far behind.

First up at the podium was the indefatigable unifier of Italian Americans, Basil M. Russo, president of COPOMIAO, president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, founder of the Italian American Museum of Cleveland and fighter for Columbus and all things Italian American. He held nothing back in an opening statement about the incessant political correct assault on Columbus, the diminishment of Italian American historical figures in school and the effort to inspire future generations to embrace our proud heritage.

“Our community finds itself at a very critical point in our history,” Judge Russo said. “The preservation of our heritage is being challenged in ways we never imagined before. We have an education system that ignores who we are and what we contributed to this country. We have a younger generation that no longer appreciates the importance of identifying with and preserving our heritage. We have a radical element in our society determined to erase Columbus Day and Columbus statues which symbolize our struggle to assimilate into American society. Those serious challenges are exactly what makes this time in our history so meaningful and so exciting. As leaders of the Italian American community, we’ve been charged with the responsibility to save the heritage that our parents and grandparents passed on to us. And that is exactly what we are going to do.”

Several major initiatives are to meet the challenges spelled out by Judge Russo. The most groundbreaking was arguably the proposed gathering of a national summit for young Italian American leaders. John M. Viola, vice president of COPOMIAO, hosts the Italian American Podcast. He is former president of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), perhaps the youngest in history to lead a non-profit at such size and scope. He displayed the working draft of what looks to be one of the most exciting events for Italian Americans in recent memory.

Titled “Italamericon,” the Italian American youth leadership summit, the first of its kind, is tentatively set for January 13-15, 2023, in beautiful Fort Lauderdale. Young adults from all corners of the United States will be invited to meet other Italian American leaders in their age group. Such a gathering can be interpreted as a personal endeavor for the lead organizer. He recalled how important it was to attend his first NIAF gathering as a young adult.

“I was 17,” said Viola, when he attended, “the NIAF Convention Gala Weekend. I was bored out of my mind, frankly. Then, I went to the lobby and ended up singing at the piano until two in the morning with my new young Italian American friends, also Tommy Lasorda and Jerry Vale. I felt like I was finally home. I felt like I had finally arrived to the motherland. From there, I made friends with future leaders. We need that again.”

Inspiring youth through education is sought to preserve our Italian American heritage. Cav. Gilda Rorro Baldassari, Ed.D was invited to the podium to discuss her collaboration efforts with Robert DiBiase, who leads the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission’s Curriculum Committee. She manages a campaign for American school districts to adopt the Universality of Italian Heritage Curriculum Model, a new and exciting approach to inspire greater learning by offering students introductory lessons in Italian art, history and culture.

COPOMIAO has grown substantially these past few years to include some 400 Italian American organizations. Judge Russo was most enthusiastic to announce four additional members: Italian American Women of Iowa, Association of Italian American Educators, Italian American Heritage Foundation of Colorado and, most notably, the Columbus Monument Corporation, an organization from Syracuse, New York, tasked to fight for that city’s Columbus monument against the mean spirited efforts of the mayor to tear down the edifice.

Judge Russo was the first to praise the activities in Syracuse where present for the meeting were two representatives from the Columbus Monument Corporation. He was followed by George Bochetto, former candidate for the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, named in the meeting the lead attorney for COPOMIAO. Mr. Bochetto spoke for some minutes about pending court cases filed to stop the removal of Columbus statues and the elimination of Columbus Day in Philadelphia and elsewhere. He awaits a decision form Pittsburgh regarding the statue of Columbus in Schenley Park and the freeing of the Columbus monument from Mayor Jim Kenney’s boarded confinement at Marconi Plaza in Philadelphia. He went out of his way to commend the efforts of Syracuse as a model for all to follow. It was at that moment when Robert Gardino, a retired teacher from Syracuse and delegate from the Columbus Monument Corporation, spoke up from where he sat in the audience. “No it is you who we followed,” he emphatically said. “You’re our model!”

The assaults on Columbus range from negating his historical legacy to tearing down his statues to eliminating his holiday. The fight to keep the Genoese explorer as a vital element in the Italian American experience remains central to the cause of unity espoused by Judge Russo. He was once again unanimously re-elected to serve another term as president of COPOMIAO, after his nomination by Italian scholar and activist, Stephanie Longo.

The future remains one of ambitious action for Judge Russo. The history-making summit he organized for Italian American leaders to meet Italy’s Ambassador to the United States, Mariangela Zappi, in Washington in December, last year, was only outdone this year by his history-making gathering of delegates in Rome to meet officials of the Italian government there and, then, on to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.

Next up…the White House.

Judge Russo demands a face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden. He wants the opportunity, inside the Oval Office, to express his disappointment and seek resolution over the president’s inclusion of Indigenous People’s Day in last year’s annual Columbus Day proclamation.

Editor’s Note: Pictured: Basil M. Russo, John M. Viola, Gilda Rorro Baldassari and Manhattan brownstone of the Columbus Citizens Foundation. The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is You can learn more about the Columbus Citizens Foundation at their web site,


Italy’s Government Decided In Secret to Anchor Re-gasification Plant in Tuscan Coastal City
- All in an effort to relieve Italy’s reliance on Russian natural gas as ordered by the European Union in response to the war in Ukraine
- “The good people of Piombino feel powerless. We are truly faced with an absurd cessation of democracy.”

By Cecilia Sandroni

In Italy, the side effects of a seemingly distant war between Russia and Ukraine leaves citizens with the impression of having returned to a subject governed by the wealthy. They feel as if the world is against them. The effects on the rest of the national community are artificially made to appear as necessary. When they protest, they are portrayed as "enemies of the people.”

A striking example is Piombino, a post-industrial steel-making city overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The necessity to minimize the dependence on Russian oil and natural gas has been authorized by the European Commission in response to the war in Ukraine. As a result, Piombino is suddenly forced to host one of two massive re-gasifier ships purchased by the Italian government (at 330 million euros). This ship is supposed to anchor in a small port that, until now, served as a key hub for transiting tourists (second in Italy for total journeyed passengers). The re-gasifier plant is to operate off the coast of a city of some 40,000 residents who’ve witnessed over the years one steel factory after the other shut down, leaving 15,000 of them without employment.

Piombino has become largely reliant on subsidies for the remediation of contaminated areas. They await the promised construction of infrastructures essential to the development of their disadvantaged domain.

The central government teamed up with the president of the Tuscany region to decide, without any preliminary analysis, to locate the re-gasification plant in Piombino’s port. Their determination was made in secret. They acted with the intention to withhold information about the operation from the mayor of Piombino and those of neighboring territories. The dangers inherent in the re-gasification terminal will permanently stop the development of the port. The potential for an explosion of the moored plant is 50 times more powerful than that of an atomic bomb. The emissions of cold water and chloride used to re-gasify compressed gas to a liquid state is likely to destroy Piombino’s fish breeding industry, the first of its kind in Italy.

In order to find a solution, the government proposed the granting of transactions (foremost land reclamation works). This has been continuously promised for decades, only to be discarded at the final stage. They’ve tried to buy off residents by promising to reduce gas and electric prices in exchange for Piombino’s approval of the re-gasifier plant.

Citizens have risen up in protest only to be threatened by local political forces. The former minister of economic development, Carlo Caledda (center-left party), went so far as to call for military intervention. He declared the matter a serious national emergency. He seems to have forgotten that Piombino has already been widely damaged. He seems to have forgotten that Piombino was officially declared a Site of National Interest for environmental emergencies.

The re-gasification plant will be the only one in the world to be placed only a few hundred meters from local homes (in Barcelona the distance to the nearest homes is more than four kilometers). The seabound structure will be an open-cycle re-gasifier with a daily release of hectoliters of chloride into the water. It will be placed in a small and high-passenger-traffic port, with about 120 departures every day.

In reality, relieving Italy’s dependency on gas from Russia is not cause for a real emergency. The nation has wells already in operation in the Adriatic Sea to be re-started in only a few months. The same gas could be extracted at twenty times lower cost than gas arriving by sea.

The good people of Piombino feel powerless. We are truly faced with an absurd cessation of democracy.

Editor’s Note: The writer was born and raised in Piombino, in Tuscany, where daily demonstrations against the proposed re-gasifier plant are pictured. The web site for the city of Piombino is



Primo Tribute
Director Shares His Thoughts About Working with The Late Actor in The Film, “Ciao America.”
- “We spent many days and nights in our office in Rome throwing around the names of actors to play the father. One night, someone mentioned Paul Sorvino.”

By Frank Ciota

It was with great sadness that I read of the passing of the great actor and man, Paul Sorvino. I had the unique opportunity, as a filmmaker, to work with Paul on my second feature, “Ciao America,” a film shot entirely in Italy. The story was about a young Italian American named Lorenzo Primavera who coaches a team of Italians playing American football in Ferrara.

The story was quite personal for me since it was written by my brother, Joseph, who, also, had once been an American football coach in Italy.

A key character in the film was the protagonist’s father, Antonio. If you know me, then you know how important is my family. You also know the high reverence my siblings and I have for our father. Needless to say, the person playing the part in the film had to be special. He had to be compassionate yet tough, loving yet strong. He had to have been raised without much, but, nevertheless, was incredibly cultured. He had to represent the best qualities of the sons and daughters of the courageous men and women who sailed across the sea in search of the American Dream.

We spent many days and nights in our office in Rome throwing around the names of actors to play the father. One night, someone mentioned Paul Sorvino. Everyone looked at each other and smiled. Of course, he would be great since he personified the part in every way. The next day we offered him the role.

A couple of months later, Paul arrived at our set in Ferrara. He was everything you’d expect and so much more. He was larger than life. Everything about him was somehow mythical. When you were near him you knew you were with someone special. The first night we all went out to dinner and, after we finished eating, he began to sing. He had an incredible voice and loved to share this talent with everyone.

I went to Harvard as did his daughter Mira, although we were a few years apart and never met. When I mentioned this to him his eyes lit up. For 30 minutes, he went on speaking about her. How talented she was, how beautiful, how much family meant to him, how much she especially meant to him. The love he had for her was so obvious and beautiful. It just radiated from him. It was then that I knew he was to do something special with the role.

The next day we shot Paul’s most pivotal scene, when, at lunch, the father tries to convince his son to return home. Prior to the shoot, the actor asked if I had any notes or thoughts. I just looked at him, smiled and said, “No. I’m sure you have this. Just speak from your heart.”

And that’s exactly what he did. About half way through the scene he did something amazing. Something I’ve never seen another actor do since. Suddenly, in the middle of the scene, he became the part; it wasn’t a character, it was him. It was Paul Sorvino speaking about his own father and mother and their dreams for their son. What an incredible moment to witness. Even the Italian crew, many of whom didn’t speak English, knew what was happening. There was dead silence. Everyone knew something remarkable was unfolding right in front of them. It was one of the great moments in my journey as a filmmaker. Watch the link to the scene posted below and I believe you will understand what I am talking about and why he was such a great actor and person.

I will be forever grateful to Paul for what he gave to me on that day, what he gave to our film in his generosity of spirit, and, more importantly, what he gave to all of us over his many years in film and television. Rest in peace Paul and thank you. You will be greatly missed!

Editor’s Note: “Ciao America” is a film directed by Frank Ciota and written by Joseph A. Ciota. Here is a link to watch a key scene when Paul Sorvino, the father, tries to persuade his son, played by Eddie Malavarca, to come back to America.



The Replica Statue, a Gift from Italian Americans in 1931, Was Stolen This June, from The City’s Eden Park

By Gerardo Perrotta

On June 17, someone noticed that the famous symbol of Rome, the Capitoline wolf, the Lupa, on display nearly 90 years in beautiful Eden Park, was missing. Left on the pedestal near the twin lakes of the park were the paws and suckling twins. Vandals sawed off the legs of the Lupa to disappear with the bronze loot sparking indignation in the community, especially among Italian Americans.

The police are investigating this theft to hopefully shed some light on the authors and their motives. Whether politically motivated, as was uttered in recent years to have the statue removed for its connection to Benito Mussolini, or, simply, a robbery of bronze for cash, this unfortunate development may either incite division or promote understanding. We have an opportunity to learn more about the role of the local Italian community in granting this statue as a gift to the city. A more robust response from interested parties, beyond the $50,000 offered to recover the artwork, will serve the community well. It was never referred to as Mussolini’s statue. Mussolini is dead. The Lupa stood on the pedestal, not Mussolini.

Italians in 1931, through the auspices of the local lodge of the Sons of Italy (on the occasion of the biennial convention held in the city) arranged for the Lupa to be a gift to Cincinnati. They sought a tangible expression of appreciation as proud residents. They knew how Cincinnati was named by Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, member of the Cincinnatus Society honoring Revolutionary War officers. The name derived from the Roman war hero, Cincinnatus, who returned to plow his land rather than pursue political power for personal benefit.

The city’s newspaper, The Enquirer, published a headline: “replica of the statue to enhance goodwill.”

The Italians of Cincinnati were led by Dr. Sante Ferraresi, Dr. Louis Valerio, Messrs. Carlo Ginocchio, Michele Mastronardi and Louis Aielli. They were among the principals to generate, promote and pursue the idea of the Lupa as a gift. At the time, Mussolini was giving statues to commemorate his 10th year in power. However, Italian Americans, not the Fascist dictator, generated the thought to give this gift to Cincinnati.

The Lupa statue was originally to be presented in 1929 by the Sons of Italy. However, the edifice did not meet specification. A new one had to be made for a rededication in 1931. Whoever inscribed on the base the official dedicator, “the Governor of Rome (Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi) Year X” was likely unaware of the time needed to fulfill the request. Out of convenience, the date was marked by an “X.”

The Santa Maria Institute, in Cincinnati, celebrating this year its 125th anniversary, was led, back then, by Blessed Sister Blandina Segale and her sister, Justina. They published a monthly newsletter titled, “Veritas” with a tagline "devoted to the interest of Italians.” In the September, 1931 edition, the Sisters of Charity, said about the Lupa: “Il dono acquista una grande importanza…mostrano il loro affetto per la citta`che e` il campo del loro lavoro e delle loro ambizioni” which translates: “the gift assumes a great importance…they (Italians) show their love for the city which is the field of their labors and their aspirations.” Clearly, an acknowledgement of the efforts of local Italians.

It is important to appreciate the Lupa as an expression of gratitude to Cincinnati by Italian Americans. They gave the city a replica of a statue that forever represents the millenary history linked to the Etruscans and the Eternal City. Eden Park’s Romanesque setting, overlooking the Ohio Tiber, from one of its seven hills, are joined by the Lupa to evoke Etruscan art and Rome’s legendary influence in the world.

No Italian Americans ever thought of Mussolini whenever they visited the Lupa statue. In the open air, they spoke of the precious past and rich present to gaze at a work of exceptional art to inspire great love for their city, Cincinnati, and great love for their country, the United States.

The robbers might sell the statue for cash. They may be richer for a misdeed while the city is momentarily poorer for losing a jewel offered in friendship by local Italians. The actions of a few misguided individuals alert us to the precarious times ahead. We must always be on guard to resist losing other historical treasures that are part of the community’s rich patrimony.

We can never get used to or become indifferent to these types of episodes. A concerned and exemplary response by many citizens will mute the undesirable behavior of a few disgraceful individuals and promote the goodwill the Enquirer once foresaw.

City leaders, park board executives, the reputable University of Cincinnati Classics Department, benefactors, artists, the United Italian Society, OSDIA and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations must come together for a serious commitment to bring back the Lupa. Already, several individuals have offered their time and talent to produce an exact replica to stand on the pedestal. Placing a more detailed instructive plaque near the base can add clarity to the artwork. Updating the whole story in lieu of contemporary polemics is a better way to recognize the Italian experience in Cincinnati. Short of an engaged commitment or resolution, there is a risk for unintended decline and deterioration of instructing the adults of tomorrow that the complex weight of history is too much of a burden to carry forward and thus best forgotten. Without art, history loses perspective. Great relics lose value, only to be reduced to flea market status.

As they say in Italy, “In bocca al lupo,” break a leg! In this case may the wolf, the “Lupa Romana Cincinnatensis,” stand tall once again on all four legs in beautiful Eden Park!

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the Lupa statue, before and after theft. The author lives in Cincinnati and researches, writes and gives presentations on Italian American history in the Greater Cincinnati area.


- We now know that chlorine to be used to cool the GNL (liquefied natural gas) must inevitably be spilled into the sea, just a short distance away from Piombino’s prestigious fish farms. 

By Alessandro Dervishi, M.D.

Piombino was once a major industrial center in steel-processing, until interrupted by market dynamics, when more substandard, yet, cheaper products, could be produced in other countries. The coastal city in Tuscany used to provide jobs to about 12,000 workers. After plants were forced to close, thousands of laborers lost their jobs, without any clear indication about their future. To the journalists that took the time to kindly and patiently listen to me, I tried to summarize this anthropogenic rage against Piombino, owing to its artistic, historic and environmental beauty. 

The abandoned Enel power plant in Piombino is reminiscent of the past when the factory was virtually adjacent to the beach with nothing less than pollution and towers visible from afar. Nearby are warehouses of what used to be the Dalmine plant, where today hazardous and dangerous products are processed. The former garbage dump of Rimateria, is visible. A mountain of urban waste rises some 36-meters (118 feet) high where discarded substances remain unknown, even after several investigations. Granted, the steel plants were once the pride of the city. Yet, today, they are obsolete. They once provided jobs and wellness for residents over many years, not to mention important structural material for Italy. Yet, we, also, must remember that they were the main source of environmental pollution and a number of illnesses.

At the port of Piombino is the re-gasification plant (a 300 meters (984 feet) long and 40 meters (131 feet) wide ship) to be moored. This pier was originally designed to host the dismantling of the cruise ship, Costa Concordia; that, in the end, was not even conducted here. Some 3 million people visit Piombino, by sea, every year, not to mention 120 crossings daily from the mainland to the islands of Elba and Sardinia. Ferries go to and fro near the re-gasification terminal. It is impossible to ignore the grave potential for accidents, here, where hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists could get injured or lose their lives.

There already exists a gasifier in nearby Livorno, some 22 kilometers (13 miles) from the coastline surrounded by a total marine interdiction area of three to four nautical miles. No one is allowed to enter, stop or fish within this delimited region. If we wanted to apply this regulation compliant to Piombino, the city should be entirely evacuated at least once a week, when the re-gasification plant is supplied by another gas carrier of similar size entering port. Most alarming is how there are no fire stations or ships to extinguish fires in the proximity of the port. Why, therefore, has Piombino been selected for this project? The reason behind all this is that Snam S.p.A, a company based in Milan to build energy infrastructures, was tasked to retrieve the area for a re-gasification plant. The government, as led by the former chairman of the Italian Council of Ministers, Mario Draghi, edged out everything in accordance with the current legislation, that would have certainly prevented the following plan. Neither the president of the Tuscany region nor the inhabitants of Piombino were informed until the very last moment. We now know that chlorine to be used to cool the GNL (liquefied natural gas) must inevitably be spilled into the sea, just a short distance away from Piombino’s prestigious fish farms. 
To sum up, Piombino has, for years, been exploited for the national good and then abandoned to itself. Despite all the efforts on behalf of the Italian government, the city that has been trying to find a way out of this never-ending crisis. Piombino returns to the national spotlight as the leading choice to host a potentially harmful re-gasification terminal and as land populated by selfish and foolish local inhabitants, at least according to the statements of politicians and journalists that know very little and agree to the current mainstream trend of thought.

Editor’s Note: The writer, a surgeon in Italy, once served as the director of the Committee of Public Safety in Val di Cornia in Tuscany. To learn more about the re-gasification terminal in Pimobino, please log on to


Primo Review
- “The Gray Man,” Exciting, Engaging, Excellent
- The Latest Spy Thriller by the Russo Brothers Matches Their Previous Marvel Blockbusters
- …“The Gray Man” jumps from action set piece to set piece, with each and every one as exciting, well-paced, well-choreographed and beautifully shot as the other.

By Rami Chiaviello

Joe and Anthony Russo extend their meteoric rise to the top of the Hollywood heap of A #1 film directors.

Released July 22 on Netflix, “The Gray Man” serves as the Russo Brothers’ first big budget foray since their temporary exit from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Few films will be as successful as “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” These two productions by the Russos remain the highest grossing films in Hollywood history. Will Joe and Anthony return to Marvel? Rumor has it the announced film adaptation of Marvel’s “Secret War” comic book will be directed by the brothers Russo. We await this exciting possibility. For now, our focus is rightly on the “The Gray Man” to serve as the latest and greatest from the cinematic duo for fans to cherish.

“The Gray Man” is another outstanding picture by the Russos. They teamed up again for a screenplay by Marvel veterans Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Adapted to the big screen was the novel, of the same title, by Mark Greaney.

“The Gray Man” follows Ryan Gosling as the main character, known by his alias, “Sierra Six,” the CIA’s most skilled mercenary. When he acquires incriminating evidence against the agency’s top brass, a bounty is placed on his head for a team of international assassins to collect. Lloyd Hansen is a sociopath-for-hire mercenary played by Chris Evans to lead the manhunt. The two male stars share top billing status with actress Ana de Armas, as Dani Miranda, a CIA agent who allies with Six.

“The Gray Man” stars an international cast of supporting players to include Regé-Jean Page as Denny Carmichael, a CIA chief who orders the hit on Six, Indian actor Dhanush as one of the hired assassins, Billy Bob Thorton as Donald Fitzroy, the rogue agent’s mentor, Jessica Henwick, as Suzanne Brewer, Carmichael’s second-in-command and Alfre Woodard as Margaret Cahill, ex-CIA agent who helps Six. 

Cast members excel in their respective roles, only for Gosling and Evans to especially shine. Both stars reinvent themselves in “The Gray Man.” Gosling effectively, and surprisingly, sells himself as the stoic, hardened and witty expert assassin in a grueling physical performance. Meanwhile, Evans does a complete 180-degree turnaround. He goes from hero Captain America to sinister villain. The actor, no doubt, had lots of fun playing a complete sociopath. His take on the character is addicting to watch. His chemistry with Gosling provides an exciting viewing experience. I also appreciate seeing Billy Bob Thorton return to the blockbuster realm. He does a great job playing the veteran CIA operative.

“The Gray Man” moves fast. The film offers only a few moments for the audience to catch its breath. The film jumps from action set piece to set piece, with each and every one as exciting, well-paced, well-choreographed and beautifully shot as the other. The film’s budget of nearly $200 million was well spent. With “The Gray Man,” the Russos have perfected what makes a modern-day action blockbuster so exciting to watch. Sweeping camera movements combine with well-timed cuts to hone in on the precision, grace and force of every punch, kick and fall. The highlight for viewers will be the well-timed convergence of hunters and hunted in the city of Prague. This scene is undoubtedly one of the most exciting of the year in cinema. The elegance and beauty of the final confrontation between Six and Hansen will have viewers on the edge of their seats. The action of the film is accentuated from an excellent score by Henry Jackman, a frequent collaborator with the Russos, whose electrically captivating sound, full of heavy, rapid beats, serves as the melodic spirit for the film’s ferocity. 

“The Gray Man” is a fun, enthralling, well-paced, tight blockbuster to feature the most exciting action set-pieces this year. The Russo Brothers lead an expert cast and crew for an outstanding film to what hopefully will be their first of an exciting new spy franchise.

“The Gray Man” is awesome.

Editor’s Note: “The Gray Man” can be seen on Netflix at The writer is a part-time actor, playwright and rising Pre-Med junior at California State University in Los Angeles.



Anti-Columbus Day Bill Advancing in the Massachusetts Legislature
- Please Write the Speaker of the House in Massachusetts

By Italian American Alliance


The Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight has voted favorably on both H.3191 and S.2027 and the bills are now out to the House Steering, Policy and Scheduling Committee and Senate Rules Committee.

If passed by the legislature, these bills would eliminate Columbus Day as a state holiday and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day.

These committees must schedule the bill for a vote by a full session of the legislature by the deadline of July 31.

If this bill is not supported by Speaker Mariano then this bill will not be scheduled for a vote and will die for this session.
Many of us have already emailed Speaker Mariano these past months asking he not support this bill.


Here is the Speaker's email.

Honorable Speaker Ronald Mariano:

Suggested sample email:

Subject: H3191/S2027 An Act establishing an Indigenous Peoples Day

Mr. Speaker,

I am writing to you regarding the pending bill to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as a State Holiday.

I believe Italian-Americans should be recognized and respected by not taking Columbus Day away from them as a State Holiday. No other group is expected to have their day merged with another group’s. It is disrespectful both to Italian Americans as well as the Native American communities. It is not only important to Italian Americans, but has also been a proud part of America history and tradition.

There has been much misinformation circulating in the past few decades regarding the history of Christopher Columbus, and in a misguided effort to be inclusive and sensitive to all cultures, this bill produces the opposite effect - it foments exclusion and resentment, especially among Italian Americans, who have struggled for decades to be accepted into the American national life.

I urge you to not support this Bill and keep Columbus Day as is. I also suggest that the day after Thanksgiving be recognized as Native American Heritage Day and that the entire month of November be Native American Heritage Month as already declared by proclamation by the Federal Government. Both groups deserve to preserve and protect their cultural heritage and it isn’t fair to take away one people’s holiday and replace it with another, especially when there are other available days appropriate for celebration.

Please email us with any questions you may have regarding this process
Thank You,
Save Columbus Day Committee

Editor’s Note: Please help the Italian American Alliance in their battle against the Massachusetts legislature to save Columbus Day. The web site for the Italian American Alliance is


The Russo Brothers Ascend Creative Heights for Netflix
- An Action Hero Epic Comes By Way In Their New Film, “The Gray Man”
- Now Playing in Theaters Across the Country; Streaming on Netflix, July 22
- Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans star in “The Gray Man”

By Truby Chiaviello

Hollywood has never been more competitive.

Streaming services proliferate alongside theatrical releases, cable franchises and new markets to take hold throughout the world.

Content is king. Filmmakers contend with each other in a variety of sectors. Old stalwarts compete with an endless line of new talent. The battle is on as to who will be the best among living filmmakers.

Count Joe and Anthony Russo to set the bar higher in their climb to number one status. They are currently in second place. Only the great Steven Spielberg has generated more in ticket sales. Mr. Spielberg has 37 films to his credit while the Russos have seven. The former has generated some $10.6 billion in revenue while the Russos close in at $7 billion to remain ahead of iconic competitors Peter Jackson, Michael Bay, James Cameron and others.

Even when one accounts for inflation, films by Joe and Anthony Russo rank among the most popular and lucrative in Hollywood. “Avengers: Endgame” was their top hit. The Russo brothers made the Marvel saga to garner almost $2.8 billion worldwide to remain the number one film in box office history. The Russos hold a massive lead among filmmakers for the highest average in ticket sales at $977 million. No one comes close.

Great success breeds great expectations. One recalls how Alfred Hitchcock practically built Universal Studios with one hit after the other. The Master of Suspense remains the model to dominate the big screen and small screen. So to is the current attempt by Joe and Anthony Russo. Their new film, “The Gray Man,” is now showing in movie theaters nationwide; but, also, via streaming on Netflix, beginning July 22.

“The Gray Man” is perfect material for the Russo Brothers. The directorial duo are masters of cinematic thrills for well-choreographed fights, shootouts and chases. Theirs is a cinematic world of new twists and turns for high speed suspense. This is what the audience wants. This is what they get with the Russo brothers.

“The Gray Man” conveys a story of Deep State intrigue coupled with intense action. Based on the novel by Mark Greaney, the screenplay was written by Joe Russo, in collaboration with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The film stars Ryan Gosling as CIA assassin, aka, code name, Sierra Six, who goes rogue after he unwontedly uncovers national security secrets. Chris Evans, who starred as Captain America for the Russo brothers, plays, here, the villain, a sadistic CIA operative named Lloyd Hansen who leads a worldwide manhunt for Sierra Six. The film is an action packed adventure set in key cities and among landmarks in Europe and elsewhere, not unlike the James Bond franchise, at production costs of some $200 million, the highest budgeted film for Netflix, thus far.

Every filmmaker will establish a unique style based on his or her background. This applies to the Russo brothers in a Midwestern spirit for the 21st century. They embrace large-scale narratives to underscore a conflict between loyalty and sedition. Sophisticated intrigue tests the inherent nobility of key characters. Through their films, the Russos seek to resolve their Italian American roots in an ever changing culture. Where is America going? Can stoic values endure the New Age? Can virtue survive in a world of divergent complexities?

Joe and Anthony Russo call Cleveland their hometown. They are the sons of Patricia and Basil M. Russo, two key patrons of Italian American unity. Judge Russo continues to craft miracles to preserve our Italian heritage as president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and as president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. His groundbreaking efforts in Italian advocacy are paralleled by his sons’ efforts in Hollywood.

Now winning positive reviews from critics and filmgoers, alike, is “The Gray Man.” Industry observers see the film as a massive hit in the making, especially in light of a full court press by Netflix.

The Russo brothers know well the changing dynamics of film distribution. Because of the global lockdown wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic, studios have adapted to online streaming services to make new releases concurrent and, increasingly, independent of cineplex engagements.

Hence, the Russo brothers are scheduled to utilize Amazon, as well as Netflix. Their new spy thriller, titled “Citadel,” is in the works. The mega-project is bankrolled by Amazon Studios to include an unprecedented production concept for multiple episodes around the world concurrent to the American version. For instance, there will be “Citadel: Italy” and “Citadel: India,” among others, to feature settings, languages and actors from respective countries.

The latest from the Russo brothers continues to help them climb to number one status. They are to direct “The Electric State,” a futuristic story to unfold across the American West in a new frontier for fans. Their film studio, AGBO, is now worth more than $1 billion with a dozen new projects in production. 

Despite all the fame and success, the Russos are happily married to their high school sweethearts. They never miss an opportunity to bring their parents, siblings, nieces and nephews to the red carpet.

They continue to give back to the Italian American community.

Joe and Anthony created The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum. Each year, they award eight filmmaking grants to aspiring storytellers who deliver standout depictions of the Italian American experience.

For Italian Americans, the Russo brothers remain the ultimate model for Hollywood success. We look forward to more films and television shows from this cinematic duo.

Editor’s Note: “The Gray Man” can be seen on Netflix at The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America is Pictured: Joe and Anthony Russo at the red carpet premiere of “The Gray Man,” COPOMIAO President Basil Russo and his wife Patricia (left-center) pose with their sons, Anthony and Joseph, daughters, Gabriella and Angela, at the world premiere of “The Gray Man” on July 13 in Los Angeles.



NJ State Historic Preservation Office Rejects Mayor Baraka’s Tubman Plan and Exclusion of Washington & Columbus
“The City of Newark can begin a conversation, commit to a transparent process, build trust and find common ground…”

By Angelo Vivolo

Is the City of Newark big enough for Washington, Columbus and Tubman, three great giants of history?
We are about to find out.

The New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office has sent back a plan to honor famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman, a plan that had removed a Columbus Memorial in the city’s historic Washington Park.

Crafted by Italian artisans more than a century ago, the Columbus Memorial disappeared in 2020. Last month, Newark detached George Washington’s name from the park. The space is renamed Harriet Tubman Square.

A local news outlet recently reported that the Historic Preservation Office voted unanimously to reject Newark's plan and urged the city administration to start over. Historic Preservation Officer Flavia Alaya commented that Newark's plan banning Washington and the Italian-born Columbus makes that public space “less inclusive.”
Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman freed herself and charted the underground railroad of the mid 19th century. Her work led to the freedom of dozens of slaves. Harriet Tubmam richly deserves to be recognized as the great American she is. But not at the price of divisively wiping away the memory of Washington and Columbus.
Community activists have suggested at least two sites with historic roots, worthy venues for a Tubman memorial. One leader has suggested a site near the Newark Museum of Art and known to be a stop on the underground railroad. The site “would definitely have an actual connection to history and be a fitting honor to Harriet Tubman without the potential for cutting century-old trees and without the ulterior motives of corporate and political interests,” the activist wrote.

Liz Del Tufo, founder and president of Newark Landmarks, has suggested the city’s new 22-acre downtown park Mulberry Commons. She has objected to the entire planning process as exclusionary and opaque. “Now I understand why,” she said. “The plan is a disaster, causing chaos and accomplishing nothing.”
The decision of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office is an opportunity for a fresh start. The City of Newark can begin a conversation, commit to a transparent process, build trust and find common ground to ensure that all groups are properly respected. Then, with the Washington name restored and the Columbus memorial returned, everyone will more fully appreciate the new memorial to the life, the valor and the sacrifice of Harriet Tubman.

Editor’s Note: The writer is the president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition. The organization’s web site address is Pictured is a statue of George Washington in Newark and the empty pedestal of the Columbus Monument.


- Robert Napolitano Hopes His Victory Will Get More Young Italian Americans to Take Up Long Distance Running

By Dr. Silvio Laccetti


Long-distance runner Robert Napolitano, who starred at Red Bank Catholic High in New Jersey was victorious in the Italy Run by Ferrero, a four mile course in Central Park, New York on July 16.

Napolitano, an All-American at Columbia University, finished first out of a field of 5,295 competitors. His winning time was a formidable 19 minutes, 38 seconds. His pace per mile was four minutes, 55 seconds. He finished 34 seconds ahead of second place runner, Jacob Adams of Yonkers.

Speaking after the race, Napolitano said, "I am pleased with my performance. As an Italian American I was honored to be part of this year's festival celebrating Italy's Independence Day.” He entered the race through his association with the Silvio Laccetti Foundation of Fairview, New Jersey, which also sponsored him. The foundation seeks to promote Italian American heritage and achievement in the United States, especially in New Jersey.

Some years ago, Dr. Laccetti noticed the paucity of standout Italian American distance runners in U.S. high schools. He hopes Robert Napolitano's victory will inspire more Italian American boys and girls to take up distance running.

The 2022 race is the third edition of Italy Run; suspended the past two years because of Covid-19. A triumvirate of partners brought the return of this special event: Fabrizio Di Michele, the Consul General of Italy in New York City organized the race in cooperation with the New York Road Runners (NYRR) and Ferrero North America. Ferrero is a world leader in the confections industry with its Nutella brand known the world over. The significance of the race is best summed up by George Hirsch, president of NYRR. It “…represents a great act of friendship between Italy, America and the City of New York.”

Now, that legacy is epitomized by the first Italian American winner of The Italy Run

Editor’s Note: The author is the founder and director of the Laccetti Foundation. He can be reached at 201-943-1008 or by email at


- Both Men Suffered Inside Nazi Internment Camps
- To be given to their descendants inside the Consulate General of Italy in New York

Submitted by the Italian American Museum, New York

Fabrizio Di Michele, Consul General of Italy in New York, will posthumously bestow Italy’s Medal of Honor on Rosario Castronovo of North Bergen, New Jersey, and Giuseppe Maurantonio of Bronxville, New York, on Monday, July 11.

Castronovo’s widow, Paola, 96, and daughters, Pietra Carboneri and Mary Ann Fusco, will accept his medal. Maurantonio’s medal will be received by his children, Nicholas, Catherine Blanco, Michael and Joe. All live in the New York metropolitan area.

The presentations will begin at 10:30 am at the Consulate General of Italy, 690 Park Avenue, New York, NY.

Since 2006, the Medal of Honor has been issued to Italian Military Internees (IMIs), servicemen who had been deported to and interned in Nazi prison camps between 1943 and 1945. “It was belatedly instituted by the Italian authorities as a moral recognition of the sacrifices suffered by civilians and military personnel in the concentration camps,” explains retired Gen. Maurizio Lenzi, son of a former IMI and director of the National Internment Museum in Padua, Italy.

After Italy’s September 8, 1943, armistice with the Allies, 650,000 Italian soldiers were imprisoned in Germany and its occupied territories for refusing to collaborate with the Wehrmacht. Labeled IMIs, they were denied Geneva Convention rights and Red Cross assistance afforded POWs, starved, and put to hard labor. Estimates of the number of IMIs who died in captivity range from 40,000 to 50,000. At war’s end, survivors were largely left to find their own way home.

A native of Sicily, Rosario Castronovo was imprisoned at Stalag IVB outside Dresden, Germany. A native of Puglia, Giuseppe Maurantonio was imprisoned in the Ludwigshafen area of Germany. Both were subjected to forced labor. They eventually emigrated and became U.S. citizens. Maurantonio operated a successful shoe repair enterprise in the Bronx and Yonkers. Castronovo was a longtime employee of L & L Painting of Hicksville, N.Y. 

American descendants of IMIs struggle to explain a WWII experience not mentioned in textbooks. Mary Ann Fusco learned of the Medal of Honor while interviewing more than 20 descendants of IMIs in the United States, Canada, and Italy seeking to piece together the puzzle of their relative’s wartime experience. There are still ex-IMIs living in Italy, and she continues to search for survivors here.

“The IMIs were repeatedly tempted with promises of food and freedom in exchange for collaboration, but they persevered in their unarmed resistance,” says Fusco. “Those who survived eventually were liberated from captivity; now their story needs to be rescued from oblivion.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Giuseppe Maurantonio and promotional material by Mary Ann Fusco for her search in Italians who were interned in World War II. The web site for the Italian American Museum is The email address for Mary Ann Fusco is



A New Curriculum Model Will Incorporate Italian History and Culture for America’s Students K-12
- Titled The Universality of Italian Heritage
- Calling All Educators to Embrace Italian Heritage
“…we use Italian heritage as a catalyst to create more enriching curricula for every student.”
“This program will affect positive change, and right now, we need that more than ever.”

By Truby Chiaviello


As of today, the United States does not offer a national heritage studies program. Hence, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, as led by Judge Basil M. Russo, has teamed up with the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission to fill this void in American education.

Titled The Universality of Italian Heritage, this new curriculum model will offer Italian history, culture and language as a needed catalyst for students to learn all subjects and, moreover, to delve into the heritage of their respective families.

The New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission (NJIHC) was founded in 2002 as a subset of the New Jersey Department of Education. Chaired today by Robert DiBiase, the mission continues to strengthen the cultural identity of Italians and Italian Americans. Mr. DiBiase says, “We accomplish this through public educational programs that preserve and promote an accurate, bias-free, and non-stereotyped understanding and awareness of historical and current contributions and accomplishments of the Italian heritage.

The Universality of Italian Heritage represents a collaborative effort between NJIHC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) to structure a program to meet all New Jersey Department of Education Core Curriculum Content Standards.

The Universality of Italian Heritage is uniquely ambitious and all-encompassing. All schools everywhere in the United States, both public and private, are urged to participate. In a press release, COPOMIAO announced, “a national rollout of an equitable, diverse and inclusive curriculum model that uses heritage as a guide to better educate U.S. students in both public and private schools.”

The memo went on to say, “Through this K-12 infusion model, Italian cultural content in all subjects in grades K-12 can be integrated into a school district’s existing, approved curriculum. Every lesson begins with an Italian theme then expands to incorporate the heritage of all students.” 

COPOMIAO will aggressively push The Universality of Italian Heritage. The national organization of Italian American leaders sent out an “invitation to all state commissioners/superintendents, dozens of dioceses, and Vatican City officials to introduce this model to as many U.S. schools as possible. The lesson plans have been carefully designed and thoroughly tested, and they’re available online at no cost.”

Cav. Gilda Rorro Baldassari, Ed.D., chairs the NJIHC Curriculum Development Committee. She sees Italian heritage a means of inspiration to improve elementary and secondary education. “We are confident that The Universality of Italian Heritage will open the door to an educationally stimulating and rewarding experience for teachers and students throughout the country,” she says. “Italy, through its art, philosophy, innovation and culture, heavily influenced and accelerated the development of the modern world, so it seems fitting that we use Italian heritage as a catalyst to create more enriching curricula for every student.”

Another prong of the proposed curriculum is AMICIZIA (Friendship) program. As Dr. Baldassari explains, “This ‘Gemellaggio’ (twining) program takes students on a journey seldom traveled in education. It provides personal contact experiences, an international bilingual experience, and a vehicle for ‘piloting’ new lessons through zoom.” 

Basil M. Russo continues his extraordinary effort to unify all Italian Americans through his work at COPOMIAO and, also, as national president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, president of the Justinian Forum Italian American Bar Association and his involvement in a host of a local efforts to save Columbus Day and Columbus monuments. He proffers a win-win scenario for all Americans by way of The Universality of Italian Heritage program. “This curriculum model will open the minds and perspectives of teachers and students who wish to elevate their classroom learning experiences,” says Judge Russo. “This program will affect positive change, and right now, we need that more than ever.”

“COPOMIAO is urging its members and supporters to help spread the word of this unprecedented curriculum model to local school boards and education officials,” he says.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission, please log on to their web site at The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is Pictured after the child is Judge Basil M. Russo and Cav. Gilda Rorro Baldassari. Ed.D.


Primo Interview
Author of “The Italian Prisoner”
“Like many people, I was unaware that the Army brought 51,000 Italian soldiers, captured in North Africa in 1943, to the U.S. as POWs, and housed them at military bases around the country. I was so taken with this unknown chapter in history that I promised myself I would write about it one day.”

Elisa M. Speranza has written a new novel set in New Orleans in World War II titled “The Italian Prisoner.” The story follows Rose Marino, a Sicilian American young adult who seeks a more independent life within her ethnic community, only to fall in love with a prisoner of war from Italy. PRIMO interviewed the author about her background, what led her to write “The Italian Prisoner” and what she found most challenging and rewarding in conveying the novel.

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

My father’s parents, (John and Mary Speranza) both came to Boston in 1929 from Fondi, Provincia Latina. My Nonno was a stone mason who passed the trade down to my father. I was lucky enough to grow up with my grandparents living just down the street from us, so they were a big presence in my life.

“The Italian Prisoner” is a novel about Rose Marino, a young Sicilian American woman yearning for independence in New Orleans, at the time of WW2? Not to give away too much of the plot, Rose finds love in the unlikeliest of places, an internment camp for Italian prisoners. What led you to write this story? 

The inspiration came when I met a local chef—Joe Faroldi—shortly after I moved to New Orleans in 2002. Chef Joe told me a story about his parents’ unusual courtship. His mother was the daughter of Sicilian immigrants who grew up in the French Quarter, and his father was an Italian prisoner of war being held at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward during WWII. Like many people, I was unaware that the Army brought 51,000 Italian soldiers, captured in North Africa in 1943, to the U.S. as POWs, and housed them at military bases around the country. I was so taken with this unknown chapter in history that I promised myself I would write about it one day.
The New Orleans setting of “The Italian Prisoner” highlights the Italian presence in one of America’s most famous Southern cities. What will the reader learn about the Italian community of New Orleans, in reading this novel?

Well, first off, New Orleans considers itself more “Caribbean” than “Southern!" People may know it as a French or Spanish colonial city, definitely a Creole and African American city, and of course a Native American territory before that. Fewer people know about the huge wave of Sicilian migration to South Louisiana in the late 1800s/early 1900s. There was such a thriving Sicilian immigrant community that the “downriver” end of the French Quarter was referred to as “Little Palermo.” Visitors to New Orleans today can still get a muffulletta sandwich at Central Grocery, a cannoli at Brocato’s, or a great Creole Italian meal at one of the many local restaurants. And it probably won’t surprise your readers that the Sicilian community embraced these captive soldiers—no longer enemy combatants after Italy surrendered in September of 1943 and the men signed up to work in Italian Service Units.

What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “The Italian Prisoner”?

There were lots of challenges! But I’d say the most difficult was finding the central conflict. I had the inspiration from the real-life stories of the families I met, and the great setting of swing-era New Orleans, but it wasn’t until I started writing that the character of Rose emerged. Like so many women of the era, she and her best friend Marie went to work in what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “the arsenal of democracy.” During the war (in real life), New Orleans was home to about 80,000 workers at seven plants run by Higgins Industries—maker of the famed “Higgins Boats,” the landing craft with the bow ramps you see in every film clip of the invasion of Normandy. So, it was logical to have Rose working there. The more I learned about the era, and the critical role women played in the war industry, the stronger Rose’s character grew. I kept wondering whether all those women willingly went back to the kitchen once the men came home, or whether they liked the taste of independence they got at work. It was such 4. What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “The Italian Prisoner”? an important inflection point for women, and I wanted to reflect those challenges and opportunities in my character’s quest.

Among the most rewarding aspects was tracking down ten families who descended from the Jackson Barracks POWs and their Sicilian-American sweethearts. One of the POWs, Giovanni DiStefano is still alive (he just turned 99), as was one of the brides, Marguerite Maranto. I was lucky enough to interview them both, and to get oral histories and stories from the other families. It’s an incredible Italian American story, and I was honored to help get it out into the world through the novel and articles I wrote as well. I worked closely with Sal Serio, curator of the American Italian Library, who sadly passed away in June of 2022. [There are links on my website to more information on all these stories for people who really want to take a deep dive.]

What are your plans for the future?

I’m doing a lot of public speaking and book club visits to talk about The Italian Prisoner’s fascinating backstory, and I’m about halfway through a draft of the next novel, written from the point of view of Rose’s sister, who’s an Army nurse in the European Theater during the war. Another under-told story of courage and resolve.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the author and to purchase the book, “The Italian Prisoner,” please log on to



Newark Should Have Both Memorials
- When you offend one culture, you offend all cultures.

By Angelo Vivolo

The Columbus Memorial, gifted by the Italian American community and installed in George Washington Park in 1927, was removed in the dark of night by the City of Newark in 2021.

In its place has been proposed a statue of 19th-century civil rights advocate Harriet Tubman, who shepherded hundreds of enslaved Americans to freedom via the famed Underground Railroad. The city has renamed the park in honor of Harriet Tubman Square and dropped Washington.

I am all in favor of having a statue for Harriet Tubman. She was an icon who did so much to oppose slavery. And there is no question that there should be a place to have her statue built and where people can honor her and all the good things she did.

But wiping the Washington name and carrying the Columbus memorial into seclusion is wrong. We must respect one another. When you offend one culture, you offend all cultures.

For Newark and Essex County Italian Americans, Columbus remains a cultural symbol and source of pride. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says he intended no insult against Italian Americans when he ordered the Columbus Memorial carried away.

But it is an insult, a hurtful insult.

Why was there no room for public discussion?

The truth is that Columbus was not responsible for the slave trade. Slavery existed in the Western Hemisphere hundreds of years before the arrival of Columbus, who never owned slaves.

The Columbus Heritage Coalition strongly believes in dialogue, searching for common ground, and building bridges with many communities. We have sought to protect memorials in New York City targeted by vandals, including one Columbus memorial donated by the Latino community.
Recently a group called Knock Down Columbus sought to destroy a memorial designed and created by Emma Stebbins, a pioneering gay artist of the 19th Century. Thankfully, the efforts of people of goodwill have ensured that the Emma Stebbins memorial in downtown Brooklyn will not be carried off into the night, as was the case here in Newark.

We are concerned that New York City officials recently removed the police presence at Columbus Circle, where vandals deliberately defaced public property last year.
Should vandals strike again--God forbid--should they deface that memorial in Columbus Circle in any way, immediate action must follow. Illegal acts must have consequences. So let there be no doubt that we remain vigilant.

Eighty years ago, tens of thousands of innocent Italians in America were set free from wartime internment camps and other confinements--even as many of their young sons fought and died for this great country in World War II.
We as a people will never forget their sacrifice. I am hopeful that the memorial to Christopher Columbus in Newark will also be set free, restored, and returned to its rightful home in Washington Park.

And I am hopeful that all people of goodwill come together, drop the hate, seek the truth and make room in their hearts for Christopher Columbus---and Harriet Tubman.

Editor’s Note: The writer is the president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition. The organization’s web site address is Pictured is the Columbus Monument in Newark, before and after removal.



Environmental Dispute Looms Large in the Italian Coastal City
- Demonstrations Arise Against New Plant to Store Natural Gas
- The first ones to arise are the fishermen: “They will throw bleach overboard killing our fish. Where is the government?”

By Cecilia Sandroni

Piombino, the city flies into a rage: “No re-gasification plant in our port.”

A one-time demonstration of some 2,000 people in Piazza Bovio, in late June, against the 170,000 cubic meters re-gasification plant, was all it took to put Piombino under the national spotlight. This city of some 30,000-inhabitants overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea and is opposite the Island of Elba. Piombino sees herself undermined by 10 years of industrial decline, not to mention the ongoing fight against a twofold increase for a special waste disposal site, nearby. After two years of global pandemic, Piombino is to finally see cruise ships reach her port.

Golar Tundra is a massive tanker to impact the future of Piombino. The new top-down project is an offshore support vessel, built in 2015, some 293 meters (961 feet) long and 44 (144 feet) meters wide. The ship was purchased in June for $330 million dollars by SNAM (Società Nazionale Metanodotti) an energy infrastructure company based in San Donato Milanese, Italy’s Lombardia region. We are talking about the so-called FSRU ship, a storage and re-gasification unit to bring liquefied gas - GNL - back to its original gaseous state. Golar Tundra has a re-gasification capacity of some 5 billion cubic meters to contribute 6.5 percent in the national demand.

The people of Piombino are well aware that another gasifier in nearby Livorno, has a licensing range of two nautical miles (where navigation, anchoring, stopping, fishing or any other activity at sea is strictly forbidden). That is the exact point of the popular uprising: Why is the re-gasification plant directly placed in the port of Piombino? In Italy, no similar facility exists; although, there are systems of this kind abroad, but they are located inside petrochemical poles.

“If all the expected precautionary measures were implemented a little further north, the entire city would need to be evacuated. Instead, here, the idea is to provide routine activities carried out in a commercial and touristic port that experiences the transit of 3 million passengers and tourists for or from either Elba or Sardinia,” claims one participant of the No-Rigassificatore Committee.

“This project undergoes the Seveso law, thus, in order to avoid any victim in case of an accident - as the Committee of Public Safety of Piombino declares - the city center and a large part of the outskirts would be condemned, as well as our only road in or out of town.”

The Mayor of Piombino, Francesco Ferrari, emerging from a meeting, when the re-gasification plant draft was displayed, said he was concerned the position of the re-gasifier was just 30 meters away from ferries. On top of that, the permanent presence of a re-gasification terminal in port is likely to compromise an already existing market for small to medium sized enterprises such as Tankoa Yachts, a maker of super yachts. Also threatened is Italy’s first national fish farming facility in the waters outside Piombino.

Not without reason, the first ones to arise and set up the No-Rigassificatore Committee were the fishermen. They claim the re-gasification plant will endanger marine flora and fauna due to sodium hypochlorite, otherwise known as bleach. Golar Tundra will funnel liquified gas via underground pipelines. The sodium hypochlorite is specifically used with the purpose of preventing seaweed and micro-organisms from damaging the metallic aqueduct. The whole issue is happening on the outskirts of Santuario dei Cetacei and sheltered waters, such as Parco dell’Arcipelago Toscano, along with safeguarded islands, the ones of Giglio, Montecristo and Pianosa.

The minister of the Green Transition, Roberto Cingolani, and president of the Region, Eugenio Giani, have pledged to the city of Piombino ‘compensation’ ranging from the construction of a new road to the port (a promise dating back many years) to a host of decontamination activities (ever carried out in the SIN area - Site of National Interest - owing to steel industry).

“Where was, and currently is, the government when sitting at the table of Economic Development? Less than one month ago we were provided with milion-euro contracts from Ferrovie dello Stato and we saw quickly fade away,” says one protester.

“How is it possible for leaders not to realize that we only wish to live at peace on our land? Or should we, instead, think that once again a great number of people’s fate is being tied down to the misfortune of having the suitable depth of a seabed or an available dam? We are willing to fight in order to prevent mere technical data from stopping the business turnarounds and development of a city that for decades has been making a substantial contribution to the national richness, thanks to its steel mills, costing many lives and work-related illnesses.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured are the demonstrations in Piombino and the tanker, Golar Tundra. You can read the article in Italian at The web site for the city of Piombino is Professor Corrado Malanga speaks about Piombino at




Columbus Monument Corporation, Syracuse, Uses National Data to Make Their Case
The Legacy of the Genoese Explorer Proves Formidable in All 50 States
- From Columbus, Georgia to Columbia, Oregon

By Truby Chiaviello

The battle for Columbus continues.

In Syracuse, the Columbus Monument still stands, inside Columbus circle there; but Mayor Ben Walsh moves on with his appeal after a stunning legal victory, back in March, by the Columbus Monument Corporation to keep the edifice in place.

“Ben Walsh is out of touch with the majority of Americans,” claims the Columbus Monument Corporation in a recent email blast. The organization continues to make their case to the general public; this time with impressive data, compiled nationally on the status of Columbus in the guise of monuments, statues and name bearing municipalities and landmarks.

“Ben Walsh said he does not like the message that the historic Columbus Monument Syracuse sends to his constituents. In 1934, the message at the monument’s unveiling was that European immigrants were thrilled to call Syracuse their home, and Syracuse was happy to have them as citizens. Indeed, that same message rang throughout the United States. And it still does. Most Americans continue to honor the explorer, and refuse to scrub his name from thousands of places.”

The year 2020 remains one of the most divisive in American history. Many Columbus monuments and statues were either removed by official decree or torn down by rioting mobs in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death by police in Minneapolis. In several unique graphic displays, pictured, by the Columbus Monument Corporation and PRIMO Magazine, only “40 monuments to Columbus” were removed, while 130 Columbus monuments “still remain, making Columbus one of the most venerated figures among US monuments and memorials. Only Abraham Lincoln and George Washington enjoy greater presence in American statuary.”

It was Chicago to rank as the worst in a display of mob pressure in 2020. Demonstrators and rioters assembled, one summer evening, in front of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s private residence, to threaten her and her neighbors with possible property destruction, to force her to remove three Columbus monuments there in the city. Yet, as the Columbus Monument Corporation has noted, Chicago is one of several cities, today, to consider returning Columbus Monuments to previous locations.

“More than 6,000 places in the U.S. take their name from Christopher Columbus,” claims the Columbus Monument Corporation. “There are streets and avenues and traffic circles, along with lakes and rivers and mountains - defining features of the nation’s civic and natural geography.”

Columbus Day remains a day of celebration for thousands of Syracuse residents when they “gather at the historic Columbus Monument to pay tribute to those generations…who fought for and defended the very special freedoms afforded to immigrants when they came and made this their home,” reads a press statement by the Columbus Monument Corporation. “If that is a ‘bad message,’ as Walsh suggests, then he is really out of touch with the majority of Americans and with his own city.”

“James Madison once said that democratic communities are subject to the ‘turbulence and weakness of unruly passions.’ That is why a democracy is purposely designed to slow things down, protecting it from the mania of the moment. Walsh bought into that mob mania, and illegally attempted to destroy Syracuse’s Columbus Monument. Fortunately, his constituents were there to slow him down, and stop what could have been a tragic blow to Syracuse’s history and heritage. Now he continues to waste your tax dollars on this folly, paying expensive lawyers and consultants.”

“Ask Ben Walsh to stop dividing us with his petulant denial of the Supreme Court's ruling to leave Syracuse’s Columbus Monument untouched. Tell him to join us in creating a fully inclusive Columbus Circle without insulting turn-of-the century immigrants and their descendants.” Forward this email (article) to him at

Editor’s Note: The web site for the Columbus Monument Corporation is:




Pioneer Civil Rights Leader for Italian Americans
- Founder of Italian American One Voice Coalition
- His Efforts to Save Columbus Day Were Most Commendable
“Dr. Alfano and his team, at IAOVC, were like David versus Goliath. Outnumbered, outgunned, outspent, they bravely showed up at dozens of municipal and school district meetings…”

By Truby Chiaviello

One of the last efforts of Dr. Manny Alfano was, ironically, not Italian.

Back in March, Dr. Alfano sought to organize a unity rally with Jewish leaders in Randolph, New Jersey. All ethnic groups were invited for purposes of solidarity in an outdoor assembly to protest the removal of the second day of Rosh Hashanah from the school district’s calendar there. As Dr. Alfano, pioneer civil rights leader for Italian Americans, saw it: The persecution of one ethnic group was inherently connected to all others. The censorship of Rosh Hashanah was no different than the censorship of Columbus Day. Our adversaries were not people of different faiths and ethnicity but rather government and mainstream media who incited division and animosity through undue censorship, fake news and stereotypes. Italian Americans were called by him to speak out against all injustice.

Such was the life and, now, legacy of Dr. Manny Alfano, founder and principal of the Italian American One Voice Coalition (IAOVC) who passed away on June 19th. The loss to the Italian American community is most felt in the arena of social justice and activism. Dr. Alfano, a tireless advocate for all things Italian, rose to the ultimate occasion the last two years when cities and towns throughout America sought to eliminate Columbus Day and tear down Columbus statues and monuments. It was Dr. Alfano and his cadre of activists, in Andre Dimino, and others at IAOVC, who consistently and vigorously fought the incessant assault against Columbus and the right of Italians to celebrate this national holiday at state and local levels.

At a time when most people are long retired, Dr. Alfano was incredibly active in fighting the good fight for all Italian Americans. “Calls for action” by him, through email blasts, were delivered to organizations, individuals and the Italian American media, almost on a daily basis, especially after the death of George Floyd, when cities, towns and school districts were hellbent to destroy any remnant of Columbus in America. Dr. Alfano and his team, at IAOVC, were like David versus Goliath. Outnumbered, outgunned, outspent, they bravely showed up at dozens of municipal and school district meetings to hold placards, signs and speak out against the elimination of Columbus Day. When all hope seemed lost, Dr. Alfano, and IAOVC, posted some impressive victories:

Rockaway, NJ - Columbus Day restored
Randolph, NJ - Columbus Day, back on the school calendar
Scotch Plains, NJ - Columbus monument retained
U.S. Senate - Bill to eliminate Columbus Day withdrawn
West Orange, NJ - Municipality sued for removal of Columbus Monument
Network of lawyers, nationwide, initiated to fight the removal of Columbus statues and monuments in court
Assembling a list of legislators nationwide to lobby and retain Columbus Day
GoFundMe - Removal of bounty posted to destroy Columbus monument in NYC

Born in 1936 to Sicilian immigrants in Newark, New Jersey, Dr. Alfano spent his entire adult life in Northeast New Jersey. A chiropractor, professional musician and civic leader in Bloomfield, he was a loyal and active member of UNICO National. He founded IAOVC in 1992 to fight anti-Italianism and defamation. His focus was mostly on negative stereotypes perpetuated in mainstream media. Italians were, and still are, depicted in cinema and television as inherently violent, ignorant and boorish. Indeed, rarely, if ever, are Italians shown in films outside the gangster genre. In an era of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and HBO’s “The Sopranos,” Dr. Alfano was a sole voice in opposition to objectionable portrayals of Italians in mainstream media. He was ahead of his time. Not just non-Italians; indeed, many Italian Americans find it hard to believe that such negative stereotypes in pop culture can have lasting impact. Yet, such is the way of our media-driven age. Just ask Andre Dimino. An owner of a company to manufacture various electronic machines and devices, many of which were invented by his Sicilian father, Mr. Dimino ran for local office only to be derided by an opponent as connected to organized crime. It was Dr. Alfano, on his own volition, who showed up at the next municipal meeting there to defend Mr. Dimino and to accost any and all in that chamber for anti-Italianism and defamation. It was that experience to lead Mr. Dimino to, not only join IAOVC, but become that organization’s spokesperson and active leader.

Stepping into the arena of political and social dispute is what we learn from Dr. Alfano. Even when leaning on a cane, in declining health, he was there, in person, to fight on our behalf. His will be a model in the continued fight to save Columbus Day and our shared Italian heritage in America. Our condolences are extended to his family, friends and comrade-in-arms.

Editor’s Note: The Italian American One Voice Coalition web site contains the latest events and news items for the organization at  Top photograph of Dr. Manny Alfano followed by photographs of IAOVC in action advocating for Columbus Day and IAOVC logo.


An Inspiration for All Italian Americans
“We all need to become ‘defenders’ of our community…”

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

Dr. Emanuele A. Alfano, known as “Manny” to many, and as “Dr. Alfano” to me, passed away on June 19, 2022. He will be deeply missed by all whose lives he touched. He was a major mentor to me, in a very important point in my life and career. I have known Dr. Alfano since August 1, 2016, when I, an absolute nobody in the Italian American community at the time, wrote to him and the Italian American One Voice Coalition. I was worried about the future of our community. I did not expect his reply. Yet, he wrote me back that very day. I was absolutely floored that someone so important could make time for me. I sincerely regret that I never told him how much that meant to me. Like most mentors, he was all about making me the best advocate of the Italian American cause I could be. He could be critical at times, but, in his unique way, he always fundamentally believed in me. He made me better as a person, as an advocate and as an Italian American.

With my many disabilities, I did not think I could be a leader. However, it was Dr. Alfano who encouraged me to form my own 501c3 Italian American civil rights group, the Italian American Movement. I never would have created it without him. He introduced me to another one of my great mentors, Dr. Joseph Scelsa. He opened up many doors for me to be an active “defender” of the cause and our community.

Dr. Alfano was a very consistent and passionate man; in fact the epitome of what Italian American leadership can and should be. He did not take prisoners. He never compromised his principles. He demanded that Italian Americans not merely be passive “members” of the IAOVC. He outright demanded that we be “defenders” and actively put our reputations and careers on the line for the cause. He often viewed me as too timid or politically correct to be an effective advocate, but I certainly became a better “defender” under his tutelage.

Dr. Alfano’s passing saddens me, because I never got to thank him for changing my life for the better. He remains an inspiration. As he often emphasized, the cause of Italian American civil rights and anti-bias work is above any one person. We need to take the movement, that he essentially started by himself decades ago, to achieve the vital goals that are finally in reach now.

Dr. Alfano believed that Western civilization was essentially rooted in Italy. Yet, Italians are being erased in places like New Jersey and New York. We are starting to peacefully push back against the anti-Colombo crowd, the people at CUNY who improperly deny us affirmative action despite the law and the far left historical revisionists who forget that we were the second most lynched ethnic minority after African Americans. All of these efforts for civil rights for Italian Americans are only possible because of Dr. Alfano and his incredible legacy.

When I first met Dr. Alfano in 2016 and became part of the executive board of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, I thought I was too old to become an effective Italian American civil rights activist. I was 31 then; I am 37, now, and more active than ever. I am suing the State of New Jersey for systemic ethnic discrimination against Italian Americans and I am in the State Joint Ethics Commission to complain about State Senator, Patrick J. Diegnan, refusing to represent me due to my ethnicity and as retaliation for my civil rights suit. I could have done none of these things if not for Dr. Alfano’s exhortation to be a “defender” of the Italian American cause and not just a “member” or “bystander.”

We all need to become “defenders” of our community, for our cause of equal civil rights, including affirmative action for Italian Americans in academic employment. Dr. Alfano was both a ferocious advocate for the Italian American way of life and a champion for our civil rights. He will be deeply missed.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is an Italian American civil rights activist and the President of the Italian American Movement. He can be reached by email at and by phone at 732-549-2635.



The Latest Italian Films Are Showcased Again at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center
Italian filmmakers come back to New York, after a two-year hiatus because of coronavirus

By Truby Chiaviello


It was always in June when Films at Lincoln Center hosted Open Roads New Italian Cinema for Manhattanites to see the latest and greatest films from Italy. That was until 2020; when coronavirus reared itself to close down much of the country. Italian filmmakers were devoid of America’s cultural capital to show their latest creations for broader distribution. Italy had suffered some of the highest casualties in the world due to the pandemic. Now, more than two years after the rise and fall of the global disease, comes a time for filmmakers to take on new projects in Italy. After the lockdowns, the masks, the mandates, renewal is upon us where Italian cinema returns to Lincoln Center.

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2022 offers 14 new films from Italian directors. Their stories range from the surreal to the gritty, from past crimes to present day afflictions, from journeys of rediscovery to the journeys of redemption. This year’s lineup is one to embrace after a two-year absence. The above photographs, from left to right, show a still image from each of the following films.

Gabriele Mainetti, 2021
181 minutes
A fantasy epic is the latest offering from Gabriele Mainetti. “Freaks Out” combines a host of intriguing elements to transform a World War II drama into a surreal saga. The Circus Mezzapiotta, in Rome, in 1943, houses the strange talents of, among others, a man with magnetic powers, a man covered in hair and a boy who is a conduit for electricity. A deranged 12-fingered pianist, who time travels, is the villain. After he sees the future where Hitler kills himself, he sets out to kidnap the strange circus performers to harness their powers to keep alive the Nazi leader.

Directed by Francesco Costabile, 2022
120 minutes
The long tentacles of organized crime run deep in “The Code of Silence.” Director Francesco Costabile takes viewers to a village in the rugged countryside of Calabria. Here, a young woman, Rosa, played by Lina Siciliano, pushes herself to uncover a family secret. Brought up by her grandmother after her mother’s untimely death, she is beset by grief, exacerbated by the omertà of villagers. The more she delves into her family’s background, the more she discovers brutal truths of the tyranny of the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

THE GIANTS (I giganti)
By Bonifacio Angius, 2021
80 minutes
Bonifacio Angius shows himself to be a cinematic Renaissance Man in this multi-tasked effort, “The Giants.” The filmmaker does it all: Director, producer, writer, editor and actor. Set in a villa in the Italian countryside, the film observes a group of male friends who convene to drink, take drugs, reminisce about past thrills and discuss the philosophical underpinnings of shared experiences. The film turns when one of the friends arrives with a gun.

A GIRL RETURNED (L’arminuta)
By Giuseppe Bonito, 2021
113 minutes
Giuseppe Bonito’s third feature is an emotionally precise meditation on childhood and family set in Abruzzo in the summer of 1975. An adopted 13-year-old girl arrives at a farmstead, having been sent against her will to live with her biological family, whom she has never met before. Surrounded by strangers in a smaller, shabbier house than that of her wealthier adoptive parents, she must grapple with a new life in a new daily environment, as well as the feelings of abandonment brought on by her reunion with the family she never knew.

THE INNER CAGE (Ariaferma)
By Leonardo Di Costanzo, 2021
117 minutes
Prison dramas are a mainstay of American cinema. From the “The Shawshank Redemption” to “Escape from Alcatraz” to “Brute Force,” the gritty environs of penal life supports the suspense of escape and revolt. Leonardo Di Costanzo’s “The Inner Cage” follows this American cinematic tradition with Italian style and pacing. Toni Servillo plays an aging guard of a prison set to close. After most inmates are evacuated, what remains inside the massive jail are just a few guards and a group of the most dangerous and notorious prisoners there. What follows is a dangerous game of wits between captured outlaws and those who must watch over them.

By Mario Martone, 2021
133 minutes
Toni Servillo remains an enigma by Western standards. At 63, he’s at the height of his career, a star in Italy who is slightly overweight, bald, gray haired, yet equal in celebrity status to what 26-year-old Timothee Chalet might be here in the United States. The Italian actor returns to his geographical roots of Naples for Mario Martone’s “The King of Laughter.” Servillo plays Eduardo Scarpetta, a late-19th century Neapolitan playwright and actor whose theatrical company faces a time of rapid change. Scarpetta is a dreamer who is confronted by the harsh reality of family turmoil, theatrical infighting and a plagiarism accusation made by another writer.

THE LEGIONNAIRE (Il legionario)
By Hleb Papou, 2021
82 minutes
Hleb Papou delves into the migrant crisis of Italy with his action-packed drama, “The Legionnaire.” The film follows the exploits of Daniel, played by Germano Genitle, a riot police officer, of African descent, in Rome. Newly married with a child on the way, Daniel belongs to an elite force tasked to move out squatters from inside abandoned buildings in the city. Since many are migrants from Africa, Daniel faces the test of loyalty to his job, his new country or his people.

By Paolo Taviani, 2022
90 minutes
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani were once the prize collaborators of Italian cinema. They were most famous for bringing to the silver screen the writings of Luigi Pirandello. They continue this effort with one sad exception: Vittorio died in 2018. Hence, “Lenora Addio” is the first solo outing from Paolo, who dedicated the film to his brother. The focus, once again, is Pirandello. The film follows the writer’s dying wish to be buried in his homeland of Sicily. In the reign of Mussolini, his ashes are kept in a Roman columbarium. Those tasked to keep his remains are committed to his final resting place in Sicily. The last part of the film features one of Pirandello’s stories, “The Nail,” about a Sicilian boy who kills a young woman in New York.

By Pif, 2021
108 minutes
A high-tech farce, “On Our Watch,” is the latest film by Pienfrancesco Diliberto, who goes by the moniker, Pif. The story begins inside a large corporate complex where Arturo, played by Fabio De Luigi, conceives an algorithm to unexpectedly make his position obsolete. Fired from the company, he must work as a delivery man only to be closely observed by a computer app. Not fit for his job, he returns from daily runs discouraged and tired, only to find compassion from a female hologram. As he struggles to make ends meet, the subscription service to provide him with a computerized companion may soon run out, unless he can pay the invoice.

THE PEACOCK’S PARADISE (Il paradiso del pavone)
By Laura Bispuri, 2021
89 minutes
A neurotic family assembles to celebrate its matriarch’s birthday in Laura Bispuri’s fourth fiction feature. Nena (international film icon Dominique Sanda) and her husband Umberto (Carlo Cerciello) are visited by their pushover son Vito (Leonardo Lidi), his girlfriend (Alba Rohrwacher), the younger couple’s daughter, and the daughter’s pet peacock, Paco; they’re soon joined by Nena and Umberto’s daughter Caterina (Maya Sansa), her ex, and her ex’s new girlfriend. Tensions within the group surface quickly, and Bispuri unravels their complex web of secrets and lies.

SMALL BODY (Piccolo Corpo)
By Laura Samani, 2021
89 minutes
The first feature length film by Laura Samani is an ambitious set piece titled “Small Body.” The year is 1900. A peasant woman named Agata, living in what is today the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, gives birth to a stillborn daughter. Unchristened, the child is sentenced to Limbo in the afterlife. Agata hears of a church in the north with powers of resurrection. She takes the body of her dead child on a journey through the vast wilderness with hopes of bringing the girl back to life to be baptized.

SWING RIDE (Calcinculo)
By Chiara Bellosi, 2022
96 minutes
Youthful discontent comes in a soft, bittersweet light for Chiara Bellosi’ “Swing Ride.” The main character is Benedetta, played by Gaia Di Pietro, a teenage girl who is shy and withdrawn from being overweight. When a carnival arrives, Benedetta befriends a transgendered woman who gives her a glimpse of a life without judgments or prejudice.

By Nanni Moretti, 2021
119 minutes
Nanni Moretti remains the pre-eminent storyteller of the city of Rome, as was Federico Fellini a few generations ago. “Three Floors” is a story, written by Eshkol Nevo. The setting was originally Israel, only to be transported to Rome by Moretti. The varied adversities of different people living in a condominium complex is the topic of the film. The Eternal City is the setting of modernity to affect, both good and bad, the fate of families. As apartment dwellers engage with one another, they uncover shared dilemmas and misfortunes that, at times, bring them closer together or set them farther apart.

By Federica Di Giacomo, 2021
97 minutes
A unique documentary from Federica Di Giacomo is titled “Unfinished.” The film follows the fate of an artists’ commune set in a large villa, whose patron, Mauro, passes away. The building’s owner and collective sponsor was committed to an unfinished film. The question arises among the budding filmmakers and assorted tenants as to who will finish Mauro’s project? Each participant has a unique story to tell. The film captures the undeterred struggle of visions to be realized amid the heights of ingenuity and the flaws of complacency.

Editor’s Note: For scheduling and tickets for Films at Lincoln Center Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2022, please log on to

The State-Owned Company Controls Italy’s Railway System
Greater growth and passenger inclusiveness are sought
- Management Announced 190 billion euros to Expand Lines in Italy’s South
- Photo Contest is Underway to Depict Trains and Rails in Italy
- Turin-Lyon Line Will Construct The World’s Longest Tunnel

By Truby Chiaviello


Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane (FS Italiane) is the state-owned railway company responsible for much of Italy’s transportation.

Founded in 1905, FS Italiane is, today, one of Italy’s largest employers with almost 82,000 people who work the rails, trains and stations of this sprawling system.

This week, the company announced a “long-term strategic and industrial vision supported by an investment plan of more than 190 billion euros ($199 billion) to be applied over the next 10 years.” Their 2022-2031 Business Plan was presented, this week, in Rome, by Chairwoman Nicoletta Giadrossi and CEO Luigi Ferraris.

The decade-long investment structure will help Italy’s South catch up to Italy’s North in rail service.

FS Italiane, also known as FS Group, have forged partnerships in France, Spain, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and, soon to come, in countries in other continents.


FS Italiane has initiated a contest for train travelers to photograph this age-old method of transportation as narrative images. “Trains and stations are transformed from mere locations into images capable of capturing architectural and artistic beauties,” proclaims part of a press release to announce RAILWAY heART, the name given to the photography contest.

FS Italiane will choose the photographs taken by train travelers to best capture the essence of Italian trains, railways and stations. These photographs will be published in “La Freccia,” the free monthly publication offered on designated train lines. Photographs will also be displayed on FS Group #RailPost blog. RAILWAY heART will be featured on social media via the hashtag #railwayheart, “anyone can publish their photos on their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profile” or send their shots directly to

The contest contains four “thematic sections: Places, People, Traveling and At Work.” All photographs must be taken by the passenger or is the property of the sender. Participants will be required to sign a release. The shots must be free from watermarks, not to exceed 15 Mb nor be less than 640 pixels wide and 960 pixels in height.


One of the most ambitious of large-scale projects in Europe remains the purview and responsibility of FS Italiane.

The 170-mile long Turin-Lyon line is high speed rail at its best. Different trains will service either cargo or passengers. The rail line is to be incorporated into the TEN-T trans-European network.

Lyon and Turin are cities in France and Italy, respectively, that are similar in both size and reputation. The two cities have found their way to garner unique niches in both commerce and culture. Lyon is France’s third largest city at 500,000 residents while Turin is Italy’s fourth largest at 800,000 residents.

The Lyon-Turin line will allow Western Europe to connect with Eastern Europe by way of the the Iberian Peninsula with a key route, in Italy, from Turin to Trieste.

According to FS Italiane, “central to the new line is the cross-border section that, at 65 kilometres-long (40 miles), goes from Susa to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, in France, and crosses the Alps thanks to the Mont Cenis tunnel.”

Mont Cenis base tunnel will encompass 57.5 km (35 miles) to tie the record for the longest tunnel in the world, now held by the Gotthard base tunnel, in Switzerland, also 35 miles in length. For comparison purposes, the longest tunnel in the United States is the Anton Anderson tunnel, in Alaska, at only 2.6 miles. The Lincoln tunnel in New York is just 1.5 miles long.

Editor’s Note: Pictured are from FS Italiane, Nicoletta Giadrossi and CEO Luigi Ferraris, the “Rock” train by FS Italiane to provide high speed services on specific lines in Italy and the Lyon-Turin line is displayed in a recent map offered by FS Italiane. The web site for FS Italiane is

A First-Ever Summit of Italian American Leaders Convenes in Italy’s Capital
- A Meeting with Pope Francis
- A Meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State
- A Meeting with Italy’s Supreme Court and Ministry of Foreign Affairs
“Now we’re forming strategic partnerships and alliances throughout Italia to bring our journey full-circle.” 

By Truby Chiaviello

Italian American history was made in Rome.
Judge Basil M. Russo completed the first-ever summit of top leaders of various Italian American organizations with their counterparts in the Italian government, Italy’s supreme court and, the ultimate milestone, a personal meeting with Pope Francis, inside the Vatican. The unprecedented international meeting sought a framework for in-depth cultural, economic and political cross-opportunities between the United States and Italy, with a special emphasis on ways to benefit the Italian American community.
The delegation of some 30 eminent Italian Americans touched down in Italy on May 14th, only to depart four days later, as guided by Judge Russo, a multi-tasked leader who serves as president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), president of the Order of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, not to mention the founder and board member of the Italian American Museum of Cleveland and, most notably, a tireless advocate and backer of Italian American causes, including current legal challenges to the removal of Columbus Day, Columbus statues and monuments in certain states and municipalities.

Highlights were several for the summit in Rome. The Italian American delegation participated in a panel discussion with Italian Supreme Court justices to be moderated by Judge Russo. Legal issues in Italy were juxtaposed with those of the United States to better understand matters of international law in more opportunities between Americans and Italians. The group then met with the Italian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs to foster greater exchange between the two countries in economic and cultural affairs. Later, the delegation convened a meeting with the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to discuss the status of Roman Catholicism in the United States, not to mention moral issues currently at the forefront of political debate in the country.
“Our Catholic faith is such an intricate and essential part of our heritage that it, more than anything else, defines our Italian American identity,” said Judge Russo. “It deserves newfound focus and attention.”

As in all great things, the best was saved for last at the Italian American summit in Rome. The delegation met face-to-face with Pope Francis in a pavilion outside Saint Peter’s Basilica.
As Judge Russo claims, the Eternal City summit is “a first-of-its-kind event and one of many new summits that are designed to preserve and promote Italian American history, traditions, institutions and financial and cultural connectivity to Italy.”

The future depends on the past for the benefit of the Italian American community. Judge Russo says, “In the last 18 months alone, COPOMIAO has unified hundreds of Italian American organizations to preserve and revive the culture our ancestors brought with them from Italy. Now we’re forming strategic partnerships and alliances throughout Italia to bring our journey full-circle.” 

The summit in Rome provides a stimulus, here, in the United States, to promote and defend Italian American interests. “Discussions are underway with The White House, Italian American politicians, various museum officials and top educators to promote public policy, advocacy initiatives, and the Italian language in the United States,” proclaimed Judge Russo. “Additionally, COPOMIAO will sponsor an Italian American youth summit in Florida next year to energize the younger generations around our heritage.” 

The Italian American delegation to Rome included the following participants: 

Basil M. Russo, a retired judge who serves as President of COPOMIAO, as well as National President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. 

Joan Prezioso, Chairperson of the Board of the Italian Welfare League, the oldest and largest Italian American charitable organization. 

Francis Donnarumma, National President of the Italian American Bar Association, which represents all Italian American judges and lawyers. 

Anthony Ficarri, President of the Italian American War Veterans of the United States, representing all Italian American military veterans. 

Berardo Paradiso, President of the Italian American Committee on Education that provides teacher instruction and funding and allows for 75,000 US high school students to study the Italian language. 

Gabriele Delmonico, President and Executive Director of A Chance in Life, an international charitable organization founded in Italy that serves needy youth.

Charles Marsala, President of the Italian American Federation of the Southeast, representing 22 Italian American organizations. 

Marianna Gatto, Executive Director and cofounder of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles. 

Robert DiBiase, Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. 

Richard DiLiberto, President of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture. 

Ron Onesti, President of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, representing 30 Italian American organizations in Chicago. 

Tom Damigella, Board Member representing the Italian American Alliance of the New England states. 

Joseph Rosalina, National Executive Vice President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. 

Kathleen Strozza, Trustee of the UNICO Foundation, the largest Italian American service organization. 

Anthony Gianfrancesco, Past President of the Italian American Bar Association. 

Patricia Russo, Executive Editor of La Nostra Voce, the fastest growing Italian American newspaper. 

Cav. Gilda Roro, Chair, New Jersey School Curriculum Development Committee. 

Umberto Mucci, Founder and Editor of We the Italians, a major social media Italian and Italian American news magazine. 

Paul Pirrotta, President of the Canicattinese Society. 

Giampaolo Girardi and Marco Di Fazi, Ordine Avvocati di Roma Board Members.

Additional guests: Loyse Paradiso, Faith DiLiberto, Roberta DiBiase, Rita Damigella, Beatrice Delmonico, Maryann Ficarri, Geraldine Caggiano, Hercules Paskalis, Joseph Rosalina, Jr., and Dr. Mary Roro.

Editor’s Note: Formed in 1975 and based in New York City, The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is comprised of 54 of the most influential cultural, educational, fraternal and anti-defamation groups in the nation. For more information, visit



Basil M. Russo Organizes a History-Making Summit of Italian American Leaders in Italy’s Capital
- A meeting with Italy’s top leaders, dignitaries and Pope Francis; all to deepen Italian American prominence, influence and cultural roots
- Rome Summit Scheduled for May 10th to May 14th

By Truby Chiaviello

Basil M. Russo continues to defy expectations as he unifies the Italian American community to preserve our heritage, history and culture.

For two years now, Judge Russo has tirelessly organized virtual meetings to bring together some 400 Italian American fraternal, cultural and social organizations. He devised a national strategy to sue municipalities in court to stop their changing Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day and their removal of Columbus statues. History was made this past December when he assembled Italian American leaders to meet Italy’s first female ambassador to the United States, Mariangela Zappia, in Washington, D.C., to foster an unprecedented international effort to preserve Italian American culture.

Now comes another history-making move: The first ever Italian American leadership summit in Italy.

A delegation of some 32 Italian American leaders from the United States will be led by Judge Russo to meet in Rome with members of Italy’s parliament, Italian leaders and dignitaries and, inside the Vatican, Pope Francis.

“The journey to elevate the visibility and influence of Italian Americans in our society began for me in early 2021, after I was elected to lead the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO),” said Judge Russo. “Still mired in the pandemic at that time, it all felt like a darkening dream: toppled Columbus statues, renamed holidays, canceled feast day celebrations, the loss of loved ones and the end of many Italian American shops and eateries. Covid also applied further strain to longstanding issues in our community, i.e., a growing generational divide between old and young, fading traditions and an absence of national unity. It all needed to change.”   

In an impassioned announcement of the scheduled summit in Rome from this May 10 to May 14, Judge Russo urged all Italian Americans to keep fighting to preserve our heritage. He sees the current battle over Columbus monuments and Columbus Day as indicative of our culture’s future survival in America.

“In the late 1800s and the early 1900s, many of our ancestors fled southern Italy to escape famine, disease, natural disasters and crushing poverty,” espoused Judge Russo. “The journey was hellish, and our culturally formative years in America were marred by violence and suppression that included some 50 lynchings of Italian immigrants. Our ancestors persevered, but over the last 40 years, with each passing generation, we’ve watched our heritage and our history gradually slip away. With that in mind, I knew 2021 would need to be a transformative year, I knew it would take all of us to regain our cultural footing, and I now know that our recent initiatives have sparked a revival within our community that our forebears would be proud of.”   

To organize a summit in Rome was the logical next step for a winning strategy to preserve our Italian American heritage, according to Judge Russo.

“My fellow presidents and I turned COPOMIAO — a relatively inactive 36-member East Coast umbrella organization — into a bustling, 54-member national nonprofit,” he said. “Next, we organized three virtual National Summit Meetings that brought more than 400 Italian American organizations to the table. From there we created national committees comprised of hundreds of diligent Italian American volunteers to address issues of mutual concern. Since then, we have saved several Columbus monuments, we’re currently organizing a robust youth summit in Florida this October, and we’re working with dignitaries and leaders across the Italian Republic to cement COPOMIAO’s international prominence.”   

A “giant leap for Italian America” is how Judge Russo described the coming Rome summit of Italian American leaders. The first step was to collaborate with Mariangela Zappia, he says, Italy’s first female ambassador to the U.S., who “agreed to my request to host a reception for 55 of our national leaders at her residence in Washington, D.C. During that meeting we struck a landmark partnership to strengthen cultural relations, foster new trade, and bolster advocacy-related initiatives.”  

Judge Russo believes the time has come to build upon a strategic relationship with Italy in a delegation of 32 Italian American representatives to meet with political leaders in Rome and at the Vatican. 

“We leave in mid-May, and our itinerary includes meetings with the Deputy of Foreign Affairs for the Italian Republic, Representatives of the Italian Senate and Chamber of Deputies, Justices of the Italian Supreme Court, as well as a meeting with the Vatican's Secretary of State, and a Papal audience,” says Judge Russo.    

The long-term goal will encompass five to 10 years in the progress of cultural preservation, not to mention a need to advocate for a wide range of political and social issues affecting Italian Americans. “Our ancestors taught us to aspire, and now’s the time to put their principled and faithful vision into action,” proclaims Judge Russo. “By working together, we can amplify our collective voice, and assume a more important role in influencing our country’s collective culture — all while strengthening ties to Italia and to our Church.” 

Judge Russo sees the way forward through a prism of our immigrant past in a renewed effort of Italian American pride and sustenance. “We have always made great contributions throughout history, and we need to ensure that we are in a strong position to continue to do so moving forward,” he says. “Our ambitious planning and unified approach will give us the momentum to reach this goal. We’ll give a detailed report on all the developments related to our historic international trip in a special e-newsletter within the next few weeks.”

COPOMIAO Presidents & Guests Traveling to Italy for Meetings with Italian Government Officials and Vatican Officials May 10 through May 14

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations,, is the largest and most important Italian American organization in the United States. It is the umbrella organization that speaks on behalf 54 of the most influential Italian American cultural, fraternal, religious, educational, Italian language and anti-defamation organizations in our country. COPOMIAO represents and communicates with the majority of the 17 million Americans of Italian descent. Several of the presidents of the COPOMIAO member organizations are traveling to Italy from May 10th to May 14th, 2022 to develop working relationships with the leaders of the Republic of Italy and the Vatican. To date, meetings have been confirmed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic, Leaders of the Italian Senate and Chamber of Deputies, Justices of the Italian Supreme Court, the Vatican Secretary of State,, as well as a Papal audience.

The 33 presidents of the organizations and their guests who will comprise the COPOMIAO delegation are as follows: Basil M. Russo, a retired judge who serves as President of COPOMIAO, as well as National President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, one of the two largest membership based organizations in the United States. Joan Prezioso, Chairperson of the Board of the Italian Welfare League, the oldest and largest Italian American charitable organization. Frances Donnarumma, National President of the Italian American Bar Association, which represents all Italian American judges and lawyers. Anthony Ficarri, President of the Italian American War Veterans of the United States, representing all Italian American military veterans. Berardo Paradiso, President of the Italian American Committee on Education, which provides teacher instruction and funding which allows 75,000 US high school students to study the Italian language. Gabriele Delmonico, President and Executive Director of A Chance in Life, an international charitable organization founded in Italy, and serving needy youth. Charles Marsala, President of the Italian American Federation of the Southeast, representing twenty-two Italian American organizations. Marianna Gatto, Executive Director and cofounder of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles. Robert DiBiase, Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. Richard DiLiberto, President of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture. Ron Onesti, President of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, representing thirty Italian American organizations in Chicago. Tom Damigella, Board Member representing the Italian American Alliance of the New England states. Joseph Rosalina, National Executive Vice President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. Frank Maselli, President of the Italian American Museum of New Orleans. Kathleen Strozza, Trustee of the UNICO Foundation, the largest Italian American service organization. Anthony Gianfrancesco, Past President of the Italian American Bar Association. Patricia Russo, Executive Editor of La Nostra Voce, the largest Italian American newspaper. Cav. Gilda Roro, Chair, New Jersey School Curriculum Development Committee. Umberto Mucci, Founder and Editor of We then Italians, a major social media Italian and Italian American news magazine. Paul Pirrotta, President of the Canicattinese Society. Giampaolo Girardi and Marco Di Fazi, Ordine Avvocati di Roma Board Members.

Additional Guests: Loyse Paradiso, Faith DiLiberto, Roberta DiBiase, Rita Damigella, Beatrice Delmonico, Maryann Ficarri, Geraldine Caggiano, Hercules Paskalis, Joseph Rosalina, Jr., and Dr. Mary Roro.

The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations,



A Dynamic Reading Selection for Children of All Ages
From Melbourne to Maryland, From Calitri to California
Food, Faith, Family and Tales of Murder

By Chloe Jon Paul
Available at

    Author Chloe Jon Paul remains an enigma. At first glance, she might seem a woman entrenched in modernity. Her self-help guide for mature adults, titled, “Entering the Age of Elegance,” was replete with the latest innovations in healthy living. She proclaimed a host of Asian and New World religious models for inspiration. One may presume Chloe is more at home with the avant-garde than she is with a traditional means of faith and worship.
    Yet, Chloe is a proud, practicing Roman Catholic whose life ambition, at one time, was to be a Carmelite nun. “What God Looks for in Our Lives,” is a book by Chloe to share with readers her life’s journey through the mysteries and promises of faith. She conveys all she knows about God, Holy Scripture and the Sacraments in this inspiring, informative book. Faith can befuddle the most pious of adherents. Chloe immediately sets the tone to help readers better understand the wisdom of God. Her first chapter, aptly titled, “God Isn’t Looking for Superstars,” reminds us how regular folks, not much different than you or I, were the first disciples for the Church to begin “with a bunch of nobodies. Their names and what they did are rarely documented.” Chloe believes God wants a personal relationship with all of us when she writes, “He wants you to engage in conversation with Him each day...You don’t need books or prayer beads, just your voice...”
    Chloe is a living example of how even the most pious among us will face challenges to question God’s plans. The book is replete with examples of afflictions and struggles faced by the author, ranging from matters of mental and physical health to the harrowing ordeal of her younger brother, Lou, in the throes of drug addiction. No matter the difficulties, Chloe found help, not to mention a few miracles, in one way or another, from a Divine Hand. She recalls her effort as a Rosary Rally captain in Maryland to gather 60 people in the public square. “The morning of the rally, it was raining heavily, so I had my little conversation with the Lord...the moment we began reciting the Creed, the sun came out directly overhead while the surrounding area was still dark and raining. Mere coincidence or minor miracle?”
    Chloe is an excellent writer who composes crisp, succinct sentences to capture the essence of what remains complex ideas of religion and the nature of faith. She conveys her personal experiences, made up of many highs and lows, to put forward a personal example of faithful living. “What God Looks for in Our Lives” is a wonderful book, for any and all of us, to better understand our Roman Catholic faith and God’s wisdom.

Dishes Enjoyed by Friends
With Select Recipes by Terry Bartolozzi
By John Oliano
Available at

    Hard to imagine John Oliano not cooking. The author of the wonderful cookbook, “Italian Family Cooking and Wine Pairing” shared with readers his natural affinity for Italian cuisine. He was destined for the kitchen. Now, in retirement, after many years in the electronics field, he can better attain a fate tied to savory meats, fresh vegetables and fine wines. He gives us another delectable compilation of exquisite recipes in his new book, “Neighbors Cooking: Dishes Enjoyed by Friends with Select Recipes by Terry Bartolozzi.” The second inside photograph of this tasty tome conveys the whimsical enthusiasm of the author. He is pictured inside his kitchen with wife Gina, friends Terry and Arthur Bartolozzi. The foursome is shown responsibly wearing their Covid-19 masks; yet decorated in the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag. Such is the spirit of true Italians. No matter how incessantly arduous might be the times, we can always overcome them with great food, family and friends.
    Mr. Oliano gives us almost 200 pages of delicious recipes in a book to also contain the important basics of meal preparation and kitchen guidance. Along with his trusted neighbor, Terry Bartolozzi, the book comes with the most memorable of great recipes. Photographs of the dishes show final outcomes such as Brandied Pepper Steak, a dish included in a chapter on Valentine’s Day. The meat seems not only cooked rare for taste but, also, for a colorful picture. The recipe calls for strip steak with a sauce made from heavy cream, crushed peppercorns and brandy. On the next page is Strawberries Romanoff. The confection calls for home-made ice cream made from chilled cream over strawberries marinated in Grand Marnier.
    “Neighbors Cooking” is most welcomed in the age of coronavirus. Holiday celebrations have, all but, been shut down from the excessive pandemic fears wrought by America’s political and media class. Thank goodness we have a book to remind us of traditional festivities. Not only Valentine’s Day, Mr. Oliano and Mrs. Bartolozzi deliver full menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day. They provide the appetizers, entrées, soups and side dishes for seasonal feasts. Such highlights include Stuffed Artichokes, Seared Salmon and Lemon Dill Sauce, Pasta with Anchovies and Tomatoes and Grilled Polenta with Sausage and Gorgonzola Sauce. “Neighbors Cooking” is to be cherished the entire year. The many recipes in this wonderful book will not only fill our stomachs but, also, and more importantly, fill our spirit with a need to keep alive the joyous gatherings in this age of pandemic.

By Joanne Fisher
Published by Joanne’s Books   Available at

    We’re getting close to traveling the world in the many characters and unique plots of Joanne Fisher. We have gone from Louisiana in her novel, “The Devil of Saint Gabriel,” to Northern Italy in “Her Spanish Doll” to titled destinations in “Christmas in Venice” and “Christmas in Florence.” Now comes an entirely new location for fans of Miss Fisher in her new, riveting suspense novel, “The Melbourne Connection.” For geography enthusiasts, Melbourne might mean the large metropolis in Australia or the small seaside city in Florida. Both locales are keenly included as key settings in the novel. “The Melbourne Connection” is a serious departure from the romance fare often offered by Miss Fisher. Here, she delves into the violent underpinnings of domestic abuse. She takes on the mind of a psychotic to convey a police investigation to uncover murders on an international scale.
    The novel begins in Australia’s largest city, Melbourne, home to a little more than a quarter of a million Italians. As Italy remains an outward migratory country, Australia has become a new destination on a par with America for Italians to seek a better life. Fausta Benito is one such character from the novel, who was born in Australia to Italian immigrants, to now become fully assimilated to speak the Aussie dialect. By all measures, a pretty woman, she marries high school heartthrob Jack Rinaldi. The couple begins to settle down to start a family. However, Fausta soon discovers Jack’s explosive temper to suffer cuts and bruises from his continuous assaults. After one too many beatings, she takes the money from their savings account to escape to America with best friend, Carly McIntyre. The final destination is Melbourne, Florida, where Carly, an engineer, will begin a new job for NASA. Meanwhile, Jack is arrested for disturbing the peace but must serve a longer prison sentence when he attacks other inmates. When released after 10 years, he sets to find Fausta to exact his revenge.
    As Fausta settles down to a new and better life with Carly in America, Jack is without work or money in Australia. The police begin to take notice of his whereabouts when they discover the body of a dead woman with a connection to Fausta. Can Jack escape the pursuit of the police? Will he find Fausta? How the countries’ police departments work together will intrigue fans of crime fiction. As she has in her other novels, Miss Fisher conveys a world that is fast becoming a smaller place. “The Melbourne Connection” is an excellent novel where good and evil, love and redemption play out on a global scale.

A Sergeant Markie Mystery
By Anthony Celano
Published by Boulevard Books Available at

    The title of Anthony Celano’s engrossing and entertaining new novel makes one immediately think of Lon Chaney, Jr. The horror of murder and criminal intrigue is present. Yet, the novel is more akin to Sherlock Holmes than The Wolf Man. “The Case of the One Eared Wolf” is the kind of murder mystery we all love to read. The image on the book’s cover is that of an appealing piece of jewelry. How and why this tale of murder revolves around a silver carved ring is for readers to discover from Mr. Celano’s wonderfully engaging imagination.
    A retired police detective, Mr. Celano knows well the inner workings of murder and robbery investigations. In his previous novel, “The Case of the Crosseyed Strangler,” he penned an amazing tale of a serial killer. Front and center in that and his other current crop of novels is his trusted protagonist, Sergeant Al Markie. The veteran New York police detective is the likable conduit for readers to delve into New York’s criminal culture. We are introduced to an old crime from the early 1970s in “The Case of the One Eared Wolf.” An army sergeant disappeared back then only for police to get a tip some 20 years later of his potential whereabouts. Markie senses a homicide when he drives to Staten Island to talk to the wife of the missing person. That day, he and his partner make a grisly discovery inside the Brooklyn Armory. This is just one of the many fascinating features of real police work: A missing person’s case practically closed can be opened again from an obscure tip in an unrelated crime decades later.
    Mr. Celano’s police experience allows him to convey a complex web of intrigue in the criminal underworld. Inherently connected are drug dealers, gangsters, racketeers and burglars. The main antagonists begin the novel as twin brothers, Cristofaro and Jasper Stanlee. The two avoid the Vietnam draft to become, years later, entrepreneurs in bookmaking, stolen goods and selling cocaine. They expand operations to Las Vegas where they are joined by other nefarious characters. A joy ride of mystery and intrigue is what readers will get when they read “The Case of the One Eared Wolf.” Main and minor characters might be obsessed with wrongdoing; yet they are fascinatingly approachable, at times, even likable, thanks to Mr. Celano’s skilled writing. Every page of this enthralling novel is a joy to read. Police work is an urban adventure for us to further appreciate the noble determination of police officers. “The Case of the One Eared Wolf” is another outstanding work from Anthony Celano.

Written by Joanne Russo Insull Illustrated by Kelly Artieri
Available at

    A beautiful children’s book to transport readers, both young and old, to the good country life of Italy is “Asinella, The Nanny Donkey.” Joanne Russo Insull is the author who teamed up with illustrator, Kelly Artieri, to compose the story of an Italian girl and her family who overcome the challenges of raising sheep on a farm.
Mrs. Insull’s family emigrated from Sorrento. In an interview with PRIMO, she said, “My great-grandparents came from Meta di Sorrento. I have cousins in Sorrento and Naples. The house where my grandfather grew up is still on the main street in Sorrento and is owned by a doctor who has an office there.”
    Mrs. Insull was inspired to write “Asinella, The Nanny Donkey” after she and her husband visited Italy’s Apulia region before the pandemic. “During the trip we stopped at a caseificio where they made caciocavallo cheese. They had a small barn with a beautiful gray donkey and a couple of sheep. I spent time visiting the donkey who was so gentle and responsive.” On return to the United States, she received “pictures of the nanny donkeys working in the northern part of Italy. Seeing the lambs peeking out from the pockets of their coats totally convinced me that this would make a great children’s book. I started to do some research and began to write.” “Asinella, The Nanny Donkey” tells the story of Francesca and her close friendship with the family donkey Asinella. A young girl is expected to get good grades and help her parents in a host of daily chores ranging from feeding the farm animals with her father to preparing dinner with her mother in the kitchen. While tending sheep in the mountains, Francesca and her father face the dilemma of a recent arrival of new lambs. Finding a way to transport the babes back down to the farm calls for Asinella to make the needed journey.
    In part, the book is a celebration of the pack animal in Italy’s culture. Once, donkeys could be seen everywhere, from mountain villages to the center of bustling cities in Italy. Donkeys are still used in a diversity of tasks such as, Mrs. Insull noted, shepherding. “In my research, I learned that donkeys are used to herd the sheep and watch over them,” she said. “They have a natural dislike for dogs and have been used to protect the sheep from wolves. Many animal activists and donkey rehab people have expressed concern about this because the donkeys may suffer serious injuries. Yet others, especially donkey owners, praise the animals for their bravery and ability to protect the sheep in their charge.” “Asinella, The Nanny Donkey” is a marvelous book where Italy’s farming life can be enjoyed on every page.

By Eugene J. DiCesaris
Five Star Publishing   Available at

    Many Italian Americans are fervent fans of Westerns. The children and grandchildren of immigrants grew up watching, on television, shows such as “Gunsmoke,” “The Rifleman,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Bonanza” and “Rawhide,” just to name a few.
    The American genre is in our blood. Hence, it is no wonder, then, that an Italian American author, such as Eugene J. DiCesaris, is able to conceive and write such an intriguing Western as he has done with his new novel, “Clayton Sharp: Messenger of Warning.” Look no further than the book’s entrancing cover, designed to illustrate the silhouetted cowboy on horseback at dusk, to serve as a lasting image for readers. Clayton Sharp is the lone gunman, an outlaw who seeks to change his ways amid the constant dangers and pitfalls of the Wild West. It is hard not to imagine a classic film star in the role of the main character. However, Clayton could not be portrayed by the likes of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or, even, Steve McQueen in his prime. He is just a kid and, hence, is more suited to be played by the latest Millennial matinée idol.
    Clayton turns 23 in the year 1867 to ride, alone, atop his prized steed, Caesar, in dangerous Indian country. He was once a member of an outlaw gang to rob folks in Illinois. Severely injured after getting shot in a hold up, he is abandoned by his partners to be taken in by a Mormon family on a Wagon train to Utah. Some time passes before he is recovered to leave the family, but not before converting to their religious beliefs. Here, the novel provides fascinating insight into a sad and overlooked era of religious persecution in the United States. Mr. DiCesaris has done his research well. He reprises the terrible ordeals faced by Mormons in what were often government sanctioned attacks, even killings, of their adherents. Indeed, in the beginning of the novel, Clayton’s life is threatened when he refuses a drink at a bar because of his Mormon faith.
    The complexities of the Wild West are fully captured in this unique and entertaining novel. As Clayton makes his way along the untamed plains and foothills of open territories, he confronts violent outlaws, desperate settlers and wrathful Cheyenne warriors. Clayton even runs into General George Custer (and his brother Tom) while the newly formed Seventh Cavalry seeks to conquer the Indians. Mr. DiCesaris has penned a fun, informative and engaging new novel to transport readers to a different time and place. Westerns are awesome, and so too is “Clayton Sharp: Messenger of Warning.”

By Mario Toglia
- with Josephine Galgano Gore
Published by Xlibris Available at Available at

   “Preserving Our History” flies in the face of the old adage, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Indeed, here is an exceptional book to show how something great can be achieved in a group effort. No village has a better friend than Calitri has in Mario Toglia. An Italian American man of letters, he continues to be a catalyst for books, online venues and live events to preserve the legacy of Calitri, here, in America. Mr. Toglia’s productive efforts began more than 20 years ago with numerous connections he forged by way of the Internet. A computer linked forum titled Calitri Connections, as created by Marlene Dunham, allowed him and other people who descended from the Avellino commune to email, correspond and, eventually, meet in person. The end result has been several excellent books about Calitri to be compiled from the many concise biographies of immigrants as edited by Mr. Toglia.
    “Preserving Our History” is a heartwarming tribute from progeny to parents (and grandparents) in the real-life stories of Calitri immigrants. Mr. Toglia, with a helping hand from Josephine Galgano Gore, allowed each writer to express him or herself in a personal style consistent with each reminiscence. The richness of recall captures the livelihoods, marriages, family and other connections of the Calitrani. Each biography is a two to five page saga of the American Dream. We are given such titles as “La Poetessa,” “A Softspoken Man” and “Ralph, The Painter,” just to name a few. Along the way are poems, photographs and historical documents such as ship’s manifests, church festival posters, street maps and other published artifacts.  All entries in “Preserving Our History” are informative, entertaining and poignant. However, one, above all others, was uniquely heartbreaking. The title “Remembering Our Lady of Loreto Church” by Mary Margotta Basile was a recollection of a Brooklyn parish that activists, along with PRIMO, had sought to save from demolition, as authorized by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. She writes: “For me, the years at Our Lady of Loreto represent that important essence in the Italian American experience; through our spiritual traditions and religious customs we remained ever strong and devoted to our heritage and our ancestral paese.”
    “Preserving Our History” is a masterpiece of unity to bring the cherished history that only one loving generation can give another. The greatest books will always be those to elicit feelings of sadness, joy and reflection. Few books do this better than “Preserving Our History”, an excellent tome by the descendants of Calitri.

Translated Excerpts of Speeches & Novels in English and Italian
Essays by Truby Chiaviello Translations by Deirdre Pirro

    The way to learn a language is to read it, not, just, speak it. Such is the wonder of “Politica e Prosa - Translated Excerpts of Speeches & Novels in English and Italian,” published by PRIMO Magazine. Now in its second edition is an anthology of PRIMO’s language department of the past 20 years. “Politica e Prosa” is translated to read “Politics and Prose,” an apt summary of this extraordinary book for all Italian Americans.
    Once, PRIMO published the basics of Italian in each edition to inspire an interest in readers to master the language of their ancestors. Although informative and helpful, the preliminaries were not enough for the breadth of Italian. What was needed was context. What was needed was an example of how Italian might be expressed in narrative. “The Gettysburg Address” was offered as our first translation from English to Italian. One of the most famous speeches in history was published in PRIMO. The first line, “Four score and seven years ago…” could be read in Italian as, “Or sono diciassette lustri e un anno che…” Such a popular work allowed readers to better grasp the language. Hence, the template was established in PRIMO for every edition to offer excerpts of famous speeches and novels translated from English and Italian and vice versa, by translator Deirdre Pirro. Originally from Australia, Deirdre relocated to Florence after she married a captain in the Italian merchant marine. She mastered the language to practice international law with a focus on the translation of legal documents for the Italian government. Now, a journalist, she pens a weekly column for PRIMO’s web site, titled “The Covid Chronicles,” in addition to serving as the magazine’s trusted translator.
    “Poltica e Prosa” encompasses fresh rewrites from English to Italian of such works as President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, President Ronald Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech, a Fireside Chat by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and many other speeches by American presidents and statesmen. Deirdre also produced fresh Italian translations for excerpts of some of the most famous novels in the English language such as “The Great Gatsby” F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, “The War of the Worlds,” by H.G. Wells and many others. The English version runs on one page while the Italian version is featured adjacent for purposes of comparison and contrast.
    Before the translated excerpts are essays by Truby Chiaviello about the Italian connections of speakers and authors featured in PRIMO. Readers will come to know how President Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline spoke fluent Italian and had an Italian day care nurse for her children in the White House. Or, how, one of the key sponsors for President Reagan’s political career was an Italian geologist. A number of interesting facts and anecdotes are conveyed to make each translated excerpt unique and special such as the surname of Charlotte Bronte was adopted from a Sicilian village or how F. Scott Fitzgerald completed the first draft of his most famous novel in Rome. “Politica e Prosa” will be a cherished book for all Italian Americans who wish to better learn the Italian language. The book can be purchased at the following link:


Italian Student, Claudio Mandia, Endured Days of Solitary Confinement, Before Killing Himself, at a Boarding School in New York
- ISDA, Basil M. Russo and George Bochetto join forces with Claudio’s parents to reform the system

By Truby Chiaviello

The Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), whose president, Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, uniter of Italian Americans to save Columbus Day, announced, yesterday, the joining of forces with U.S. Senate candidate and attorney, George Bochetto, to ensure justice is done over the suicidal death of Claudio Mandia.

Now underway, in New York, is a criminal investigation to suggest a dark tale of sadistic shunning of an Italian student at one of America’s most exclusive boarding schools.

On February 17th, Claudio Mandia, a 17-year-old student from Battiglia, Italy, hung himself inside an isolation room, after days spent in solitary confinement, on the campus of EF Academy in Thornwood, New York.

“The facts surrounding this young man’s death are unconscionable, and require important reforms in certain areas of our educational system,” Judge Russo wrote in a press statement issued April 8th. “This sad story has caused enormous outrage in Italy, with all the Italian newspapers covering the story.”

Judge Russo learned of Claudio’s tragic death from Fabrizio Di Michele, the Consul General of Italy in New York.

“I assured him that the Conference of Presidents, and the entire Italian American community, would support Italy’s efforts to promote the necessary reforms to ensure that situations such as this never again occur in U.S. schools,” Judge Russo stated.

Described as an outgoing and generous teenager, enamored by all things American, Claudio began life as a student at EF Academy when he was 15 years old. Like many young people of foreign birth and rearing, he was fascinated by the cultural phenom that is the United States. What could be better than to attend school in America? There, in Westchester County, alongside kids his own age, from all over the world, Claudio embraced life as a teenager in America.

Scheduled to graduate in May, Claudio planned to attend university in Italy this fall. He sought to obtain a degree, before embarking on a career to help his father, Mauro, at Fiad, the family’s successful frozen pizza export business.

Lapses in judgment are not uncommon in youth. Needed are the steady, tolerant hands of adult mentors for discipline and direction. A system of harsh rebuke and mental violence can often lead to tragedy.

Such was the case of Claudio at EF Academy.

A little more than a month after the New Year, Claudio admitted to school officials that he cheated on a mathematics exam. Abruptly pulled from his second period class on February 14th, Saint Valentine’s Day, Claudio was told by school officials of his expulsion from EF Academy. He was escorted to his dormitory room to collect his belongings. He was then taken to a separate wing on school grounds for a period of solitary confinement.

The system of punishment at EF Academy was to come to Claudio in two parts.

The first was harsh. An official expulsion from school. Apology, not accepted. No mitigation. No graduation. A black mark to remain forever on a boy’s academic record.

The second was sinister. A shunning by school officials. A grueling, imposed exile on school grounds. Young Claudio was to undergo bleak isolation inside solitary confinement. He was to suffer the extremes of banishment. He was to lose his way in desperation. He was to take his own life.

Departure from campus was originally scheduled for Claudio on Thursday, February 17th. Hence, for almost four days, he was shut inside an isolation room at school.

An ISDA article, issued on April 8th, conveys an indictable assessment of Claudio’s treatment at EF Academy. The young Italian was banned from nearly all direct contact with classmates, staff, faculty, any and all persons on campus. Trash had accumulated before meals were no longer delivered on the last day of confinement, according to ISDA. Parents Mauro and Elisabetta had repeatedly contacted school officials to demand an end to Claudio’s punishment. They wanted him released for needed care and attention.

On Thursday, February 17th, at approximately 10 a.m., having not heard from Claudio for days, Martina Mandia (Claudio’s younger sister) and a friend met with a counselor at EF Academy. They entreated the adviser to check on Claudio. When acceded to their pleas to enter a silent room, there he found Claudio’s dead body hanging from the ceiling.

Questions of anti-Italian bias may be warranted. According to the April 8th article by ISDA, another Italian student a EF Academy had also been expelled within the last year. He too “had attempted suicide on EF’s campus shortly after being notified of his expulsion. Further, EF Academy was explicitly directed by Mauro and Elisabetta to immediately cease their horrific treatment of Claudio and provide him the attention and care he desperately needed. Nonetheless, EF Academy abandoned Claudio in a barren room, told him not to leave, forced him to skip meals, failed to provide him adequate mental health services, and neglected to supervise him after delivering the life-altering news of his expulsion.”

ISDA underscored legal aspects of Claudio’s untimely death by reporting “minors accused of criminal acts in New York State are prohibited by law from being placed in solitary confinement.”

The ISDA article went on to convey how “New York law provides that ‘any person twenty-one years of age or younger . . . shall not be placed in segregated confinement for any length of time.’ Claudio was placed in segregated confinement for nearly 4 days for cheating on an exam. EF Academy subjected Claudio to worse treatment than minors his same age receive after being convicted of a criminal act. EF Academy’s treatment of Claudio was inhumane, inexcusable, and is now the subject of an intense criminal investigation.”

Led by Judge Russo, ISDA will join forces with Claudio’s parents, Mauro and Elisabetta Mandia, and their attorney, renowned trial lawyer and defender of all things Italian, George Bochetto, of the law firm Bochetto & Lentz, P.C.

As declared in the ISDA article of April 8th, actions will be taken “to not only hold EF Academy accountable for this tragedy but also to effect reform in the laws governing private boarding schools’ treatment of students to prevent a catastrophe like this one from ever happening again.”

Now running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bochetto, said, while on the campaign trail, “I was appalled upon learning of the circumstances leading up to this horrific and unnecessary death, and am equally appalled at the lack of legal oversight of private boarding schools in New York by its Department of Education. I will fight for sweeping changes to N.Y. law and will assist the family in holding EF Academy fully responsible on all levels for its inhumanity.”

Editor’s Note: The web site for the Italian Sons and Daughters of America is Endorsed by PRIMO Magazine, George Bochetto, running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, has a web site at The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has a web site at



A Take Down of Take Down Columbus
- Recruited by Columbus Heritage Coalition, Robert Petrone Destroys Claims by Anti-Columbus Group Advocate Patricia Vasquez

By Angelo Vivolo
President, Columbus Heritage Coalition

In the constellation of young stars who are stepping up for the true legacy of Christopher Columbus, Robert Petrone is exceptional. An accomplished attorney, author, researcher, and communicator, Robert has focused his considerable energy and many skills on disrupting the lies of those seeking to whitewash the great navigator. Rob excels at presenting the volumes of evidence with context, clarity, and even humor. The Columbus Heritage Coalition recently invited Rob to refute charges against Columbus by Victoria Vasquez, a spokesperson for the retrograde Take Down Columbus group. I’m pleased to present Rob’s rebuttal below. History teaches that truth will only prevail when falsehoods are challenged and disrupted.

Victoria Vasquez states:
“Columbus couldn’t have been Italian because Italy wasn’t formed as a nation during his lifetime.”
Robert Petrone responds:
The word Italia, referring collectively to the various kingdoms of that peninsula, far pre-dated the formation of the nation of Italia. Columbus and all the people of the Italian peninsula since its settlement are Italians. Just like all the people of the Americas or America, even before the United States was created as a nation. He was Genoan. We know that. Genoa is now part of Italy. So, Columbus was Italian. His native language was Genoan, which is a dialect of Italian.

Victoria Vasquez states:
Columbus “did not reveal that the earth was round.”
Robert Petrone responds:
No one says he did. Most reputable scholars theorized that the world was round at the time Columbus set sail for the Americas, and Columbus was an early adopter of that theory. Had he reached mainland China, he certainly would have proved it beyond question. And since most of the world thought the Americas were the East Indies until after Columbus died, he did, for all intents and purposes, eliminate any doubt in the minds of any former skeptics about the world’s roundness.

Victoria Vasquez states:
Columbus “did not go into the New World with a curious lens but [for] a gold hunt and [to] claim anything he could for material gain.”
Robert Petrone responds:
“That’s just absolutely false. Christopher Columbus spent years of his life trying to find funding to support his scientific experiment to find a new, all-water route to Asia. He had no other motive than that. Finding gold was never his motive. The Crown of Spain, however, demanded returns on their investment, and they pushed him to find gold. He never stole it or took it by force. He only ever bartered for it and insisted that the settlers engage in fair trade with the tribal peoples.

Victoria Vasquez states:
“Experts told Columbus his calculations were all wrong and that the voyage would take longer than he expected” and that “the naysayers were right.”
Robert Petrone responds:
This is entirely wrong. The people who counseled the Crown of Spain to reject Columbus’s proposal were not “experts” but court counselors, who felt that the Spanish Treasury needed to be spent on the Reconquista, rather than this unlikely experiment. They didn’t say Columbus’s “calculations were all wrong” or “that the voyage would take longer than expected” because they weren’t navigators or scientists. They were just skeptics, and they were NOT “right.” In fact, Columbus expected that before he hit the mainland of “the Indies” (what the medieval world called India and the Far East), he would hit islands populated by Asiatic colonists, and that’s exactly what happened. What no one expected — not even all the ancient scholars whose works Columbus had spent a lifetime studying — was that two of these islands would be the size of continents(I’m referring to North and South America).

Victoria Vasquez states:
“Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape.” While she says this, she shows a graphic reading, “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general, and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.” She calls this “a letter from Columbus to a friend.”
Robert Petrone responds:
Again, Vasquez is wrong. Columbus didn’t write this letter to “a friend.” He wrote this to the Crown of Spain to complain about the Spaniards and Portuguese who had come in his wake and begun enslaving the Tainos natives. He was demanding the Spanish Crown do something about it and put a stop to it. Columbus certainly did whatever he could to thwart the slaving efforts of the Spanish settlers and Portuguese slave-traders.

Victoria Vasquez states:
“Columbus did not find the gold he expected, and his greed turned to selling Tainos to fund his voyages.”
Robert Petrone responds:
That is false. He found gold. He brought it back to the Crown. The Crown always demanded more. But he never “turned to selling Tainos.” The record demonstrates that he took a stand against the Spanish hidalgos and Portuguese slavers who did try to enslave the Tainos. Columbus was the Tainos’ most vociferous advocate and protector. He never sold a single slave.

Victoria Vasquez states:
“Columbus’s actions enraged the Spanish monarchs.” Vasquez attributes the following quote to Queen Isabella: “Who is this Columbus who dares to give out my vassals as slaves.”
Robert Petrone responds:
Tellingly, she does not cite where this quote comes from. That’s because it’s bunk. The Queen knew exactly who Columbus was. In fact, she was his biggest supporter. King Ferdinand was at worst indifferent to Columbus. Columbus never “enraged” the monarchs and never “g[a]ve out [the Crown’s] vassals as slaves.” The primary historical sources flatly contradict all of this nonsense that Vasquez is saying.

Victoria Vasquez states:
Friar Bartolomé de las Casas, author of Historia de las Indias, which is the main primary source from which our information comes, wrote negatively about Columbus’ leadership. She quotes the passage from de las Casas, attributing atrocities to “Columbus’s men.”
Robert Petrone responds:
De las Casas wrote exceedingly favorably about Columbus. De las Casas saw Columbus’s governorship of the West Indies first hand and makes in clear in his Historia that Columbus was beyond reproach. De las Casas was writing about the atrocities of Francisco de Bobadilla, who ousted Columbus from office by bringing false claims against him which Columbus defeated in Court. Not only did the Crown find the claims patently false and dismiss them as “calumny,” they then put their money where their mouth was and funded his Fourth Voyage. Again, tellingly, Vasquez fails to cite where this passage she recites comes from. That’s so you can’t tell that she’s conflating Christopher Columbus with Francisco de Bobadilla. It wasn’t “Columbus’s men” that did this. It was Bobadilla and his men.

Victoria Vasquez states:
“..for these atrocities that are well documented” a “royal commissioner … brought Columbus back to Spain in chains.”
Robert Petrone responds:
No. Columbus wrote to the Crown, asking them to send someone the recalcitrant hidalgos would listen to, because they wouldn’t listen to him, being that he was a low-born foreigner. So, the Crown sent Bobadilla. But they told Bobadilla that if he found any wrongdoing by Columbus, Bobadilla could take the lifetime hereditary title of Viceroy and oust Columbus. Bobadilla didn’t even conduct an investigation. Instead, he just made up false claims to get the hereditary title himself. Bobadilla sent Columbus back to Spain in chains and stayed behind to commit unparalleled atrocities in Columbus’s absence. Bobadilla knew that when Columbus got back to Spain, the jig would be up, and told the hidalgos, “take as many advantages as you can because we don’t know how long this will last” (History of the Indies, Book II, page 79). And that’s exactly what happened: Columbus got back to Spain, gave his evidence, and defeated the slander. The Crown removed his chains and apologized profusely, and then funded his Fourth Voyage. So, again, Vasquez is disseminating false information.

Victoria Vasquez states:
Columbus was “stripped of his governorship.”
Robert Petrone responds:
He was not stripped of his governorship. He didn’t want to govern anymore. He wrote to the Crown: “I wanted to escape from governing these dissolute people…full of vice and malice” and “begged Their Highnesses…to send someone at my expense to administer justice” (Letter of Christopher Columbus to Doña Juana de Torres, dated October 1500).

Victoria Vasquez states:
Columbus “did not represent any of the values we usually align with Christopher Columbus.”
Robert Petrone responds:
Even by today’s impossible utopian standards, Columbus was without a doubt the greatest hero of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. He was a capitalist in the age of Empires, and what he did began the downfall of imperialism. He was a scientist in the age of superstition. He was a civil rights activist in the age of oppression. And he was a pacifist in the age of war-mongering. Thus, Columbus was an icon and a paragon.

Editor’s Note: Robert Petrone hosts Christopher Columbus University on Radio Voice Italia at The Columbus Heritage Coalition has a web site at

After a Decisive Court Victory to Preserve the Columbus Monument
- They Seek Inclusion of Ethnic Groups for More Public Art
“We reaffirm our openness to work with the community to expand St. Mary’s Circle with additional perspectives and representations.”

By Truby Chiaviello

A day after Justice Gerald Neri ruled in favor of the Italians of Syracuse to preserve that city’s Columbus Monument in Saint Mary’s Circle, the effort is underway by the victors to reach out to other ethnic groups for more public art to represent the city’s diversity.

The Columbus Monument Corporation, the lead petitioner in the lawsuit to preserve Columbus in Syracuse issued a statement, yesterday, to read: “We reaffirm our openness to work with the community to expand St. Mary’s Circle with additional perspectives and representations.”
The Columbus Monument Corporation had sought to settle the dispute prior to the case going to court. They continued to offer the olive branch to their adversaries in Syracuse. “With the Court’s resolution of this issue, it is time for everyone to come back together and work collectively on an additive approach to Syracuse public art, celebrating our city’s other rich ethnic heritages,” read their statement to the press. “This has been the approach taken in New York City. The Columbus Monument Corporation would be pleased to take a lead role in that initiative.”

The Columbus Monument Corporation succeeded in its challenge of Mayor Ben Walsh’s decision to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus in the center of Columbus Circle, officially known as Saint Mary’s Circle, in Syracuse. They stated, “We are pleased with the Court's decision to preserve the historic Columbus Monument as is, in its original location, where it was dedicated by over 40,000 Onondaga County citizens in 1934. We appreciate the Court's careful consideration of our petition requesting that this important public art be preserved. The decision reflects the extent to which the court heard and analyzed the arguments of all parties.”
The written decision by Justice Neri was delivered to lawyers late yesterday, March 11. He ruled  the city of Syracuse must maintain the Columbus Monument as required by law and the trust provisions of the City Charter.
Yesterday’s ruling considered an agreement that had been made by the city to preserve the statue in Columbus Circle, first erected in 1934. A press release by the Columbus Monument Corporation explained, “The Court’s decision confirmed that the City had entered into a contract to maintain and preserve the monument for its useful life. At the Mayor’s direction, the City Corporation Counsel’s office represented to the State that the City ‘made the decision to remove the Columbus Statue and modify Columbus Circle’ to get around the City’s obligation to maintain the Columbus Monument for its useful life. The Court found those actions to be both ‘disingenuous’ and ‘disheartening’”.
“The decision also ordered that the misrepresented agreement that the City attempted to file to hide its obligation to maintain the monument for its useful life is null and void and the Court ordered the Onondaga County Clerk to expunge the document from the records.”
According to the Columbus Monument Corporation, public art should still be preserved no matter the “changes by certain community leaders about their interpretation, sensitivity and historical perspective is not a basis to destroy or remove the Columbus Monument.”

A statement by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations praised the effort to preserve Columbus in Syracuse. They reminded all Italian Americans how similar lawsuits are now being litigated in Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

The nationwide legal effort to save Columbus was spearheaded, in large part, by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, Italian Sons and Daughters of American (both led by Basil M. Russo), the Commission for Social Justice (OSIA), the Italian American One Voice Coalition, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, the Italian American Alliance and attorney George Bochetto, who is currently running for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Columbus Monument Corporation, please log on to

Italian Americans Win in Court
Columbus Monument Stays
- Justice Neri Rules in Favor of the Italians

By Truby Chiaviello

A hard fight is won.

Success for Syracuse Italians.

Justice Gerald Neri ruled late today, March 11, that Mayor Ben Walsh did not have authority to tear down the Columbus Monument inside Saint Mary’s Circle, more commonly known as Columbus Circle, along Onondaga Street in Syracuse.

Columbus stays where he has since 1934.

The written decision has yet to be issued to the press. Lawyers from both sides, however, were notified of the court’s decision today.

For two years, the battle raged in Syracuse after Mayor Walsh vowed to take down the Columbus Monument. The Columbus Monument Corporation, a group of Italian Americans and other people of various ethnic groups stood their ground. They challenged the mayor’s authority and took him to court. Now, comes a legal victory to be savored by proponents of Columbus.

The Italian Americans of Syracuse offered a number of olive branches to try and settle the dispute. Mayor Walsh shrugged away their proposals; one of which was to fund a revolving art exhibit, inside a city park, at the cost of some $25,000. To be featured were the artworks of non-Italians in Syracuse. Artists and sculptors could display paintings and statues about the persecution and historic wrongs suffered by their specific ethnicities. They could even protest, through their art, Columbus and the settlement of the Americas. Italian Americans only asked, in return, for the Columbus Monument to remain where it has for almost 90 years.

On January 13th, oral arguments was heard by Justice Neri in Onondaga County Supreme Court about the fate of the Columbus Monument. At issue was whether Mayor Walsh overstepped his jurisdictional boundaries when he abruptly declared the structure’s demise. The Columbus Monument Corporation was the key petitioner to preserve the edifice.

Now, almost two months later, Justice Neri has rendered his decision.

A victory for Syracuse Italians.

A loss for Mayor Walsh.

A victory for the civil society. A victory for American history. A victory for exploration.

Salute to our brothers and sisters of Syracuse! Salute to Columbus!

Thank God for this victory!

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the beautiful Columbus Monument at Saint Mary’s Circle in Syracuse. To learn how you can help the The Columbus Monument Corporation in Syracuse in their admirable struggle to retain the Columbus Monument, please log on to their web site at We continue to send our prayers, support and do all we can to help them win.



Primo Endorsement
- A Champion of Italian American Causes
- Co-Sponsor of a Bill for America to Apologize to Italian Immigrants for WWII Mistreatment
- Active Participant in Meetings of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO)

By Truby Chiaviello

When Judge Basil M. Russo sought to unite Italian Americans, in 2020 and 2021, through a host of unprecedented national meetings sponsored by COPMIAO, Representative Tom Suozzi was there. Indeed, he attended many such gatherings, far more than any other major political figure. Representative Suozzi was an active participant, who took time away from his busy schedule, to offer words of encouragement for practical solutions to preserve Columbus Day and Columbus statues and monuments throughout the country.

Hence, PRIMO is proud to endorse Tom Suozzi to be the next governor of New York.

More than ever before, we Italian Americans need friends in political office who will fight on our behalf. Unfortunately, that’s not the current New York governor, Kathy Hochul. As lieutenant governor, she was called to replace the then-governor, Andrew Cuomo, after a host of sexual harassment and assault charges, all of which were dropped by local prosecutors, forced him to resign from office. Strange, that one of the first things Mrs. Hochul did as governor was to fire Dolores Alfieri as the Italian American Affairs director; and, all but, shut down that office. She only re-established the post after hearing fiery protests from the likes of Representative Suozzi, along with Judge Russo, Dr. Joseph Scelsa, president of the Italian American Museum and executive officers of the New York branches of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America.

Most troubling was how Governor Hochul went about the dismissal. She neither notified nor sought the counsel of the Italian American community in New York. She sought not their feedback or recommendations. It was her way. Period. She is an exact carbon copy of the mayors and governors, elsewhere, who have changed Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day and torn down Columbus statues and monuments by quick executive orders without any outreach to the Italian American community. Governor Hochul has shown herself an unreliable gubernatorial leader in our ongoing struggle to retain Columbus Day and Columbus monuments and statues in New York. She will do nothing to stop the likes of Syracuse mayor, Ben Walsh, who is hellbent to humiliate and bully the Italian Americans of that city in his mean-spirited effort to destroy beautiful edifice of Columbus, erected by Italian immigrants there in 1934.

For Italian Americans, an important ally in the governor’s mansion of New York will be Tom Suozzi. He will be there to help us win such battles in Syracuse and elsewhere, as adversaries continue their unjust and unnecessary assault on our Italian American heritage.

Mr. Suozzi is a Democrat who has served honorably in a host of important posts over the years, ranging from the mayor of Glenn Cove to Nassau County chairman to, today, U.S. Representative of New York’s 3rd Congressional District. An increasingly diverse community, he has retained a focus for the government to provide legal and other assistance to newly arrived immigrants, many of whom come from Asia. His sensitivity for America’s newest citizens stems from the experiences of his late father, Joseph Suozzi. An immigrant from Italy’s Basilicata region, specifically Potenza, Joseph Suozzi was one of the first Italians to earn a law degree from Harvard after his honorable service; a flight navigator on B-24 bombers, in World War II. Joseph Suozzi went on to be New York’s youngest judge, not to mention the mayor of Glen Cove and Nassau County supervisor from 1956 to 1960 and further service as a state Supreme Court judge.

Tom Suozzi shared a sad anecdote about his father at a recent meeting for the COPOMIAO. While looking at Joseph’s old high school yearbook, his father said his primary goal back then was to one day be seen by others as a real American. Such sentiment was indicative of the gross prejudice he and other Italians faced in the years prior to World War II.

In Congress, Tom Suozzi has done more, arguably, than other Italian Americans to help us in our collective struggle. He has co-sponsored a bill with Representative Zoe Lofgren, of California, for the United States to officially apologize for the mass detainment of Italians in World War II. He seeks grants to be given to elementary and high schools throughout the country to teach coming generations of the terrible discrimination Italian Americans faced over the last century. “This means a lot to me,” he said for his reason to pursue such legislation.

A person with such a passionate connection to his Italian legacy can only be the best asset for Italian Americans in New York. PRIMO urges all Americans of Italian and other ethnicity to vote Tom Suozzi for governor of New York.

Editor’s Note, 3-2-22: To find out more about Tom Suozzi and his bid to be the next governor of New York, please log on to



Primo Interview
Author of “Asinella, the Nanny Donkey”
“Seeing the lambs peeking out of the pockets of their coats totally convinced me that this would make a great children’s book.”

Joanne Russo Insull has written a new children’s book about Francesca, an Italian farm girl, who saves baby lambs with the help of her donkey, Asinella. The book was illustrated by Kelly Artieri to showcase Italy’s rural culture. We spoke with the author about her new book, “Asinella, The Nanny Donkey.”

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

My family came from Sorrento, Italy. My great-grandparents were from Meta di Sorrento. I have cousins in Sorrento and Naples. The house where my grandfather grew up is still on the main street in Sorrento and is owned by a doctor who has an office there.

What led you to write a children’s book set in Italy?

My husband and I have been to Italy many times. The summer before the pandemic, we traveled to Puglia on vacation. During the trip, we stopped at a caseificio where they made caciocavallo cheese. They had a small barn with a beautiful gray donkey and a couple of sheep. I spent time visiting the donkey who was so gentle and responded to me. I almost couldn’t tear myself away for lunch. When we got home, someone sent me pictures of the nanny donkeys working in the northern part of Italy. Seeing the lambs peeking out from the pockets of their coats totally convinced me that this would make a great children’s book. I started to do some research and began to write.

This story highlights the use of pack animals in Italian farming. Please explain.

In my research, I learned that donkeys are used to herd the sheep and watch over them. They have a natural dislike for dogs and have been used to protect the sheep from wolves. Many animal activists fear the donkeys may suffer serious injuries. Yet others, especially donkey owners, praise the animal for their bravery to protect the sheep in their charge. In the area where the donkeys are used, in the hills of Lombardia, carts and vehicles find it difficult to maneuver. Donkeys are sure-footed, strong enough and well-suited to the terrain. They are also used in Ireland and France as “shepherds” and nanny donkeys.

Are any characters based on your ancestors?

I named the little girl, “Francesca,” to honor my great-grandmother Francesca Mastellone, the first of my family to come to America. She was a farmer’s wife before she came to America after her husband died. She was an accomplished embroiderer and a brave woman who arrived alone in the United States having left my grandmother in a convent school. As an unaccompanied woman, she was deported when she arrived at Ellis Island. She went back to Italy and returned two years later. By that time, her brother had arrived in Boston. He sponsored her when she returned to America for the second time. She then sent for my grandmother for both of them to settle in Brooklyn.

What are your plans for the future?

I have just finished another picture book called “Sarah and the Crows Clean Up,” about a little girl who befriends a family of crows. She feeds them and they bring her gifts, mostly paper and trash from a nearby field. She wonders if they would help her clean up the field, and when her friends see the crows bringing trash to be recycled, they help too. I feed a family of crows every day who come when I call them. They have brought me feathers and pieces of bark. The book will be released in April.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the author and to purchase the book, “Asinella: The Nanny Donkey,” please log on to


Senate Candidate George Bochetto Condemns Russian Invasion of Ukraine
- A Fighter for Italian Americans Vows to Fight for All Ukrainians and Ukrainian Americans in the U.S. Senate

By Truby Chiaviello

Attorney George Bochetto knows how to fight. He took on Mayor Jim Kenney in Philadelphia and won. He saved the Columbus statue there only to take the mayor to court to save Columbus Day.

Now comes another fight for Mr. Bochetto. One that he is more than willing to undertake. He vows to help the Ukrainian people who are now at the mercy of Russian invaders.

Campaigning hard to become the next U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Mr. Bochetto wasted no time to condemn Russia’s unprovoked war with her eastern neighbor. In a statement, he claimed, “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, a democratic ally of the United States and our European partners, is a war crime and must be met immediately with swift, certain, and crippling consequences.”
Mr. Bochetto wants Russia punished for this latest military adventure. “While this should have been done already, the U.S. and Europe must now impose the harshest possible sanctions to decimate Russia’s ability to sell oil, natural gas, and minerals, and cut off their financial systems and oligarchs from the world financial system.”
The Russian military crossed the border into Western Ukraine to soon take that country’s capital Kyiv. Mr. Bochetto sees diplomatic weakness on the part of the United States as one reason for the latest conflict. “While the primary blame for this unprovoked violent conflict lies with Vladimir Putin, President Biden’s failure of leadership created the conditions that made it possible,” he said. “Russia has now shown aggression against its neighbors when President Biden was Vice President, and during his presidency. This is not an accident.”
Mr. Bochetto wants to keep up the pressure against Russia to free Ukraine. He said, “Peace through strength works, and this should not be a partisan issue. Our nation should return to energy independence and export energy to Western Europe. We must maintain sanctions against aggressors against our interests. And America’s leaders must do more than publicly acknowledge the intelligence we have gathered—they must demonstrate unpredictability and ensure that potential costs effectively deter the enemies of peace around the world.”
Before returning to the campaign trail, Mr. Bochetto urged all Americans to stand with Ukrainians in their hours of need. “Today we pray for our allies in Ukraine, and for our leaders to respond with moral clarity and strength to roll back Russia’s unprovoked and illegal aggression.”

Editor’s Note: To follow George Bochetto on the campaign trail, please log on to


All Italian Americans Should Condemn Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
- We Empathize With All People Who Suffer from Tyranny, Either Here or Abroad
- A Global Conflict of Democracies versus Dictatorships

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

I am an Italian American civil rights activist and political scientist. If you read my articles here on PRIMO’s web site, you know my views on domestic politics, Italian American civil rights and contemporary Italy. Hence, what does Ukraine have to do with Italian America?

Italian Americans need to stand with oppressed peoples all over the world, both domestically and abroad. I wrote an article about standing with the oppressed people of Cuba. Italian Americans are wrong not to show solidarity with Cubans and Cuban Americans.

There are many Ukrainians who live and work in the United States. There is an archdiocese of Ukrainian Catholics, or archeparchy, in Philadelphia. Most Ukrainians are Eastern Orthodox, but quite a few are Roman Catholic of the Byzantine tradition. As are most Italians and Italian Americans, I too am Roman Catholic. There are ethnic Ukrainian co-religionists of ours in Philadelphia and in Western Ukraine who are, right now, deeply terrified.

I ask you to think of Mother Italy. What if Italy were invaded by Russia, would you care? I would be on the first flight to Italy to fight the Russians. We cannot pretend, that even though we are Americans, that we would not demand the defense of our Italian motherland. Our fellow Ukrainian Americans want there country to be defended.

Do you know that Russia will slaughter our coreligionists in Western Ukraine due to historical enmities? Roman Catholics in Western Ukraine who are pro-NATO and pro-Western are likely to be massacred by the Russian Army. We need to support our coreligionists in this current conflict.

I am not arguing for any ethno-kinship of Italians and Ukrainians. Instead, I pose a question of Italian security. Do you think that Italy is safe from Russia? Well, if you do, you are wrong. Italy has a strong pro-Russian faction and even Mario Draghi, current prime minister of Italy, has long been too pro-Russian for my liking. Italians once suffered terrorist attacks by Soviet-backed Red Brigades. Russia wishes to control Italy. Russia wants to break up the EU. You know that I criticize the EU frequently, but I have been clear that it should not collapse but, rather, be loosened to allow for Italian sovereignty. The EU deserves our support right now and Italy needs to support our liberal-democratic values.

We Italian Americans need to realize that by Italy fully opposing Russia’s dictatorship, the Draghi government will, also, likely fall. This a good thing! Italy’s future must be for liberal democracy and freedom and not dictatorship-like governments aligned with Russia.

Italy needs a leader who will stand up for Ukraine. Italian Americans need to unify in defense of Ukrainian freedom. The Cold War is back. What side are we Italian Americans on? Are we for liberal democracy or dictatorship? On what side is Italy?

Liberal democracy, defined as majority rule combined with minority rights, has been weakened in the United States, especially in New Jersey and New York. We no longer call Canada a liberal democracy after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau utilized an emergency powers decree to plunge his country into martial law. Liberal democracy has fallen. The new Cold War is both an internal and external struggle to preserve liberal democracy against both dictatorship and illiberal democracy.

We need to be the glue to bind Italy with America. We must demand that our common values be respected and revitalized. The invasion of Ukraine is a threat to Italian sovereignty and to freedom everywhere, including that of Italian America.

So, this is not some conflict confined to Ukraine. This is not some war in “Europe.” This is a global conflict between liberal democracy and dictatorship. All of our freedoms are at stake. God protect us!

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist and Italian American civil rights activist. He is the President of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 civil rights organization. He is reachable at 732-549-2635 and



Primo Endorsement 2-23-22
A Champion of Italian American Civil Rights Seeks to Win NJ’s 2nd Congressional District
- A Union Man Runs as a Republican
- His Grandfather, an Italian Immigrant, Was Unjustly Confined to an Internment Camp Before He Fought for His Country in WWII

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

I was minding my own business on Monday, 2/21/2022, waiting for the war in Ukraine to start, when I received a text message from Dr. Joseph Scelsa, my mentor in the Italian American civil rights movement. His words came in simple text to read laconically - “We have a champion in New Jersey.” For an Italian American civil rights advocate, this was a very big deal.

I wrote back to him to identify this champion. Dr. Scelsa replied that it was Sean Pignatelli, a Republican candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. My mentor, like me, is strictly politically neutral, but we still need to promote the few champions for Italian American civil rights we find among political candidates. I quickly wrote to Mr. Pignatelli’s campaign; and to my surprise, he was willing to talk to me that very day. My conversation with him lasted over an hour. Mr. Pignatelli is a unique and fascinating candidate.

Mr. Pignatelli lost his brother, Christopher, a year ago due to New Jersey’s broken mental health system. The candidate said mental health and Italian American civil rights pushed him into politics. He told me they were both equally motivating factors. His grandfather, Frederick, an Italian immigrant, had won medals fighting for the United States, but, only after he was recruited from inside an internment camp where he was confined at the start of World War II.

For Mr. Pignatelli, this election is personal. Italophobia ruined his grandfather’s life, only for New Jersey’s broken mental health system to help lead to the death of his beloved brother. Mr. Pignatelli is not some Hollywood elite. He is a working man who belongs to the Carpenter’s Union out of Philadelphia. He is young, not yet 34 years old, but has 10 years real work experience, not to mention the wisdom that come from life’s tragedies and triumphs. A firm believer in the rights of unions, he argues the GOP can be the party of management and union workers at the same time.

Mr. Pignatelli is not your typical Republican. He is what I have long theorized to evolve in New Jersey as the “cranberry conservative,” a unique type of Republican who supports labor unions, mental health and Italian American civil rights, while still firmly in the mainstream.

Mr. Pignatelli, of course, was not looking for an endorsement from me, a politically-neutral Italian American civil rights activist, political scientist and voluntary journalist at PRIMO; but he wanted simply to talk to someone in the media. As you know, Italians are all but entirely shut out form mainstream media, especially in New Jersey.

Mr. Pignatelli argues for a new approach to mental health. In New Jersey, so-called “red flag laws” make it inherently difficult for disabled people to get the help they want and need. The law sets up a discriminatory framework where any admission of mental disability can mean, among other things, a permanent ban from gun ownership without due process.

Myself disabled, I was intrigued by Mr. Pignatelli’s commitment to mental health in a state so obviously hostile to the mentally ill. However, the main reason, of course, why I interviewed him was because of his strong stance in favor of Italian American civil rights.

What does Mr. Pignatelli say on Italian American civil rights?

He argues that any discussion about Italian American civil rights should begin with the defense of Italian American culture, language and monuments. He says we must remain uncompromising in our defense of Columbus Day and Columbus statues. He opposes, 100 percent, the Italophobic attacks against Colombo.

Mr. Pignatelli argues that Republicans need to start thinking like Democrats when it comes to identity politics. Rather than merely defend against the attacks as they come, he wants to go on offense to take out the roots of Italophobia. He knows that Italophobia has existed for as long as there have been Italians in America. The 1891 mass lynching of Italians by whites in New Orleans urges him to rally Italian Americans to claim their due and equal civil rights for the first time. He says we must stand against those who forced us to call ourselves white after what became, in essence, a 40 year ban from immigration to America by Italians from 1924-1964.

Mr. Pignatelli entirely supports affirmative action for Italian Americans. This is a new way of thinking for Republicans, but he knows that only by using the Democrats’ ideology for the benefit of Italians to thrive in New Jersey and America. He supports affirmative action, diversity, equity and inclusion, not to mention official statistics for Italian Americans. He supports the proposed Italian American Civil Rights Act by my organization to give minority status to Italian Americans in New Jersey. Mr. Pignatelli has gone further, promising that he will introduce a bill to give Italian and Mediterranean Americans minority status, at the federal level, if elected.

You do know that that is the whole ballgame essentially, right? If we get the Italian American Civil Rights Act passed federally, state laws protecting us in the same way will come quickly. Once we get the Census to recognize us as a minority, which Mr. Pignatelli’s bill will do, Colombo will be safe and so will Columbus Day. The entire Italian American civil rights cause comes down to whether we can get federal recognition, Pignatelli says. He supports our cause at the state level to ensure that New Jersey’s institutions no longer systemically discriminate against Italian Americans.

Obviously, I cannot endorse Mr. Pignatelli due to my 501c3’s politically-neutral status, but there is a real possibility that PRIMO will endorse him. Also, if you are part of UNICO or OSDIA, please write to your leaders to ask if he can be considered for endorsement by your organizations. Also, there are six county Republican parties to determine who will receive the official candidate (or county line) in those counties. These include Atlantic, Ocean and Cumberland. If you live in those counties, you may want to contact the local GOP office to demand they support Mr. Pignatelli against Jeff Van Drew, a left wing Democrat in 2018 who only became a Republican to retain his seat in Congress after his constituency overwhelmingly voted Donald Trump for president.

Here, we have Mr. Pignatelli, a principled centrist, a “cranberry conservative” verses Mr. Van Drew, a secret progressive who is part of the anti-Italian establishment in New Jersey. If you are serious about supporting Italian American civil rights, you need to call your local Italian American and GOP organizations to demand they support the cause that Mr. Pignatelli champions, which, as the venerable Dr. Scelsa says, is nothing less than the Italian American cause itself.

Editor’s Note: We urge all readers to support Sean Pignatelli in his effort to win New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. Christopher Binetti is an Italian American civil rights activist, political scientist ,and President of the Italian American Movement, an Italian American civil rights 501c3 organization. He is reachable at 732-549-2635 and

Covid Chronicles 2-15-22
Elected to Serve Another Seven Year Term as Italy's President is Sergio Mattarella, 80
- Coronavirus Deaths Decrease
- Pope Francis to Visit Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, as we come to the end of Weeks 61 to 65, it is no longer news that 80-year-old Sergio Mattarella has been voted in for a second seven-year term as Italy's president, a job he did not wish to take on again.

Mattarella was officially sworn in on 3rd February. He said during his acceptance speech that, “It was an unexpected call and one he could not refuse,” because of his sense of duty and responsibility. Although this was a popular decision to meet with wide consensus among the country's citizens, it was not without controversy. Many in the national and international press saw the decision to re-elect Mattarella a defeat for the parliamentary system and Italy’s political parties.

There was certainly fear that a change upsetting the status quo with Mario Draghi as prime minister could have led to a crisis in the government. The other names in the presidential race gradually fell by the wayside as Mattarella emerged with 739 votes. Only Alessandro Pertini, who served as Italy’s president from 1978 to 1985, received more votes historically.

The decision to reelect Mattarella caused a deep rift within the center-right coalition. Although, on paper, it looked as though Forza Italia, the Lega and Frattelli d'Italia had the numbers to elect one of their candidates, it was not to be. In the end, Matteo Salvini, leader of Lega, lent his support to a second Mattarella term. This infuriated Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Fratelli d'Italia party, who commented, “I just can't believe it.”

Cracks also appeared between the Democratic Party and the 5 Star Movement and, more seriously, within the 5 Star Movement itself. In fact, it emerged from the presidential election that there are now two influential political currents within the Movement, one supporting its leader and former prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, and the other, Luigi Di Maio, minister of foreign affairs. The election over, Conti was quick to announce he plans an internal investigation after a number of his parliamentarians did not vote in line with the party's position. Looks like there may be some bloodletting on the agenda.

On the coronavirus front, there are 118,994 new registered cases in Italy while some 964, 000 swabs were taken. Positivity had risen slightly to 12.3 percent. The good news is a decrease in the number of deaths.

The rules regarding the virus are due to change. There will be a new calendar in force until 31st March when the state of emergency should expire. The government enacted a decree to lighten restrictions and slowly bring the country back to normal. For instance, the Super Green Pass is only valid for six months, rather than nine, as originally planned. The pass will allow unlimited access for those who have had three vaccine shots. The same applies to those with two shots who have recovered from Covid. Rules will also change in Red zones but not for those who have been vaccinated. Masks no loner have to be worn outdoors and nightclubs will reopen. Workers over 50, will, as of 15th February, need a Super Green Pass to enter the workplace. Whether the state of emergency will be lifted on 31st March depends entirely on the virus.

The head of the vaccine strategy unit of the European Medicines Agency, Marco Cavalieri, said there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend a fourth vaccine shot, except perhaps for very fragile cases.

In Florence, excitement is growing for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis on 27th February on the occasion of the international conference of Mediterranean mayors and bishops in Palazzo Vecchio. He will also visit the Santa Croce Basilica to celebrate mass there. The last time he visited Florence was four years ago.

At home, at this time, means Nice, where I have sold our flat there. That means emptying out 26 years of clutter. It's sad but has to be done. I swear I'll never buy another thing – that is, not until I sort through all of this.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre


- The Male Low Voice Range of Ancient Songs are Performed by a Woman
- A Strange Sound of Sardinian Tradition Captures a New Audience in the Digital Age

Canto a tenore is a style of singing from Sardinia with deep, guttural voices to harmonize behind a soloist. The vocal method has been the domain of men for centuries. Ilaria Orefice, a native of Sardinia, has broken the glass ceiling to sing the low bass traditions of canto e tenore. PRIMO spoke with her recently about singing this unique style of Sardinia. Tell us about yourself.

I am 35 years old and I am Italian; to be precise I come from the island of Sardinia. I am currently a vocal performer, teacher of vocal techniques and accredited researcher of the voice. I started my career like many, singing modern repertoires in local bands, then I decided to undertake a path to study modern singing techniques for certifications to teach them. My ear was always captivated by the most particular sounds, of distant populations, fascinated by all the extraordinary things that the human voice is capable of doing. So I started studying Overtone Singing, and from there I branched out to many other styles, including canto a tenore Sardo.

How would you describe canto a tenore to someone who has never heard it?

The canto a tenore is an ancient "male" singing group, typical of the Sardinian musical tradition, the word “tenor” in this case derives from the verb “man-tenere”, "to keep", in fact each element (four singers) is indispensable and must support the other, and it's not possible to sing it individually. What is impressive is the peculiarity of the timbres, in fact, in the canto a tenore, specific technique, timbres are used always together to create that particular, strong sound. The tenore singers trio must support the lead singer, they must create chords and rhythms between one verse and the other of the poet. For the completeness of the sound frequencies, we find a guttural bass, a middle voice with brilliant frequencies; a more acute voice to complete the agreement. Its harmonic richness is very exciting to the listener; one feels completely overwhelmed and enveloped, goosebumps! We find the same sounds in the traditional chants of the Mongolian and Tuvan nomads, where the singer can be a soloist to create melodies by filtering the harmonics individually. The only form of similar singing in all of Europe is in Sardinia. And we wonder, if in ancient times, there was a kind of contamination between these geographically distant peoples.

Considering the style is exclusively for male singing, how did your interest arise?

Sardinia is an island that in the last 20 years tried, in every way, to emancipate itself; often to do this, has mistakenly removed attention and value from what has belonged to us for centuries, almost ashamed of it, like an out of date thing. So it was for the canto a tenore. But when I started teaching Overtone Singing while studying Tuvan singing, I compared myself to non-Sardinian people. I realized how much charm and how much beauty the singing arouses in others. In looking with other eyes, I began to really observe something that for us was normal and obvious, but it is a real jewel to protect. I decided to practice it personally, even if I am a woman, as Tuvan women do. I decided to teach it to other women, because it is liberating and greatly enriches our cultural background. I had the opportunity to deal with tenor singing groups who were very impressed to hear me, especially the older singers who think women are incapable of doing it. It is nice to redefine the oldest conventions about tradition.

You founded a school, in what ways do you intend to spread the canto a tenore?

Being a point of reference, a bridge for those who want to deepen. Once in Sardinia, it is not easy to find information or reach Canto a tenore groups. What I am doing with my school is shortening the distances, creating the opportunity to come to Sardinia to do a "tour of Canto a tenore". I helped the "tenores of Tokyo" to meet tenor groups for their study project, and we had as students, two American ambassadors from Berkley who presented their research at the University of Valencia. The most important thing is to respect tradition and keep it as pure as possible, but without closing too much. I would like anyone who comes to Sardinia to have the opportunity to hear this wonderful sonority, it is a way of keeping it alive, it's our musical identity, and it is unique.

Where can we see a sample of your a tenor singing?

The best way is to subscribe to my social channels, and to Youtube, to see videos and content that are always updated. In addition to canto a tenore I practice various other “tribal” styles that involve vocality in its most curious limits. My link:




- Priests and lay people targeted
- Murder of Catholic Evangelists Continues to Increase Worldwide
As Pope Francis said, last year, “How many generous persons suffered and died...for the name of Christ! Theirs was a witness borne out of love of Him whom they had long contemplated.”

By Truby Chiaviello

We’re not there...yet.

The threshold to claim worldwide Catholic persecution from the number of fatal assaults per year has not, thus far, been breached. The vocations of Christ can be assessed as no more dangerous than those of any other profession, or trade, in the secular realm. Yet, with each passing year, we get closer to the point of alarm. Priests, nuns and lay people, who serve the poor and sick in the world’s most remote regions, are increasingly victims of lethal violence. The brutal nature of such crimes stands in stark contrast to the inherent passivity of the victims. From all accounts, slain Catholic missionaries have done nothing to warrant such attacks.

While we all were making arrangements for the festivities of this past New Year’s Eve, Agenzia Fides, the Vatican’s official news service, was busily publishing their annual report of Catholic missionaries killed in the line of duty. It was 42 years ago when such a roster was first published. The number of slain priests, nuns and lay ministers were relatively modest for many years. Some 115 missionaries were killed between 1980 and 1989. Since then, however, the number of casualties has doubled to roughly 250 this past decade.

In 2021, the Catholic Church gained 14 million new adherents. Much of the Church’s growth occurred in Africa, Central and South America. The total number of Catholics today is 1.3 billion. Many new parishes require priests and lay people to leave their homes to relocate to foreign regions to serve the faithful. Italy remains a stalwart source of Catholic activism and evangelism. Many young Italians take up the call to help the poor and needy. They serve as parish priests in Sudan to catechize and convert. They serve as nuns in Pakistan to teach children to read and write. They serve as the laity in Brazil to help treat the sick and wounded.

The dedication of missionaries will come, not from recognized praise or adulation, but, rather, from the satisfaction of doing God’s work. Most survive the demands to spread the faith. However, as Agenzia Fides reports, some do not. In 2021, there were 22 missionaries, who had their lives cruelly taken. Three of them were Italians.

Brother Luigi Manganiello was 49 years old when he was murdered on January 5th, 2021. He was the son of immigrants from Avellino who had resettled in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, where he was born. Brother Manganiello belonged to the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded in 1679 by Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle. A lay congregation of teachers, they are known today as De La Salle Brothers to manage parochial schools in almost every country. Brother Manganiello was one of the administrators of a school run by the order in Barquisimeto, a small city in Venezuela. He was asleep in his room, inside the school, when a group of thieves snuck in to steal his laptop computer. Awakened by the intrusion, Brother Manganiello confronted the burglars only to lose his life when one of them struck him in the head with a blunt object.

Elsewhere in South America is the case of another slain missionary. Nadia de Munari was born and raised in the village of Schio, in Italy’s Vicenza province. At 50 years old, she was part of Operation Mato Grosso, a lay missionary group founded by the Italian Salesian priest, Ugo De Censi. The organization trains young people to be teachers or child care workers to serve the poor in Peru. Nuevo Chimbote was a small town with schools run by Operation Mato Grosso. Miss Munari was a kindergarten teacher there. When she was absent for early morning prayers on April 21st, a friend went to her room to discover her, face down, in a pool of blood, on the floor. The unconscious woman was taken to a nearby hospital where she died later in the day. Many bruises, scars and deep lacerations covered her body. The weapon used against her was a machete. The homicide has yet to be solved with no suspects or motives.

Not all slain missionaries were employed by the Church or a Catholic related organization. Some, such as Michele Colosio, were baptized to be called by faith to serve independently, according to the Vatican’s news source, Agenzia Fides. At 40 years old, Mr. Colosio had, some years back, given up a career as a radiologist to help the poor in Chiapas, Mexico. Mr. Colosio was originally from Borgosatollo, a small commune in Brescia. He had the notion for a farm to be partly owned by Mexico’s poorest residents to generate income in Eco-tourism. Last year, on the night of July 11th, he was in Chiapas to get supplies when two men on a motorcycle drove by to shoot four rounds from a revolver to kill him. The motive might have been a contract killing, one of many to stem from land disputes in the region.

Those who lose their lives in the service of God remind us of the demands of faith. As Pope Francis said, last year, “How many generous persons suffered and died...for the name of Christ! Theirs was a witness borne out of love of Him whom they had long contemplated.”


La Capitale Americana 1-17-21
- A Bold Presentation for an Interactive Audience
- Form-Fit Follows Function
“If I can’t wear it, I don’t want to make it”

By Dima Chiaviello

Tygerian Lace Burke is a local designer in Washington D.C.

Originally from Fort Washington, Maryland, Mrs. Burke has been native to the DMV area for years to splash onto the DC fashion scene with a remarkable presentation. She showed her collection on January 15th at the Foundry Gallery on 8th Avenue, N.W., within a short walk to the main campus of Howard University.

Some 35 looks with a total of 52 individual pieces were displayed on what was an icy cold night prior to a snowstorm. The collection mainly included dresses and gowns, a color scheme consisting of red, orange, pink and black. Sheer paneling, floral applique, embroidery, sequins and, of course, lace, were all seen within Tygerian Lace’s 2022 Collection.

The DC fashion scene was taken by her presentation, as many masked faces arrived to get a glimpse of Mrs. Burke’s first show in the area. Due to the rise of COVID cases in Washington, the collection was unable to present a fully-fledged runway show. “We had to pivot,” says Mrs. Burke, “COVID pushed all designers to grow…we were able to be very creative.”

Mrs. Burke opted to use mannequins and a handful of models to unveil the collection. This allowed the presentation to become interactive with the audience, with people able to look up close at the intricacies within each garment. Attendees were seen talking and conversing with models, as well as the designer herself, giving them an inside look into the creation behind the collection, making the night all the more special. 

The presentation is undeniably bold with nothing about each look silent or lost; each garment stands on its own as vivid. When asked about the inspiration behind the bold choices she made, Mrs. Burke said, “I’m getting older. As you get older, you’re not scared, I don’t have to live by a certain identity for the brand, it’s more so a feeling.” This idea is reflected within the clothes that the designer created for the show. “It’s time to live life and be bold, especially after the pandemic, you need something that makes you happy.”

Each garment is eye-catching, nothing is simple, yet still wearable. The collection makes its mark as universal for any woman, confidence intertwined with every ensemble, effortlessly feminine.

Every season was represented, from some looks incorporating fur, long sleeves, as well as shawls; meanwhile, others bear it all, with mini dresses and garments reminiscent of swimwear represented. The fit is another intricacy of the collection. “The complexity of the fit is what makes it nice…if I can’t wear it I don’t want to make it,” said Mrs. Burke.

On each one of the models, who physically represented parts of the collection, were garments to form-fit, but not in an over-sexual way. It felt as if the clothes were highlighting their bodies, instead of trying to show them off, which is an amazing accomplishment on par with the designer. Even on the mannequins, it’s clear that aspects of sexuality within the fit were done with the feminine intuition, defining what sexiness means for the brand. 

So, what’s next for Tygerian Lace? When asked, Mrs. Burke said she wants the opportunity to network. “I’m so small and still building a brand,” she said. “Even though I’m from the area, I’ve lived in North Carolina for so long that I built a network there. Coming here and this being my first show, it’s building those relationships.”

It’s safe to say there is definitely a future for Tygerian Lace in DC, bringing fresh ideas and incredible designs to the area, her mark is made.

Editor’s Note: Pictured: Fashion Designer Tygerian Lace Burke stands next one of her creations; a group shot with her models; attendees at the gala. To view the latest from Tygerian Lace, please log on to her Facebook page at



Italian Americans Vow to Fight On After Judge Jones Dismisses Case to Preserve Columbus Day in Philadelphia
- No Discrimination Against Italian Americans, Says Judge
- “…They Can Still Celebrate Christopher Columbus Under the Holiday’s New Name.”

By Truby Chiaviello


That’s the new battle cry among Italian Americans to echo throughout the City of Brotherly Love and the country.

The trial phase is over. Judge C. Darnell Jones II dismissed, in its entirety, the suit brought against Jim Kenney and Philadelphia to claim unlawful discrimination his changing of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.

George Bocchetto, lead counsel for Italian Americans in Philadelphia, who argued the case, had this to say about Judge Jones’ judgment. “I, like all of you, am disappointed that the federal court in Philadelphia has issued a decision dismissing the pending case…The Court found that our plaintiffs lack ‘particularized discriminatory impact or injury.’ I have thoroughly reviewed the opinion, and I believe the trial court’s conclusion…is just wrong.”

We move on to Round Two. Next stop: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

A case can ascend the judicial ladder all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today’s defeat can be tomorrow’s victory. The mission is to never give up until the final decision of all decisions is rendered.

Such is the immediate reaction among those who took Mayor Jim Kenney to court. Their mantra is summed up in two words: Keep Fighting.

It was Judge Basil Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, who had his organization as one of many plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He expressed new vigor in his letter to organization members about the recent legal setback.

“In response to Judge Jones’ ruling,” he wrote. “Although this is disappointing, we must remember this trial court decision is not the ‘final say’ on the matter. Decisions in cases like this often get appealed. That is why we have appeal courts – so that when a trial judge does make a wrong decision it can and does get overturned on appeal.”

No cheers are ever heard for the boxer’s hand not raised at the end of a bout. No celebration is lauded after Judge Jones’ ruling to shrug away the Italian American claim of discrimination. Bottles of Prosecco remain uncorked after the judge let stand Mayor Kenney’s abrupt and callous executive order to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.

All 20 pages of the judge’s dismissal centered on whether or not the Italians had standing, whether or not the Italians suffered discrimination and whether or not the changing of a holiday was, in essence, the right of free speech by City Hall.

The judge’s order was written on Thursday, January 13, but issued to the public on Friday, January 14th.

A reexamination of the case by a higher court can result in judgment to undo the negative ruling of Judge Jones.

Attorney George Bochetto is ready for action.

“I have determined that an appeal is warranted. I will promptly file an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit,” he said.

On April 6th, 2021, Mr. Bochetto filed suit to overturn Mayor Kenney’s executive order to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. The following individuals and groups remain as plaintiffs: Philadelphia City Council member, Mark Squilla, Jodi Della Barba (former personal assistant to Mayor Frank Rizzo), the 1492 Society, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, Sons and Daughters of Italy and, as stated prior, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, Inc.

Mr. Bochetto scored some impressive knockdowns in court against Mayor Kenney over the latter’s obsession to tear down the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza. The Italian American community sought his legal prowess to take the mayor to federal court over another of his obsessions - to wipe out Columbus Day, once and for all, in Philadelphia.

For dismissal, Judge Jones included a number of laws and case citations to pepper his opinion. According to his view, all was well with the Italian American community, never mind that their cherished holiday was ignobly scrapped by the mayor. He wrote, “Though Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ renaming of Columbus Day wipes away recognition of Italian Americans in favor of Indigenous People, they fail to state any discriminatory impact that supports such a conclusion.”

Judge Jones concluded that the mere canceling of Columbus Day by executive order was nothing more than a flexibility of expression by Mayor Kenney. He wrote: “The City of Philadelphia maintains direct control over the messages conveyed of holiday names…Thus, the Court concludes…renaming Columbus Day constitutes government speech.”

A spirit of relativism could easily be interpreted in Judge Jones’ dismissal. Are things really that bad?

The Italian American complaint was, “void of any alleged inability to still celebrate Christopher Columbus” no matter if the mayor jettisoned the holiday, concluded the judge.

The good news…

“…They can still celebrate Christopher Columbus under the holiday’s new name,” he wrote.

Appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2008, Judge Jones is, by all measures, a learned jurist with some 50 years experience in the law. An ability to dissect a case for legal finery is most apparent in this latest judgment. This effort may cut both ways, however. A misjudgment can occur, at times, by dwelling too much on the threads rather than the suit.

As Mr. Bochetto surmised, “The trial court considered the question of standing as to each issue of the Mayor’s conduct in isolation without considering all of his conduct as a whole.”

In his original complaint, Mr. Bochetto outlined a host of words and deeds to allege the essence of anti-Italianism by Mayor Kenney prior to his mothballing Columbus Day. The following are highlights:

* In 2016, at the height of the illegal immigration debate, Mayor Kenney made reference to Italian Americans when he said, “…undocumented brown and black people, and that’s what drives the underlying source of anger…If this were Cousin Emilio or Cousin Guido, we wouldn’t have this problem because they’re white.”

* Before he sought to take down the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, Mayor Kenney took down the statue of deceased mayor Frank Rizzo from the Municipal Services Building.

* Mayor Kenney defined those Italian Americans who surrounded the Columbus statue to stop its removal as “vigilantes.”

* Fearful of roving bands of “vigilantes,” on June 16, 2020, Mayor Kenney ordered the reassignment of Lou Campione from police command in South Philadelphia. In contrast, Black Lives Matter demonstrators who broke curfew and other laws were given waivers.

* After the production of vaccines to stop Covid-19, Mayor Kenney was alleged to have skipped over the Italian American community among 20 eligible zip codes for the antidote supply in Philadelphia.

Although these instances were recorded in his dismissal, they did not persuade Judge Jones that Italian Americans suffered a pattern of discrimination under Mayor Kenney.

His dismissal is recorded as an example of how laws, procedures and facts convey complex decisions among the judiciary.

Judge Russo belongs to the astute membership of the bench. He knows better than anyone what it takes to get the law right. As he sees it, the trial court erred in its abstruse analysis. He wrote in a letter to members of his organization that “…we will challenge the trial court’s hyper-technical ruling that there was no ‘discriminatory impact’ – since the trial judge appears to have ignored the pattern and history of this mayor’s anti-Italian conduct and public statements.”

Although we face this defeat, Judge Russo said, we can look back on an aggregate of legal success, thus far, for the fight to preserve Columbus. In the closing of his letter to organization members, he readies the Italian American community for the next phase of battle. “This latest decision is a speed bump, but the fight for our rights and our heritage continues on multiple fronts, and I am certain that as a result of our newly created spirit of national unity, and our strong sense of resolve, we will prevail.”

Editor’s Note: You can read the text of Judge Jones’ dismissal here. The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is Not only is George Bochetto the key attorney for the fight to save Columbus, he is also running for the U.S. Senate. His campaign web site is PRIMO enthusiastically endorsed Mr. Bochetto for the U.S. Senate.


Covid Chronicles 1-15-22
New Coronavirus Strain Infects Almost Quarter of a Million
- Vaccine Mandates and Restrictions Increase
- Election of Italy’s New President Begins
- Men’s Fashion Event Comes to Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

At the end of Weeks 56 to 60, the Omicron strain of the coronavirus gallops ahead with 220,000 contagions for the Italian health system to come under considerable strain. The regions of Piemonte, Liguria, Calabria, Valle d’Aosta and Friuli Venezia Giulia risk passing from Yellow to Orange zones. Lombaria, Lazio and Campania are also in the balance. The imposition of more rigid regulations will try to stem the rising numbers of people testing positive for Covid-19 with subsequent increased hospitalizations and intensive care treatments.

Italians are now required, by law, to wear masks outdside and FFP2 face masks in cinemas, theaters, stadiums and on public transport. Outdoor events are prohibited and nightclubs are closed.

Come this February, all people over 50 must vaccinate or face a 100 euro fine. To work, they are required to either show evidence of immunization or recovery from Covid-19, or face a fine between 600 and 1,500 euro.

All Italians, no matter their age, must either be vaccinated, have a negative swab test or proof of recovery from infection to go to the hairdresser, post office, banks and shops. An exemption applies to supermarkets and grocery stores. Breach of this regulation may result in fines between 400 and 1,000 euro. Persons without either proof of Covid-19 vaccination or infection recuperation can no longer eat inside or outside at restaurants, use public transport or go to the gym.

Schools began again for students in most regions after the Christmas holiday, except in Campania. The governor there, Vincenzo De Luca, has decided to keep all primary schools closed in favor of distance learning. It seems from television interviews that most students are anxious to return to the classroom with their preference for in-person instruction.

The first round of voting to elect Italy’s new president begins on January 24th. Horse trading commenced for political parties to jostle and promote their candidate to replace President Sergio Mattarella. There is never a dull moment when it comes to dishing out power.

On January 11th, the Florentine-born, former journalist and current president of the European parliament, David Sassoli, died at 65 years of age. Initially, a rumor circulated among anti-vaxxers to clam his death was from complications of being injected with the necessary serum. This was totally false and you have to ask whether these folks have any shame. In fact, it was announced that Sassoli had been ill for some time before he died of a dysfunction from his immune system due to cancer. Tributes to him poured in from both Italian and European representatives across the entire political spectrum.

January 13th marked the 10th anniversary of the worst shipwreck in Italy's history, that of the liner, Costa Concordia, off Giglio island. Thirty two people died while ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, was convicted of causing the incident, abandoning ship and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Images of the ship, laying on its side, remain imprinted in our collective memory.

Here in Florence, Pitti Uomo convened at the Fortezza da Basso for the latest in men's wear with 540 brands represented. It was combined with Pitti Bimbo for the latest in children's fashion. These will be followed in February 2022 by Pitti Filati dedicated to the newest trends in knitwear. This is a serious sign of optimism for one of Italy's most important industries.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre


Primo Endorsement
Attorney Proved His Mettle to Save Columbus Statues in Philadelphia
- He Will Fight for All Pennsylvanians as He Has for All Italian Americans
- An Inspiring Story of an Orphan Who Fought His Way Through Law School

We need fighters who will win for us in Washington.

We need George Bochetto.

Some candidates might claim they will battle against special interests. Yet, once elected, they usually come to Washington to just cower against the mighty lobbyists who, all but, dominate our nation’s capital.

Not so with George Bochetto.

He has proven his mettle. We know he will fight for us in every round, every day of every session in the United States Senate.

Mr. Bochetto said, today, at the launch of his campaign, “I’m running for the U.S. Senate because I believe in hard work. I believe in respect for our laws. And I believe the leaders we elect should know how to face a challenge, rise to the occasion and fight relentlessly for our beliefs.” 

We Italian Americans know well what Mr. Bochetto can do inside the ring. He stood up to Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia and the woke mob there who wanted to tear down the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza. He fought valiantly and effectively for all Italian Americans, not just in Philadelphia, but, also, in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in other parts of the country. George Bochetto will do for all voters in Pennsylvania what he has done for all Italian Americans. He will fight and win for us in the United States Senate.

“The outcome of this election will fundamentally change our Commonwealth and our country for the better, or for the worse,” said Mr. Bochetto.

We know these are harrowing times. Americans have had to suffer through the spread of coronavirus, its bans, mandates and regulations. Many small businesses in Pennsylvania and throughout the country have been decimated by government overreach in combatting the pandemic. The American Dream seems lost as families are burdened by the artificial assaults of high inflation, high gas prices and high taxes. The crisis of the supply chain has vacated the shelves of grocery stores, not seen in the United States since the Great Depression. Americans are at a loss as to what has happened to their country. They find infuriating how elected leaders do nothing to stop mass riots, higher crime rates and the disturbing increase in homicides in Philadelphia and in so many other cities.

For things to improve, we need a champ in the United States Senate. We need George Bochetto.

When it looked as though all hope was lost in 2020, when Mayor Jim Kenney was going to have his way to tear down the inspiring Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, it was George Bochetto who came through with a knockout blow. He threw a hard right punch in legal research and advocacy, working pro bono, for Philadelphia’s Italian American community. Thanks to him, the Columbus statue stands today, where it belongs, at Marconi Plaza.

In June, 2020, during the height of civil unrest, workers at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia boarded up the lower section of the Christopher Columbus monument there to conceal the navigator’s name. The DRWC, which maintains the monument, said that the 106-foot historical obelisk did not align with their “mission to create and maintain a safe and welcome space for all.”

It seemed another hopeless lost cause for Italian Americans. Yet, once again, George Bochetto came to the rescue. More than just utilizing his legal expertise, he conveyed a mastery in negotiation to effectively represent the America 500 Anniversary Corporation. The settlement he fostered is a win for Italian Americans. Today, the “chalkboards” plastered across the base of the Columbus Monument have been rightly removed.

George Bochetto is not an outside celebrity who now only resides in the state to take advantage of an open senate seat there. Mr. Bochetto has lived in Pennsylvania for much of his adult life to raise his family, start and maintain a successful law practice and contribute to the betterment of his state.

In George Bochetto, Pennsylvania voters will have someone who understands the struggles they face. He knows, more than anyone, what it is like to be the underdog. His story is most inspiring. Abandoned by his natural parents at the doorsteps of an orphanage, he had to rely on the care of the Sisters of Mercy. Without parents, without family, he had to find his own way. He never gave up no matter how hard and unfair might be his unique circumstances. He found his calling in the boxing ring and in the halls of academia. He was an outstanding student who fought his way through law school to become one of Pennsylvania’s top attorneys.

“How we choose to move Pennsylvania forward is up to each one of us,” says Mr. Bochetto. “With your support, and our shared belief in the principles that keep our families safe and our economy prosperous, I believe our best days are yet to come."

Mr. Bochetto will crisscross his home state of Pennsylvania to meet with voters to earn their support and their vote.

He’s got ours. And we urge all Pennsylvania voters to support his candidacy and vote for George Bochetto for the United States Senate.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about George Bochetto and his run for the United States Senate, please log on to his YouTube channel here. We will follow up with reports on his senatorial campaign.


Op-Ed 1-10-22
- Supplement to the Reproductive Freedom Act Will Force State Residents to Pay for All Late Term Abortions
- To Be Voted on Today

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

Tomorrow, the New Jersey Senate and the General Assembly, with little debate, will vote on the successor bill to the unpopular Reproductive Freedom ACT (RFA). In a state with 40 percent of the population Roman Catholic, with legalized abortion to the day of birth, the RFA is clearly unpopular.

In the last election, Jack Ciatteralli, the Republican candidate for governor, unwisely, did not emphasize how radical is the current establishment in Trenton. Nevertheless, many voters knew what was going on.

Despite being unorganized, voters vented their frustration, costing the pro-abortion establishment six seats in the New Jersey General Assembly and one seat in the senate and almost the governor’s mansion. The incumbent and current governor, Phil Murphy, who supports making every resident in New Jersey pay for late-term abortions, only won re-election by less than three percentage points.

Governor Murphy lied when he said he was going to listen to all New Jersey residents. The vote in November was a repudiation of extreme pro-abortion politics in New Jersey. He again lied to the state’s voters when he promised in his victory speech to govern by consensus. This is how Governor Murphy lost so much support over the years. He has used all sorts of tricks to ensure that no one knows what he is doing until it is too late. He convenes lame duck sessions more aggressively than most governors do nationwide. This is how he got the marijuana amendment on the ballot, not to mention the law for physician-assisted suicide. When he wants to stick it to the Catholic minority in New Jersey, 40 percent of the population, he waits until the last day of the lame-duck session to deviously force his will upon powerless Catholics. Being an outsider, he does not understand New Jersey or her people but he knows how to game our broken system. If Murphy ran for reelection on the RFA or its minor revision he is trying to pass now, he would have lost. He almost did after continuing to persecute Catholics, pro-lifers, and Italians - an expansive demographic to see him as both backward and antithetical to their values.

The Democratic Party does not represent the majority of New Jersey residents. Although they lost some seats recently, they still have absolute power over state government. The Republicans are to blame. Instead of going hard on cultural issues, Ciatteralli, an Italian, refused to defend Colombo or fight aggressively against the pro-abortion lobby. He obsessed over taxes instead.

Nearly all politics take place at the state level, but most New Jersey residents consider their municipal and county levels more important. The lack of statewide participation leads to the power of the abortion lobby in New Jersey. Right now, the state is deciding its legislative districts for ten years. That process discriminates against Italians and Catholics by including unauthorized residents in the redistricting process. Urban secularists and pro-abortion radicals get more voting power. They will count unauthorized residents, most of whom oppose radical abortion policies, but not grant them the right to vote.

The current system does not benefit unauthorized residents or Latinos but is used to prop up the power, unconstitutionally, of the abortion lobby and other radical anti-Catholic and anti-Italian interests. Malrepresentation, a lack of political participation and transparency, leads to events such as the vote for the RFA’s successor. The people of New Jersey are not represented.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Jack Ciattarelli, Republican, who barely lost to Phil Murphy in the most recent election. Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist and President of the Italian American Movement. He can be contacted at 732-549-2635 and


- Judge Basil Russo Led The Way as President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO)
- National Virtual Summits, Forging New Ties with Italy’s Ambassador to the United States and Utilizing Legal Expertise to Sue Cities That Seek to Tear Down Columbus Statues
“For far too long our ancestors' story has been targeted by radical public officials, agitators, and attention seeking reformists for their own misguided social and political gain,” said Judge Russo

In October 2020, in the wake of a boiling anti-Columbus movement, ISDA President Basil M. Russo was unanimously elected by his peers to lead the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations.

Within a matter of weeks, COPOMIAO became an incubator of advocacy and activism focused on addressing longstanding issues undermining and erasing Italian American history. 

Seemingly overnight, COPOMIAO launched coast-to-coast virtual summit meetings, established national committees to coordinate the efforts of all Italian American organizations. 

“For far too long our ancestors' story has been targeted by radical public officials, agitators, and attention seeking reformists for their own misguided social and political gain,” said Judge Russo. “It’s the Italian American way to be self-reliant and not to play the ‘victim card’, but first and foremost we are about giving — and getting — respect. Our people aren’t toppling statues or discriminating against other groups, and thus, we used Columbus as a rallying cry that once and for all brought millions of Italian Americans together. Our work has flourished into a broad set of initiatives that pour resources and ingenuity into education, businesses, institutions, youth engagement, and diplomacy.” 

With the goal of fostering a new era of collaboration to strengthen cultural relations, to promote new trade and bolster advocacy on issues of mutual concern between the Italian American community and the Italian government, COPOMIAO forged a new diplomatic partnership with Italy's Ambassador to the United States, Mariangela Zappia, at a special meeting held in Washington, D.C. on December 3, 2021. 

“The Embassy and Italian institutions on both sides of the Atlantic greatly appreciate all that you do, each day, to promote our language, culture and traditions — in short, our heritage — in this exceptional country,” noted the ambassador in welcoming Judge Russo and the COPOMIAO delegation. "The entire diplomatic network in the U.S. is proud to work with you, side-by-side, to continue enhancing and promoting our beautiful Italy.” 

Through bold initiatives of both national and international collaboration undertaken in 2021, Italian Americans began a new chapter to uphold the Italian culture in new and unexpected alliances to benefit those both inside and outside our heritage. 

2022 Will be a Year of Continued Success: 

Judge Russo issues new goals for ongoing work in 2022: 

• Creating an Italian American Youth Summit Meeting to bring up-and-coming leaders and visionaries into the fold. 
• Working to create public education lesson plans to promote the Italian language and Italian American history. 
• Fostering Italian American museum exchange programs to highlight Italian and Italian American contributions to the United States. 
• Coordinating lawsuits to protect Columbus statues in Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Syracuse, led by nationally recognized attorney George Bochetto. 
• Initiating discussions with Indigenous Peoples’ groups to spark inter-cultural understanding and collaboration. 

Judge Russo says, “Our successes have only been achieved because of our willingness to join hands and speak with a united voice at the national level.”

Editor’s Note: You and your organization can become part of this historic movement to embrace and preserve Italian American heritage by joining COPOMIAO here.


- The Statues Were Erected to Quell The Persecution of Italian Americans During the Red Scare
- The Statues Were Torn Down by Mayor Ras Baraka in 2020 Without Deliberation or Any Input from Italian Americans in the City

By Daniel P Quinn

One Christopher Columbus (1972) statue endorsed by Congressman Peter Rodino used to stand on Bloomfield Avenue near North 8th Street. The city says it does not know who is responsible for taking it down.

Newark also removed another original Columbus statue from Washington Park (1922-25) that honored Giuseppe Verdi and Italian immigrant history in Newark.

The Dawn of Nevarca (Newark’s Little Italy) from 1885 when they fled economic hardship and poverty of the impoverished Mezzogiorno region. Southern Italy (Il Sud) was the raison d'etre for Newark’s Little Italy. Phonetically, Nevarca, was a Southern Italian contraction for their New Ark in America. Antonio Caruso (my great-Grandfather) arrived in the 1880’s and became a grocer in the First Ward on 8th Ave (now Central Ward). His wife’s maiden name was Tuosto. The family attended St Lucy’s Church. All nine children worked in the grocery store to help the family earn a living. 

The immigrant Italians suffered deportations and discrimination. In part, this came out of the 1912, 1913 and 1919 labor strikes in Paterson and Lowell, Massachusetts. Deportations began the FBI career of 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover. The Red Scare began after the Russian Revolution in 1917-20. Labor activists like the Irish native Elizabeth Gurley Flynn spoke at the American Labor Museum Botto House during the 1913 Paterson strike. Russian émigré Emma Goldman was also active in the pursuit of workers rights and living wages. She was later deported back to Russia. A Shoe Factory Payroll robbery in 1920 in South Braintree, Massachusetts had Nicola Sacco & Bartolomeo Vanzetti (Sacco & Vanzetti) arrested for the crime. Terrified, they spoke little English. They became a media sensation of the radical left and the hard rock conservatives in Boston. They endured two infamous trials to be convicted of “consciousness of guilt” and executed by electric chair in 1927. While in Italy, the other elephant was Mussolini (1883-1945) who rose to power in 1922 .

Columbus was a manifestation of anti-fascism in Newark in that period.

In 1925-27, the Giuseppe Verdi Society of Newark commissioned a Columbus statue for Washington Park on Broad St. The artwork demonstrated their commitment to Newark and America. Tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) bridged opera and popular music to become one of the best selling recording artists of all time. Italians repressed their language in America. My mother was scolded by her grandfather to never speak Italian outside their house. They all struggled to learn English. It was considered anathema to speak Italian in public. 

They saluted Columbus at that time because of the popular Columbus World’s Fair exhibitions. The statue of the great Genoese explorer was to mark their identity as Americans in a foreign land. The Statue of Liberty greeted these migrants and refugees in New York Harbor and at Ellis Island from their impoverished life in Southern Italy. Caruso and Verdi’s music still shine as legends in Italian culture for every opera house in the world. 

The Newark Sunday Call published a striking photo of my Caruso Family in 1925. The Irish journalist referred to them as a “clan” which is an endearing Irish expression foreign to gli Italiani (the Italians). As an Irish-Italian and now a bridge between both cultures, I was asked if I was “Irish” at LaScala, and later when directing Tom Murphy’s Irish play “The Gigli Concert” in Italian in Rome. 

As a child, I remembered only a few Italian expressions but nothing else. Frustrated, after my Master’s Degree at The American University in Washington, DC, I started taking Italian language classes in Bloomfield and Belleville Adult Schools before my season at LaScala began the rediscovery of my complicated Irish-Italian roots here and in Italy ever since. Columbus is part of the mix for all Italian Americans from Newark and elsewhere in New Jersey.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Quinn is the author of “Newark, Italy + Me.” You can purchase his book at Amazon.


Judge rejected Vincent Martinez Ortega's attempt to reduce the Columbus vandalism charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. A felony charge precludes him from serving of the city council there. He seeks to refile a new plea on January 19. PRIMO will continue to monitor the case.
- Italian Americans Are Called to Action
- According to Pueblo City Charter, No Convicted Felon Can Serve on the City Council
- Contact Prosecutor to Retain Felony Status for January 7 Hearing


Their Fight to Retain the Columbus Monument Goes to Court on January 13th
- Italian Americans Offered The Hand of Settlement but Were Rebuffed by the Mayor
- A Contrast of Motivations Between Both Sides Is Most Apparent

By Truby Chiaviello

Another city. Another fight to save Columbus.

Italian Americans stand united to keep forever the stunning Columbus Monument inside Saint Mary’s Circle, more commonly known as Columbus Circle, along Onondaga Street in Syracuse.

Much can be said about the current controversy in this mid-size city in Upstate New York.

What remains most indicative, however, is how Mayor Ben Walsh rebuffed the generous offer of settlement by the Italian American community there.

Last year, through the guise of the Columbus Monument Corporation, Italian Americans proposed to fund a revolving art exhibit, inside a city park, at the cost of some $25,000. To be featured were the artworks of non-Italians in Syracuse. Artists and sculptors could display paintings and statues about the persecution and historic wrongs suffered by their specific ethnicities. They could even protest, through their art, Columbus and the settlement of the Americas. Italian Americans only asked, in return, for the Columbus Monument to remain where it has since 1934.

Silence was Mayor Walsh’s response. The olive branch was left to wither in the cold.

Several questions arise. Why is it the Italian American community are willing to accept works of art they might deem offensive but Mayor Walsh and his supporters are unable to do the same? Why is it Italian Americans seek resolution while Mayor Walsh and his angry supporters seek only division? Why is it Italian Americans offer healing while the mayor and his ilk only offer hate?

On January 13th, oral arguments will be heard by Justice Gerard Neri in Onondaga County Supreme Court about the fate of the Columbus Monument. At issue is whether Mayor Walsh overstepped his jurisdictional boundaries when he abruptly declared the structure’s demise. The Columbus Monument Corporation is the key petitioner to preserve the edifice in what is likely to be a long and arduous legal battle to take years to resolve.

It was never supposed to be this hard.

For Mayor Walsh, that is, and his anti-Italian supporters.

The playbook was to go something like this: Express hatred for Columbus. Make a proclamation to tear down the statue. Repeat a few generalized accusations against Columbus based on the writings of Howard Zinn. Never allow a more nobler view of Columbus from more reputable scholars based on facts and evidence. Never allow for deliberation. Never allow for negotiation. Never allow for compromise.

Mayor Walsh was to be like General Patton giving marching orders for contractors to invade St. Mary’s Circle to capture the statue. He was to be like Houdini to wave a hand for the object of his scorn to disappear.

Yet…the Columbus statue still stands in Syracuse today.

The Italian American community are resolved to fight in Syracuse. This is their city founded to be a source for salt mining and extraction as was its namesake - Siracusa - in Sicily.

Italian immigrants came here in the early 1900s, almost a century and a half after armed conflict ceased between Indigenous People and Northern European settlers in this part of the country. Strange, then, how the Italians and their hero, Columbus, remain a source of anger and resentment among some who belong to the Onondaga Indian tribe, today. Never mind, Columbus never set foot on what is today the mainland United States. Never mind, soldiers were either English or French, never Italian, who fought and killed Indigenous people here. Never mind, the Onondaga, who number only 156, can make their demand to dismantle the Columbus statue contrary to the wishes of some 22,000 Italian Americans in Syracuse.

Such is the incongruity of the current battle.

The Columbus Monument is a tangible connection to the Italian ancestors of participants in the current lawsuit. Consider Tony Pietrafesa, one of the lead attorneys, now working on the case, pro-bono, to preserve the statue and pedestal. His brother, Richard, oversees IT to manage the web site for the organization. They are the great-grandsons of Joseph Pietrafesa, an Italian immigrant entrepreneur who helped found the Columbus Monument Association, served as its location committee chairman and association president when the monument was erected in 1934.

Nicholas J. Pirro, former Onondaga County executive of some 20 years, is a key figure among petitioners. He is responsible for a host of public works in Syracuse, including the city’s convention center to bear his name. His grandfather, Joseph Pirro, an undertaker and real estate developer, pushed ahead fundraising activities for the Columbus Monument at a key moment in the late 1920s when Italians were ostracized during the Red Scare.

Mr. Pirro personifies how a great majority of Italian Americans feel. He vigorously supports the retention of the monument and considers Columbus a great man worthy of adulation and celebration. Yet, at the same time, he is sensitive to the needs of Indigenous People. For instance, on the shores of Onondaga Lake, at the edge of Syracuse, in nearby Liverpool, is a beautiful interactive educational campus, the Ska-Nonh Great Law of Peace Center. Onondaga Lake is sacred to the Onondaga Nation. As county executive, Mr. Pirro worked with the Indian tribe to create for them this important historical center. Those who might complain that Mr. Pirro and the Columbus Monument Corporation wish not to work with the Onondaga Nation have not considered the facts to exploit those with a lack of knowledge of the recent history, the achievements of Mr. Pirro and other Italian Americans. The Ska-Nonh Great Law and Peace Center is now managed by the Onondaga Nation and the Onondaga Historical Association, along with other community groups.

The Columbus Monument inspires Italian Americans to perform incredible feats. Consider Robert Gardino, a retired teacher who now serves as secretary for the Columbus Monument Corporation. He too is a party in the lawsuit, as is his wife, Joanne. Two years ago, he scaled the 29 foot tall monument to take down a tasteless sign demeaning the Genoese explorer. He had just turned 80.

To look back at the development of the Columbus Monument is to see a model of success for an ethnic group often at the receiving end of prejudice and discrimination. Hundreds of Italian Americans were involved in the effort. As far back as 1910, Torquato DeFelice and Serafino Chiarulli, professors at Syracuse University, conceived the idea for a statue by Renzo Baldi, a renowned sculptor from Florence. They sought a new narrative for Italian immigrants in America. Their notion came not less than 20 years after the largest lynching in American history of 11 Italians, wrongly accused of murdering a police chief in New Orleans. It was in 1920 when Italian anarchists were suspected of exploding a bomb on Wall Street that killed 20 people. A spirit of malevolent prejudice confronted the Italians, even after two anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were put to death for the murder of a paymaster in Braintree, Massachusetts, when extensive evidence suggested their innocence.

Erecting the Columbus Monument was to send a message that Italians had arrived. They had come to contribute to America, a country they loved equal to, if not more than, their cherished Italy. They raised funds and made plans only to be interrupted by World War I, the 1929 stock market crash and the beginnings of the Great Depression. Years of setback were met by increased determination. When the statue was finally unveiled, all of Syracuse celebrated with parades, rallies and parties.

To see the Columbus Monument today is to see an inspired work of art where stands the bronzed figure of the Genoese mariner at the cusp of discovery and adventure. He is in the center of a historically recognized landmarked area, where situated is Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the old courthouse. Although the statue was made by an Italian, the pedestal was constructed by Syracuse native, Dwight James Baum, a distant relative to L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Such are the two groups in Syracuse now in dispute.

The Italian Americans seek to create and preserve while Mayor Walsh and his angry supporters seek to diminish and destroy. The Italian Americans seeks to educate and understand while their adversaries seek only to mis-inform and deny. The powers-that-be, key political figures, the local newspaper, historical and art societies are no different than those of other cities in America. They line up against the Italians with relished zeal to employ a totalitarian concept of intolerance and censorship. They embrace contradiction. A mayor for all residents pits himself against a specific ethnic group to make up 20 percent of residents while the historical preservation society there seeks to infringe history and tear down an art masterpiece.

The Italian Americans of Syracuse inspire great pride among all of us. They enter the arena to oppose opportunistic trends of historical revision and hatred. They battle to preserve the legacy of their ancestors. They strive to retain the status of their hero, revered by them as he was by members of their respective families; those who are now gone, but never forgotten.

The Italian Americans of Syracuse. Their fight is our fight.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the beautiful Columbus Monument at Saint Mary’s Circle in Syracuse. The Italian Americans have been most vigilant in communicating their cause ranging from a billboard sign to lawn signs in the city. Hatred for the monument can extend to religious intolerance as the mayor has called for the removal of plaques at the base where one depicts the Holy Cross. To learn how you can help the The Columbus Monument Corporation in Syracuse in their admirable struggle to retain the Columbus Monument, please log on to their web site at We send our prayers, support and do all we can to help them win.


- Italian Americans Are Called to Action
- According to Pueblo City Charter, No Convicted Felon Can Serve on the City Council
- Contact Prosecutor to Retain Felony Status for January 7 Hearing

From Italian Sons & Daughters of America

Vicente Martinez Ortega was recently elected to the Pueblo City Council (Colorado).

However, authorities contend that Mr. Ortega, who has been one of the most vocal advocates for the removal of Pueblo’s Columbus Monument, vandalized Christopher Columbus Plaza in late May 2021, and according to the Pueblo City Charter, an elected official convicted of a felony is required to forfeit their position. Mr, Ortega plans on beating this by simply pleading guilty to a lesser charge — a misdemeanor — which would enable him to assume office. And there you have it. This man not only spit on our heritage but then proceeds to defecate on our laws and history by simply pleading to a lesser charge because insulting Italian Americans and our ancestors is not important; it's trivial; it's a misdemeanor. What if this was done to a Native American monument or Hispanic monument?

Mr. Ortega’s plea hearing is set for January 7, 2022. He is scheduled to be sworn into office three days later.

The community is urging Italian Americans ACROSS THE COUNTRY to contact special prosecutor, Cody Christian, and respectfully ask that the felony charge NOT be reduced to a misdemeanor. Her contact information is below.

Your silence means Martinez Ortega is correct: Italian-Americans are insignificant... so much so that he can vandalize our statues and suffer no consequences. DON'T HAND HIM A VICTORY!

Contact the people below and tell them we need to be respected!
Reference case number 2021CR000943.
Ms. Cody Christian, Special Prosecutor
Reference Vicente Martinez Ortega


PRIMO Magazine has crafted a template letter to be used by Italian Americans when politely contacting Special Prosecutor Cody Christian regarding Mr. Ortega’s case. Please copy and paste the document with insertion(s) of your immigrant relatives, your name and state to email to Ms. Christian at

Dear Ms. Cody Christian, Special Prosecutor

I hope this email finds you well. Happy New Year!

I am writing you today in reference to the pending case number 2021CR000943 of Mr. Vincente Martinez Ortega.

As a proud Italian American, I am outraged at the vandalism hate crime committed by Mr. Ortega against the Columbus statue and monument in Pueblo, Colorado.

The edifice is an attractively designed tribute to the Genoese explorer, a hero to a great majority of Italian Americans, such as myself. Many Italian immigrants, such as my (INSERT NAME OF YOUR ANCESTOR(S)) came to the United States near the time the Columbus monument was erected by Italian Americans in Pueblo in 1905.

Many Italian immigrants were greeted with prejudice and outright hostility when they came to America. Statues and monuments of Columbus helped to mitigate a spirit of malevolence towards them. Words and depictions in stone and bronze conveyed a message that was most relevant then, as it is today: We, Italians and Italian Americans, come, not to take from America, but to contribute to America in the spirit of the New World discovery by Columbus.

As a patriotic American who is proud of my Italian immigrant ancestors, I find it a hate crime towards the Italian American community when Mr. Ortega vandalized Pueblo’s Columbus statue and monument. Mr. Ortega’s motives are based on a false and maligned view of Columbus and American history, as notoriously written and promoted by the late Howard Zinn. Mr. Ortega is no different than those of the past who attacked and assaulted Italian immigrants, for no other reason than they were different, that they were born in another country with different cultural attributes and mores.

Mr. Ortega’s propensity towards violence in settling disputes is most apparent. His attack against a defenseless structure conveys his nefarious character. He cannot be trusted to serve Italian American and other residents on Pueblo’s city council after his hateful display towards a symbol of hope for our Italian American community.

I respectfully urge you to please not reduce Mr. Ortega’s sentence from a felony to a misdemeanor status. Please do not send a message that crime pays against Italian Americans. Please do not allow Mr. Ortega to serve as a model for others to desecrate the legacy of Italian immigrants and their descendants.


City, State



The Organization Proclaims a Successful 2021 for Victories in Preserving Columbus; Defending Italian American Civil Rights; Gaining Support from Italian American Organizations and Individuals Across The Country; and Plans for an Active New Year

The Italian American One Voice Coalition (IAOVC), America’s largest independent Italian American anti-bias and educational organization, reports a successful 2021. Plans are now underway for an ambitious 2022 to continue the organization’s mission to defend Columbus and Italian American civil rights.

Dr. Manny Alfano, founder and president of IAOVC, said, about 2021, “Looking back at this past year, I am amazed at our many, many accomplishments in defending our Italian American civil rights and especially, our victories preserving Columbus as the iconic symbol of our heritage. We worked with Italian American groups and individuals across the country opposing the widespread attacks on Columbus statues, Columbus Day and Italian American civil rights. We are grateful for the strong participation and support of many groups and individuals with their advocacy efforts and financial support. This encourages us to plan for more activity in the New Year so we can expand our media, legal and advocacy activities.”

IAOVC posted some serious victories in 2021 to preserve Columbus Day in many schools and towns across the country, particularly the schools of Randolph, New Jersey where the dispute garnered worldwide media attention. Throughout 2021, IAOVC chalked up significant nationwide media exposure. Over 100 TV and radio appearances were made by Andre DiMino, IAOVC executive board member. He spoke consistently to defend Columbus and oppose the stereotyping and denigration of Italian Americans. IAOVC continues its landmark federal litigation filed against West Orange, New Jersey over the removal of the Columbus monument there and the resulting violation of Italian American civil rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

A number of awards and commendations were given to IAOVC in 2021 such as the Columbus International Award from Fondazione Italia, an international academic organization based in Italy. Dr. Alfano and Mr. DiMino accepted an award from the Italian American Heritage Club of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. IAOVC’s Frank Lorenzo received the Mille Grazie Award from UNICO National.

With its main office in Bloomfield, New Jersey, IAOVC was actively involved with Italian American organizations and individuals from across the United States to oppose the continued malevolent moves to eliminate Columbus Day in 2021.

IAOVC established a cooperative relationship with the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) through its president, Basil Russo; the Commission of Social Justice of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America through its president Robert Ferrito; and the Anti-Bias Committee of UNICO National through its chair, James Scanelli.

IAOVC organized video conferences, webinars, petitions and attended a number of public hearings, in tandem with the use of extensive social media venues, to further the defense of Columbus and Italian American civil rights. Although there were a number of places where Columbus Day was eliminated, a number of important victories were achieved by IAOVC. Based on these wins, there appears to be a lessening of activity in the moves to replace Columbus Day with another group’s holiday – a violation of Italian American civil rights and the epitome of discrimination.

With its mission to educate, IAOVC established an academic panel and committee, chaired by historian, Maria Ricupero, to coordinate factual content to support IAOVC initiatives. IAOVC continued its electronic media education efforts for an initiative to highlight unique facts about the Italian American experience with concise and interesting videos called “The ONE VOICE Minute.” New editions featured topics on Columbus, famous Italian Americans and background information on specific holidays and events.

“2022 will be another exciting and eventful year for IAOVC,” commented DiMino. “There is much work to be done across the country as stereotyping of Italian Americans continues and we see continued attacks on Columbus with the rampant cancel culture in schools and towns. We must be vigilant as we join with Italian American organizations and individuals across the US in defending our great heritage and culture.”

This past year, IAOVC held a nationwide virtual conference for its organization and individual members. Based on the success of the gathering, IAOVC will now conduct virtual conferences several times a year to coordinate activities and share information among its’ membership. The IAOVC Winter 2022 Conference is scheduled for Sunday, January 23, 2022 at 7 p.m. to include some special guests and presentations.

IAOVC is different from all other Italian American organizations in that its sole focus and objective is to foster education to fight bias, stereotyping and discrimination against Italian Americans. IAOVC is an IRS-registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

IAOVC issues a regular e-newsletter, titled The Alfano Digest, to more than 5,000 individuals and Italian American organizations nationwide. Written and compiled by Dr. Alfano, the Digest issues alerts on instances of bias, stereotyping, discrimination and defamation. The newsletter serves as a means to activate the IAOVC nationwide network of “Defenders” who respond through calls, emails, faxes, letters and demonstrations where necessary. The Digest contains Italian American cultural and heritage information. To receive the Digest, email Dr. Alfano at

To support IAOVC’s efforts at defending and educating about Columbus and Italian American civil rights visit

Editor’s Note: Pictured from left to right in the top photograph are the board members of IAOVC: Gene Antonio, Andre DiMino, Dr. Manny Alfano, Anthony Bengivenga, Tony Santarelli, Bob Tarte, Frank Lorenzo, Dr. Ann Walko, Paul Alongi and Robert DiBiase. Mr. DiMino, Mr. DiBiase and Dr. Alfano are pictured together at an awards ceremony.


Response to “In Defense of Chris Cuomo” Op-Ed
- However, Anti-Italianism Was Still at Work in the Firing of Chris Cuomo
“…I hardly agreed with Cuomo’s political viewpoint but I was also pleased to see an Italian American in TV prime time…”

By Peter Vitale

I read the Op-Ed piece on PRIMO’s web site by Dr. Christopher Binetti, “In Defense of Chris Cuomo,” and, at first, I was put off by it’s very premise, but as I got deeper into it, I can appreciate the point he makes by way of ethnic contrasts going back so far as 11 years.

For full transparency, I hardly agreed with Cuomo’s political viewpoint but I was also pleased to see an Italian American in TV prime time, partly out of nostalgia for his father, Governor Mario Cuomo, who made one of the most profound and impactful speeches at the 1984 Democratic National Convention 37 years ago. 

The answer to Dr. Binetti’s question regarding ethnic loyalty is that we are in a completely different world now when you consider the cancel culture and the political division we face every day. 

From a political view, 30 years ago, former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s scandal never would have made the front page. When we couple his alleged sexual harassment (true or not) and the decline of ethical journalism with the hyper-partisanship in America today, the family ties and brotherly love are left in the dust. 

From an ethical view, CNN may not have fired Chris Cuomo but for the egregious trail of irresponsible and unethical journalism that has plagued them for at least the last two years. CNN could not change the optics of the Cuomo situation. They had to take action. Was it easy because he was Italian and not a minority? Of course. 

Nevertheless, it begs the question that Dr. Binetti asks…Why don’t Italians stick together despite these serious allegations?  

The lack of grass rooted Italian American effort to reverse the Columbus Statute removal is but one example. It appears we are now one of the modern minorities and our voice is slowly diminishing just like ethnic groups before us. America’s history is littered with them. 

The Cuomos were caught up in the perfect storm of our society’s ever-growing social dissent and political dementia. Those are the only terms I can use to describe where we are at the moment and to boot….Lemon is still on the air after passing information to Jussie Smollett. 

In any case, enjoy the New Year and pray we get over this chaos.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Vitale has written a number of excellent articles for PRIMO and continues to pen stories for the magazine with emphasis on Italian Americans in Massachusetts. To read Dr. Binetti’s op-ed, please scroll down two articles on this home page.

For Italian-born, U.S.-based Alessandro Concas, Sr., Teaching the Romance Language Through His Serata Italiana (Italian Evening) Initiative is All about Heart, Passion and Great Cuisine – Even in the Midst of a Pandemic.

What do you get when you combine an expert Italian language and culture program with authentic Italian settings, cuisine and an avid passion for bringing like-minded people together for authentic experiences?

The Serata Italiana initiative, brainchild of Alessandro Concas, Sr., husband/promoter/business partner of renowned pianist and entrepreneur Oksana® Kolesnikova.

For the Italian-born Concas, teaching the quasi-seductive Romance language through his Serata Italiana program is all about heart, passion and great food – even in the midst of a pandemic.

Due to social distancing measures, Serata Italiana has been operating mostly in an online fashion for the entire last year, but the program has finally resumed on a face-to-face basis, with new classes now forming in Los Angeles. Online classes are ongoing and always available anywhere in the United States via pre-scheduled Zoom meetings. 

Concas was born in Rome, the son of Sicilian and Sardinian parents and grew up in the Costa Smeralda area of Sardinia. He has been a U.S. citizen for over two decades – yet it was his underlying connection to his native country of Italy and the Italian people that spearheaded his launch of Serata Italiana, first in Florida, then in Los Angeles; which, ultimately, led to his decision to teach classes. His fun, hands-on teaching approach is often compared to the Rassias Method.

“The way I see it, there is an inherent value in being able to speak a foreign language, especially when it comes to Italian, being that I am of Italian descent and share a deep-rooted love with the culture and ancestry there,” Concas explains. “This is one of the primary reasons I started Serata Italiana, as I believe all like-minded Italy lovers, especially those with business, familial or personal connections to the country, should honor their roots and interests – and there’s no better way to do so, by my estimation, than learning the language.”

Serata Italiana (Italian Evening) is an expert Italian language and culture program that offers beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of courses, all experienced to the backdrop of authentic Italian settings, dinners and more. Described as a “fun and effective approach” to learning Italian, the classes encompass grammar review, reading/writing exercises, geography lessons, role play, travel planning and culture notes, with native instructors regularly stressing the practice of proper verb conjugations, vocabulary building and popular idiomatic expressions – all while ultimately keeping the experience fun and educational.

“We find that couples especially love attending Serata Italiana” says Concas. “It’s a fun and educational activity not easily found anywhere else.”

As a bonus, a complimentary authentic Italian meal is served during every in-person class, featuring generous portions of delicious pasta, antipasti and other Italian delicacies.  

During the Serata Italiana grammar instruction sessions and accompanying meals, Italian-language films may be shown from time to time alongside popular Italian song translations, with Concas and his partner in this endeavor, Natalie Blancardi of always welcoming film and music suggestions from their students.

“Students are always invited to bring their favorite desserts or vino to class, and are always encouraged to network and socialize amongst themselves – in Italian, of course,” adds Concas. “We do stress, however, that students use Uber or Lyft should they indulge in additional revelries.”

In the midst of these educational opportunities, Concas and his Serata Italiana program, in collaboration with his partner, Maria Catja Caradonna, of, is also planning a yearly Italy Dream Vacation starting the summer of 2022. Pending the outcome of the ongoing pandemic, Concas is offering friends, colleagues and attendees of the Italian language classes, a 14-day luxury vacation indulgence throughout July. While the second leg of the trip focuses on Sicily, the first itinerary includes a special 30-percent-off rate at the jaw-droppin Colonna Resort in beautiful Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, a deal Concas struck with the property’s management team. Beyond the culinary magnetism of this awe-inspiring resort are luxurious pampering amenities, meeting and events facilities and a culturally-rich locale that, according to Concas, must be experienced to be believed. 

The second leg of the Italy Dream Vacation promises to be equally as enchanting, what with the majestic shores of Sicily providing the vibrant backdrop.  The Sicily leg of the Italy Dream Vacation is being mostly planned by Caradonna, a seasoned serial entrepreneur who shares Concas’ very own passions about Italy.

More details about the trip will be announced on the Serata Italiana website, so interested parties are encouraged to check for updates from time to time.
Classes for children and teens also available via Zoom. Visit, TEXT 323-533-8623 or email


Fighting for Chris Cuomo Ensures Fair Treatment for All Italian Americans
- When Did Helping One’s Brother Become Grounds for Dismissal?

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

Chris Cuomo was a veteran journalist. He was a main star at CNN. Now he has lost his job after he helped his brother. Many in the media, such as those on Fox News, celebrated Chris’s departure. They did the same for his brother, Andrew Cuomo, former governor of New York, who resigned in November over allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

The latest news are cases still pending from the attorney general’s report of the various accusations made against former Governor Cuomo. Yet, just before Christmas, prosecutors in Nassau County dismissed theirs for lack of credible evidence. Nevertheless, criminal investigations continue in other New York counties.

For now, two questions arise in our focus of Chris Cuomo.

Would Chris Cuomo not have been fired from his post at CNN if he was not Italian? And…why doesn’t the Italian American community fight for him?

On October 19, 2020, Jeffrey Toobin, while employed at The New Yorker Magazine, was caught molesting himself on a Zoom call when interviewed on WNYC radio. The New Yorker fired him and WNYC has all, but, banned him for life. Yet, he remains employed at CNN as their chief legal analyst.

In 2012 and 2014, Fareed Zakaria, an Indian American journalist was accused of plagiarism, not just while working at CNN, but, also, for his articles published in Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post and Slate. Zakaria went so far as to apologize for his conduct to writer Jill Lepore. Did he get fired? No, of course not.

In stark contrast, Chris Cuomo was fired almost immediately after evidence arose he offered to help his brother survive the current scandal. His motivation was obviously familial duty and love of sibling. Why was he, then, dismissed so abruptly? Why wasn’t a lesser penalty or punishment offered? Why wasn’t he kept on at CNN and other media venues as was Toobin and Zakaria?

Chris Cuomo’s fate is tied, in part, to his Italian identity. The lack of an ethnic group to back him led to his isolation for a quick dismissal.

Italians have become the least protected ethnic group in America when it comes to celebrity justice. Why is this so? For one, it comes down to the sad and unnecessary division among Italian American leaders and groups. Until recently, we never united over anything. The anti-Colombo movement changed some of this thanks to the commendable efforts of Judge Basil Russo who now leads the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO). Yet, the National Italian American Foundation, the largest and most powerful Italian American organization in America refused to support the Italian American community’s suit against Philadelphia to save the Colombo statue there. If the most powerful Italian organization is against us on Colombo, then how can we unify over anything else?

When Chris Cuomo was being attacked as “Fredo,” I wrote in his defense, but the Italian American community, at large, was silent. When police officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired after he accidentally killed Eric Garner, the Italian American community refused to fight for him. When Joe Giudice, husband of a star on the Real Housewives of New Jersey, was deported to Salerno, his birthplace, after serving a prison sentence for over 40 months here in the United States, no one defended him. Now, Chris Cuomo has lost his job and no one in the Italian American community wants to come to his aid. They refuse to even talk about potential discrimination in his case.

No wonder, we’re picked on! We are the only minority community where those accused of wrongdoing must defend themselves alone without support from their ethnic group.

In 2010, Dharun Ravi, an Indian American student at Rutgers University, was arrested and charged with cyberbullying his gay Italian roommate, Tyler Clementi, who killed himself. The Italian community stayed silent, letting the LGBT community, alone, fight for Tyler. The Indian American community came to Ravi’s defense by making him a victim. They demanded he not be jailed or deported back to India where he was born. He was convicted in the case but sentenced to only 30 days jail time. His appeal overturned many of the charges. Ask yourself, what might have happened if the roles were reversed. What if the offender was Clementi and he was born in Italy? What if Ravi was the victim? No doubt, the Italian would have been deported.

You cannot blame Indian Americans for defending their own. The community was worried that the young man’s life could be ruined for what they perceived was a minor crime. I view it as a major crime, but you see the parallel. Our guy gets deported, their guy doesn’t.

In the end, Italians reject solidarity with other Italians as other minorities do and we get creamed for it. We say things like, “oh, that guy has a different ideology than mine,” or, “that guy is a crook.” Well, guess what? The Anglo-controlled mainstream media thinks all Italians, who are proud of their ethnicity, are crooks.

Do you believe black civil rights activists think all people they support are angels? No, but they understand what solidarity means. Sometimes, you must defend a person when he is a victim of discrimination even though you may not like him. Hence, we must defend Chris Cuomo to ensure fair treatment for all. We do this to establish a precedent in the media, academia and government for all Italian Americans to be treated without prejudicial bias and double standards.

It might be tempting to refuse solidarity with those of our own community. You have seen excessive displays such as the support Jussie Smollett received before he was proven to have faked a racist assault in Chicago. Nevertheless, Italians need to stick up for other Italians, if for no other reason, because no one else will.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist, historian and president of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 Italian American civil rights organization. If you want to contact him, email him at or call him at 732-549-2635.


Primo Review
- A Failed Attempt at Oscar Bait
- Too Many Flaws Riddle This Film by Ridley Scott

By Rami Chiaviello

“House of Gucci” is the most disappointing movie of 2021. The film, as directed by Ridley Scott, dramatizes the tumultuous inner conflicts of the Gucci family in the 1980s and 1990s. The struggle for power over the Gucci brand was a key event in international fashion. Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Regganni, former wife of Maurizio Gucci, played by Adam Driver. Others in the film are Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci, Jeremy Irons as Rodolpho Gucci and Salma Hayek as Pina, a psychic who guides Patrizia.

With such a talented cast and director, it’s incredibly surprising how much “House of Gucci” fails in nearly every aspect of it’s identity. The film suffers from lackluster performances, bland dialogue, rushed pacing, an uninteresting visual style and frustrating creative choices. The film attempted to emulate a sleek, fast-paced, savvy style present in other bio-dramas such as “The Social Network,” “Steve Jobs,” and “The Founder.” In “House of Gucci,” however, a lack of charisma, heart and intelligence, present in those other films and crucial to their success, dooms this tale of an Italian fashion empire.

The first flaw noticed is the film’s dichotomous pacing. Scenes between characters seemingly last forever while nothing of substance is shown. Yet, in what remains an odd contradiction, the film goes through key events very quickly. In the beginning, for instance, Patrizia is introduced to Maurizio, only for the very next scene to have Maurizio attempt to convince his father, Rodolpho, to allow him to marry her. The speed of progression never allows the audience enough time to fully understand the characters.

The most glaring issue is the writing. “House of Gucci” suffers from one of the weakest screenplays, I’d argue, ever written for a production of this caliber. Nearly every line of dialogue is uninteresting and dull. The conversation between Rodolpho and his son, Maurizio, is vacuous. It feels incredibly slow, because it’s incredibly uninteresting. The film’s lackluster screenplay coupled with a frenetic, fast-paced progression exhausts the audience. We move from one event to another, but the journey is incredibly miserable.

Much of the buzz for “House of Gucci” was its stellar cast. Lady Gaga won an Oscar for her musical performance in the 2018 remake, “A Star is Born.” She is perfectly cast as Patrizzia. Adam Driver, a two-time Academy Award nominee, also, has an incredible likeness to Maurizio. Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Al Pacino and Salma Hayek are all incredibly talented with dozens of accolades. However, their performances in this film are less than desirable. Actually, I empathize with the actors involved, as it must have been incredibly difficult to make this lackluster screenplay work. Nevertheless, each actor and actress, with the notable exception of Lady Gaga, is simply phoning in their performances. When watching “House of Gucci,” the real-life characters seem to disappear when the actors portray them. You aren’t watching Maurizio Gucci or Rodolpho Gucci, you’re watching Adam Driver and Jeremy Irons with silly Italian accents. Lady Gaga, however, does shine in her role. She comes across as charming and enigmatic to make her character work.

What else could go wrong is answered in the film’s poor creative choices. Visually, there is nothing present as either stunning or compelling. The camera doesn’t elevate the story. This is both strange and sad, since Ridley Scott, over the course of his long and distinguished career, has cultivated one of the greatest visual styles among contemporary directors. The material, here, seems to box him in without the creative space to really explore a unique directorial style. The film is riddled with creative choices that are puzzling such as the editing that is both choppy and disorienting. Most baffling is the lack of a memorable original score. Instead, licensed music is a frequent accompaniment to be glaringly out of place. In one scene, Maurizio Gucci, after being cut out of his father’s business, works for his father-in-law’s trucking company. After cleaning a rig, he sprays one of his coworkers for a “fun” spray battle to ensue. It’s a ridiculous scene, made even more ridiculous by the choice to score the action with an Italian cover of “I’m A Believer” by The Monkees. While the most egregious example of this odd music choice, the film is riddled with moments like this.

Of all the issues with “House of Gucci,” none is more frustrating than the choice of narrative. The tragedy of the Gucci family is not conducive to light fare. Their tale is a reminder of how greed, jealousy, anger and power can tear a family, a brand and a business apart. This is especially true when an outside force is responsible for much of the destruction. “House of Gucci” is told through the perspective of Patrizia, who infamously ordered a contract killing of her ex-husband Maurizio. There is no issue with her viewpoint as narrative, except when this film conveys her, not as a coldhearted murderess but, rather, a glamorized victim. Meanwhile, those whom she destroyed are portrayed as pompous buffoons oblivious to her manipulations and deceptions. The Gucci family were no saints, mind you, but they deserved to be treated better.

“House of Gucci” is a sad reminder that just because you have the best pieces, doesn’t guarantee you’ll win the game.

Editor’s Note: Film locations for “House of Gucci” were mostly in Northern Italy; highlights include Florence, Como, Lake Como, Rome, Aosta Valley, parts of the countryside in Tuscany and Lazio regions, and, of course, Milan. “House of Gucci” is still playing in movie theaters throughout the country. You can learn more about the film by logging on to



The Eternal City Welcomes the Season of Advent and the Nativity of Christ
Last year, Covid-19 put a huge damper on Christmas in Rome. That's probably why this year you feel an extra desire for a traditional Christmas with lots of decorations, a distinct Christmas atmosphere and several events.

By Jesper Storgaard Jensen
Photos: Jesper Storgaard Jensen and PR

After setting an all-time heat record in Rome by as much as 26 degrees Celsius on November 7 this year, much lower temperatures have now finally found their way into the Italian capita to settle into its proper climatic folds.

December 8th - the day of the Immaculate Conception - is when the big Christmas tree the city’s heart, Piazza Venezia, is illuminated.

The huge evergreen has always been subject to much attention, possibly because this Christmas tree tradition dates back to 1898. That was the year when Queen Margherita - she also gave her name to the famous Pizza Margherita - from the Sabaudian royal house, had the idea to set up a large Christmas tree inside Rome's Quirinale Palace. She was inspired by the northern European Christmas tree tradition. A few years later, the tree was moved to the geographical center of the city, Piazza Venezia, where it has been arranged for many years.

In recent years, the arrival of the big tree in Rome has brought with it a great deal of media attention. For example, there was a great uprising in Rome in 2017, when the municipality had bought (though paid for by the Netflix sponsor) a tree that looked quite pathetic. Thus, the poor tree quickly got the unflattering nickname "spelacchio" (the peeled tree), and pictures of the half-naked tree subsequently went all around the world.

Most beautiful Christmas tree in town
But that will certainly not be the case this year. Rome's newly appointed mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, is not going to take any risks. This year, the municipality of Rome - this time without a sponsor - paid the tidy sum of 169,000 euros ($191,000) to get a 23 meters (75 feet) high tree from the Como-area in Northern Italy. There were 17 large Christmas parcels placed around the trunk to symbolize the goals of the UN food organization, FAO, (headquartered in Rome) to fight hunger in the world.

The local rivalry - which has always been typical, both in Italy’s cities, and at a regional level – has curiously also found its way to Rome's Christmas tree tradition. For on the other side of the Tiber, more precisely in the beautiful Piazza San Pietro, in front of St. Peter's, one must, of course, not forget the tree of the Roman Catholic Church. This year’s red spruce was donated to Pope Francis by the Peruvian community in Italy. The tree is 113 years old and 28 meters (95 feet) high, weighs eight tons and has taken the long road from the Trentino region. It is decorated with no less than 600 wooden balls to form a "partner pair" with the traditional beautiful Christmas crib to be admired at Piazza San Pietro.

If you are a lover of beautiful Christmas trees, you must not forget the tree that usually stands in Piazza del Popolo, traditionally among the city's most beautiful. After the pandemic had almost reset the Christmas events in Rome last year, one senses now an extra effort to return to the Christmas mood of earlier times. Admittedly, the traditional Christmas stands in Piazza Navona were cancelled this year - again due to the pandemic - but apart from that, fortunately, there is quite a number of Christmas initiatives around the city.

The traditional Christmas decoration to adorn the city's long business street, Via del Corso, is beautiful, like never before, and many shops in the city center now display proud, flashy and colorful Christmas decorations. It is, therefore, wonderful to walk around the city center to be overwhelmed by the warm Christmas atmosphere.

One hundred Christmas cribs
Only rarely will you be able to enjoy a white Christmas in Rome. But this, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t throw yourself over a typical North European Christmas tradition such as ice skating. This year it will be possible at the city's Auditorium - a cultural and musical site - in the Flaminio district, just outside the city center. Here, the skating rink - and of course the rental of skates - will be part of the “Christmas World” initiative, which is primarily aimed at young people and families with children. This is an ice rink with style, located at the Auditorium, one of the city's most visited cultural sites, designed by the famous architect, Renzo Piano. The ice rink is just a small part of a large Christmas village to spread over 25,000 square meters. Here, you will find large Christmas installations, gospel singing, a market with stalls, cinema, multimedia games, shopping opportunities and various kinds of happenings. Finally, a mention should also be made of the possibility of going to concerts at the Auditorium, i.e., with the famous Italian composer - and Oscar-winner - Nicola Piovani.

If you are into more traditional Christmas activities, there are several places you must have on your list. In the small Piazza Mazzini - in the Prati-district - dominated by a large square fountain, you will find the traditional Christmas market. Here, a number of small stalls are run by local artisans who sell their creations, just as there will be several opportunities to taste both Christmas treats and typical Italian specialties.

As we know, the Christmas crib is a Catholic Christmas tradition and, this year, is the fourth time the exhibition "Hundred cribs" is arranged. It takes place in the so-called colonnato, i.e., in the impressive colonnades to surround Piazza San Pietro near St. Peter's Basilica. Here - in Bernini's impressive colonnades, which become even more impressive by having a view of St. Peter's gigantic dome - about a hundred different Christmas cribs will be on display. It is a very special event to seriously mark that Christmas has come to Rome.

Also, this year, there will be a Catholic “Midnight Mass" in St. Peter's Basilica, one of the city's most treasured and important traditions. Due to the virus situation, however, it has been moved to 7.30 p.m. If you manage to participate to enjoy the very special atmosphere that this event offers, you will surely be able to get the right Roman Christmas spirit “under your skin.”

Editor’s Note: The author lives in Rome with his wife and children. The web site for Christmas World village is The web site for Hundred cribs in the Vatican is


- The Spirit of Christmas at Arlington National Cemetery
- A New Annual Event to Lay Wreaths at The Graves of Military Veterans
Parents and offspring of the deceased were there with photographs, notes and mementoes to attach to wreaths beside markers

By Truby Chiaviello

A new tradition is upon us.

One to fuse the spirit of Christmas with the spirit of patriotism.

An annual event in Washington, D.C., akin to the spring cherry blossom parade and festival, is the laying of Christmas wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery.

Not actually in Washington, mind you, as the sprawling burial ground, at 639 acres, is situated in Arlington, Virginia, as the name so indicates. Yet, seen from a host of vantage points in the nation’s capital is the massive graveyard for deceased military service men and women. Most were killed in action. However, there are those also buried here who were in the reserve corps but died of natural causes and might have been employed in certain federal agencies or served in Congress, or as federal judges, ambassadors, or even, the president of the United States. The final resting place for those who served their country is seemingly connected to the National Mall by way of the Ancient Roman inspired Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River.

Many burial sites inside Arlington National Cemetery received a Christmas wreath in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 17th. Hundreds of volunteers were on hand to carry evergreen bouquets, each tied to a circular wire with a red ribbon. The pine rings were to lean upon some 250,000 marble headstones that day.

Participants were more than just good samaritans acting as temporary groundskeepers. They were parents, offspring, siblings, close relatives, friends and comrades-in-arms of those who died and are buried inside the cemetery. They had come from all over the United States to share the Christmas spirit with those who passed.

Wreaths Across America is the name of the non-profit organization to provide wreaths, the scheduling and the management of laying activities. They also raise money to fund the mission from a host of sponsors, most notably Lockheed Martin, who contributed $210,000 for this year’s event. Credit husband-and-wife farmers, Morrill and Karen Worcester, for conceiving the idea to place wreaths at the cemetery. Karen, currently, serves as the organization’s executive director. Their evergreen farm in Harrington, Maine had an excess of Christmas wreaths back in 1992. Morrill recalled a boyhood visit to Arlington National Cemetery with his family on their trip to Washington, D.C. Why not send the wreaths there?

The Worcesters donated 5,000 wreaths, then. They continued to increase the size of their contributions in each of the years that followed. In 2005, at the height of the Iraq War, a photograph circulated on the Internet to show green wreaths on the many gravestones after snow fell at Arlington National Cemetery. People from all around the country contacted the Worcesters to volunteer to lay wreaths at their local veterans’ memorials and graveyards. Today, some 230 military cemeteries throughout America and overseas, near famous battlegrounds, contain wreaths at Christmastime.

It was just after dawn on December 17th when 66 tractor trailers full of wreaths arrived for people to carry to grave sites inside Arlington National Cemetery.

Parents and offspring of the deceased were there with photographs, notes and mementoes to attach to wreaths beside markers. A solemn moment of remembrance could be felt for those who passed. Survivors know how past Christmases cannot be replicated when gone are their husbands, wives, children, parents and good friends. The closest they come to special holiday moments is to lay a fresh wreath at the final resting places of loved ones.

Parades of wreaths transform the burial ground into something vital and memorable. Although hallowed and solemn, the cemetery now contains many evergreen displays to usher in a sense of vibrance and celebration for Christmas. Those who have passed are not alone. The wreaths are there to connect them, spiritually, to families and friends who miss them on Christmas.

Plans are currently underway for next year’s event at Arlington National Cemetery. Wreaths Across America announced a grand ambition to lay wreaths at all American veteran cemeteries throughout the world.

Editor’s Note: Pictured are the many wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery, below, left to right, volunteers, the founders of the event, Morrill and Karen Worcester, and a child mourner by a gravesite. You can learn more about Wreaths Across America by logging on to their web site at The Arlington National Cemetery reports some 25 burials occur there almost every day. Their web site is


Director Paolo Sorrentino Recalls His Troubled Youth in His New Film, “The Hand of God”
- Now showing on Netflix
- Italy’s choice for the Oscars
“My film aesthetics have always been linked to an order of things. So, its not so easy to shoot in Napoli.”

By Jesper Storgaard Jensen
PR photos: Gianni Fiorito and Studio Lucherini Pignatelli

“This is my most personal film, so far.”

In recent months, film director Paolo Sorrentino, when interviewed by the Italian press about his new film, “The Hand of God,” has repeated this sentence several times. Actually, so often, that it almost seems to have the strength of a religious mantra. And this – being his most personal film – could really not come as a surprise, since Sorrentino tells the story about his family, and, especially, about the sudden death of his parents.

At 16, Sorrentino used to join his parents at the family’s newly bought countryside home in Roccaraso. But, that particular weekend, when the tragedy occurred, the young Paolo did not join them. Instead, he stayed home in the family apartment in Napoli to watch the game when Diego Armando Maradona was playing.

In Roccaraso, in the small house, there was a leak of carbon oxide. This led to a huge explosion. And back in Napoli, Paolo’s life changed radically from one second to another.

“My parents died when I was 16, and it was an indescribable tragedy,” said Sorrentino in an interview with Il Venerdi, an Italian weekly. “The words I know are not suitable. My youth ended that day. At 16. There is no right time to lose your parents but losing them during your teenage years is a very serious problem. Certain losses don't just create pain. You suddenly become old and at the same time you remain anchored to childhood. At 16, you need support, comfort, security. On the day of my parents' funeral, the principal of my school only sent a representation of four classmates and not the whole class. I was extremely disappointed about that. But today it doesn't matter anymore because now the whole class is present, they are my audience. Cinema can be used to distract from reality. Because the reality is poor. This is why, I want another life. This is why, I want to make films. I want my children to know that the future can be there for everyone, even for those who leave their childhood with a handicap.”

When creating art – both in writing and in a cinematic language – there is often a fine line between what is strictly personal and what has been added for artistic purposes.

Sorrentino says, “I have had to cut the time of the pain that my parents’ death had inflicted on me. This is in order not to make a devastating film. I have also had to cut out certain things that would risk annoying the spectator. Then, as regards the timeline, I have had to mix different events to give them a natural order. I have quite a good memory about my childhood and teen years, so I have been able to choose elements to build the plot, so that it could have a value for the whole movie. You need to do that as a director because certain things may be important to you, but less important to the spectator.”

The Sorrentino touch
“The Hand of God” is Sorrentino’s film number ten. You’ll definitely feel the famous Sorrentino touch, sometimes difficult to describe. It seems to be floating in air, something invisible. Is it the lightning? The photography? Is it the way the story is told? Is it the oddness - or even bizarreness – of certain characters? Or, perhaps, a mix of all these elements?

Despite the presence of the invisible “Sorrentino trademark,” in some way, the film seems to be “different” from his previous work. But why is that?

“I don’t interrogate myself too much about my films,” says Sorrentino. “I have been used to making them in a certain way. But, at a certain point – I must admit – it got a bit tiring. I became aware of the fact that frequently using the same tricks and making variations of the same theme, I only managed to reproduce the same things, but, in a slightly, different manner. I had become habitual. When I think about the two pope-series I have done, it is as if they, together, recount for ten films. At a certain point your mental images seem to end, you use them all and then you start to repeat them. This new film was to be totally different. It’s a much more simpler work, without articulate and complex feelings. It’s a film about joy and about pain.”

The film’s gallery of strong personalities is impressing. Until the incident occurs, Sorrentino’s family life seems to have been quite colorful and, especially, full of extravagant characters.

“Well, my family was like that,” he says. “People from Napoli are quite blatant. They have a very strong instinct for acting; and I was living inside this family setting. I do believe that it is due to the fact that throughout history Napoletaneans - in order to ingratiate themselves with the city’s many different conquerors over time – have had to appear skilled, as nice people and also servile, and, all this leads them to put up on act. This is the reality I was living in; and, in that sense, it is a realistic film. That family was my world and my culture. My wife is from Napoli. We are like that. I’m like that.”

You will, indeed, meet a number of out-of-ordinary characters in “The Hand of God,” which, also, in quite a frank way, tells the story about the adultery of Sorrentino’s father. On the question of how this issue was addressed in the family, he says to Il Venerdì: “’It just happened,’ my father said. And that was the end of the conversation. That story went on like the wind. Some periods were quiet while other periods were not so quiet, especially, when my mother discovered that my father was still seeing his lover.”

Sorrentino’s father’s love affair not only produced quite a stormy family life – as very well-illustrated in the film. It also gave him a half-brother.

“He was born from my father’s secret relation. Back then, I was told the truth about his existence only the day after the death of my parents. And, I have actually met him,” Sorrentino recounts.

Sorrentino also has a sister, who is only slightly visible in the film. In fact, she seems to be locked in the family’s bathroom the entire time. Well, at least, this is the impression you get as a viewer. Did she manage to accept being “locked up”?

“She was actually the one who told me about my half-brother,” Sorrentino says. “She is 13 years older than me, and, after the death of our parents, she was very motherly to me. That was the time of her first boyfriends; and I recall that she was in the bathroom for hours and hours. She was a bit sorry about her role in the film, so I had to explain to her, that this was necessary from a dramaturgical point of view. And in the end she accepted.”

From Rome to Napoli

After Sorrentino’s biggest success, “The Great Beauty” - which was shot in Rome and gave him an Oscar in 2014 – in the new film, he has returned to his hometown of Napoli. Has this “coming home” given him a sort of emotional assurance during the making of the film?

“Well, actually not,” he says. “And the reason is the way that I like to do my framings. Napoli is a hostile city because of its chaos. It’s not a coincidence that I have made two films in Switzerland. My film aesthetics have always been linked to an order of things. So, its not so easy to shoot in Napoli. But, quite honestly, I wasn’t so concerned about aesthetics. I have chosen some of the places I knew, when I was young, and, in the film, you’ll see them as I remember them from my youth.”

Sorrentino never hides his “worship” of Maradona, whose name and “spirit” are an important element in the film. Back in 2015, in “Youth,” you’ll find the legendary scene where a look-a-like Maradona juggles a tennis ball in quite a spectacular way.

Sorrentino shares his a real life-memory of the famous soccer player. “Maradona didn’t arrive in Napoli. He suddenly appeared. There are no photos of his arrival. He showed up around the city, in the strangest places. He was driving a Fiat Panda in order not to be recognized. Once me and my brother saw him in a street, and, in that moment, it was as though the world stood still.”

No doubt, it takes a lot of courage to make such a film full of personal childhood memories and full of pain. Has it been a liberation to, finally, make this film?

“Well, luckily I have always felt free to make whatever kind of film I wanted,” says Sorrention. “But, yes, this was the right moment, also, because I have matured. Over time, the pain has become less intense, and, in the months before the premiere of the film, I have really been speaking so much about pain. So much so, that, in the end, it has been almost boring. Fefore this period, all this had only been like an intimate dialogue that I had had with myself for 35 years, and that, in terms of soothing the pain, had not made me feel any better. Perhaps, making this film is a sign that I have finally come to terms with that loss.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured, filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, and, from left to right, actor Filippo Scotti, who plays Fabietto Schisa, a character based on the filmmaker, and joined by Toni Servile and Teresa Saponangelo, who plays Saverio and Maria Schisa, his parents, in a film scene; a host of actors and actreses portray eccentric family who gather to watch a soccer game in the film and Luisa Ranieri as Patrizia, Fabietto’s deranged aunt. “The Hand of God” won the Gran Premio of the jury at the film festival in Venice, 2021, and has been chosen by Italy’s film academy to represent Italy at the Oscars in 2022. The film is currently available for viewing on Netflix.



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- Classes, Events and Tours
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Italy’s comforting food, beautiful culture and warm-hearted people have made entire communities in every corner of the earth fall in love with ‘the boot.’ She is the most exciting country in the Mediterranean Basin.

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It all started during a ‘Serata Italiana.’

Italian-born Alessandro Concas, Sr., started Serata Italiana or Italian Evening decades ago in Florida to share his love and passion, with his community, for everything Italian. He later launched the same program in Los Angeles with fellow Italian and new partner, Natalie Blancardi. Their project soon became a cultural hub and Italian language center where people could dig deeper into Italian culture to learn the country’s language, famous gestures, music, films and food.

The next step for the successful program has now seen the light, by means of a special partnership with Maria Catja Caradonna, the equally committed and passionate founder of the program ‘Like Italians Do,’ an all-Italian experience, complete with its very own Live cooking show! This is the ultimate destination for Italy lovers, where devotees can shop for authentic Italian ingredients, savor the country’s cuisine in delightful events and travel to Italy to experience the good Mediterranean life only like locals do.

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The only thing better than spending an evening enjoying Italian food and talking about the country’s culture is experiencing it under the shade of a lemon orchard in one of Sicily’s picturesque towns or on a balcony with the most awe-inspiring views of the Sardinian coast in the background. (please see promo video)

Traveling to Italy on your own can be challenging. First, there’s the language barrier, and, then there’s avoiding the many tourist traps that prevent you from experiencing the real side of Italy. Here’s where experienced guides like Alex and the team behind Like Italians Do come in. Starting with a Summer trip on July 2022, a select group of Italy enthusiasts will live their dream vacation exploring Sicily and Sardinia, including a stay at the prestigious Colonna Resort, at an unbeatable price; and you can be one of them! Here’s what you can expect.

Enjoy Astounding Italian Food at the Locals’ Favorite Spots
There’s much to see and do in Italy’s largest islands, and we’ll get there in a second, but what we all want to experience in the Mediterranean country is its food! Let’s say it out loud, although you’ll find an Italian restaurant or pizzeria in every city in the world; there’s nothing like Italian food in Italy.

Let’s start with the delectable antipasti, from delicious arancini to seafood specialties designed to get the conversation started. Every meal in Italy’s islands is a memorable occasion! Then there’s the pasta, and you haven’t tried the Italian specialty until you order it from an authentic trattoria! There’s more than pizza and pasta in Italy. “Porceddu” is a Sardinian specialty for an authentic gourmand experience. And, how about the comforting Sicilian desserts? Don’t forget the cannoli! Everyone who visits Italy wants to come back — for the food alone!

Discover Italy’s Art and Architecture
There’s no greater joy than admiring a Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael or Caravaggio in one of Italy’s many museums, cathedrals and galleries. And don’t even get us started on the marvels displayed in the ancient city of Palermo! Art and Italy are one and the same, and although Italian masterpieces travel the world, it’s hard to imagine visiting Italy and not experiencing them where they were created. You’ll soon discover Italy is a great way of getting artistically inspired.

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Walk Sicily’s Valley of the Temples and hike Mount Etna. Ride Sardinia’s white coast and enjoy authentic Agriturismo. There’s something in Italy for everyone!

Be Part of Italy’s Colorful Culture
Italy’s culture is more than fine art, beautiful, pebbled streets and impressive constructions; culture is in every corner!

If you were looking for an opportunity to practice your Italian, you’ll be able to do so in the country’s markets and plazas. The best way to learn or perfect Italian is by talking with the locals, reading the street signs, and ordering your food from a genuine Italian menu.

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We’re All Italian in Our Hearts
If you’ve ever rolled your eyes back in satisfaction with a slice of pizza, sung “La donna è mobile” in the shower, stopped to admire an Italian supercar or popped open a bottle of Chianti, congratulations! You’re already Italian!

Now let’s share our love for the Italian culture and join Like Italians Do. And while you’re at it, book your seat in the most emotional holiday of your life. Italy is waiting for you, and you know Italian people are known for their charming nature and patience, so join the Italy-loving community today!!


A Lawyer and Pharmacist by Profession
A Sicilian Immigrant to America by Identification
A Journalist Who Fought for the Betterment of All Italians by Definition

By Ed Groszewski

Immigration problems. Scandal in the church. Ethnic prejudice and encouraging pride in our Italian American community. These issues confront us when we watch the news or read a newspaper. But we make a mistake if we think that these worries have only arisen in our time. The life of a nearly forgotten Sicilian immigrant reminds us that we are another chapter in a long story.

Matteo Teresi was born in Alia, Sicily, in 1875 and died in Rochester, New York in 1971. The life he lived in those 95 years can inspire us as brothers and sisters, as Americans proud of our Italian heritage and as caring human beings.

Matteo Teresi was the son of a well-to-do pharmacist and a landowner’s daughter, in the small town of Alia, in the Palermo province of Sicily. The combination of his intelligence, and the wealth of his family, meant that after completing his early schooling in the village, Matteo was sent to the university at Palermo to study pharmacy to follow in his father’s footsteps. While studying there he developed a strong interest in law and returned to the village as a lawyer, as well as a pharmacist. He might have lived the quiet and prosperous life of a small town avvocato had it not been for his response to the scandalous actions of some clergymen in his hometown. Matteo’s insistence on making the whole truth known, holding those accountable to awaken a spirit of justice in the villagers changed the course of his life.

A priest in Alia, Don Rosolino Martino, was arrested for the corruption of underage girls. Matteo was already writing a column in La Battaglia, a local newspaper with a reputation for battling the mafiosi, the landowners and the abuses of the church. He was infuriated by this scandal. He kept investigating the case to discover that the priests had founded, what they called, The Sect of Angels, a secret group to seduce young girls and newly wedded brides by convincing them that engaging in sex with priests could earn them indulgences and open the gates of heaven for them. Even though the priest was found guilty by the law and an independent church investigation, the local clergy, landowners and the mafia joined together to intimidate the local population into silence and resignation. Matteo responded to this intimidation to accuse the townsmen of cowardice in the face of outrageous corruption. This quickly turned the townspeople against him to cause the bishop of Cefalu to accuse him of blasphemy. Mafiosi threatened his life. Realizing his danger, he immediately left Sicily for the United States. (Matteo attacked only the abuses of the clergy, not the church itself, and remained a faithful Catholic.)

Before Matteo entered his self-imposed exile, he published a farewell letter in the January 6, 1907 issue of La Battaglia. In his long goodbye, occasionally tinged with bitterness, he admitted failure, despite his arduous and often thankless struggle to hold out hope for his village and country. “In this important fight I did not win, but my banner waves in the camp of the enemy; I was not able to grow a luxuriant plant, but some good seed has been scattered that will sprout and bear fruit…. In taking the life of the exile, I do not abandon the field of struggle, but I move it: among the exiles I will organize the reconquest of the motherland, where today those with clear consciences, the free and the honest, must surrender to half souls, slaves and thieves.”

Before leaving Sicily, Matteo wrote a remarkable essay entitled “L’Amore,” later subtitled as Love Lights the Way. The heart of the essay advocated the education of a new generation to conquer prejudice and class interests for justice and peace in their hearts. He argued that even if these heights are never scaled, the struggle to attain them will make for a better world “where the soul is watered and joy flows.” When the essay was finally published in 1919, he added this footnote: “These pages, written in Italy, in the spring of 1907, while preparing for my expatriation, and published much later with appropriate variations, contain the mother idea of all my teaching. Among the bitterness of life, in daily contact with hateful men, I felt the need to educate myself, before others, to Love. [Capitalization in the original.]”

After arriving in America on the SS Cretic on June 15, 1907, Matteo settled in Rochester, where other immigrants from Alia had already made new homes. To support himself, he became a bookkeeper at Calogero Cappellino’s wholesale grocery warehouse. He had lost none of his crusading spirit. Almost immediately, he involved himself with the problems and questions of the day in the Italian American community. Matteo was asked to speak, on March of 1908, at a meeting for the Italian Socialist Federation to commemorate the death of Giordano Bruno. The Rochester police got wind of the meeting and broke it up. When interrogated by the authorities, Matteo denied being an anarchist, but admitted to having been a socialist in Italy.

Later in the same year, on May 20th, he married his boss’s daughter, Antonina. Evidently, this put him in good standing with his father-in-law. Matteo was promoted to managing the Cappellino private bank in the city. That tumultuous year ended with him being arrested for libeling a fellow Italian immigrant and Buffalo photographer; but the matter was swiftly and amicably settled. He continued to work through the naturalization process to become an American citizen in 1913. Later that decade, he became editor of Rochester’s only Italian language newspaper, La Stampa Unita, a post he held for many decades. He added the occupations of steamship agent and notary, to serve the interests of Italian immigrants.

Always looking to help others, Matteo joined the Sons of Italy in America to use its extensive network of lodges and youth outreach to reach a wider audience. By 1926, he became the chair of the executive committee of one of Rochester’s lodges.

This deep involvement with the Italian immigrant community, combined with Matteo’s crusading spirit, resulted in an outpouring of essays and newspaper articles. He published them in a collection titled, “Con La Patria Nel Cuore” (With My Homeland in My Heart). He wrote to urge all Italian youth to know and championed the history of their country. He expounded the best methods of extinguishing anti-Italian bigotry. He warned of the dangers of the melting pot as a way of assimilation into American culture. The internal problems confronting the immigrant community in gambling, alcoholism and crime where extensively probed by Matteo.

Matteo was acutely aware anti-Italian prejudice in America and the accompanying danger presented by an accelerated Americanization in Rochester. Facing overt and subtle charges of inherent ignorance, laziness and even criminality, pushed many Italian immigrants to their surnames in order to deny their heritage. Although he admitted that other immigrant groups had faced similar challenges, he thought it particularly acute among Italians. He wrote and spoke tirelessly to remind Italians to be proud of the greatness of their culture. Over and over again, Matteo spoke at Columbus Day observances to honor the explorer as a reminder for Italians of what they contributed to world history.

Matteo approached the problem of assimilating Italian immigrants and their families into American life by substituting the metaphor of grafting a new branch on a tree. He rejected the better-known melting pot image. He saw how all contributions were homogenized for the prevalent English heritage to dominate. In Matteo’s America, the immigrant cherished American values as represented by the trunk of the tree but maintained a vigorous pride in the Italian branch to which he belonged. Facing widespread anti-Italian sentiment so publicly expressed in these years, Matteo stressed the need for Italians to know and have pride in their history. Without this knowledge and pride, he feared that the children of the immigrants could only feel shame to hurrily discard their Italian heritage.

Matteo knew that the problems faced by the Italian American community went beyond the challenges of national identity and Americanization. The ravages of gambling and alcoholism confronted him daily. Families of some alcoholics lacked the money to buy food and other essentials. These same vices led to criminal activity to plague the community with violence. If young men could be taught a trade or educated as professionals, he was sure that these twin evils could be reduced.

Matteo considered motherhood as sacred, in itself. Therefore, he was horrified by the practice of abortion. He viewed it, however, as an evil resulting from the desire to protect the family’s honor. Holy motherhood could be considered more important than honor if people were educated to value the preservation of life. Abortion, then, might no longer be an attractive option.

Matteo’s long life was marked by speaking, traveling and writing throughout northeastern America. Tragedy struck when his wife passed away in 1962. After her death, he moved in with his niece, where he resided until his death in 1971at the age of 95.

The bedrock of Matteo’s proposed solutions to the problems faced by the immigrant was always this: Love and education are the keys to a just and peaceful society. Teach people to cherish their heritage. Train the youth to pursue careers that provide their families with a decent lifestyle. Support and educate those who find themselves in difficult positions. “Love lights the way.”

Editor’s Note: The author is a retired high school principal from Rochester whose grandparents emigrated from Sicily. He can be contacted at



Historic Gathering of Italian American Organizations Convene in Washington, D.C. to Counter The Continuous Assaults Against Columbus; and Other Controversies
- Judge Basil M. Russo Leads an Unprecedented Effort to Unify the Italian American Community to Preserve Our Heritage in an Era of Political Correct Hostility and Misinformation
- “We need to insist that Italian Americans be recognized as a distinct and important community within our country.”

By Truby Chiaviello

Kneeling Left: Charles Marsala, President of the American Italian Federation of the Southeast; Kneeling Right: George Bochetto, Bochetto/Lentz Law Firm.
Sitting Row Left to right: Berardo Paradiso, President of the Italian American Committee on Education; Anthony Ficarri, National Commandere for the Italian American War Veterans of the United States; Cav. Dr. Gilda Rorro, NJ Italian Heritage Commission; Marianna Gatto, Executive Director for the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles; Basil M. Russo, President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations; Rosemary De Luca, Secretary for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations; Gina Biancardi, President of the Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere; Dr. Frank N. DeFrank, Immediate Past National President for UNICO National; Dr. Daniel L. Stabile, National President for the National Council for the Promotion of the Italian Language in American Schools, Inc. and Professor Santi Buscemi, Italian American Legal Defense Fund, Inc. 2nd Row Standing Left to Right: Robert DiBiase, Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission; Gabriele Delmonaco, President for A Chance In Life (Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy); Andre DiMino, Communications Director for Italian American One Voice Coalition; Dr. Joseph Scelsa, President of the Italian American Museum; Pietro Segalini, Senior Vice President for the National Council of Columbia Associations; Richard A. DiLiberto, Jr., Chairman of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture; Joseph Sciame, President of the Sons of Italy Foundation; Kathleen Strozza, Trustee for the UNICO Foundation; Patricia Santangelo, President, Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of the Bronx and Westchester; Joseph Rosalina, Vice President for the Italian Sons and Daughters of America; Mary Ann Re, DC Liaison and Ron Onesti, President for the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans
Back Row Left to Right: Patrick O’Boyle, American Delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George; John Viola, National Columbus Education Foundation; Dom Amara, Chair for the Italian American Alliance; Truby Chiaviello, Publisher for PRIMO Magazine; Thomas Damigella, Italian American Alliance; Francis M. Donnarumma, President for the National Italian American Bar Association; Robert Ferrito, President for OSDIA Commission for Social Justice; James Rosapepe, Vice Chairman for the Italian American Democratic Leadership Council and Frank Maselli, Chair of the American Italian Renaissance Foundation. Not pictured: Stephanie Longo, Associate Producer for the Italian American Podcast

Italian Americans go on offense.

That’s one key message conveyed in an unprecedented meeting on December 4th, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in Washington, D.C., to unify Italian American organizations throughout the United States, under the vigorous leadership of Judge Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).

“When I was elected to serve as president of the COPOMIAO last year, I established two goals for myself,” said Judge Russo. “The first goal was to create a spirit of national unity within the Italian American community so that we could have a meaningful voice in influencing America’s collective culture.”

Judge Russo knows well the workings of law and politics, two key areas of importance for fairer treatment of Italian Americans in a host of current controversies, most notably the adversarial effort among schools and municipalities to eliminate Columbus Day and Columbus statues. Many years of service for state courts in Ohio came after an active tenure in Cleveland politics for Judge Russo. He was elected majority leader of the Cleveland City Council and once ran for mayor of that city. He has devoted himself to the Italian American community when he retired as the managing partner of Russo, Rosalina & Co, LPA, a law firm he helped found. As president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, since 2014, he established partnerships with the National Italian American Foundation and other organizations for programs to help engage and inspire Italian Americans of different ages and subsets. Now, as president of the COPOMIAO, comes his most significant effort: To unify the Italian American community to overcome daunting challenges.

“For decades our community sat silent while other ethnic and racial groups achieved their goals,” said Judge Russo. “To correct this situation, we have held three historic National Italian American Summit Meetings this year which have finally created a strong bond among all of major organizations.”

In the age of the Internet, social media and smart phone technology, political controversies have become interconnected for a response that’s international, even global. The time has come for greater unity, not just between Italian Americans, but between Italian Americans and Italians.

“The second goal I set for myself was to establish a meaningful relationship between the Italian American community and Italy,” said Judge Russo. “With each passing generation, Italian Americans and the land of their ancestors’ birth, have drifted farther and farther apart. If we are sincere about preserving our heritage for future generations, we need to work with Italy to promote mutual programs that create a stronger bond between Italy and the U. S. We also need to work to perpetuate the Italian language, as well as our Italian American traditions and customs. The ambassador’s reception was an important first step in doing so.”

The night before the December 4th meeting, Italian American leaders were invited by Italy’s ambassador, Mariangela Zappia, to convene at her official residence, the beautiful Villa Firenze. Stronger ties with the Italian government were called for in speeches by her and Judge Russo. The necessity for Italian and Italian American leaders to work together to preserve our beloved Italian heritage was specifically proclaimed.

A closer relationship with Italy will be one of many key attributes, along with a unified front of Italian American organization, to counter and overcome the hostilities in the years ahead.

Editor’s Note: To read the latest news and updates of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to their web site,  To read the latest activities at the Embassy of Italy, please log on to


Councilor Lydia Edwards Sold Out Her Italian Constituency for Political Correctness
- Italian American, Boston Native, Tom Damigella Pens Stinging Letter in Response
“We need to divorce Columbus from the celebration of Italian heritage. Period,” wrote Lydia Edwards
“What right do you have to tell us that we should stop recognizing this heroic figure in history…,” wrote Tom Damigella

By Truby Chiaviello

No Italian should vote for Lydia Edwards in Massachusetts….

…Not unless she reaches out to Italian Americans to better understand why Columbus is a hero, not a villain.

…Not unless she helps bring back Columbus Day in Boston.

…Not unless she restores the Columbus statue that was disgustingly beheaded by vandals.

Miss Edwards betrayed her Italian American constituency when she supported interim Mayor Kim Janey’s spiteful cancelation of Columbus Day on a day of celebration by the Italian American community there.

Miss Edwards currently represents, in city council, the First District, a seat previously held by Salvatore LaMattina, where Italian Americans have called home for many years East Boston, the North End and Charlestown. Miss Edwards now seeks a different political prize. She is hoping to get elected in 2022 to fill the open seat left by state senator, Joseph Boncore. She may have some serious difficulty doing so since no Italian American should vote for Miss Edwards until she meets with local Italian American about the unjust claims against Columbus.

As of today, it seems very doubtful Miss Edwards will make the effort to better understand the needs of Italian Americans. Instead, it looks as though she has abandoned them at the sacrificial altar of political correctness and the cancel culture.

Here is what Miss Edwards wrote on her Facebook page on October 7, 2021:

“Let me be very clear:
1. As a city and as a country, we need an Indigenous People’s Day. It’s a day to acknowledge and address the historic, systemic and ongoing harms towards Indigenous people. More importantly, it’s a day to empower people and celebrate Indigenous leaders and heroes. It is also opportunity for learning, healing and truth.
2. We need to divorce Columbus from the celebration of Italian heritage. Period.
3. Unilateral decision making is wrong. The people of Boston deserve meaningful engagement because we represent them.
I heard your calls and read your messages and listened to every piece of feedback and criticism, and it's with gratitude that I share this message today. I will keep listening and I always strive to do better.”

Comments on Facebook in response to Miss Edwards’ post were a mix of support, anger, befuddlement and the bizarre, i.e., one gentleman, apparently of German ethnicity, compared the Genoese explorer and New World discover to Hitler.

Italian American and proud Bostonian, Tom Damigella, wrote a letter to condemn the councilor’s cancellation of Columbus. Addressed to Miss Edwards, his missive appeared in the Italian newspaper there, the Post Gazette. What follows is Mr. Damigella’s preamble to the Italian American Alliance Board followed by his letter, dated November 4, 2021:

Dear Italian American Alliance Board,
As you know we have announced our strong protest against former Mayor Janey’s Executive order which eliminated Columbus Day in Boston with our Columbus Day ceremony.
In the meantime, the City Councilor of the North End, East Boston and Charlestown also officially supported her decision to eliminate Columbus Day and she said " It's time the Italian Community DIVORCE itself from Columbus."
Imagine in the past, a city councilor of the North End and East Boston saying that!
In my opinion she deserved to be called out on her hostile decision towards Italian American's legacy in this city.
Therefore, I wrote a personal letter to the editor of the Post Gazette and it was published today. I also believe my letter will help to educate the reader on the truth regarding Columbus and why we defend him.
It is attached to this email.

Tom Damigella
PS. I also posted it to her (Miss Edwards) Facebook page, under why she supported the Mayor's decision. Her post and my comment was taken down 2 days later.

Dear Lydia Edwards,
I was very pleased to see that your initial disapproval to Mayor Janey's Executive order to cancel Columbus Day in Boston. However, I was truly disappointed the next day when I saw you back track and explained that you were in agreement with her decision.

I don't understand how you could agree with her when I have watched you march in the past Columbus Parades and also sponsor the ad book. You understood then how important this holiday is to many of the residents that you represent in the North end and East Boston. It is a 100 year tradition! Also, what was really inappropriate is when you made the statement that "it is time that the Italian American community divorce themselves from Columbus." What right do you have to tell us that we should stop recognizing this heroic figure in history who has also been a symbol of pride in our communities and who has been slandered and smeared with lies and untruths towards the natives of the Bahamas. It is clear to me that you have not even taken the time to educate yourself as to why we defend him or investigate how many historians have debunked the popular urban myths about Columbus so-called atrocities that incriminated him in Howard Zinn's book, “The people's History of the United States,” from 30 years ago.

These are lies that have been perpetuated unfortunately for political reasons. He (Columbus) has become the scapegoat for those who are determined to paint western civilization’s role in history as oppressors from a time in history 600 years ago when the world was a more uncivilized place. What you should have done was reserve your opinion and take the time to discuss this issue with us and then understand that the Mayor did not have to unjustly hurt the Italian American community by taking Columbus away in order to recognize the Native Americans of Boston. Do you know that there is already a designated legal holiday of August 9 for Indigenous Peoples’ Day and also the day after Thanksgiving has been assigned federally as Indigenous Peoples’ Day?? And that the entire month of November is also federally recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Month? Recognizing both groups’ holidays was the simple solution and it's time that the local Native American people realize that they are perpetuating lies and untruths towards Columbus and that we would support them to have their own days of recognition, but not at our expense. We would not do that to them. There are several Italian American organizations that have campaigned in support of protecting and preserving our Italian Heritage and it’s rightful connection to Columbus and the holiday by educating and debunking the false charges against Columbus by introducing people to true historians like Mary Grabar and Carol Delaney and Raphael Ortiz that prove Columbus was personally innocent of the inhuman actions they accuse him of performing. I understand that these organizations have reached out to you but you have not made yourself available to discuss this issue. I suggest that you do.

Tom Damigella

Editor’s Note: Pictured is a statue of Christopher Columbus, in Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park in North End Boston, decapitated in 2020, and, since, has been removed from the pedestal. Tom Damigella is the son of Italian immigrants who started one of the first Tupperware distributorships in the United States. He is a graduate of Boston University who worked for a time in social services before heading his family’s business. Lydia Edwards, pictured, has a web site at


A Historic Meeting Convenes at the Villa Firenze, The Ambassador’s Official Residence in Washington
- Part of an Extended Weekend of Membership Activities for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations
- “How do we keep this flag, two flags, the American flag, of course, and the Italian flag…how do we keep this link alive,” said The Honorable Mariangela Zappia, Ambassador of the Italian Republic to the United States of America
- “This landmark meeting is the culmination of a yearlong effort, which has united a once-fragmented Italian American community around common goals that include the preservation of our history, heritage, institutions and businesses,” said The Honorable Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organization

A delegation of Italian American leaders met with Mariangela Zappia, Italy’s first female ambassador to the United States, to cement a partnership designed to strengthen cultural relations, foster new trade and bolster advocacy on issues of mutual concern.

The much-anticipated meeting in Washington, D.C. was organized by Ambassador Zappia and The Honorable Basil M. Russo, current president of The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).   

“This landmark meeting is the culmination of a yearlong effort, which has united a once-fragmented Italian American community around common goals that include the preservation of our history, heritage, institutions and businesses,” Judge Russo said. “Hon. Mariangela Zappia has represented Italy at NATO and the UN, and now she stands with Italian America to promote our initiatives and policies — and COPOMIAO, in turn, is here to do the same for Italy.” 

“The Embassy, and Italian institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, greatly appreciate all that you do, each day, to promote our language, culture, and traditions — in short, our heritage — in this exceptional country,” noted Ambassador Zappia, in welcoming Judge Russo and the COPOMIAO delegation. “The entire Italian diplomatic network in the U.S. is proud to work with you, side-by-side, to continue enhancing and promoting our beautiful Italy…Italian identity is strong and apparent in all aspects of daily life in this wonderful country: from food to art, culture to music, architecture to politics.”

The meeting was held in the evening of Friday, December 3rd, inside the ambassador’s official residence, the Villa Firenze, in Northwest Washington. Speeches made by Ambassador Zappia and Judge Russo preceded a buffet dinner for the delegation.

Leaders of various advocacy and philanthropic organizations attended the gathering to forge ties between Italy’s ambassador, the Italian embassy staff and the Italian America community. Proponents of different Italian American causes had the chance to meet together to network and exchange ideas.

The struggle to preserve our Italian American legacy continues.

As 2021 comes to a close, Italian Americans look back on what was the second of two consecutive years of assaults and accusations against Christopher Columbus. Statues depicting Columbus, not to mention monuments dedicated to the Genoese explorer, some modest in scope and size, were removed from parks and public land. From cities and towns to colleges and elementary schools, efforts went almost unabated to either remove Columbus Day, or replace with Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Italian Americans have come together to fight back. Over the past 18 months, lawsuits were filed in Philadelphia, West Orange, New Jersey, Chicago and elsewhere to claim civil rights violations when local officials decided to erase most, if not all, depictions and celebrations of Columbus. Many advocacy groups, most notably the Italian American One Voice Coalition, gathered throughout the year in public forums at school boards and city council meetings to speak up to successfully retain official recognition of Columbus Day and to stop the holiday’s deletion in school calendars.

In forging closer ties with Italy, through Ambassador Zappia and embassy staff, Italian Americans may have an ally to provide important resources to help change the current political correct narrative in America against Columbus and other historical figures.

The evening gathering at the Villa Firenze was part of a two-day event to include a meeting of members for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. Inside the famously elegant Omni Shoreham Hotel, beside Rock Creek Park, in Northwest Washington, leaders, who represented groups, both local and national, convened on Saturday, December 4th.

Judge Russo presided over a meeting to begin at 10:00 a.m. with a round table introduction of participants. Each attendee was asked to give a brief speech on what made him or her interested in getting involved to preserve their Italian American heritage. Many spoke of being inspired by a parent or close relative to retain and promote their Italian legacy.

Those in attendance were noted for achievements in law, medicine, business and academia. When time came to speak, however, many of them were unable to hold back tears. They emotionally recalled how a parent or grandparent, who emigrated from Italy, poor and dispossessed, beamed with pride to see their son or granddaughter graduate with a medical degree, pass a bar exam or earn a doctorate.

The meeting’s purpose was to change the legal status of the organization to allow for more advocacy on the part of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. As Italian American media companies were invited to join, PRIMO Magazine was one of several, including Fra Noi and the Italian American Podcast, to officially become their newest members.

The year ahead will, no doubt, present more challenges and conflicts for Italian Americans. Many are called to rise and defend our collective legacy. Under the leadership of Judge Russo, members of The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations will move forward with continued vigor and persistence to rightly defend our place in America.

Editor’s Note: Pictured: Ambassador Mariangela Zappia and Judge Basil M. Russo, inside the Villa Firenze with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, a picture of the Italian ambassador’s official residence, Villa Firenze, in Northwest Washington, D.C., and the Omni Shoreham Hotel, near Rock Creek Park, where a national meeting was convened for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. To read the latest news and updates of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to their web site,




An Italian American Playwright Shares His Experience To Get a Play Produced in Russia
- Opportunities Arise in a System More Rigid Than The United States
- “My dealings with the Russian Federation began months ago when I started sending communications to President Putin”

By Michael Corriere

If you’re an American playwright who is interested in having your play produced in Russia, then a working knowledge of the Russian Theatre Union and the Russian Federation is a pre-requisite. You must never forget that everything in Russia is political and their entire system revolves around their president, Vladimir Putin.

Dealing from a playwright’s perspective, the Russians do adhere to the mandates laid down by the Berne Convention. The Russian Federation entered the Berne Convention, in force, in 1995, as administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Each member of the Berne Convention is required to have laws to protect the “moral rights” of a copyrighted work. Such rules allow an author to control how his work is presented in public. The Berne Convention compels recognition of authorship so that a specific work is not attributed to someone else. These moral rights are often referred to as “rights of integrity” and “rights of paternity.” How each country’s laws give effect to the protection of moral rights varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

In the United States, federal copyright law does not expressly protect an author’s moral rights. In fact, the Copyright Act of 1976 specifically prohibits reliance on the Berne Convention (of which moral rights is a huge part) in deciding international copyright matters. Instead, the United States courts are asked to rely on contract law, defamation, invasion of privacy and unfair competition.

While the Russians do adhere to the principles of the Berne Convention, there will always be the question of “enforcement,” should the need arise. American playwrights can also enjoy further protection of their work under Article 1259 of the Russian Civil Code that protects, among other things: Literary works, dramatic and musical works, screenplays, musical compositions with or without lyrics. These works do not require registration or any other formalities. An author of a copyrighted work, however, may voluntarily register with a specialized depository or with a notary public.

Once you have an understanding of what your rights are, the next step is to get acquainted with the Russian Theatre Union (RTU). The RTU will play an important role in just how far your play will go in Russia (I will explain later in this article how I managed to get my play into the RTU’s catalogue!).

The Theatre Union of the Russian Federation (STD) dates back to 1877, though, under a different name. Currently headquartered in Moscow, the organization consists of 75 branches for a total membership of 25,000. The goal of the STD is to promote and develop the performing arts in remote Russian regions. The STD acts as a mediator to settle disputes between theaters and state or municipalities.

Almost every theater company in Russia receives funding from three sources: The Russian Federation, The Russian Ministry of Culture and The Russian Theatre Union…without which they would not exist! It’s no wonder then that every artistic director must be extremely careful not to be involved in any production that the State considers to be “offensive and demeaning” or in violation of the law!

President Putin made his feelings known about the “creative process” when he addressed the opening of the fifth annual St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum on December 2, 2016: “I spoke about my position on interfering in the creative process, and I want to reiterate that the freedom to create should be inviolable. However, all freedoms have their alternate side, namely, responsibility. We know it very well. This, actually, is acknowledged by all renowned philosophies. Artists, ‘the rulers of our hearts,’ have a special responsibility in everything they do. On the other hand, any disruptive behavior, or attempts to sabotage a play or exhibition are absolutely intolerable and should be punished in accordance with the law. And we will do so.”

While President Putin expressed his support for the arts, the Russian Federation came down hard on theater companies deemed “over the red line.” Teatr.Doc is a radical theater company that the Russian Federation threatened, harassed and shut down numerous times. They are a documentary theater company based on authentic texts, interviews and the fate of real people. Yet, somehow they survive with a very loyal following willing to risk the wrath of the authorities.

Teatr.Doc has been described as Russia’s most daring theater company. They began in 2002 by a group of writers who couldn’t find a theater willing to stage their documentary-style plays. They focused mainly on social issues until 2010, when they became more critical of the government. Teatr. Doc really pushed the limits when they produced a play titled “BerlusPutin,” a farce adapted from a play by Italian satirist, Dario Fo, called the ”Two Headed Anomaly.” In Doc’s version, Silvio Berlusconi’s brain is transplanted into the head of Vladimir Putin with disastrous results. The play revolves around the relationship between Putin and his former wife, Lyudmila. In one scene, Putin suggests they have sex after her exile to a monastery. She yells “You can’t rape me, I’m not Russian!”

Just how much can Teatr.doc get away with? With Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s hardline Minister of Culture, not to mention, also, the strong influence of the Orthodox Church…who knows!

My dealings with the Russian Federation began months ago when I started sending communications to President Putin. This was in reference to my powerful “cold war” drama, “For England…For Love.” I was interested to work with one of Moscow’s theater companies to produce this play. After months of waiting, I finally received a communication from the Foreign Relations Department of the Theatre Union of the Russian Federation. They informed me that my play was accepted for inclusion in their catalogue to be made available to all the theater companies in Russia! This was made possible because of communications I sent to President Putin which were redirected to the Minister of Culture. A major accomplishment!

Since then, I have established an account with the Russian Federation to frequently contact them. Currently, I am involved in trying to find a theater company who will, not only produce my play, but provide sponsorship for me to travel to Moscow to assist in production.

Four items must be obtained in order to travel to Russia. First, you need a passport; second, a visa; then, you will need a migrant card (part goes to immigration and part stays with your passport) and, most importantly, you need a sponsor. Without a sponsor you can’t get into Russia! A sponsor can be a theater company who has taken an option on your play or a film festival where your film will be screened. When you think about it…not a bad system for keeping track of people coming into their country!

A major problem for American playwrights is to get a decent translation of their work in Russian. Both languages are diametrically opposed to each other. I am now trying to obtain permission to allow American playwrights to submit their plays in English for inclusion in the Russian catalogue. Perhaps, they can set aside part of their catalogue for plays written in English. There are theater companies in Russia that are run by artistic directors who speak and understand English. I am personally dealing with one now! But, so far, they have been unwilling to compromise. So, the best action to take, should your play be selected, is to hire a good translator, “on set,” to make sure the actors have a clear “understanding” of what you have written and how you want the scene played.

Remember, everything in Russia is political! When you first make contact with Russians, you begin to realize you are dealing with a government bogged down in “red tape” and suspicion. If you are an American playwright who wants to have a conversation with a Russian theater company, be prepared to be cross-examined. The current political climate does not help matters, either. Is there hope for change? Will there be a return to “glasnost”? Don’t hold your breath!

I have made other contacts in Moscow. One individual happens to be a translator, although she has never really worked on a play. She supplied me with “people information” regarding the theater. Maria is a wonderful person who is a bit conservative on matters pertaining to Russian politics.

We can make certain observations of the theater under President Putin and the Russian Federation:
• Putin is in favor of the government providing financial support to Russian theatre companies and the arts by providing funds through the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Culture and the Russian Theatre Union.
• Putin supports the Berne Convention and, therefore, the “moral right” of all playwrights.
• Putin sets limits as to what is “acceptable” for theatre companies to produce. Plays that demean the Russian government or people are against the law.
• The Russian Federation is the “enforcer” when it comes to carrying out the will of President Putin. Those theatre companies that “violate” the law when producing plays to demean the government or the Russian people will find themselves dealing with the various government police agencies, local or otherwise.
• The Russian Federation is also part of the financial arm to make sums of money available to theatre companies to produce plays that bring “glory” to the country and to President Vladimir Putin.

So, in conclusion, if you’re an American playwright, and you want to know what possible financial rewards might be, should your play be fortunate enough to get picked up for a future option from a Russian theatre company, just like in the United States, you will have to negotiate.

And if you’re thinking about having your play translated into Russian, be prepared to pay big bucks. The Russians are under the impression that the streets in America are paved with gold!

Good luck!

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the author and a poster of his play to be made in Russia about the Cold War, “For England…For Love!” Mr. Corriere wrote, directed and produced a critically acclaimed documentary about the Roswell crash titled, “Alien Connection.” He can be reached at



Covid Chronicles
Cases Rise to Push Some Regions from White to Yellow Zones
- New 2G Pass Is Proffered to Further Penalize the Non-Vaccinated
- Austria Will Be First to Mandate Vaccines in Europe
- The Author Celebrates Thanksgiving in Florence

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, as we come to the end of Weeks 51 and 52, now in late November, the Covid 19 situation in Italy is slowly but surely worsening with two regions about to pass from the White to the Yellow zone, with the accompanying restrictions. The first region is Friuli Venezia Giulia where hospital recoveries in intensive care have reached almost the threshold limit of 15 percent, or the equivalent of about 280 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The Autonomous Province of Bolzano reports intensive care patients at nine percent and those in general hospital care at 14 percent; again, just under the 15 percent threshold. At this rate, it is more than likely that these regions will change color by Christmas. Two other regions that could fall into the Yellow Zone are Marche and Calabria.

The Draghi government is working on a new Green Pass Decree (also known as the Super Green Pass). Governors are calling for more stringent measures against the so-called no-vaxxers in Yellow and Red regions. They want to impose a new 2G model for those who have been vaccinated or certified as cured of coronavirus. Such measures might exclude a person from restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters. However, if he passes a swab test, he might have permission to work outside his home. A decision is expected this month when the cabinet meets again.

Assemblies and demonstrations of unmasked no-vaxxers are often violent in nature and continue in Italy and other countries throughout Europe. The non-vaxxers are widely blamed for the onset of the fourth wave of the pandemic where Germany and many Easter European countries have been especially hit hard. For instance, Austria is about to enter its fourth lockdown phase. They will be the first European country to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory, beginning in February 2022. Exemptions in Austria will be for those unable to receive a vaccine based on medical grounds. Fines and a prison sentence await those who refuse to comply.

Here, in Florence, until December 19th, piazza Santa Croce will be a buzz of activity. The largest Christmas market or Weihnachtsmarkt is back in town. Based on a 12th century German tradition, the open-air stalls sell goods ranging from food to Christmas decorations to original jewelry to winter craft goods such as hats, scarves and jackets, not to mention artisan-made goods such as candles and ceramics. Locals and tourists alike love to savor the bratwurst and pretzels with sauerkraut and beer. The Hungarian Kürtőskalács, also known as the chimney cake, is especially delicious, with toppings of cinnamon or chocolate. A cup of mulled wine keeps the cold at bay while you purchase a plate full of Dutch crepes, waffles or Austrian pastries. It's a great day or evening out and a wonderful way to start your Christmas shopping.

On November 18th, the American International League of Florence (AILO) held its annual Thanksgiving lunch at the Ugolino Golf Club in Florence. AILO is a nonprofit, charity association with a wide international membership. The group was founded in 1975 as part of the Italian registry of Italian Voluntary Organizations. Members, mainly from the United States, live or have lived in Tuscany. Their honorary president is the United States Consul General in Florence. English is the language for all meetings, events and publications. The important mission of AILO is to contribute to the community through social assistance projects such as fund-raising events for charities within the city and province of Florence. The Thanksgiving celebration was fun, especially after so many months of being unable to meet together. We enjoyed the classic dishes such as pumpkin soup, roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, a variety of vegetables and pecan pie, as well as Tuscan red and white wines. I hope your Thanksgiving was just as enjoyable with your family and friends.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre



Primo Interview
"Let us live the Beatitudes as Our Lord revealed to us"

Chloe Jon Paul shares with us a voyage of faith, in her book, “What God Wants in Our Lives.” PRIMO spoke with the author about her new book and her Roman Catholic beliefs.

What made you want to write the book?

I was inspired by the way God has worked in my life. 

You mention in the book that you wanted to become a Carmelite nun; what made you want to pursue that goal.

I had wanted to become a Carmelite nun having admired St. Therese but God had other plans for me and I eventually learned about His PTR: to be in a particular place, at a particular time, for a particular reason! That is best illustrated when I was at my dying brother's bedside helping him make his peace with God.

How will the book help those who read it?

This book can help readers who may be struggling with their faith as well as providing them with helpful tips on having a better spiritual life.

Underway is the Synod called by Pope Francis for bishops to convey meetings to hear from the laity. What would you say to today's Church?

What I would say to today's Church is simply this: Let us live the Beatitudes as Our Lord revealed to us.

Royalties from the book are to be donated to charities. Why?

All royalties will be donated to charity as this is my "giving back"time. God has blessed me in so many ways. The least I can do is to help those in need.

What is your next book?

No more books! I would like to see more happen with my other current book, "The UNtold Story of the Alphabet" because it
would be very helpful for children and adults with English as a second language. It would be a good tool for teachers as well.
I have used this book as a volunteer in a local elementary school and it has been fantastic!

Editor’s Note: You can read more about Chloe and purchase one or more of her books at



How Life Should Be Lived at All Ages
From Brooklyn to Naples, From Newark to Calitri
A Tyrant is Condemned, Hollywood Stars are Praised

Growing Up Italian American In 1950s Brooklyn
By Kenneth J. Uva. Available at

Every New Yorker was affected, one way or another, by the tragic events of 9/11. Kenneth J. Uva was commuting that morning when his subway suddenly stopped at the 42nd Street terminal. There, he learned of the hijacked airplanes that intentionally crashed into the Twin Towers. At street level, he saw the billowing smoke from the two skyscrapers only to witness one collapse to the ground. The horror of that day comes after two decades of recovery. Mr. Uva visited the rebuilt area only to remember how his mother once worked across the street from the newly constructed World Trade Center. He then thought about his father, his siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins. He deeply connected to New York to consider his early life in 1950s Brooklyn.
    Mr. Uva wrote the novel, “Play Jimmy Roselli,” as a fictionalized recollection of the Italian American experience through the eyes of Brian, a boy who lives with his family along Atlantic Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant. All aspects of urban life are conveyed in the neighborhood from punch ball to stick ball to trips to the corner dinette for the joys of consuming that strangely titled New York drink, egg cream. Stories of postwar New York never seem to get old. That’s because they provide a stimulating saga contained within a few city blocks. Brian is an intelligent boy who quietly observes the older people around him. He asks pointed questions to elicit the back stories of his mother, Millie, his father, Pete, his grandparents and the relatives who live nearby. What he comes to realize is that the unified front of family comes with many uncovered scandals and tribulations. Mr. Uva looks back at the 1950s in Brooklyn with a mix of nostalgia and honest critique. Although the neighborhood was of mixed ethnicity, prejudice and bigotry were commonly expressed by the adults around him. Mr. Uva is neither condemnatory or apologetic, but, rather allows the reader to understand the flaws, alongside the virtues of main characters by presenting them honestly.
    The key theme of the novel is the American Dream. Brian witnesses a transition in America from the economic opportunity sought by Italian immigrants to a country of moralistic hegemony sought by his parents’ generation, many of whom fought in World War II. For the author and those born in the 1940s, another view of America is one that is more complex than those of his parents and grandparents. What he comes to realize is that the American Dream is fluid and the time we spend with loved ones is the best dream of all.

Tools to Overcome Obstacles & Adversity
By Anthony J. Cedolini Available at

Italians and Italian Americans are famous for their espousal of family as the answer to all challenges and dilemmas that life may offer. Friends may come and go as will businesses, careers, unions, schools, civic organizations and governments. What remains with us is God and the unbreakable bond of family. We can get through the hardest of times with the love and support of our parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins.
    Hence, it makes sense for an Italian American such as Dr. Anthony J. Cedolini to pen a self-help book as originally intended to serve as a guide for his children and grandchildren. A book titled, “The Classroom of Life” is what we are offered by Dr. Cedolini. This is a fascinating compendium of useful knowledge to help anyone and everyone overcome life’s obstacles and adversities. With a Ph.D. in educational psychology, the author knows well the sociological and scientific factors that can make for difficult experiences. Dr. Cedolini does not overwhelm the reader with theories and case studies. Rather, he gives us extensive common sense in an intimate portrait of new strategies and techniques to cope with hardships.
    Dr. Cedolini claims “The Classroom of Life” is over 50 years in the making. This was a book he wanted to write for some time but the demands of raising a family and his career made him put off the eventual manuscript. The delay of decades gave him more time to experience life for himself and put into a truer perspective the lessons he hoped to teach his offspring. As such, the book contains chapter headings that range from “A Life of Love and Happiness” to “The Final Journey.” Dr. Cedolini is a well-crafted writer who has the uncanny ability to put complex ideas into short succinct sentences for readers to understand. The anecdotes are many to underscore his proposed insight and ideas. As such, the book is uniquely entertaining and almost reads like a collection of short stories as we gain important information in how best to deal with the varied experiences of life.
    To consider life as a classroom is an intriguing idea as proffered by Dr. Cedolini. As we move up in class, so to do in life. We achieve better grades the more we know and the more we study. Consider “The Classroom of Life” a vital textbook in guiding us through the many twists and turns that we will experience. “The Classroom of Life” is a profound tome of knowledge and wisdom for all who seek a better way to live a fuller and happier life.

By Mario Toglia Available at
Available at

Ours is a digital age, no doubt, with a plethora of emails, tweets and posts. What good comes from all this electronic communication might be answered in Mario Toglia’s poignant tribute to his ancestors’ homeland in “Celebrating The Heritage.”
    Mr. Toglia’s family came from Calitri, a small commune in the countryside of the Avellino province in Italy. With an enthusiastic interest in his ancestral homeland, he became part of an obscure web site, titled Calitri Connections. This computer linked forum was created by Marlene Dunham, granddaughter of a Calitri immigrant to America named Michelangelo Fastiggi. Many people who descended from Calitri logged on to her web site to email and correspond with each other. This led to personal gatherings, luncheons, lectures and trips to Italy. “Celebrating The Heritage” is one of several books by Mr. Toglia to document the many recollections of people who retain the customs and traditions they inherited from their Calitrani ancestors.
    Concisely written and edited to offer an additional interpretation of the Italian American experience, “Celebrating The Heritage” offers an excursion through the United States by way of the proud progeny of Calitrani immigrants. Chapter headings are titled according to specific states, not to mention, also, the District of Columbia, located on the East Coast. Various communities of Calitrani descendants have prospered in a host of American cities, towns and rural enclaves. What is most profound about the book is how people, two generations away from their immigrant forebears, espouse the many age-old virtues bequeathed to them to survive and flourish in today’s rapidly changing world. “Celebrating The Heritage” contains not a dull moment in the stories and anecdotes shared by Calitrani descendants. Mr. Toglia is to be commended for compiling an ambitious retrospective to highlight and maintain the distinct experiences of each chronicler. The book contains a number of photographs to capture the many gatherings of Calitrani history, customs and traditions in different parts of the country. Mr. Toglia includes an extensive list of people who emigrated from Calitri to underscore the presence in America of those who came from this part of Italy.
    “Celebrating The Heritage” is a valiant lesson for us all to revere a specific Italian town, in addition, to the whole of Italy. Our homeland is more than the country of our ancestors, but, rather, the enclave of family and friends who shared experiences unique to their locale. A great book is “Celebrating The Heritage.”

By Fracesco Filippi
Published by Baraka Books of Montreal
Available at Available at

Francesco Filippi gives us an intelligent and penetrating account of Fascist Italy in this well-written book, a bestseller in Italy in 2019, “Mussolini Also Did a A Lot of Good: The Spread of Historical Amnesia.”
    Although a serious condemnation of Benito Mussolini and his rule from 1922 to 1945, there are times in the book when the author gives credit to sound management under Mussolini or, at the least, sets the correct historical context to better understand him. Such a fair minded approach by Mr. Filippi makes his thesis all the more powerful and admirable. The reputation of Mussolini is egregiously warped by misinformation and falsehoods among his supporters, many of whom were born after he died. The author wrote the book to counter such historical distortion. This book called for extensive research on the part of Mr. Filippi. Propaganda by Mussolini muddled the time line of government whereby the Duce took credit for things he did not do. Hence, Mr. Filippi provides the details of laws, policies, surveys and studies, before, during and after Mussolini, to give us a fuller comprehension of the failures of the Italian dictator.
    Supporters of Mussolini face a stiff counter-analyst in Mr. Filippi. Eight chapters come to turn Fascism on its head with such headings as “Mussolini the Champion of Land Reclamation,” “Mussolini the Builder” “Mussolini the Feminist” and so on. Most enticing is the chapter that debunks “Mussolini the Man of Law.” Mr. Filippi reminds us that Mussolini’s rise came after a plague of criminal assaults and violence by Fascist thugs. He then shows what really happened in Sicily against Cosa Nostra. It was not the Duce but his appointee as prefect of Palermo, Cesare Mori, who deserves full credit, says Mr. Filippi. Here is a character little known in history. Mori had been prefect of Bologna when he ousted Fascist bullies there. He then took his zeal for justice to Sicily where he outsmarted and out-muscled the mafia. Strange that Mori was forced into retirement at the age of 57. The reason was that Mussolini was envious of the success of his appointee. The mafia was able to make a slight comeback after Mori’s dismissal and set the stage for complete dominance after the war.
    The legacy of Mussolini and other dictators will rely on how we retain and communicate the record of history. We are indebted to Mr. Filippi for his skilled passion in establishing a proper analysis for those who seek to counter the supporters of Mussolini’s tyrannical reign.

A Rite of Passage & Practical Guide for the Modern Maturing Woman
By Chloe Jon Paul
Available at

At the outset, one thing has to be said about Chloe Jon Paul’s engrossing new book: Her title is the mark of ingenuity. Among many people who have studied and written about aging, especially those focused on women, no one has conceived a better way to define a person’s maturing years. “Entering the Age of Elegance” perfectly sums up the reality, and possibility, of human longevity.
    Our best years are attainable at all stages of life. We just have to know the best ways forward. Chloe Jon Paul has written for us a perceptive guidebook that covers all aspects of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges faced in our senior years. She dispatches insight and ideas based on her personal experiences coupled with extensive research into the science and psychology of aging.
    “Entering the Age of Elegance” consists of seven parts to cover the health and well-being of women after middle age. The author closes with her “Litany of Elegance” and 20 women whom she believes fulfill these attributes. “The Age of Elegance denotes that period of a woman’s life also known as Second Adulthood,” Chloe writes. “Every woman who reaches the age of forty has the opportunity to welcome and embrace the opportunity to move into this time period with style and grace.”
    The book offers advice on how to relieve common ailments, the pains and aches associated with an aging body. The consistent theme here is unity among the four attributes of health. One’s physical health is innately tied to one’s mental, emotional and spiritual health, and vice versa. You cannot discuss one without the others. She recalls her bout with clinical depression when doctors prescribed Prozac for the remainder of her life. Her reaction was pure Italian. “‘Yeah right!’ I thought. ‘When pigs fly.’” She sought natural relief to uncover a “an extract Griffonia Simplicifolia seeds from West amino acid equal to traditional antidepressants...”
    Aging in today’s world is often at odds with modern technology and the fast pace of societal changes. An air of elegance allows a person to overcome the various stresses of life. Diet and attitude are important. Chloe hopes readers will look inward and make peace with themselves in past and present relationships. Being graceful puts a person in greater control. The idea is not to panic but approach whatever comes your way with wisdom and dignity. Chloe Jon Paul is an outstanding writer whose sentences are always perfect. She offers us all a majestic way forward in this incredible book for women (and men) to experience longer and more fuller lives.

By Daniel P. Quinn Available at

To know Newark is to love Newark. That might be the best way to sum up the heartfelt tribute Daniel P. Quinn has made to his beloved city in his new insightful book, “Newark, Italy + Me.”
    Newark remains the largest city in New Jersey with a population of about 312,000. The city is most famous, today, perhaps, because of the large airport named after her. Newark was a key enclave for many Italian immigrants after disembarkation from Ellis Island. The city was a manufacturing hub and the author’s maternal side, the Carusos, came to work in the factories there. The author sees himself, “As an Irish-Italian I am a bridge between both cultures.” While working in Italy at LaScala, “a stagehand asked me if I was ‘Irish’. Startled, I said I was Irish American and Italo-American never realizing I could be looked upon as Irish.”
    Quinn is not unlike other longtime residents of Newark. He retains great pride in the city while acknowledging its slow resurrection from the terrible 1967 riots. He laments the fate of a minor league baseball stadium, built 20 years ago, in the hopes of rebounding downtown. “The almost new Bears Stadium is due for demolition! Newark keeps coming back and going sideways as well.” Such are the ups and downs of many old cities in America. Right when you think the path ahead is to embrace a bright future, a change in municipal leadership arises to set things back many years. Quinn loves Newark not just for a sentimental attachment to his hometown. The city is rich in history and culture. He shares with readers how the city was founded when the “Puritans arrived first to found Newark...after the great 1666 fire in London...Newark was named Newark-on-Trent in England.”
    Quinn knows the background of city streets, wards and key landmarks. He conveys how ethnic neighborhoods may change over time in Newark. He writes: “St. Lucy’s Church has sponsored the Feast of St. Gerard in October every year since the 1890s. They have done so through the rise, fall and demolition of the Italian neighborhood. More recently, St. Lucy’s also saw the rise and fall of the adjacent Columbus homes (1950-2000). Now run by the Comboni Fathers (who left Montclair for Newark) are welcoming a new generation of Hispanic and Haitian immigrants.”
    The author’s tone, no doubt, is one of support for Newark’s ultimate rebound. As he mixes poems and essays, he is rooting for Newark to reclaim its unofficial title as America’s most dynamic city. “Newark, Italy + Me” is a tribute worthy of reading for all Italian Americans in New Jersey and all over America.

By Joseph Polacco
Published by Compass Flower Press
Available at

You will understand that Joseph Polacco is a Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry at the University of Missouri when reading a scene in his captivating new novel, “Giovanni: Street Urchin of Naples.” It is the moment when Giovanni Ragnuno, the main character and namesake of the book’s title, discovers his son, Mario, is selling, from their store in Brooklyn, counterfeit olive oil.
    As the flow of goods are disrupted from Italy to America in World War I, the author writes: “But counterfeiting wasn’t too difficult. American cottonseed, peanut, and corn oil were available and with the right herbs, the aroma and color of olive oil were reproduced. For authenticity, the mixture was topped off with about one-tenth volume of genuine olive oil.” As he did in his previous book, a tribute to his late mother, “Vina: A Brooklyn Memoir,” Professor Polacco writes in a lucid style to underscore a wealth of knowledge about his home neighborhood of Bensonhurst, his home borough of Brooklyn and, in addition, for “Giovanni: Street Urchin of Naples,” the city of Naples and the farm country of the Campania region. The book begins in 1898 when Giovanni, a poor, fatherless street kid, travels to the Italian countryside for farm work. There at the Villa Valeria, he befriends shy and smart Calogero, son of Don Giuseppe. Soon, Giovanni is invited to live inside the villa as the unofficial brother of Calogero, where the two are educated by tutors. Later, he marries Filomena, daughter of Don Benedetto, and the two, with their young children, immigrate to America to open a grocery store in Brooklyn.
    “Giovanni: Street Urchin of Naples” is a decades’ long saga for the Italian immigrant experience to coincide with key historical events such as World War I, the 1929 Stock Market Crash, The Great Depression, World War II and the social turmoil of the Cold War years, up to 1969. Along the way, we see the transition of Brooklyn, from a swampy enclave outside Manhattan to a thriving borough, equally populous and socially dynamic as the country’s largest cities. Brooklynites remain ethnically diverse but come together for their beloved Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. As social change comes to the city, so to is the struggle by Giovanni and his family to retain the Italian connection that seems to drift away each passing year.
    Professor Polacco seeks to answer the age-old question: Can a man truly escape his modest origins, no matter how far he climbs? It’s an extraordinary tale throughout the ages that gives us the soul-stirring answer. “Giovanni: Street Urchin of Naples” is awesome.

By Michael Dante
Published by Bear Manor Press Available at

Nice guys finish first. That’s one message to come out loud and clear when reading Michael Dante’s informative and entertaining new book, “My Classic Radio Interviews With The Stars - Volume One.”
    Michael was featured in PRIMO’s 2017 First Edition, after his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut named a street after him - Michael Dante Way. He is a man of many talents. He is a film and television star, a former professional baseball player, with natural athleticism in his blood, and, add to that, a writer of two novellas; the first is based on his Winterhawk film character titled “Winterhawk’s Land,” and the second is about the Civil War, titled “Six Rode Home.” Michael’s first book with BearManor Media was “Michael Dante - From Hollywood to Michael Dante Way” which received the prestigious Ella Dickey Literacy Award for excellence in 2018. Now comes a book about Michael’s radio expertise to encompass the years he hosted his own show for an international following.
    From 1994 to 2008, Michael teamed up with his wife, of 29 years, Mary Jane, to produce an array of radio interviews with America’s top celebrities. Mary Jane had been a film technician and editor for Paramount, Disney and Universal studios and, thus, was in charge of production. Michael was the host to utilize his extensive Rolodex of co-stars in film and television, not to mention, friends he made along the way in professional sports, stage and live entertainment. Based out of Palm Springs, California, Michael and Mary Jane often traveled to a star’s home for a sit down interview. They produced 200 radio shows to cover the breadth of American entertainment. In “My Classic Radio Interviews,” readers get a firsthand account of Michael’s in-depth interactions with many of the country’s most recognizable entertainers.
    A number of Italian Americans are featured in Michael’s book to share a love for their ancestor’s homeland. The book highlights, among others, Michael’s interviews with Jerry Vale, Connie Francis, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Kay Ballard, James Farentino, Frankie Laine, Robert Loggia, Robert Forster and Connie Stevens. Of note, also, are sports figures who were on Michael’s show such as Yogi Berra, Tommy Lasorda, Andy Robustelli and Ken Venturi. Michael Dante’s “My Classic Radio Interviews with the Stars” is a treasure trove of fascinating recollections. The book captures the tried-and-true figures of film, television and sports. Michael gives us an outstanding book to celebrate his work as a kind and knowledgeable interviewer of America’s greatest stars.


Covid Chronicles
President Biden and First Lady Jill Meet with Pope Francis
- Agreements Reached on Cutting World Temps and Stopping Deforestation
- Jeff Koons Comes to Florence
- The Author Survives French Bureaucracy

By Deirdre Pirro

Here, as we come to the end of Week 50, the G20 meeting of world leaders has just come to an end in Rome and the COP 26 Climate Summit is just beginning in Glasgow, Scotland, both international meetings of maximum importance for the world economy and the planet's future sustainable development.

The U.S. president, Joe Biden and his wife, the First Lady, arrived in Rome on Friday, October 29th. The couple's first visit was to the Vatican where they talked with Pope Francis for over 90 minutes, longer than the initial time provided on their itinerary. They then went to Quirinale Palace to meet President Mattarella and, later, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his wife.

The G20 Leaders' Summit took place on October 30th and 31st, at the ultramodern Nuvola conference center, in the EUR area of Rome. Only China's leader, Xi Jinping, was not present, but, participated by video link. The major outcomes of the G20 include, after several years, an agreement for a minimum tax of 15 percent on the profits of multinational companies; a closer approach between the USA and the EU on the removal of customs duty for steel and aluminum and an agreement reached on the second day to cap global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees, although no date was fixed for zero emissions. The leaders decided to vaccinate 40 percent of the world's population by the end of 2021 and 70 percent by mid-2022 with an emphasis on providing vaccines to poorer countries and the elimination of constraints on supply and funding. In a statement, Draghi said he was proud of the meeting’s results. It was only the beginning, he said, although some believe this is still not enough. In the morning of the G20's last day, leaders were taken to the Trevi Fountain to turn their backs to the monument for each to throw a coin into its basin to make a wish to return again to the Eternal City.

Hot on the heels of the G20 Leaders Summit was the COP 26 Climate Summits in Glasgow, a world gathering to close on November 12th. Disappointment was expressed because key players and leaders such as Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Jair Bosonaro of Brazil and Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey were not present. Announcements were made to end deforestation by 2030 with an investment in the sector of over $1 billion.

Probably because winter is beginning to set in, cases of Covid-19 and subsequent hospitalizations are unhappily increasing. The city of Trieste holds the current record in Italy for the highest number of Covid deaths, according to experts, due to assemblies and demonstrations of unmasked non-vaxxers in the city. On October 31st, there was a demonstration in Novara where non-vaxxers wore black and white-stripped tops over their clothes, numbers pinned on them amid make-believe barbed wire as though they were prisoners in Auschwitz. This bought immediate protest from the Jewish community. And these people labeled their protest “in the name of freedom.” Beats me.

Here in Florence, until January 30, 2022, Palazzo Strozzi hosts an exhibition titled, "Jeff Koons Shine.” A selection of the artist's most famous sculptures and installations were gathered for display from many international museums private collections. The artist’s concept of “shine” is a kind of ambiguity between splendor and light, between being and appearing, between the history of art and pop culture. His aim is to get the viewer to reflect on his/her idea of reality and on the very concept of what makes a work of art. Not to be missed.

I am now home again in Florence after another stint in Nice, France, but this time with good news. Finally, the estate matters there have, after six months, been concluded. I feel a little like Atlas when the weight of the celestial spheres were lifted from his shoulders. Now, I can, at last, move forward. Keep an eye on this space.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre.

Editor’s Note: Generic photos of Florence taken by the author, who writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. To learn more about the Jeff Koons’ exhibit, please log on to:


Generations of Descendants in America Hail from a Small Village in Italy
- Mario Toglia, Author of “Celebrating The Heritage” Conveys The Legacy of Immigrants from Calitri

“Celebrating The Heritage” is one of three books written by Mario Toglia about Calitri immigrants and their descendants in the United States. Along with “Preserving Our History” and “They Came By Ship,” Mr. Toglia has compiled an impressive record of stories and recollections to convey the legacy of this unique group from Italy. He spoke with PRIMO about his work in detailing the lives and experiences of Calitrani immigrants.

Where did your ancestors emigrate from in Italy?

Both my parents came from the same Italian town called Calitri. We lived in Brooklyn, where I attended St. Brendan’s Elementary School in Midwood before I attended Xaverian High School. I then enrolled at Fordham University School of Education, where I majored in French and minored in Italian.
What can you tell us about Calitri?
Calitri, is located in the Provincia di Avellino, region of Campania, on the Ofanto River.
What can you tell us about “Celebrating The Heritage”?

The book is primarily a collection of remembrances about immigrants from Calitri. Besides a few recollections from the immigrants, themselves, most stories were written by their descendants. My job as editor allowed me to include newspaper articles and obituary notices to add context to the broad story of emigration from Calitri.
Your online correspondences with other descendants from Calitri led you to write “Celebrating The Heritage.” Tell us about that.
Originally, I began tracing my family tree from vital statistic records I received from archives in Italy such as certificates for births, deaths and marriages. I corresponded with others tracing their family roots at the Italian Genealogy Forum. I met Marlene Dunham from Washington, who, as it turned out, had the same surname in her family tree as I did mine: The name Fastiggi from Calitri. She had created a newsletter for descendants and family relatives. As more people with families in Calitri reached out to her, she developed a web site titled, Calitrian Connections.
As I continued my research, I discovered that the Calitrani settled in select towns, here, in the United States. For example, in Massachusetts, they settled in Pittsfield or the Belmont section of Boston. In New Jersey, it was Montclair, Paterson, Jersey City, Newark and Bayonne. Many surnames from Calitri were Maffucci, Margotta, Fastiggi, DiCairano, Cestone, Cerreta, Zarrilli, Zabatta…

People began sending in remembrances of their parents and grandparents. I also got to meet other paisani on a WebList started in Arizona by a person there who had collected over 3,000 Italian names.

What other connections did you make outside the internet?

I visited different communities to meet my fellow paisani to hear their stories. I even discovered a weekly newspaper the Calitrani American community had published from 1930 to 1942. The first page contained news from Calitri while inside pages conveyed personal news from Calitrani here in America such as births, deaths, marriages, etc…
People I met had family albums with special Mass announcements in honor of the patroness of Calitri, l’Immacolata Concezione. There were clippings from newspapers and flyers about dance and banquet programs. The Calitrani had formed a community within the Italian immigrant community. It was then I decided to preserve this unique history in written form.
What did you find most interesting and rewarding about writing the book?

I found that one interview with one person inevitably led to other sources.

There was a 98-year-old woman who spoke to me about how her parents got married. Her mother was Catholic but her father’s family had converted to Protestantism in Italy. The story titled, “Between Two Faiths,” was about her parents getting married by the groom’s brother, a Congregationalist minister in Bridgeport, CT. I became curious about the brother-in-law and, after some research, I discovered the first Italian language church in Bridgeport.  
The immigrant story is one of strength, morality and discipline from poverty to prosperity. My hope is that our written words will inspire future generations to live their dreams. The entire project proved to be a spiritual experience for me; as if, at times, I were having conversations with grandpa or grandma.  

Editor’s Note: You can purchase Mario Toglia’s new book, “Celebrating The Heritage,” at, or, if you prefer, you can order by telephone at 1-888-795-4274. His other books, “Preserving Our History” and "They Came By Ship," are also available at Xlibris.



The Latest Webinar by Gruppo Italiano Ponders the Future of Italian Cuisine
“We have to make Italian food part of emerging trends.”

By Truby Chiaviello

Arguably, no group is more active in promoting Italian cuisine than Gruppo Italiano. Based in New York, the non-profit organization has, since 2017, provided seminars, cooking classes and panel discussions to foster a love of Italian food in the United States. Hence, it was a surprise to many that their latest webinar, on October 18, was titled, “The Rise (and Fall?) of the Italian Cuisine.”

The scheduled meeting via zoom link for 3:00 p.m. was available to members of the press to observe the conversation and, at times, lively debate regarding the topic. This session was part of Gruppo Italiano’s occasional series of panel discussions, under the umbrella title, Italian Table Talks. Over the past two years, a number of interesting topics have been discussed in this format ranging from Italian wines to the latest trends in Italian culinary education.

For the occasion of October 18, guest speakers included, from Italy, Commissioner Antonio Laspina, of the Italian Trade Commission to the United States, from the United States, Marc Murphy, TV celebrity chef and restaurateur, Stefano Masanti, founder of the Michelin star restaurant, Il Cantinone and, from Mexico, Roberto Santibanez, a restaurateur and culinary consultant. The webinar was moderated by John Mariani, journalist and author of the book, “How Italian Food Conquered the World.”

As in all Italian Table Talks’ sessions, the president of Gruppo Italiano, managing partner of the restaurant concern, Il Gattopardo Group in Manhattan, Gianfranco Sorrentino was his usual flamboyant and good-natured self. He began the event as host with an infectiously upbeat manner to contrast the sobering results of a recent survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association on the type of cuisine most preferred in the United States. “Italian food has dropped to third place in what Americans want to eat,” Mr. Sorrentino announced. “First is Chinese, second is Mexican.” He shared information from the U.S. Census to convey how the population of Italian Americans, at 16 million, was projected to decline while the number of Asian Americans had climbed to 12.5 million and Hispanics to 60 million. Italian food was a victim of its own success, claimed Mr. Sorrentino. Some restaurants have sought to copy, but not master, the cuisine for quality standards to suffer. The one bright spot for Italian food, said Mr. Sorrentino, was the rise in popularity of mozzarella cheese in, of all places, France. Never mind Comte, Camembert or Roquefort, among the restaurants, cafes and bistros of Paris and Marseilles, mozzarella is today the top cheese sought by patrons.

Because of a time difference with Italy, Commissioner Laspina spoke before the moderator’s introduction. From behind his office desk, the finely dressed expert expressed caution in the reliability of statistics. Surveys and questionnaires may show a glimpse of market trends but not a complete picture of Italian food. He espoused the need “to re-position Italian food in the way of creativity. We have to make Italian food part of emerging trends.” He wants Italian food to “focus on health and wellness. What is good for you. The appeal of Italian food is in the use of organic ingredients and simple, viable recipes.” He rejected any hint of decline for his country’s cuisine. “Italian food is growing in prestige,” he said. “Consider how, today, five star hotels include Italian restaurants more than they do French. That was unheard of 30 years ago.”

Joe Mariani took over moderation duties to offer his assessment. He echoed Mr. Laspina’s reluctance to rely on the latest industry reports or statistics. He considered the source of information. “Remember, the National Restaurant Association is made up of mostly franchises and fast food restaurants, not often conducive to Italian food,” he said. “Many are takeouts, rather than full-scale restaurants.” Mr. Mariani claimed that Italian food is, today, an intrinsic part of the American diet. “Invariably, everyone, especially those who are not Italian, are using Italian ingredients and Italian recipes. Tiramisu, pesto, pizza, pasta, extra virgin olive oil, truffles - all came from Italy and are today found on menus in all kinds of American restaurants.” He claimed the latest Italian innovation to win over American diners is is cacio e pepe, a simple pasta dish of cheese and pepper.

Mark Murphy was asked to share his thoughts on the state of Italian cuisine. A chef who has appeared on the Food Network and other media venues, he was especially optimistic about the future. “Italian food is so much superior to foods from other countries because of the designation origins system to ensure authenticity,” he said. As more people become health conscious, Italian food will continue to remain popular. “Italian food is staying where it belongs…on my plate,” quipped Mr. Murphy.

Stefano Masanti was asked about ways to promote Italian food. He said the regional and provincial diversity of the country is often overlooked. “Chefs are ambassadors,” said Mr. Masanti. “We have to educate diners about the diversity of Italian culture. Food prepared in Lake Como can be dramatically different than what is prepared in Naples. We have to introduce foods from different parts of Italy.”

Roberto Santibenz, a key mover in the hospitality industry of Mexico City, doubted the findings of the National Restaurant Association. “I have spent a good part of my life promoting Mexican food,” he said, “and I can tell you, without a doubt, that Mexican food is not as popular as Italian food.” As more Italian Americans relocate in different parts of the United States, they will bring with them their family cuisine to further spread Italian food.

As the session came to an end, Mr. Mariani gave one final thought about the future of Italian food. When lifestyle is tied to cuisine, Italian food usually benefits. During the high fashion period of the 1980s, he said, it was Italian food that was celebrated among trendsetters.

Editor’s Note: Above photograph, from left to right, clockwise, depicts Antonio Laspina, Stefano Masanti, John Mariani, Gianfranco Sorrentino, Roberto Santibanez and Marc Murphy. For more information on Gruppo Italiano, please log on to their web site at


You Do Not Support Us…
A Meeting with the President is Demanded by Italian American Leaders
- The President Proclaimed Indigenous Peoples Day on Columbus Day
- “By effectively ‘canceling’ Columbus Day, you have shown that you, like so many other Americans, do not truly understand our story…”

By Truby Chiaviello

Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) has formally requested a meeting with President Joe Biden to discuss the ongoing dispute over the legacy of Christopher Columbus in America.

In a three page letter written on October 10, Judge Russo expressed the outrage shared by many over the proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day by President Biden on October 8, Columbus Day.

“In your remarks on Friday, you became the first President to issue a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day, and in doing so you have reaffirmed to the entire Italian American community that you do not support us, nor do you value the contributions and sacrifices of our community to this nation’s history,” wrote Judge Russo.

The outpouring of anger and disappointment was immediate after The White House made public President Biden’s remarks for Columbus Day.

Many in the Italian American community were enthusiastic about the history making election of Joe Biden, as his wife Dr. Jill Biden, maiden name Jill Tracy Jacobs, the grand daughter of an Italian immigrant, was to be the first First Lady of Italian ethnicity.

The dispute over Columbus encompasses in many towns and cities in the United States to renaming the federal holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day, not to mention the tearing down of statues and monuments depicting the great explorer, of whom is credited the discovery of the New World. This was the first Columbus Day of Biden’s term; as such, the president issued a proclamation on the worthiness of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, leaving one to interpret his inclination to cancel or replace Columbus Day.

Judge Russo issued his letter to be delivered to the White House two days after Columbus Day. Copies were delivered to the leaders in the Italian American community, including OSDIA, Commission for Social Justice, Italian Welfare League, Sons of Italy Foundation, Association of Italian American Educators, Italian American Museum, Joint Civic Committee of Italian Educators, the Italian American Legal and Defense Fund, La Festa Italiana, Filitalia International, American Italian Federation of the Southeast and the American Italian Renaissance Foundation.

As of this article, no response has been made by The White House and no meeting has been scheduled with president.

The full text of Judge Russo’s letter follows:

October 10, 2021

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

On behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), we would like to convey the supreme disappointment of our organizations, as well as our own personal disappointment, at the hurtful, disparaging, and insensitive proclamation that you issued on October 8, 2021. In your remarks on Friday, you became the first President to issue a proclamation for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same day as Columbus Day, and in doing so you have reaffirmed to the entire Italian American community that you do not support us, nor do you value the contributions and sacrifices of our community to this nation’s history. These sacrifices and contributions have long been recognized by former Presidents with the celebration of Columbus Day as a federal holiday, and your actions yesterday have marginalized those achievements and alienated our entire community.

By effectively “canceling” Columbus Day, you have shown that you, like so many other Americans, do not truly understand our story, which began with the lynching of eleven Italian immigrants in 1891 by a mob of over five thousand people in New Orleans. Many do not know that this was the largest mass lynching in American history, and that these atrocities toward Italians continued with over forty additional lynchings over the course of thirty years. At the time this took place, the New York Times, the most widely read newspaper of the day, applauded the lynchings, and later President Roosevelt stated that the killing of these immigrants was “a rather good thing”. This hostility toward Italian immigrants created an atmosphere of aggression and antagonism directed at our community that lasted for decades. It was because of these brutal atrocities that President Harrison proclaimed a national Columbus Day the following year to honor and thank Italians and Italian Americans for their contributions to the United States. You, sir, have undone over a century of good will and effectively stated that our contributions hold no meaning for you personally, or for our great country, despite the fact our First Lady is of Italian American heritage.

The Italian American community has long been a proponent of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day to mark the achievements of Native Americans to our nation. However, we believe these achievements should be acknowledged in addition to, not in lieu of, the achievements of Christopher Columbus, and that Indigenous Peoples’ Day should be rightfully honored as its own distinct and separate holiday. The advocates for the removal and diminishing of Columbus Day base their argument on three false narratives that have been incorrectly and unjustly spread by those seeking to besmirch and vilify the great explorer.

The false narrative begins, most strongly, with the issue of slavery. Columbus is wrongly portrayed as the man who introduced slavery to the New World. Nothing could be further from the truth. Columbus never owned a slave, and, in fact, the slave trade had already existed and thrived long before his arrival, with the Native Americans possessing thousands of Indigenous slaves, and continued long after Columbus’s death. It is not widely known that the slave trade from Africa did not begin until one hundred years after the death of Columbus, nor is it acknowledged that many Native American tribes owned African slaves. It is also seldom reported that Columbus is the man who pleaded with Queen Isabella to allow for the baptism of the native people to protect them from becoming slaves, because under the laws of the day a baptized person could not be enslaved.

Secondly, those seeking to cancel Columbus state that he was aggressive and brutal toward the native population. The truth is that Columbus was a great friend to the Taino Indians and had a good and mutually respectful relationship with their chief. Columbus and his men protected the Taino people from the ruthless and vicious attacks they had long endured by the neighboring cannibalistic Carib tribe who sought to massacre and enslave them. Columbus adopted a Taino Indian boy as his own son, and to this day, Columbus’ achievements and contributions are celebrated by the descendants of the Taino people throughout Puerto Rico.

The third narrative, one which has long since been debunked, is that Columbus was responsible for genocide in the new world. This negative portrayal insinuates that Columbus and his men intended to murder and slaughter all of the native population they encountered. When examined rationally, it is clear that this is a preposterous falsehood. The main motivation of Columbus’s journey was not to plunder, but to evangelize the world and bring the Christian faith to all that he encountered. Columbus also sought to develop strategic trade partnerships in these new lands, not to indiscriminately massacre the population. The truth is that it was the inadvertent spread of disease, not the sword, that unfortunately killed vast numbers of the native population. The global COVID pandemic we are facing today is a prime example of how easy it is for a virus to spread over a vast population, and how devastating its effects can be.

Speaking on behalf of over fifty of the largest and most influential Italian American membership organizations, that represent the vast majority of the nearly sixteen million Italian Americans in this country, six percent of the total U.S. population, COPOMIAO strongly condemns your proclamation and acknowledges that you obviously do not wish to establish a meaningful relationship with the Italian American community. Our organization has shown its support for you personally, as well as for the First Lady, who has twice been invited to speak at our National Italian American Summit Meetings and has declined on both occasions. Your abandonment of the Italian American community has been noted by the majority of our members, and your dismissal of Columbus and his achievements signals your blatant disregard for our contributions and our worth as an ethnic minority group.

Every ethnic group in this country has made meaningful contributions to our society and should be recognized for those accomplishments in a productive and mutually respectful way. Just as we have vocally supported the celebration of an Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we demand that the achievements and accomplishments of Italian

Americans continue to be honored and celebrated as they most justly deserve to be. The history of the Italian American community is deeply woven into the very fabric of our nation, and our contributions to the advancement of the national culture is of equal value to every other ethnic group that comprises the United States of America. Columbus Day is the only clearly recognized national acknowledgement of the history and sacrifices of Italian Americans, and by taking that away from us, and promoting another ethnic group in our place, you are alienating our entire community and sowing the seeds of further division rather than being the unifying force that you have declared yourself to be.

It is regretful and disheartening that you believe neither the Italian American community nor the Indigenous Peoples’ community deserve their own separate and distinct holidays. You can begin correcting this situation by issuing an apology for your recent hurtful and disrespectful remarks, as well as issuing a new proclamation designating Indigenous Peoples Day on any day other than Columbus Day. Just as we do not wish to diminish the sacrifices and achievements of Native Americans, we ask for the same respect and acknowledgement for our own sacrifices and achievements. There is no reason for you, or any American, to support the minimization and dismissal of our cultural achievements. In order to strengthen the bond amongst the many ethnic groups that comprise our country, something that is so desperately needed at this time, we should be acknowledging and celebrating all of our respective achievements. By favoring and celebrating one ethnic group at the expense of another, your proclamation is counterproductive, disappointing, and divisive.

Only you can correct and repair the damage you have inflicted upon the relationship between the Executive branch of our government and the Italian American community. We respectfully request a meeting with you to discuss our concerns and make a genuine effort to find a mutually agreeable pathway forward that honors our community and preserves our history.


Basil M. Russo, President
Italian Sons and Daughters of America
Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations

Editor’s Note: The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations have a web site,



Third of a Three Part Article
- Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, Director of The John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute Takes CUNY to Court
- Many Cases Settled in Arbitration; Others Lost in Federal Court
- Current Status Show Signs of Little Progress

By Santi Buscemi

In calls for meetings by the City University of New York (CUNY) to decide moving the John D. Calandra Institute from Manhattan to Staten Island, one key participant was never notified: Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, director of the John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute.

A number of New York state legislators contacted Dr. Scelsa about his absence at university meetings. His reaction was of shock and dismay. He had never been informed by the university that any such meetings were scheduled. This led state senator Nicholas Spano to write to the CUNY trustees about his anger over the way the Calandra Institute and Dr. Sclesa were being treated. To him and others, it was clear that Chancellor Anne Reynolds’ office was intent on removing Dr. Scelsa and destroying the institute. Dr. Scelsa received support from the Italian American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund (IALDHEF). He recruited his friend, Philip Foglia, former assistant district attorney for the Bronx and Queens, who was then in private practice, to file an injunction against the university.

On September 9, 1992, in the federal courthouse on Foley Square, the opposing parties presented their cases before Hon. Constance Baker Motley. After three weeks of testimony, Judge Baker Motley found CUNY guilty of discrimination and issued an injunction against the university. “CUNY is seeking to curtail the independence of the Institute,” she wrote, “and put Dr. Scelsa on a short leash, one where he lacks room to bite his master, CUNY.” She also wrote that, “it is clear that the question of discrimination involved related not only to Dr. Scelsa but to Italian-Americans as a group.” As to the future of the Calandra Institute, Judge Baker Motley ruled that it must stay in Manhattan, which was “central to its function. CUNY has known since the latter half of the 1970’s,” she continued, “that Italian-Americans are underrepresented in both faculty and non-faculty. The only rational way to explain this disparity is discrimination.”

In 1993, with the assistance of Governor Mario Cuomo’s office, the U.S. Department of Labor’s complaint was resolved. Italian American faculty and staff who complained of discrimination at CUNY were allowed to go to arbitration; of the 40 who chose to do so, all were successful. In addition, it was decided that the Calandra Institute would stay in Manhattan, becoming a research institution with state funds budgeted for that purpose. Affirmative Action status was extended to Italian Americans and a distinguished professor of Italian studies was hired at CUNY. Finally, the university agreed to create a panel to regularly monitor and report the progress of Italian Americans at the university. When CUNY had not fulfilled its commitment as outlined above, the IALDHEF filed and won a second suit in the New York Supreme Court in 1999.

Dr. Scelsa took a leave of absence in 1998 as director of the Calandra Institute to begin work on establishing the Italian-American Museum. Three years later, the museum became a reality and a great success. Located on the grounds of the old Banca Stabile building at the intersection of Mulberry and Grand Streets in the heart of New York’s Little Italy, the museum is currently experiencing a major renovation and expansion and will re-open in 2022.

Unfortunately, despite several legal and political victories, it seems little progress has been made in granting Italian Americans the justice they deserve at CUNY. In reports compiled by the John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute, evidence is presented to show that Italian Americans at CUNY have lost ground. For example, at the senior colleges, the percentage of Italian American full-time classified staff dropped from 8.69 percent in 1978 to 8.07 percent in 1993 to 3.31 percent in 2020. This contrasts markedly with gains made by other Affirmative Action groups, which saw a rise from 31.02 percent in 1978 to 55.79 percent in 1993 to 72.35 percent in 2020. Similar statistics were reported for part-time classified staff. It is important to note that the information for these studies came directly from CUNY’s own Office of Compliance and Diversity.

When Affirmative Action for Italian Americans at CUNY was first established, the Italian American student population was 25 percent. It is now 8 percent.

In 2006, Dr. Vincenzo Milione, the administrator assigned to oversee the affirmative action program at the John D. Calandra Institute met with Italian American state legislators to show how an Italian American Affirmative Action program could be implemented in the same way as other Affirmative Action programs for other minorities. Dr. Milione had filed suit against the university to claim he was demoted over a report on Italian American discrimination. His case was dismissed as was his appeal in federal court. In 2007, Maria Fosco, former director of administration and community relations at the Calandra institute, filed suit in federal court to claim she was reassigned to a different position after she informed the public about under-representation of Italian Americans at CUNY. She too lost her case and appeal in federal court. In that same year, Jeanne Coyne filed suit in federal court to claim discrimination after she was passed over for a full-time faculty position at the College of Staten Island. She was an adjunct professor there for many years and assisted Dr. Milione in his efforts.

Although an expert panel to review the status of Italian Americans at CUNY was established in 1992, an analysis for its review was not completed until 2007 and the next five-year review was not conducted until 2014.

In an article titled, “The 80th Street Mafia,” Dr. Joseph V. Sclesa explained his drive to seek justice for Italian Americans at CUNY: “My strong conviction for justice is derived from my heritage and from those Italians who believed in justice for all. Was it not the Italian Cesare Beccaria who, with his short thesis ‘On Crimes and Punishment’ in 1764, humanized the courts of Europe in their administration of the law and who is credited with having ended torture and laid down the philosophy and framework for the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution, which guarantees ‘equal protection’ under law for all citizens?’”

Author’s Note:
In 1974, I was appointed Chairman of the Department of English at Middlesex College in Edison, New Jersey, a post I held for twenty-seven years. My responsibilities included hiring and supervising faculty as well as making recommendations for promotion and tenure. When I called my father to tell him the good news and to explain the nature of my job, he broke into tears. Then he said: Non ti scordare gl’italiani (Do not forget them). I have not and will not ever forget them, nor will I ever tire of honoring their parents and grandparents, who came to this country, as mine did, to make a better life for their children.

Santi Buscemi is Professor Emeritus at Middlesex College in Edison, NJ. He is a translator of Italian and Sicilian literature, primarily the works of Luigi Capuana.



Days of Halloween
The Abruzzi Castle is a Pilgrimage Site for Fans of Bad Italian Horror Films
- The setting was supposed to be an eerie Scottish manor. Yet, when the castle appeared, audiences shouted “Balsorano!”

By Reem Nourallah

You don’t have to travel to Italy to see ghosts at Castle Balsorano.

Instead, you can view the many poltergeists of the Italian fortress on television; or perhaps on YouTube or by way of video streaming.

Castle Balsorano was constructed in the 15th century as a gift from the king of France to the Piccolomini warrior clan who fought for him. Originally from Siena, the Piccolomini, all but dominated for centuries the L’Aquila province of Abruzzo. Their noble status ended in the 19th century while their castle lived on to be named after the nearby village.

Castle Balsorano was the reliable setting for many Italian horror and exploitation films of the 1960s and 1970s. If a film was supposed to be set inside a dark and foreboding Hungarian castle, then it was Castle Balsorano, in Italy, to host actors and film crews. If Frankenstein was to be reanimated, Castle Balsorano got the call. If a psychotic recluse sought to torture uninhibited youth, first stop was Balsorano.

By some counts, twenty-two films were shot in and around Castle Balsorano. Do we recommend you watch them? Remember, this is Italy. If you think films with titles such as “The Devil’s Wedding Night,” “Bloody Pit of Horror” and “Seven Golden Women Against Two” are of the same quality churned out by Hollywood, think again. Italian filmmakers loved Gothic, but on the cheap. It was more sex than fright that producers sought to give audiences.
Castle Balsorano was the setting for some of Italy’s worst films.

“Terror in the Crypt” comes to mind. The film was made in 1964 on a shoestring budget. What attracted producers was not only the Gothic environs; but that Castle Balsorano was large enough for cast and crew to sleep there and they could save money on hotel accommodations.

Balsorano was no secret to Italians. “The Seventh Grave” was shown in theaters in 1965. The setting was supposed to be an eerie Scottish manor. Yet, when the castle appeared, audiences shouted “Balsorano!” The film was one of the worst from Italy. The director, Garibaldi Serra Caracciolo, had no experience. He did not follow the 180 degree rule of filmmaking. Scenes were jumbled together after the script girl made several errors and the film was released without scene continuity.

Rumor had it that Balsorano hosted wild parties and orgies. Truth be known, time inside the castle was anything but glamorous or tantalizing. The fortification lacked central heating or air conditioning. If a film was made in winter, then cast and crew worked in frigid conditions. The opposite was in summertime when large bricks soaked up the Italian sun to turn the castle into an oven. Filming was done quickly. Scripts were unfinished. The writers had to conceive plots and characters while the cameras rolled. A week was all it took to get a film made in Balsorano.

Strange, that considering its long line of horror and exploitation films made there, no owner has taken advantage of Balsorano’s celluloid notoriety. The castle has been up for sale for some years but no one wants to buy her. Horror fans go out of their way to see the famous locale. Yet, they are greeted by a locked entrance to an obscure park. The castle is now closed to visitors.

The joy of Italian horror was its Gothic celebration. The cobwebs, the shadows, the somber stonework. No matter how bad was the film, Castle Balsorano never let down fans. She was then, and now, a haunting yet beautiful hidden treasure of Italy’s medieval past and filmmaking infamy.

Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Italian horror films throughout the decades in PRIMO’s “Italian Horror Cinema: The Most Influential Horror Films from Italy” at




Covid Chronicles

By Deirdre Pirro

It’s now official. By ministerial decrees, the Draghi government has passed new measures to reintroduce, what they hope will remain, normality into the workplace.

As of October 15, 2021, those employed in public administration will no longer work remotely but must return to their offices with anti-Covid 19 precautions underway. In fact, as of the same date, all of Italy's workers, both private and public sectors, will be required to have the Green Pass vaccine passport to enter their places of employment. If they do not have such a pass, they no longer face suspension without pay from day one as the original decree stated. Instead, they may be fined as much as 1,500 euros if they fail to comply with the obligation. They cannot, however, be fired for not having the Green Pass. This is the first such mandatory regulation regarding workers to be passed by any European country. It will remain in force until the end of the year. For many, this has been an un-welcomed and controversial decision to lead to angry demonstrations, especially by “non-vaxers,” in several cities.

Further extensions to the obligatory use of the Green Pass are also likely; for example, for those who want to attend a Roman Catholic Mass. Apparently, the government and Vatican authorities are in talks about this. The requirement might be extended to all denominations. Beginning on October 1st, it will already be necessary to have a Green Pass if you want to visit the Vatican City.

Since September 20th, over a thousand people have already been given a third dose of vaccine. They all belong to categories which the Italian Ministry of Heath describes as immuno-suppressed such as transplantees, oncology patients and those with chronic kidney ailments. Although 41 million people have already been vaccinated in Italy, another million have not yet received even their first vaccine shot. The government hopes that the new regulations in place from mid-October will help remedy this situation.

Pediatricians have also expressed concern that there is an increasing number of cases of Covid among children from birth to one year of age. They say, although the situation is not yet serious, it deserves close monitoring.

U.S. Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, nominated Prime Minister Mario Draghi for TIME's 100 Most Influential People of 2021. Draghi is the only Italian on this year's list. Yellen served as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve while Draghi served as president of the European Central Bank. She said, "Mario is guiding his nation through the pandemic with a deft hand, championing a swift vaccination campaign and relief measures to help Italian businesses and workers. Backed by a large allotment of E.U. funds, he has set in motion many necessary - and politically difficult - policies and investments to green the Italian economy, reduce inequity and advance digitalization. And with Italy leading this year’s G-20, Mario is bringing together the world’s major economies to end the pandemic, promote an inclusive global recovery and tackle pressing global issues like climate change."

Here in Florence, the restoration of Michelangelo's Pietà dell’Opera del Duomo known as the Bandini Pietà was completed. The long and painstaking restoration which began in November 2019 was financed by the US-based non-profit organization the Friends of Florence association. The statue’s four figures, including the elderly Nicodemus who is believed to present the likeness of Michelangelo’s own face, were carved from a single marble block over two metres (6-1/2 feet) high and 2,700 kilograms (5,952 pounds). The restoration involved removing the build-up of dust on the statue to reveal its original color and fine details. A raised platform, in place for public viewing of the restoration, will remain in place until March 30, 2022, to show the restored Pietà up close. It will be a unique opportunity to see one of Michelangelo's most poignant works.

I am now home in Florence but the estate matters regarding my late husband in Nice are still up in the air whilst the French bureaucracy grinds through all the paperwork, taxation calculations and only the heavens know whatever else. They say patience is a virtue but, by now after five months of struggling with this, mine has worn very thin.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. Pictured: Michelangelo's Bandini Pietà.


The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations Submitted Letters to Each Member of Congress Calling for Their Continued Support of Columbus Day as a Federal Holiday
- Letters Mailed to All Democrats, Republicans and Members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus on September 27

By Truby Chiaviello

In an effort to preserve Columbus Day as a federal holiday, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) submitted three sets of letters to members of Congress. The body text was different for Democrats, Republicans and members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus. The letters were mailed on September 27th seeking continued support for Columbus Day as a federal holiday. What follows are text copies of each sets of letters sent to Democrats, Republicans and members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus.

(To Democrat Members of Congress)

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is seeking your support to preserve Columbus Day’s deserved status as a federal holiday, as it has been since 1971. Columbus Day has enjoyed the support of the Democrat Party dating back to the holiday’s establishment, and even prior to it. Top Democrats, such as President Biden, former President Obama, and Speaker Pelosi are vocal in their support of Columbus Day and its deep seated meaning to Americans across the country. This is especially so with Italian Americans. Below are but a few examples of this staunch Democratic support:

“Taking down, toppling the Christopher Columbus statue or the George Washington statue, I think that is something that the government has an opportunity and a responsibility to protect from happening.” – President Biden

“Today, we also honor the ties between the United States and Italy: America is a land discovered by an Italian, named for an Italian, and built by millions of Italian Americans.” – Speaker Pelosi

“The spirit of exploration that Columbus embodied was sustained by all who would follow him westward, driving a desire to continue expanding our understanding of the world.” – President Obama

Like many other ethnic groups celebrated in America, Italian Americans take pride in their storied past in building our great country up ever higher. Upon arrival in America, a vast majority of Italian immigrants were deeply impoverished, could not speak English, and were persecuted regardless of geographical location. However, even as Italian Americans were being lynched in the streets of New Orleans in 1891, the Italian American community was hard at work helping to build our greatest cities and making invaluable contributions to American culture. Through generations of strife, blood, sweat, and tears, the Italian American Community advanced itself to be in the position that it is today.

At the heart of remembering the struggles and achievements of the Italian American Community is Columbus Day. It is a day which unites all Italian Americans, despite any differences in location, political ideology or generation. Columbus Day is inextricably linked to the pride and history of Italian Americans. COPOMIAO, along with numerous Democrat officials, wishes to protect the federal holiday that is Columbus Day, and thus honor the sacrifices and achievements of the Italian American Community, as well as the discovery of the “New World” where our country was founded.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. COPOMIAO absolutely believes Indigenous Peoples should have a day of celebration, but it should not be at the expense of the Italian American Community. America is an inclusive country, and we should not partake in cultural addition by cultural subtraction. There are hundreds of days Congress could declare as Indigenous Peoples’ Day that do not fall on Columbus Day. There simply is no need, nor any reason, for replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. There is plenty of room in America for both communities, and both certainly should be celebrated.

COPOMIAO and your fellow Democrats ask that you support Columbus Day, and that you do not seek to remove or replace it as a federal holiday. Thank you for your time and consideration on this important issue.

(To Republican Members of Congress)

On behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), we would like to thank you for your support in maintaining Columbus Day as a national holiday and the preservation of Columbus statues across the country. Although COPOMIAO was formed by major Italian American organizations, we believe the preservation of the Columbus legacy is not solely of importance to Italian Americans, but to all Americans. Defending the legacy of Columbus is analogous to defending our great country’s heritage and the true version of history that must be preserved for future generations. Regretfully, there are those today who seek to rewrite or cancel history, and besmirch the reputation of our country’s founders, for their own personal or political motives.

As President Trump stated in 2020,“Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’ legacy. These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions. We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.”

In August 2020, the Republican National Committee passed the Resolution to Conserve History and Combat Prejudice - Christopher Columbus in Charlotte, North Carolina. We ask that you reaffirm your support for this resolution and stand with us in defending our heritage, our history, and our monuments.

In the early 20th century, Italians, and other oppressed immigrant groups, undertook the perilous journey to America to seek a better life for their families. The hardships they endured mirrored the difficulties Columbus and his crew faced on their arduous expedition. It was Columbus who served as their champion and gave them hope. For Americans of Italian descent, Columbus Day serves as an opportunity to celebrate our ancestors and the struggles they overcame to assimilate into American society. It is unjust to take away the symbol of their very identity and the contributions they made to our nation.

Since 1937, Columbus Day has been a federally recognized holiday that celebrates a world-changing vision. Although it is generally understood that Christopher Columbus was not the first person to step foot on American soil, it is indisputable that his voyage directly shaped the formation of our country. It was Columbus who delivered a new land of opportunity to the oppressed masses of Europe. His arrival marks the time in history when Europeans began to make world-changing global contributions, such as those in art, law, government, and economics that have become the basic foundations of this great nation. At a time when we, as a country, find ourselves so divided, it is the celebration of these great achievements that can unite us through one shared vision of a hopeful future.

Instead of relegating these incredible accomplishments to forgotten history, join us in celebrating and preserving them. We call on all members of Congress to publicly pledge to keep Columbus Day a national holiday. We wish that you would open this issue for bipartisan discussion as it pertains not only to Italian Americans, but also to Native Americans. We are in full support of recognizing Indigenous People’s Day, but not as a replacement for Columbus Day. With only 12 observed federal holidays, there are 353 other possible days to recognize the contributions and achievements of Native Americans.

We wish to state again that while we fully support the observance of Indigenous People’s Day, it is unjust to take away Italian Americans’ day of celebrating their heritage and significant contributions to America. We believe in diversity and tolerance by addition, not by subtraction. We hope that you will exhibit the same courage and resolve that Columbus did when he set out on his journey in 1492, and urge you to recognize the contributions of Native Americans on any day other than Columbus Day. Thank you for your continued support.

(To Members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus)

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO) is seeking your continued support to preserve Columbus Day’s deserved status as a federal holiday, as it has been since 1971. As a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus, you know the importance of Columbus Day to the Italian American Community. Columbus Day is a powerful recognition of the achievements and contributions Italian Americans have made since the founding of our great country, and indeed prior to its founding when Christopher Columbus connected the eastern hemisphere with the western.

In recent years, many groups have misguidedly sought to disparage the legacy of Columbus and Columbus Day by pushing false history. These groups have called Christopher Columbus such things as a “murderer”, a “slaver”, a “genocidal maniac”, and numerous other insidious titles. Not one of these claims are true. Not only do the primary sources blatantly dispute these malicious attacks on Columbus, but so do a myriad of renowned historical scholars. Below are but a few.

“When he encountered the natives, he wanted them to be saved as well, and he kept asking [Queen] Isabella to send more priests to teach and baptize the natives so they, too, would be saved.” - Carol Delaney, Ph.D., professor emerita at Stanford University

“These kinds of judgements, which I believe, again, are wild over-generalizations, are being made with great passion and almost total ignorance of the history of the early explorations.” - Robert Royal, Ph.D., former professor at Brown University

We must protect Columbus Day and all that it represents to not just the Italian American Community, but to the whole of America. Columbus’s connecting of east and west set the course for the founding of America. His explorations undoubtedly paved the way for innumerable societal advancements and progressions that made our entire world a better place. The “canceling” of Columbus Day, indeed, would be the cancelation of both American history as well as world history.

As a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus, it is your obligation to support and defend the interests of the Italian American Community. Columbus Day, in large part, represents the Italian American Community’s monumental contribution to the building of our nation, and is near and dear to the heart of the Italian American Community. Regardless of geographical location, party affiliation, or generational differences, Italian Americans are united in preserving Columbus Day.

For a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus to not defend Columbus Day would be nothing short of an outright betrayal of the Italian American Community.

Seeing as you are a member of the Italian American Congressional Caucus, we expect you to support our efforts in preserving Columbus Day, as well as the heritage and legacy of Italian Americans. We are requesting from you a written pledge of support in defending Columbus Day as a federal holiday. Furthermore, if we can be of any assistance in your important work to preserve Columbus Day as a federal holiday, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the defense of Columbus by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to their web site at



- Columbus Was, Indeed, A Hero
- We celebrate our heroes for their triumphs and victories over challenges which would defeat most others.

By James Brown

We do not celebrate Independence Day because the United States was conceived with slavery still intact. We do not celebrate Presidents’ Day because President Nixon commissioned criminal acts, or because President Jackson expelled Native Americans from their land in Georgia. We do not celebrate our heroes because of their many human flaws and failures. No, the reality is quite the opposite. We celebrate our heroes for their triumphs and victories over challenges which would defeat most others.

For some reason, many choose to believe that Columbus Day was set forth to be an admiration of genocide and slavery. Not only is this treatment of Columbus entirely unfair and backwards as compared to the treatment of Columbus’s fellow historical giants, but the flaws being attributed to him simply are not true.

Christopher Columbus, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, like General Grant and General MacArthur, was not perfect. Just as every other hero in the history of the world, Columbus had his flaws. However, his flaws are not those being pushed by historical revisionists and activists seeking to bend primary evidence and documentation to push a politically popular narrative. The truth is Columbus did not commit genocide, and he did not enslave Native Americans. Columbus Day itself was not originally meant to be a celebration of Christopher Columbus so much as it was to be a celebration of the shared immigrant experience in the United States.

Though it is not popular to say, Columbus was indeed a hero. He had a grand, ambitious idea that was shot down numerous times by nearly every European monarch, yet, he persisted until his dream became reality upon the acceptance of the Spanish government. Christopher Columbus united two previously unconnected hemispheres, and thus began the process of globalization. He helped the Taino people stop their rival tribe, the Caribs, from further enslaving and eating their fellow tribesmen. As opposed to oppressing the natives into forced labor and slavery, Columbus requested many priests be sent to the newly discovered land so the natives might be saved and baptized, therefore making it impossible for them to become slaves under Spanish law.

The importance of these historical facts cannot be overstated, especially considering how they are presently being distorted to justify the replacement of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is not highly disputed that there ought to be an Indigenous Peoples’ Day. America is among the most inclusive countries in the world, if not the most inclusive. There is more than enough room for everyone’s culture to be celebrated, which is why it is so perplexing that there needs to be an argument for which holiday should be celebrated on the second Monday of October.

Columbus Day has become a large facet of the Italian American identity, and it is celebrated universally across the Italian American community. To replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be nothing short of placing one culture upon a pedestal while casting another aside. It is important to remember that cultural addition does not require cultural subtraction.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day can, and should, be a holiday, but there is no need to do away with Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day to become reality. There are hundreds of other days from which to designate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It is a false choice to say there can only be one or the other, and insinuating such only serves to widen societal fissures in an already divided country.

Editor’s Note: The author is the executive director of the National Columbus Education Foundation. To learn more, please log on to



Second of a Three Part Article
- Italian American Employment at CUNY Dwindles in the Wake of Affirmative Action Status
- The Founding of The John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute
- The Founding of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund
- Retaliation by CUNY Begins Against Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa and the Calandra Institute

By Santi Buscemi

For many talented and well-qualified Italian American professors, CUNY Chancellor Robert Kibbee’s decision to extend to them Affirmative Action status in 1976 came too late.

New York City’s budgetary problems prompted CUNY to retrench many of its faculty; a move to severely impact Italian Americans and to make their underrepresentation even worse. At the Borough of Manhattan Community College, for example, 36 percent of the Italian American faculty were retrenched. Italian American representation for the entire university system fell from 4.3 percent to 2.6 percent.

In December, 1977 and January, 1978, Senator John D. Calandra, head of the Italian American caucus in the New York State Senate, held a hearing at CUNY. He published a report titled, “A History of Italian-American Discrimination at CUNY.” He found no progress regarding the status of Italian Americans at CUNY. He recommended, among other measures, the establishment of an Italian American institute to guide the university on Italian American affairs, cultural and international services.

What came to be known as “The Calandra Report” had as one of its stated objectives, “to provide counselors sensitive to the needs of Italian students in each borough….” Funds for the institute’s creation were included in the New York State budget of 1979 and 1980, Eighteen new counselor positions were devised to provide services to the Italian American community. It was not until 1984 when the institute was incorporated into CUNY. A year after Senator Calandra passed away in 1986, the institute was renamed, in his honor, as the John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute.

Two studies issued by the institute in 1982 concluded that guidance services for Italian American students “were meager.” They also “found that CUNY special programs such as SEEK and College Discovery [aimed at helping students who are new to the college experience and need financial assistance] gave little attention to Italian American undergraduate students.” They found that the number of assistantships and scholarships for Italian American graduate students, “was disproportionately low…” The studies recommended a specialized counseling program for Italian Americans as originally supported, in a separate study, by Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa. They complained that “counselors were hired as Higher Education Officers rather than as counseling faculty with academic rank and the possibility of tenure.”

In 1986, on the tenth anniversary of the Kibbee directive, Chancellor Joseph S. Murphy reaffirmed CUNY’s Affirmative Action status for Italian Americans. A year later, Professor Richard Gambino, a Calandra Institute Faculty Fellow, completed a report titled, “Italian-American Studies and Italian-Americans at the City University of New York: Report and Recommendations.” He declared that, despite Affirmative Action status for Italian Americans at CUNY, their representation in the faculty and administration had not improved. In 1978, Italian Americans were five percent of the faculty; by 1985, that figure had not changed.

A committee of Italian American leaders met with Chancellor Murphy in 1988 to discuss the status of Italian Americans at CUNY. In attendance were William Fugazy, president of the Coalition of Italian-American Organizations, City Council Majority Leader Peter Vallone, State Senator Guy Vallella, Assemblyman Eric Vialicino and Dr. Scelsa, Director of the Calandra Institute. They discussed the creation of an Italian Studies program to include the appointment of a distinguished professor. They then brought up the findings by Professor Gambino to show no increase of Italian Americans were among CUNY faculty and administration after Affirmative Action status. In fact, the number of Italian Americans employed at the university had decreased. Their dismay extended to how CUNY could only count one Italian American president among its 23 colleges over its 140 year history. Because of a lack of progress and the unlikelihood of a political solution, the group formed the Italian American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund (IALDHEF) on July 22, 1988.

During later meetings between legislators and Chancellor Murphy’s representatives, CUNY agreed to find space for the institute, to appoint a distinguished professor of Italian American studies and to join with legislators to form the Advisory Committee on Urban Public Higher Education. They offered advice on the needs of Italian American students and faculty. At the committee’s first meeting, Judge Vincent Massaro, the group’s chairman, requested CUNY’s Affirmative Action plans for all of its 21 colleges as filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. By September 1991, only nine of the 21 reports were submitted, none of which addressed the concerns of Italian Americans. Chairman Massaro asked Dr. Scelsa to serve on the committee, and at its next meeting, the group created three sub-committees: 1) Affirmative Action, 2) Italian-American Studies, and 3) the Calandra Italian-American Institute. Dr. Vincenzo Milione was appointed assistant director of research at Calandra to serve as a resource for the Affirmative Action sub-committee. His group made the following recommendations:

• During the summer of 1991, the Chancellor’s office “conduct a utilization analysis to determine the level of participation of Italian-Americans in all CUNY faculty and staff positions, at every level and in all categories”;

• CUNY establish a “Ph.D. in Italian, which incorporates an Italian-American literature component”; and

• The status of the Calandra Institute be elevated so as to reflect its “academic as well as its administrative…scope and function,” as well as the fact that “it provides services to the entire university community.”

The committee’s report stated that the “purpose of the Institute is to promote higher education among Italian-Americans, a major ethnic group in the United States and the single largest European ancestral group in New York State, in New York City and at CUNY.” They recommended the director of the institute be appointed to the faculty of CUNY, “with the appropriate administrative title of Full University Dean.”

Referencing these recommendations, the IALDHEF presented its case to the vice-chancellor, but this individual never responded. The group then filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, charging CUNY with discrimination against Italian Americans. Since there was no response from the university, the Department of Labor issued 22 class action complaints, one for each of CUNY’s campuses.

What was to come next was a time of retaliation by CUNY. In 1992, the university targeted Dr. Scelsa for removal at the Calandra Institute to relocated the institute from Manhattan to Staten Island to diminish its importance.

Editor’s Note: The next article will focus on how Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa and his supporters took CUNY to court. The author currently serves as vice-president of the Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund. Pictured is the late state Senator John D. Calandra who spearheaded greater representation of Italian Americans at CUNY. Several of the 21 colleges of CUNY are pictured, including John Jay, specializing in criminal justice in Manhattan, Brooklyn College off Flatbush Avenue and CUNY School of Medicine in Harlem.





Ad Was Placed by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations to Run on September 27
- The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal Both Ran The Columbus Ad; but Not The New York Times
- The New York Times Ad Acceptability Team Refused The Ad Based on Columbus’ Alleged Mistreatment of Native Americans; The Times Even Denied a Connection Between Columbus Day and the Lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans in 1891
- History of Bias Against Italian Americans in The New York Times, Says Judge Basil M. Russo

By Truby Chiaviello


Judge Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has denounced the decision by The New York Times to suppress his organization’s advertisement defending the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

The ad was scheduled to run in The New York Times on September 27, in tandem with the same ad in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Both the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post accepted the ad for publication but not The New York Times.

According to Judge Russo, The New York Times Ad Acceptability Team opted to censor his organization over allegations Columbus had mistreated Native Americans. The newspaper also refuted the historical motivation behind the establishment of Columbus Day as a response to the lynching of 11 Italian Americans in New Orleans in 1891.

“Many Italian Americans believe that The New York Times has a lengthy history of insensitivity toward our community,” said Judge Russo. “This began with an editorial applauding the 1891 lynching of 11 Italian immigrants and continues to this day with the Times’ unwillingness to allow our community the opportunity to defend our history and heritage.”

The reference by Judge Russo is the March 15, 1891 edition of The New York Times with its front page headline: “Chief Hennessy Avenged; Eleven of His Italian Assassins Lynched by a Mob. An Uprising of Indignant Citizens in New Orleans - The Prison Doors Forced and The Italian Murderers Shot Down.”

The headline alludes to the murder of New Orleans’ police chief, David Hennessy, on October 15, 1890. A year later, nine suspects, all of whom were Italians, were brought to trial with six found not guilty and the other three dismissed for purposes of mistrial. Vigilante squads then formed in New Orleans to roam the city streets in a show of anti-Italian bigotry. They killed some of the Italians who were acquitted in the murder of Chief Hennessy, but, also, several other Italians who were neither accused nor suspected of wrongdoing.

The New York Times has yet to apologize for the headline in reference to the murdered Italian immigrants, unlike New Orleans Mayor, LaToya Cantrell, who in April, 2019, announced a proclamation of apology saying, “What happened to those 11 Italians, it was wrong, and the city owes them and their descendants a formal apology.”

As Judge Russo explains, the purpose of his group’s September 27th advertisement was to dispel claims against Columbus by those who seek to tear down statues of the explorer and eliminate his holiday.

Key accusations made against Columbus were refuted in the ad.

One sub-headline declared that statues of Columbus are not rooted in racism, but, rather, rooted against racism. “Few know that 11 Italians were lynched in New Orleans in 1891 while thousands cheered…To fight oppression, Italian Americans promoted Columbus Day. Claims that the holiday and statues symbolize racism are patently false.”

The ad offers facts about Columbus to oppose assertions he was a slave owner and a culprit of genocide. “Columbus never owned slaves,” declares the ad, “…he never ordered the mass killing of Indigenous Peoples.”

In large part, the ad is a call for unity to move forward in the country. “Let’s chart a new course together,” proclaims a sub-headline. “Celebrate All Americans! Let’s rebuild Columbus’s legacy…honor all those…from Indigenous Peoples to the newest arrivals…”

Judge Russo and members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations are on record to ask that all Americans of all races and ethnicities “examine the current discussions surrounding Christopher Columbus, especially misinformation that has been promoted in recent years due to such works as Howard Zinn’s ‘A People’s History of the United States.’”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the defense of Columbus by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to their web site at



First of a Three Part Article
Affirmative Action Granted to Italian Americans at CUNY After Years of Struggle for Equal Status

By Santi Buscemi, Vice-President, Italian-American Legal Defense and Higher Education Fund

The history of Italian-American faculty and administration at the City University of New York (CUNY) spans more than a half century of struggle to obtain equitable treatment regarding hiring, tenure, and promotion. Despite several important legal decisions, including the granting of affirmative action status to Italian Americans at the university, as well as victories in landmark civil rights court cases, little progress has been made in increasing representation of this group in CUNY’s professional ranks. In short, the university continues to discriminate against Italian Americans.

By the 1960s, the children and grandchildren of Italians, who had immigrated to the New York area during the massive wave of immigration between the 1880s and the 1920s, had started entering the professions, including college teaching in considerable numbers. The overwhelming majority of these new professionals were the descendants of “contadini,” landless peasants of the south of Italy, who had worked on the estates of the “latifundi,” or propertied class, who maintained a stranglehold on the economy of the “Mezzogiorno.” Well after the Risorgimento and deep into the 20th century, little had changed despite the incorporation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into a united Italy under the House of Savoy, a process begun in 1860 with Garibaldi and his Thousand and completed with the annexation of Rome in 1870.

The New York metropolitan area was home to the largest Italian American community in the United States. As members of this group obtained greater and greater education, it was only natural that many of those interested in college teaching sought employment at CUNY, one of the fastest growing centers for higher learning in the nation. During the 1950s and 1960s, the vast majority of these scholars entered the profession as instructors and assistant professors. At first, there was no formal bond among these young professors, and they met together only socially, if at all. When it became clear, however, that the university was denying promotion and tenure to Italian Americans, they formed the Association of Italian-American Faculty at the City University of New York (later referenced as the “Italian-American Faculty Association”), to combat discrimination at the university. Led by Dr. Richard Bossone, its goal was to gain Affirmative Action status for Italian Americans at CUNY.

In 1971, they met with representatives of the school chancellor but, failing to receive any significant response, they filed a Writ of Mandamus designed to force CUNY to obtain statistical information on the recruitment, hiring and promotion of Italian Americans at the university. According to Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, “information provided over the next 12 months overwhelmingly confirmed earlier suspicions of discrimination.”

That same year, Dr. Joseph Valletutti, executive director of Americans of Italian Descent, Inc, writing in an article published in The Challenge, formally charged CUNY with de facto discrimination against Italians. Dr. Valletutti reported that, as of 1970, only two of the 21 members of the Board of Higher Education were Italian Americans, a serious underrepresentation, since one in five New Yorkers were of Italian descent. The article indicated there were no Italian Americans on the chancellor’s staff; none of CUNY’s many deans were Italian American; less than six percent of the university’s faculty were members of this group.

One of the most egregious cases of discrimination involved Dr. Joseph Lombardo of Queens College, whose appeal for redress spanned six years (1965-1971). After the New York State Human Rights Division ruled in his favor, the university agreed to grant him his well-earned full professorship, retroactively to 1965, with a cash settlement. Dr. Lombardo’s struggle is important, for the stalling tactics CUNY used against him characterize the actions it would use against other Italian Americans who attempted to assert their rights.

In the fall of 1972, Dr. Richard Bossone led the Italian-American Faculty Association in an effort to support the promotion of several Italian American professors and to add an Italian American to the Board of Trustees, recommending a candidate from Staten Island to fill a vacancy. Unfortunately, this request was ignored by Mayor Lindsay, who chose a non Italian American.

In the fall of 1973, the New York State Assembly held a hearing chaired by Assemblymen Antonio Olivieri and Anthony De Falco, that found CUNY deficient in allocating resources for Italian American students while student groups representing other ethnicities were funded as a matter of course. Indeed, Italian Americans were even excluded from the SEEK program, which provides financial and academic support for talented students.

In 1974 and 1976, the Italian-American Faculty Association compiled two key reports that, according to Dr. Frank Elmi, indicated significant “underrepresentation of Italian-American faculty and administration as well as neglect of Italian-American students.” The reports also showed that, “…despite the fact that Italian Americans constitute 25 percent of the population of New York City and despite the progressively increasing number of Italian Americans earning doctoral degrees, the representation of Italian Americans at the City University of New York was at a low 5 percent…”

The problem of equal treatment of Italian American students also surfaced in these reports. The first of these identified a clear and urgent need for improved counseling: “…Italian-American students constitute a large if not the largest proportion of failures in CUNY despite the fact that their parents are paying through their tax dollars for the support of [academic, extracurricular, and counseling] programs.” A 1975 CUNY study, by Profs. Fucillo and Krase, pointed to the same problem as it relates to Brooklyn College. It provided empirical information as “to the alienation and neglect of Italian-American students at Brooklyn College,” and it “proposed special outreach programs, as well as extra-curricular and curricular programs, to alleviate the alienation of Italian-American students…”

Italian American students at CUNY had already begun to complain about insufficient counseling and inequitable distribution of student fees, and they appealed to state officials for redress. As a result of both faculty and student pressure, Chancellor Robert J. Kibbee addressed these issues in a statement to all CUNY presidents. Kibbee indicated that the number of Italian Americans entering the university was increasing from all sections of the city, and he asked the presidents to consider ways in serve this population better: “…it behooves all of us—faculty, administrators, and staff—to recognize, understand, and respect the traditions, customs, and beliefs of this large and important component of our academic community.”

“Italian Americans: The Neglected Minority in the City University,” released in May 1976, called for affirmative action status to be extended to Italian Americans. In December of that year, Chancellor Kibbee wrote to the CUNY Council of Presidents, creating that status: “It is my belief that the present situation requires the University to take positive action to assure that qualified persons of Italian American ancestry are identified so that they can be considered fairly along with other candidates for positions that might become available at the University. I am equally concerned that the processes of the University are such that Italian-Americans receive fair consideration in the processes that lead to promotion and tenure within the University. To this end, I am designating Italian-Americans as an Affirmative Action category for this University…. I also have instructed the Affirmative Action office to include Italian-Americans in the data collected for Affirmative Action purposes.”

Editor’s Note: The next article will focus on the lack of enforcement for Affirmative Action programs for Italian Americans at CUNY. Next to the university logo is Robert Kibbee, chancellor of the university that bestowed affirmative status to Italians.


In Pittsburgh…
- In Response to a Mediation Request by Judge Jack McVay
“…such a resolution will show proper respect to the heritages of both the Italian American community and the Native American community…”

Two cities in Pennsylvania represent the front lines of the ongoing culture war in America with assaults by elected officials against the legacy of Columbus. In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney has spent considerable time and effort trying to tear down the statue of Columbus at Marconi Plaza. He officially reproached the celebration of the Columbus Day federal holiday in an executive order he made earlier this year. Attorney George Bochetto and Jude Basil M. Russo have filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, Philadelphia Councilmember Mark F. Squilla and The 1492 Society to reverse Mayor Kenney’s executive order, which changed the Oct. 11 Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day.

At the other end of Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh, home to a proud legacy of Italian Americans whose ancestors went there to find the American Dream for work in the city’s factories and nearby coal mines. Here, Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted to remove a towering Columbus monument in that city’s Schenley Park.

As has happened in Philadelphia, the resources of the Italian American community have come to forge a formidable defense of Columbus and our Italian American heritage in Pittsburgh.

Attorney George Bochetto and Judge Basil M. Russo, on behalf of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, are suing the city of Pittsburgh over the pending removal of the Columbus Monument there. As it stands now, each side has entered into a mediation process in an attempt to reach a settlement. The judge in the case, Judge Jack McVay, said, “It is my belief that through conciliation, Pittsburgh will lead the nation on this issue of statue removal vis a vis history and evolving community historical understanding.”

In the Italian Sons and Daughters of America v. City of Pittsburgh, et al. the Italian American plaintiff’s have made a proposed resolution.

According to Mr. Bochetto, “To date the defendant’s proposed course of action is to simply remove the statue of Christopher Columbus from Schenley Park to appease some historical revisionists. This is an unimaginative and confrontational resolution that has no educational component. It places the City of Pittsburgh at the end of a long line of other municipalities that have already succumbed to this approach as a way to avoid the threat of potential violence in their communities.”

Judge Russo and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America have chosen “to advocate a resolution that promotes mutual respect among the parties, as opposed to pitting one group’s interests against another group’s interests, as well as educating the public as to the true historical facts relating to the controversy surrounding Christopher Columbus.”

The Plaintiffs submitted the following proposal as a resolution to the pending lawsuit:

“The statue of Christopher Columbus shall remain in Schenley Park to continue to honor the sacrifices and contributions the Italian immigrant community, and all immigrants, have made to the City of Pittsburgh.”

“The Plaintiff, at its expense, will construct a viewing area adjacent to the statue where an educational documentary, Christopher Columbus: “Courage and Conviction,” will be available for public viewing. The Native American community will place a statue of a hero of its selection on the adjacent grounds of the park. The Plaintiff will assist the Native American community in its fundraising efforts to construct the statue.”

“The Native American community shall be invited to use the facility that the Plaintiff constructs to exhibit an educational documentary of the individual it so selects to honor.”

Mr. Bochetto and Judge Russo “believe such a resolution will show proper respect to the heritages of both the Italian American community and the Native American community, and further serve to educate the public as to the lives and contributions of each community’s respective hero.”

Editor’s Note: To learn more about George Bochetto and his legal work, please log on to To learn more about Judge Russo and the ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to Pictured is the Columbus Monument in Schenley Park, in Pittsburgh, Judge Basil M. Russo, current president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and George Bochetto, lead attorney representing a number of Italian American organizations to preserve Columbus’ legacy in Pittsburgh.


Another Columbus Victory in Philadelphia
- A Settlement Was Reached to Show the Monument in All Its Glory
“America 500 and DRWC sat down together and resolved this dispute in a civil manner. I commend DRWC’s professionalism and steadfast commitment to the people of Philadelphia.”

In June 2020, during the height of civil unrest over police brutality, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) workers at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia boarded up the bottom of the Christopher Columbus monument concealing the navigator’s name.

The DRWC, which maintains the monument, said at the time that the 106-foot historical obelisk did not align with their “mission to create and maintain a safe and welcome space for all.”

More than a year later, the “chalkboards” plastered across the base will be removed now that the DRWC and the America 500 Anniversary Corporation — the organization responsible for the construction of the monument — have reached a settlement over the matter.

The announcement came weeks after a judge slammed and overturned Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s unlawful order to cover and remove the Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia.

George Bochetto, a prominent Philadelphia attorney who led both lawsuits against the DRWC and the city of Philadelphia, released this statement on Tuesday:

“America 500 and DRWC sat down together and resolved this dispute in a civil manner. I commend DRWC’s professionalism and steadfast commitment to the people of Philadelphia.”

Bochetto also represents the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organization and Italian Sons and Daughter of American, both of which are led by Basile M. Russo.

Bochetto and Russo filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia on behalf of the Conference of Presidents, Philadelphia Councilmember Mark F. Squilla and The 1492 Society earlier this year in order to reverse Mayor Kenney’s executive order, which changed the October 11 Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day.

If a judge sides with the federal Pro-Columbus lawsuit, it could usher in a powerful legal precedent that would shield the Columbus holiday and statues across the country.

Bochetto and Russo, on behalf of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, are also suing the city of Pittsburgh after Mayor Bill Peduto and the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted to remove a towering Columbus monument in the city. As it stands, each side has entered into a mediation process in an attempt to reach a settlement.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is the Columbus monument at Penn’s Landing, Basil M. Russo, current president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and George Bochetto, lead attorney representing a number of Italian American organizations to preserve Columbus’ legacy in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. To learn more about George Bochetto and his legal work, please log on to To learn more about Judge Russo and the ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, please log on to


Covid Chronicles
- School Begins
- Illegal Migration at Crisis Levels
- Author Struggles with Estate Law in Nice, France

By Deirdre Pirro


Here, as we come to the end of Weeks 44 and 45, one of the major issues facing Italy, like in many other European countries, is the return to schools and universities of thousands of students. Most previous coronavirus protocols like masks for children over the age of six, staggered entry times, temperature checks and social distancing will remain in force as all efforts are being made to prevent students facing more long periods of distance learning this coming school year. So far students are not required to carry a Covid Certificate Green Health Pass to enter the classroom which, in any case, did not apply to children aged under 12. School and university staff will, however, be required to have a green pass to work on the premises.

Over the summer, there has, in fact, been rising tension over Italy's Green Pass which was first introduced in June this year. There have been a number of protests throughout the country staged by “no green passers” as well as otherS who go by the name of “no vaxers.” Although they are often the same people, it would be a mistake to necessarily lump them together.

Further new rules were added to those already in force relating to the green pass and travel. On September 1st, the pass was required to travel on long-distance, intercity and high-speed trains, as well as domestic flights, long-distance buses and interregional ferries, although it is not obligatory for local public transport networks or regional trains. Tighter measures are expected to be put in place by the end of September. This could mean that the green pass may have to be shown on city buses and metro trains and trams. Because the aim of all these measures is to protect us from this deadly virus continuing to spread, then all I can say is bring them on.

The Draghi government has announced that it is on track to have 80% of the Italian population vaccinated by September 24th. Not a bad record.
Recently, the leader of the center-right Lega political party, Matteo Salvini has launched a series of stinging attacks against the Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, over the government's handling of illegal immigration, mainly by unvaccinated migrant-boat people arriving from North Africa. From January and July 2021, some 25,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea. The month of June saw the highest number of arrivals. During 2020, the number of migrants who landed in Italy peaked at 7.1 thousand people in July. Salvini has also warned that his support for the coalition Draghi government was at risk because of this latest wave of illegal migrants, often assisted by foreign NGO ships offloading their human cargo to be picked up at sea in Italian territory.

In mid-August, the Interior Minister, Luciana Lamorgese, had also been widely criticized for her inability to stop a huge, unauthorized, week-long rave party staged by hundreds of young people from across Europe taking place on a privately owned country site between Lazio and Tuscany near the town of Valentano. Apart from mountains of garbage, it left in its wake at least three people with alcohol-induced comas and one 25-year-old man drowned in a nearby lake. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. If I were the minister, I would not be feeling too secure in my institutional role at the moment.

As of September 6th, Italy's wins in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics has brought them into ninth place in the medals' table with 69 medals, including 14 golds, 29 silvers and 26 bronzes. It's
Italy's best performance ever at these games.

In Florence, on 17th and 18th September, G20's agriculture ministers from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US will meet in Florence at the historic Accademia dei Georgofili founded in 1753. People, planet and prosperity are the three interrelated pillars of action the ministers will debate which, hopefully, will find some viable and durable solutions.

As the photos will show you I was on the French Riviera in the beautiful seaside town on Nice. Much as I would like to say I am on vacation, that is not the case, although I do try my best to enjoy the sun and the sea along the Promenade des Anglais as much as I can. Some of you may know that my husband, Pietro, died at the end of April this year which means I am now embroiled in French bureaucracy, and there is heaps of it. This is because my son, Piero, and I have to comply with the legal requirements of paying death duties and settling the issues of inheritance on an apartment we own here. Foolishly, I thought Italian bureaucracy was complicated enough, but this is a nightmare, especially for foreign non-residents like us. More to come, if I every manage to get it sorted out.

Stay healthy and safe... Deirdre

Editor’s Note: Deirdre writes articles for PRIMO’s print editions and is our official translator. Pictured were taken by the author in Nice, France.



Primo Interview
At some point, though, I consciously, or maybe subconsciously, decided that I was either going to “go for broke” or not write the book at all.

“Celibate: A Memoir,” by Maria Giura delves into the mysteries and devotions of the author’s Roman Catholicism. She recounted the flaws of her sin and transgression. PRIMO had an interview with the author about what it was like to write such a personal account of her faith.

Let's start with the title: "Celibate: A Memoir." This is very unique among autobiographies. What made you choose this title?

In a way, the title chose me. It appeared in my mind at least a year before I found my publisher. I tried pushing it away and using another, but it was persistent. And the publisher loved it, which was further confirmation. It took me a while to accept that it was exactly the right title for my memoir.

Your book "Celibate: A Memoir," is a very personal account. Did you have any reluctance writing such a book? If so, how did you overcome any initial shyness?

Very much so, yes, especially in the first few years that I was writing the book (it took me more than 12 years to complete). I was stalling, afraid to show what I needed to show on the page, afraid of facing myself and of what my family and others would think. I was also still finding out what the truth was. At some point, though, I consciously, or maybe subconsciously, decided that I was either going to “go for broke” or not write the book at all. Before I wrote each day, I prayed for guidance, and I did twenty minutes of free writing—anything that came to mind—as a way to silence the censor. I kept pushing to make each sentence more true, more concrete, and in the end, that felt right to do—not easy, but right. With this said, three and half months before the memoir was due to be published, I got so afraid, I considered pulling the memoir from my publisher. It was a very brief thought but a very real one.
Roman Catholicism is central to "Celibate," as you share with readers, among other endeavors, a pursuit to become a nun. Where are you now in your faith? Are you still a Roman Catholic and how did writing this memoir affect your beliefs?

Yes, I’m still a practicing Roman Catholic and a happier, freer, and more grateful one than I was during most of the years in which the story takes place. My battle to trust God provided me with the story to write. Writing and finishing “Celibate” helped strengthen my beliefs and my faith in God’s goodness; I wouldn’t have been able to write this memoir alone.

What do you hope readers will gain in reading "Celibate: A Memoir"?

I’d like readers to gain what they most need from the book. With that said, I also hope it conveys three things:

There’s value in guarding our hearts; I don’t mean that there’s value in being guarded, but rather that it’s beneficial to let romantic relationships unfold slowly no matter how old or young you are: figuring out first if the other person is someone you can trust, that your heart feels at home with, whom you feel at peace with. If “Celibate” could help someone avoid heartache, or even recognize their heartache, that would have made it worthwhile.

I’m hoping it shows that it’s possible for us to get to the other side of our (spiritual) struggles. We’re never alone even though that’s exactly what it might feel like at times.

I hope that readers will appreciate the story’s italianitá. Being Italian (American) is such a big part of my identity and that of many of my characters. It’s almost as close to my skin as my being a woman. My memoir was hard to write, but one way in which it wasn’t was infusing the food, music, and language I grew up with into the scenes. I think it truly enriches the story.

You love the English language and, in fact, earned a Ph.D in it. What are your plans for the future in writing?

I’m currently teaching memoir writing workshops for Casa Belvedere, The Italian Cultural Foundation. I’m also working on a third book, which will be my second book of poetry. (My first is “What My Father Taught Me,” Bordighera Press, about growing up Italian American.) I’m about half way done, but I suspect the second half will take quite some time. I’m trying to take more risks than I did in my first collection.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the author and her book “Celibate,” please log on to her web site at



Is Italy Becoming More Repressive Under Coronavirus than Under Mussolini?
“During Mussolini’s reign, Italians had no choice. They had to follow the rules, or else they were arrested or shot. With coronavirus, however, it is fear, not the government, commanding them.”

By Joanne Fisher

It all started with, “Just two weeks to flatten the curve.” Yet, here we are, 17 months later and counting.

After constant lockdowns in Italy, not to mention scores of protests, draconian measures and local bylaws, we have come to a point where the government and their media and academic allies can only vilify the “non-vaxxers” and “nonbelievers”.

What is Italy turning into? Is Fascism coming back? Are Italians just letting their government do whatever it wants?

If you think the United States is divided, then take a good look at Italy. I know many Italians who are filled with fear (many are my family members). But on the other side of the coin, I know many who are not and who live their lives the best that they can.

During Mussolini’s reign, Italians had no choice. They had to follow the rules or else they were either arrested or shot. With coronavirus, however, it is fear, not the government, commanding them. Some Italians are literally choosing not to go outside without a mask. They still live in fear of infection, even after getting the vaccine. Yes, COVID-19 has killed over 129,000 people in Italy, but this number is over a 17-month span with the last count taken at the end of August. Why is the recovery rate of 99.95% not pushed in the same way that the number of “cases” are pushed? The answer is simple. It’s to give the impression that if you contract COVID-19, it’s a death sentence. Hence, these fearful sheep are now joyously swallowing whatever pill the government is giving them, and, in the process, are giving up their liberty. I’m sure the Partigiani are rolling in their graves.

As our Lord and Savior said many times, “have no fear for I am with you.” Hope is not lost. On the contrary, it is growing—and in large numbers. People are beginning to see the light. There is a group of doctors and nurses, lawyers, judges and police officials who, together, are fighting to save the civil liberties of Italians. These heroes are literally at war with the draconian government and they are winning small battles. They’ve won cases against forcing masks on students in school. One head of the “Polizia di Stato” is battling the vaccine mandate for their agents. And the protests continue every weekend in hundreds of Italian cities.

What of the GreenPass?

Unfortunately, the Italian government has passed the mandatory GreenPass for a person to enter museums or other large venues (concerts, soccer games, etc.). However, there is fierce pushback by millions of small business owners, truck drivers and even police officials who are not willing to enforce these laws as they are considered to be anti-constitutional and discriminatory.

How is this affecting travel?

The rules are that Americans, Japanese and Canadians are required to complete a “Passenger Locator Form” and have a valid GreenPass from the home country. Or, you must have a negative result on a Rapid Molecular or Antigenic Test performed in the 48 hours prior to entering Italy. This is presented in digital format in the preferred languages of Italian, English, Spanish and French.

Bottom line: you can travel to Italy. Just be aware of certain restrictions for entering museums, stadiums and other public buildings. Oh, and don’t forget masks are still mandatory indoors for almost all places.

Ending on a positive note: The war against these draconian measures is far from over. So have patience and keep the faith.

Editor’s Note: Joanne Fisher is a Canadian-Italian-American author who is renowned for her steamy romances, historical fictions and murder-mysteries. She loves writing Christmas novellas, giving them an Italian flair. She has penned two nonfiction travel guides, titled Traveling Boomers, along with the corresponding website She has participated in various Space Coast Writers’ Guild anthologies, and has even written one of her own, Baker’s Dozen Anthology, which is free on Kindle Unlimited. She is the president of the Space Coast Writers’ Guild and lives in Central Florida with her husband Dan and two Dachshunds, Wally and Madison. Her web site is



Primo Interview
"As human beings, we must definitely be aware of how our physical health is connected to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health."

Chloe Jon Paul conceives a better and more accurate way of to growing older with the title of her fascinating new book, “Entering the Age of Elegance.” PRIMO spoke with the author about her new book and insight on human longevity.

Please tell us your family background in regards to Italy? You devote this book to your grandmothers. Please comment.

My mother's family came from Abruzzo and my father's family came from Sicily. My husband was from Rome. I met him while on vacation. I even lived in Rome! My grandmother Teresa was my inspiration for so much! She had a difficult life but managed to help so many people! She taught me how to care for unfortunate and how to live my Catholic faith.

What led you to write "Entering the Age of Elegance"?

What led me to write this book was that so many women are afraid of aging and go to great lengths and spend a lot of money trying to look young.  

As you know, Italy is famous for longevity; as in some places, such as Sardinia, people live productive lives in their 100s. What, in your opinion are Italians doing right in living longer more fuller lives?

I'm not certain as to what Italians are doing in living longer, more fuller lives except that they don't buy into what so many companies produce and advertise as ideal for a youthful appearance.

A consistent theme in your book is how our physical health is tied to one's mental, emotional and spiritual health. Why is that? Please comment.

As human beings, we must definitely be aware of how our physical health is connected to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. A wise Indian guru once said that man is a house with 4 rooms: the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional. The problem is that he spends his time in only one of those rooms each day whereas he should be visiting all four. I visit all 4 EVERYDAY!

What do you see in the future in the United States. What do we need to do here to change the culture for us to live longer and more productively?  

The future of this nation is in great jeopardy! What we need to do can be explained in the Bible! I'm concerned that this book cannot be published again. I tried contacting the publisher but never received an answer.

Editor’s note: You can read more about Chloe Jon Paul and purchase her new book, “Entering the Age of Elegance” at


Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

I read your latest edition of PRIMO Magazine and I am looking forward to receiving another by mail. Thank you for printing my story and army photograph of my late husband George titled ----- "Storming Omaha Beach on D-Day."

Also, on PRIMO's YouTube channel, I was so happy to see and listen to the Italian Carabinieri band play at the Lincoln Memorial. My father was drafted in WWI in Italy at age 16 and was put into the Carabinieri Unit (Military Police). After the war, he was discharged as an Army Carabinieri Carabinieri but was given the job as a Civilian Carabinieri for the country of Italy and always carried a rifle strapped to his shoulder. When my daughter Gina was 14 years old, I took her to Italy and we spent the whole summer living with many relatives!!! We went to the Carabinieri office in Rome and they found in their files my father's history and his photo in uniform. His passport, which Gina still has, says that his occupation was Carabinieri.

And yes, I agree with your article that we Italians were mistreated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. He hated the Italians and said hateful things about us. I was only 9 years old and someone in my neighborhood heard me speaking Italian to my Nonna in a butcher shop and reported me to Roosevelt. In those days, all the stores had a sign in their windows that said --- Speak Only English Language In This Shop, By Command Of President Roosevelt. I received a nasty letter from Roosevelt!!! He said that I should only speak English and no other language. I don't have that letter now because my father flushed it down the toilet!!!!

I am now 89 years old, healthy of mind and body, but I haven't forgotten those days of World War II !!!
I firmly believe that I deserve an apology from the Country in which I was born --- America. I agree with you that America should apologize to all Italian Americans for discrimination!!!!! And if Roosevelt was still alive today I would have some news for him-----I don't speak ONLY English but I now speak, read, and write several languages!!!!

I look forward to reading the hard copy of PRIMO Magazine.

And thanks again!!!

I am now 89 years old, healthy of mind and body, but I haven't forgotten those days of World War II !!!

I firmly believe that I deserve an apology from the Country in which I was born --- America. I agree with you that America should apologize to all Italian Americans for discrimination!!!!! And if Roosevelt was still alive today I would have some news for him-----I don't speak ONLY English but I now speak, read, and write several languages!!!!

I look forward to reading the next edition of PRIMO Magazine.

And thanks again!!!

Lola Gianelli
Ladera, California


Now Available are Pamphlets and Signs for Italian Americans to Set the Record Straight on Columbus
- Produced by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations
- “The brochures are totally free to all organizations, lodges and clubs,” says Judge Russo

By Truby Chiaviello


Columbus Day is almost two months away and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has produced two unique products to help Italian Americans defend the legacy of Christopher Columbus.

Basil Russo, former federal judge and Cleveland city council leader, now serves as president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. He sent out sample copies recently of a brochure and pop-up display for Italian American organizations and clubs to use this Columbus Day and beyond.

“Once again, we head into uncertain waters as the lead-up to Columbus Day will spark a new round of discussion and conjecture on the holiday and its significance to the Italian American culture,” says Judge Russo. “In response, we’ve produced and printed a Columbus brochure featuring cogent arguments and salient research that tells the story of our ancestors’ unbroken connection to the historic navigator.”

The well-crafted brochure comes dressed in bright purple and red with the headline, “Why Columbus Matters.” The inside panels contain bulleted points to establish Columbus a worthy hero of history. Maligned attacks against Columbus, as exclaimed in “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, are effectively countered. Zinn’s book was distributed to American elementary and high schools over the last 40 years in a concerted effort by him and others affiliated with communism and social Maxism. Their goal was to destroy Columbus and other figures of American history. The fruition of such false propaganda has led us to the present day where various governments at the state and local levels, not to mention school boards, universities and teachers’ unions, have all but condemned Columbus and seek to eliminate all vestiges of his legacy here in America.

The brochure tackles a host of controversial issues. One headline reads: “Columbus Condemned Slavery.” Bulleted claims follow to set the record straight such as “Columbus was against slavery,” “He never bought, sold or owned slaves,” etc…

More information is included in the brochure to help members of Italian American clubs and organizations defend Columbus.

“The brochures are totally free to all organizations, lodges and clubs,” says Judge Russo.

To order copies of the brochure titled “Why Columbus Matters,” please email your request to the main office of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations at

Please include the following information:
Your organization’s full name
Mailing address (street, city, zip code) 
Quantity (200 max)
Judge Russo also announced the availability of a seven foot pop-up display to feature a dramatic illustration of Columbus. The headline reads: “Christopher Columbus - Seek the Facts” and offers information to defend Columbus and counter the maligned myths and false accusations from his detractors.

“We’re offering a seven-foot Columbus pop-up display for those who are interested in prominently featuring the explorer during Italian American Heritage Month,” says Judge Russo.

The pop-ups are $200/piece. To order the large display, please include your organization’s name and mailing address and email to:

Judge Russo expressed optimism in the fight to preserve the legacy of Columbus. “The good news is our side (i.e., our history) is gaining momentum thanks in large part to (Italian Americans) inspiring activism and commitment to our legal efforts. We can work together and continue to correct the skewed narrative surrounding Columbus.”

Editor’s Note: To order your Columbus brochures and pop-up display, please email The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is


- A Round-up of Recent Events to Preserve the Legacy of Columbus in America
- From Philadelphia to San Francisco, Italian Americans are Fighting Hard for Our Heritage

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

Be it changing the name of a holiday from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day or tearing down monuments and public sculpture of the great Genoese explorer, Italian Americans have been called to defend our heritage all over the United States. Here is a collection of recent court rulings, public meetings and debates on the fight to preserve the legacy of Columbus in America.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Judge Paula Patrick of the Court of Common Pleas has ordered the City of Philadelphia and its Italophobic mayor James Kenney to stand down and leave Philly's Christopher Columbus statue where it stands, finding the City guilty of an "abuse of discretion and clearly arbitrary action"; characterizing the City's arguments as "devoid of any legal foundation" and finding it " the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis." 

You can hear first-hand, from attorney George Bochetto, Esquire, champion of truth and justice, and bane of Marxist Columbus-detractors everywhere, the details of this resounding victory here, on the latest episode of "Christopher Columbus University" at

You can also support Philadelphia's President and Founder of the Drexel University Italian Pride organization, Mario De Lorenzo, in his fight to convince Drexel to restore Christopher Columbus Day to its school calendar by signing his petition at

In Westborough, Massachusetts, the Italian American Alliance asks all allies to email that town's Select Board at to politely but firmly demand they desist from renaming Christopher Columbus Day to the incorrectly named "Indigenous People's Day," but rather designate another date, such as August 9th, the date the United Nations has designated as "International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples," to honor the tribal peoples of the Americas.

In New York, New York, The Epoch Times has released a new film, America Rewritten, a documentary on "how history is being falsified." In it, Dr. Mary Grabar, Resident Fellow of the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, reveals how the late Marxist propagandist Howard Zinn dishonestly presented America's history, and discusses her book “Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History that Turned a Generation Against America,” available wherever books are sold.

In Boston, Massachusetts, a collection of approximately a dozen Italian American organizations have collectively sent a letter to Massachusetts Italian American Legislative Caucus member Senator Salvatore DiDomenico demanding help from that caucus in combatting the anti-Italian-American terrorism in Boston. The letter, poetically reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, calls for the "reject[ion of] bigotry in all its forms because it is inherently wrong and because it divides us as a people, an American people." The letter is the perfect template for similar grass-roots letters to Italian American legislative caucuses in any state.

In Chicago, Illinois, the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Park District seeking the return of the Arrigo Park Columbus statue to its rightful place and organized a rally to support the legal effort regarding that and Chicago's other two Columbus statues. JCCIA President Ron Onesti said, "We are not asking for damages, an explanation or even an apology. We simply want the statues back where they belong..."

In San Francisco, California, the city's Columbus statue, designed and sculpted in 1957 by Vittorio di Colbertaldo and set upon a pedastal gifted by the City of Genoa on a marble ring donated by the Marini Family has been unceremoniously shoved into storage after vandals defaced the statue with red paint. The city is keeping the storage location a secret as well as the fate of the statue. Years ago, San Francisco eliminated Columbus's name from that city's 150-year-old parade.

In Oberlin, Ohio, President Basil M. Russo of the Order of the Italian Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, backed by over 60 supporters, gave a rousing speech to Oberlin's City Council, successfully persuading that body to hold off on replacing Columbus Day with "Indigenous People's Day." President Russo explained to City Council that Italian immigrants began celebrating Columbus Day in the 1800s "in an effort to deal with the prejudices they were confronted with and in an effort to establish a sense of dignity and self-worth" and decried City Council's "inherent unfairness of promoting one group's rights and interests by trampling upon the rights and interests of another group."

Editor’s Note: For more information on these news stories, please listen to the most recent episodes of "Christopher Columbus University" by attorney Robert Petrone on Radio Voice Italia at the following archived link:



Trial Judge in Philadelphia Overrules Removal of Columbus Statue
- The statue will remain in Marconi Plaza
- “It is baffling to this Court as to how the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis,” wrote Judge Paula Patrick.

By Truby Chiaviello

Score a major victory for Italian Americans in Philadelphia and, for that matter, Italian Americans all over the United States. The Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, as sculpted by Emanuele Caroni, is to be kept where it is and where it has been in Philadelphia since 1876. Mayor Jim Kenney’s effort to take down the statue has failed. So ordered Judge Paula Patrick of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Civil Trial Division.

For awhile it looked grim for the Italian Americans of South Philadelphia as Mayor Kenny was hellbent to remove Italian Ravazzoni marble statue of the founder of the New World. Never mind that Christopher Columbus remains a beloved figure for many Americans, Kenney wanted the 22 foot sculpture gone.

Kenny left it up to his handpicked members of the Philadelphia Historical Commission to ensure Columbus’ legacy was all but discarded in the City of Brotherly Love. The mission of the historical commission is to uphold a measure of integrity and objectivity. However, this is the age of political correctness. The era of the cancel culture. The times of Howard Zinn. There was no way these so-called learned men and women were going to keep an extraordinary rendition of Columbus in public view. All Italian Americans knew that the fate of the great Genoese was sealed when Kenney referred the matter to the historic commission last year.

And so it was. The Philadelphia Historical Commission submitted their decision, as rendered on July 24, 2020, to the Philadelphia Board of License and Inspection Review for the removal of the edifice. Columbus was unceremoniously boarded up to await the crane.

Italians are a stubborn bunch. Like the centurions of more than a thousand years ago, they don’t panic in battle. They stay in the fight to find a way to overcome.

Italians of South Philly came together. George Bochetto and his legal team dug into the law to take Mayor Kenny and his commissions to court. They appealed the decision and filed and were granted an injunction to keep the statue where located until the case was finalized.

Appellants were Friends of Marconi Plaza, Msgrs. Richard Cedrone, Joseph Q. Mirarchi and their man in the arena, Mr. Bochetto.

To read the seven page decision as issued by Judge Patrick on August 17 is to see fairness and common sense in action. Mr. Bochetto made his case as might a champion boxer. He knocked out every preposterous claim by the opposition.

“It is baffling to this Court as to how the City of Philadelphia wants to remove the Statue without any legal basis,” wrote Judge Patrick. “The City’s entire argument and case is devoid of any legal foundation.”

If Mr. Bochetto can be compared to a boxer, then let the historic commissioners be compared to dart throwers. They threw at the judge every conceivable reason to remove Columbus but never could hit a bullseye.

One by one their arguments were dismissed by Judge Patrick.

The historic commission claimed the Italians had no standing. The removal of a statue depicting an explorer from Genoa who founded the New World, in a place named for another famous Italian, was in no way connected to Italians.

Not true, said Judge Patrick.

“Appellants have been active caretakers of Marconi Plaza for the past 10 years coordinating the park’s upkeep, beautification and modernization,” she wrote. “Appellants have a substantial, direct and immediate interest in the outcome of litigation…because removal of the Christopher Columbus Statue will impact the nature of the park.”

Many involved in preserving the statue complained about the lack of serious investigation and deliberation by the historic commission. Indeed, as Mr. Bochetto argued, the commission wrongly relied on their staff members to decide on the fragility of the statue and its possibility of getting damaged while removed. Judge Patrick ruled an error in law was committed when the historic commission considered only the opinion of staff members. “To the contrary,” wrote Judge Patrick, “those staff members were not independent experts with experience in analyzing historic marble sculpture and transportation.”

A lack of definitive reports coupled with a lack of proper time to allow for a public hearing were key reasons why Judge Patrick ruled against the historic commission. She also ruled against the claim by the city that civil unrest was ongoing enough to threaten the statue and that its removal was “necessary in the public interest.” The judge agreed with Mr. Bochetto and appellants that the protests and demonstrations against the Columbus statue were isolated events, made after the tragic death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. There was no evidence of consistent civil unrest to threaten the statue.

A victory in Philadelphia is to garner confidence and enthusiasm for many more battles still to come. Mr. Bochetto currently leads a legal team in a federal lawsuit to prevent the City of Philadelphia and its mayor, Jim Kenney, from abolishing Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Such an act would constitute discrimination against Italian Americans under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. 

“A win in the federal suit will have earthshaking effect around the country,” declares Judge Basil Russo, president of the Council of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. His organization is a party in the federal lawsuit.

Editor’s Note: Marconi Plaza is located in Philadelphia at 2800 South Broad Street. To learn more about George Bochetto and his legal work, please log on to To learn more about ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, pleas log on to

Primo Interview
- Thomas Sarnicola Gives Readers an Insider’s View of National Security in His New Book, “No Kings, No Kooks: Confessions of a National Security Agent.”

Thomas Sarnicola's entertaining and informative book, “No Kings, No Kooks,” is an insider’s account of post-9/11 national security efforts. His is a memoir of a federal investigator who cared about his job and the people he interviewed for national security clearance. As PRIMO reported in the Second Edition, 2020, “This book could could be made into a television series in the vein of past crime dramas.” Mr. Sarnicola conveys the biographies, dreams and aspirations of federal applicants. We recently interviewed him about his book and his work as a national security investigator.

What can you tell us about your family's home village in Agropoli, Italy?

My grandfather Biagio was born in 1889 and died in 1989. He was one of ten children. Eight of his siblings stayed in Agropoli while he and his older brother immigrated to New York through Ellis Island in approximately 1914. He then served in the US Army at the age of 28. As a result of his military service was granted USA citizenship.

He left his parents and siblings in Agropoli which is a Southern Italian seaside town in the Campania region off the Tyrrhenian Sea. My grandfather told us that as a child in Agropoli his family was poor with very little to eat and thus felt America would provide better opportunities for him and his descendants. He is what I call the astronaut of the Sarnicola family...coming to a strange land. What guts and determination he had to have. He passed away when I was in my 30's so I was able to spend a lot of time with him and my grandmother, Anna, over the years and listened to their stories of Italy and New York.

Please tell us why you dedicated this book to all federal civil servants.

I dedicated the book to federal civil servants because of what I experienced during my 15 years as a federal employee. My co-workers reflected a cross section of our society. Most were dedicated and wanted to do a good job but at times the bureaucracy made it difficult to do so. The civil servants keep our government working despite its inefficiencies. I felt they deserved to be acknowledged in my book.

What led you to conceive the unique title, "No Kings, No Kooks"?

The title No Kings No Kooks, came from a phrase my father would use when describing someone who was not reliable, eccentric or just plain strange.  Being a Special Agent required one to be on time, reliable, hardworking and dedicated. If one was "kook", you would  not survive in the job. Likewise if you felt you were entitled to receive special treatment like a "king", from the public because you were issued a federal badge and credential , you soon realized that was not the case in many instances. I witnessed many new hires quit or were terminated because they did not fit into the government's work environment or felt that the job was not as glamorous as they had anticipated.

In investigating applicants, what was one or more tell-signs to deny a person a security clearance?

A security clearance investigation is very complex. As an agent we gathered so much information on a subject prior to our interviewing him/her that we had a sense what derogatory issues or potentially disqualifying events could prohibit someone from either obtaining an initial clearance or continuing to keep a clearance. The interviews were intense at times especially when you confronted the subject with information they tried to hide or minimize its seriousness. Despite a subject's outward appearance we had to stay objective when collecting and presenting the facts of a case. Looks were often deceiving!

After a career as a federal investigator, what is your assessment working for the federal government?

I came to the federal government after having spent over 14 years as  a Director for medical research fundraising and had no understanding of just how many layers of bureaucracy there were. At times I found myself frustrated knowing that I had little influence in  improving my job and having to implement new policy changes soon after other policy changes had been already made.  Change usually came from the agency director -- from the top down. There were no opportunities to express new ideas from the bottom up. In my experience I believe federal employees did the best they could within the limits of their job and the innumerable government regulations they have to deal with on a daily basis. Unfortunately too much change  created a discouraging work environment at times. 

What are your future plans in book writing? Do you plan a follow-up for "No Kings, No Kooks"?

I was not considering a follow up book yet many of those who have read it have encouraged me to write more of my family stories related to Italy and New York. I was planning to visit Italy this year and meet my relatives still living in Agropoli but my plans had to be postponed until 2022 due to the Covid restrictions. Writing takes a lot of time and effort. I don't consider myself as a professional writer but let's just say I am thinking it over!

Editor’s Note: You can purchase “No Kings, No Kooks,” at



First Italian American to Serve as President of the AFL-CIO
- A Vital Voice for American Labor and, Especially, American Coal Miners

By Truby Chiaviello

We mourn the loss of Richard Trumka, who passed away, at 72, from an apparent heart attack on August 5th.

Mr. Trumka was a tireless advocate for workers throughout the United States. He was featured in PRIMO in 2009 after he made history to become the first Italian American president of the AFL-CIO, America’s largest union with some 12.5 million members.

In an in-depth interview with PRIMO, Mr. Trumka discussed his background to focus on his Italian maternal side, maiden name Bertugli. He had a close relationship with his grandfather, Attilio, an immigrant from Italy. Mr. Trumka credited his grandfather with inspiring him to pursue a law degree to defend the rights of workers. It was a porch side setting that sought ways to help the miners in Greene County. “Who are the people that can help the most?” his grandfather asked. “Politicians,” replied Mr. Trumka. “Think harder,” said Grandfather Attilio. An epiphany arose when the young Mr. Trumka answered, “Lawyers.”

The November/December 2009 edition of PRIMO featured a six page biography of Mr. Trumka to follow a tribute to Italian American coal miners. Readers submitted photographs, names and write-ups of their ancestors who worked in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. A creative layout captured the unique history of Italian Americans who delved into the sides of mountains to extract this vital resource.

Mr. Trumka had been a coal miner, alongside his father, Frank, near Nemacolin, Pennsylvania, where he was born and raised. In 1974, he graduated with a law degree from Villanova University to soon work on the legal staff for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Eight years later, he became president of the UMWA at a time of serious transition in American labor.

Mines are located in remote regions far away from the national spotlight where striking workers battled policemen and company security. Internal struggles within the union sometimes resulted in serious clashes.

The UMWA remained a formidable force for mine workers in the United States. At 33, Mr. Trumka was elected to the union presidency just before a serious drop in membership was to occur. The UMWA had almost 200,000 members in the 1940s; only for a reduction to 80,000 members today. Strip mining coupled with a host of technological innovations lessened the need for workers. Meanwhile, the environmental movement of climate change considered coal mining akin to an evil exercise where the closing of mines were advocated in many states.

For Mr. Trumka, the labor movement of miners was central to the broad struggle of collective bargaining and workers’ rights in the United States. Inside the headquarters of the AFL-CIO at 850 16th Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C., Mr. Trumka placed on his office desk a name plate with the logo of the National Recovery Act. The object was a reminder of the law as initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and passed by Congress in 1933 to give greater protection to labor unions. The impetus for legislation were the fights and fatalities of striking miners throughout Appalachia. Rural poverty was especially extreme in the mountain villages and migrant camps near large coal mines. An increase in union membership there meant an increase in salaries for workers nationwide and an increase in health and retirement benefits.

Strikes were not a thing of the past while Mr. Trumka was UMWA president. He led a nine-month walkout against the Pittston Coal Company in 1989 after that company reneged on contributions to the union’s 39-year-old health and retirement fund. Four years later, another strike occurred against Peabody Coal.

Mr. Trumka went from president of the United Mine Workers to become treasurer-secretary of the AFL-CIO in 1995. After president John Sweeney retired, Mr. Trumka was elected to that post in 2009.

As the U.S. economy expanded for larger numbers in the workforce, union membership remained static. The labor movement became a victim of its own success after more and more companies followed the unions’ hard won model to offer health and retirement benefits to non-union workers. Laws at the federal and state levels tended to constrain union recruitment in manufacturing while the U.S. economy expanded into different service sectors. Many employees making minimum wage were legally defined as professional or managerial and not allowed a right to seek collective bargaining. The political pendulum turned conservative for executive and legislative branches to be less sympathetic to the needs of labor. Add to that challenge a Democratic Party that became more attuned to corporate America for more contributions from company CEOs than unions.

Nevertheless, the AFL-CIO remained active under Mr. Trumka. The union was involved in various strikes and walkouts in different regions of the United States. A focus at the national level sought health care reform and new measures for worker safety. Like his predecessor, millions were spent to support Democrats at the Congressional level for a more progressive agenda. Mr. Trumka made history in 2008 when he endorsed Barak Obama’s candidacy for president at a speech he made at the annual convention of the AFL-CIO.

Mr. Trumka was instrumental in lobbying new measures to support workers in recent renegotiated trade treaties between Mexico and Canada under President Trump. He spoke out against closing the Keystone Pipeline and supported extending new protections to illegal immigrants.

Mr. Trumka was most fond of his Italian background and knew well the history of Italian Americans in the country’s labor movement. As the first Italian American president of the AFL-CIO, he forever represents a serious move forward for our ethnicity as a key historical figure to better the rights and benefits for all Americans.

Our condolences are extended to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Editor’s Note: The web site for the AFL-CIO is

Italian Americans Need to Support The Cuban People in their Fight for Freedom Against Communist Tyranny
“We need to embrace parts of our history and heritage to form alliances with other groups, especially Cubans and Cuban Americans.”

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Cubans and Cuban Americans are demanding freedom from the authoritarian regime of the Communists. By showing solidarity with them, Italians and Italian Americans will form an important alliance that could be helpful in our peaceful struggle for freedom. More importantly, no one knows what Cubans and Cuban Americans face more than Italians and Italian Americans.

If you have read any of my articles, you will know that I still believe that Italy is in the throes of a dictatorship. I am going to Italy soon (hopefully) to see if I am right about this. However, Italy’s dictatorship is benevolent compared to the authoritarian regime of Communist Cuba. Cuba is a brutal, oppressive system, regardless of its claimed ideals. Some people dislike Cuba because it is Communist, while others refuse to criticize a Socialist or Communist country. However, its claimed ideals are irrelevant. Only the brutal reality of the regime matters.

Cuban Americans have minority status. We do not. As you know from my prior writings, I do not believe this to be fair. However, petty differences must be set aside when lives are at stake. Cubans and Cuban Americans are our Latin and Mediterranean brothers and sisters with little difference between us. We have both a moral duty to them as fellow Latins and Mediterraneans and our vocal support for them will help us politically later.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s regime has the support of the same people who hate America. American democracy is more reviled by the elite media than is the oppressive Cuban regime. These are the same people who engage in Italian American stereotypes. These are the same people who support mob movies. These are the same people who deny us affirmative action. The ones who support the Cuban regime hate us. Why shouldn’t we support the Cuban people and Cuban Americans, when we all have common enemies?

There is no counter-argument. Remaining isolated is why Colombo is reviled by the mainstream media. Refusing to align with our fellow Latins is why we are underrepresented in the universities and government bureaucracies. By not embracing our Latin heritage and our bonds with fellow Mediterranean communities, including all Latino/Hispanic communities, is why we are the most hated ethnic group in America. We need to embrace parts of our history and heritage to form alliances with other groups, especially Cubans and Cuban Americans.

The political benefits of such an alliance are merely a bonus. Doing the right thing is the most important part of why we must support the Cuban people and Cuban Americans against Communist tyranny. Italy struggles with the same dictatorial disease, now, and in the past, and we would be hypocrites to not condemn the much worse Cuban regime while condemning what has befallen Italy recently.

In addition, Cuba pioneered religion-control measures that would make the second-class citizen status of Catholics in New Jersey and other American states look like equality. To condemn, rightly, how Catholics are persecuted in New Jersey and other states and not condemn the much, much worse similar policies in Cuba would be wrong.

While every reason points to the need for Italians to fervently and vocally support the Cuban people and Cuban Americans, we should not do so out of anti-leftist feelings. I am a leftist, a liberal and a believer in many of the ideals shared by the Cuban regime. Communism is a great idea, but an oppressive and terrible reality. As a leftist, I dislike the idea of opposing the Cuban regime simply because it is leftist. Are we going to allow right-wing dictatorships get a pass for the same acts?

We should use what I call the principle of political absolute value. This means that we condemn a regime by its behavior, not its ideology. We should not be hypocrites in allowing some behavior to slide based on our own preferred ideology. Many leftists give Cuba a break while rightists give Hungary and Poland breaks for similarly bad behavior. We need to hold illiberal democracies and dictatorships to the same standards regardless of their claimed or actual ideology.

In sum, we Italians and Italian Americans need to support Cuban Americans and the Cuban people against the Cuban regime. Both political and moral reasons lead us to the same conclusion. When everyone stands against both we and Cubans, only by aligning together can both of our ethnicities survive.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Christopher Binetti is a political scientist and the president of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 non-profit organization in New Jersey that advocates for the civil rights of Italian Americans and the recognition and reclassification of Italian Americans as minorities.


Primo Review
“Suspiria,” The Classic Italian Horror Film from 1977 is Remade for Today’s Viewers
The New “Reinvented” Version Is Now Available on Amazon Prime

By Truby Chiaviello

Horror remains the pre-eminent genre for contemporary filmmakers to remake what was done 44 years ago. Never mind if a film attained “classic” or “masterpiece” status, today’s young and hungry directors, producers and writers are convinced they can do better. The past is sought to be redirected in the present (no pun intended). They are no longer to be called remakes, by the way, but, rather, reinventions or, better yet, re-imaginings. Many horror films have been remade in recent years: From “Halloween” to “Nightmare on Elm Street” to “The Omen” and soon to come, “The Exorcist.”

For awhile there, it seemed “Suspiria” might miss the resurrection bandwagon. Since 2007, various filmmakers and their backers announced the remake to come. However, cameras remain stilled without a set date for production and release. Many fans thought the Dario Argento classic from 1977 was too far ahead in the realm of cinematic artistry for an accurate recapture. Yet, the name recognition and classic status among horror aficionados gave “Suspiria” a bankable incentive for a remake.

Twelve years ago, Director Luca Guadagnino purchased the rights from the film’s original screenwriters Dario Argento and his ex-wife Daria Nicolodi, who passed away in 2020. With a new script written by David Kajganich, “Suspiria” was resuscitated. The remade version was finally completed in 2018 and is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

One can see the difference between the original by Argento and its current facsimile by Guadagnino in the first few minutes of both films. In 1977, “Suspiria” opened with a memorable high-tech score by the Italian progressive rock band, Goblins. We see a woman running from an fairytale-like inspired building through a rainy forest. She makes her way to town for sanctuary inside a friend’s apartment. The street, the forest and apartment are alit in technicolor hues of red, green and purple. While changing out of her wet clothes, she peers out a window, thinking she was followed. Suddenly, a beastly arm breaks through the glass to grab her by the neck and murder her in grisly fashion. In contrast, the 2018 version opens with a young woman who walks to the home office of a psychologist. She bypasses political demonstrators who are chased by police. Inside a grayly room, she is incoherent and mumbles about her fears, only to befuddle the elderly expert and leave in a panic.

Such are the differences between the two films: “Suspiria,” the original, was mesmerizing, exciting and scary. “Suspiria,” the remake, is ambiguous, tedious and fright-less.

When “Suspiria” was first released in 1977, Dario Argento was, by then, proclaimed as Italy’s answer to Alfred Hitchcock. His suspense orientation was most pronounced in the murder thrill genre known as Giallo. “Suspiria” was to be Argento’s first foray into supernatural horror. The film’s title comes from a set of essays and poems written by Thomas De Quincey in 1845, titled “Suspiria de Profundis.” Most famous for his memoir, “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater,” the British writer and poet experimented with narcotics for stream of consciousness. Argento was inspired by the work to develop an ambitious trilogy of horror films under the heading, “The Three Mothers,” beginning with films, “Suspiria,” in 1977, followed by “Inferno,” in 1980, and “Mother of Tears,” in 2007.

“Suspiria” was declared a masterstroke of filmmaking in 1977 when cinematographer Luciano Tovoli shot the film in technicolor. This was to be the last film made with a specific color process that once gave life to such classics as “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Searchers” and “Fantasia.” Deep contrasts of red and blue hues created a haunting and tense atmosphere in “Suspiria.” Argento’s cold and deliberate pacing heightened the surreal mystique of the film. He had written the screenplay with Daria Nicolodi, an actress to whom he was married from 1974 to 1985. In the first few minutes of the film, viewers knew they were in for a pioneering event in horror.

Fast forward to 2018 when Guadagnino sought to rebrand the 1977 classic. His intentions were to remake a film worthy of its predecessor. Guadagnino is a skilled director whose film, “I Am Love,” in 2009, won rave reviews by critics. In “Suspiria,” however, his dilemma was to choose whether to make a carbon copy of the original or seek an entirely new direction. Either way, the new film was to be compared to what was done 44 years ago. Since the original is considered a cinematic showpiece, any remake is at an inherent disadvantage. Indeed, Guadagnino made the decision at pre-production to escape the technicolor wonder that was “Suspiria.” Hence, the 2018 version conveys an uninspiring off-yellow color scheme to contain settings of rundown interiors for a pace that is slow and esoteric.

Both “Suspiria” films are set in the mid-1970s. Yet, the original took place in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, noted for its opulence and traditional German culture. In the 2018 version, we are transported, instead, to Berlin to see a ravaged former capital overwhelmed by domestic terrorists and communist agitators. The original was spooky and haunting. The remake is drab and dreary.

“Suspiria” tells the story of a young American woman who moves to Germany to attend classes at a dance academy. The school turns out to be a coven of witches. The new student is soon enmeshed in a conspiracy of sorcery and murder. Dakota Johnson plays the lead role in the new rendition with Tilda Swinton as the top dance instructor and witch. Speaking about Swinton, the British actress undertakes two other roles in the film; one of which is the old professor. The move does little for the production and to some extent detracts from the story since it was obvious to some eyes that Swinton was playing the male role, albeit camouflaged in extensive makeup. The 1977 version starred as the protagonist, Jessica Harper, who makes a brief appearance in the remake. Joan Bennett and Alida Valli appeared in the original film as the dance instructor witches. Valli was especially impressive for her transition from an exotic beauty, who once starred in Hitchcock’s, “The Paradine Case,” to the stiff and stern German taskmaster in “Suspiria.”

A key difference between both films is length. The newer version is much too long. The original “Suspiria” is just 1-1/2 hours while the remake is 2-1/2 hours. The identity of the coven is kept secret in the 1977 version until near the end. In the remake, we discover the place is owned and operated by conjurers at the outset. Members of the coven are not sinister but rather impish and haughty. In fact, there are no scares in the remake. The film seems more concerned with political activism. More scenes depict riots, demonstrations and pickets than real frights. Horror was always apolitical. Fears were derived in the most intimate of settings for a confrontation with dangerous demons. To try and connect the phantasmic to a political premise is to ruin the genre.

Some films should be remade. Others should not. “Suspiria” is one of the great masterpieces of horror. To try and reexamine or reimagine this extraordinary work is to offer filmgoers bronze in lieu of gold.

Editor’s Note: Compare and contrast still photographs of the remade version of “Suspiria” with its original precedent. Tilda Swinton stars in the latest rendering while Jessica Harper was the American protagonist in the original. Two victims in the films portray a serious difference in color schemes with the new stinted interpretation versus the dreamlike conception of the original. Publicity photographs of both directors show strikingly different poses for Luca Guadagnino and Dario Argento. The remade version of “Suspiria” is currently available for viewing on Amazon Prime


Why All Roman Catholics Should Read “The Divine Comedy”
The Mother of God is both spiritually and tangibly present in Dante’s epic poem

By Cecilia DiLoreto Sarcone

Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet, writer, literary theorist, moral philosopher and political thinker is best known for his monumental epic poem “La Commedia,” later named, “La Divina Commedia,” or as we know it, today, “The Divine Comedy.” The author and protagonist of this poem was born in Florence; at the time, a republic, the exact date of his birth unknown, although he is generally believed to have been born in 1265 and to have died in 1321.

Dante is known as the father of Modern Italian. Yet, much of his work had been written in Latin, the language of writers and thinkers of his day. When the time came to write his greatest epic, he chose the Florentine dialect in an attempt to reach a wider audience. Dante set a precedent by using the local vernacular of Florence to ultimately become Italy’s national language.

“The Divine Comedy” made an indelible impression on both literature and theology. Dante’s epic poem is composed of three tiers of the Christian afterlife, or, as many know them, three Canticles: Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Heaven (Paradiso). The Christian vision of mankind’s eternal fate begins with the poet in Hell, then Purgatory and finishes inevitably in Heaven. The tale begins with an introductory canto followed by 33 other cantos in each Canticle.

Although the Blessed Virgin Mary needs no introduction to Roman Catholics, the question remains as to why is she such an important figure in Dante’s epic poem. His devotion to her is apparent from the start. She is everywhere in the poem. In fact, she is the reason for Dante’s journey. The poet makes his descent into Hell on March 25th, a most significant date in Roman Catholicism. This day is the Feast of the Annunciation, the beginning of “The Incarnation of Christ in Mary.” March 25th was also Good Friday in the year 1300 to bring together two central mysteries: The Incarnation and The Redemption. Dante enters “Hell” on the same date that Christ did for the salvation of the world.

Dante’s mentor, Virgil (Virgilio), claims that Mary was “The One” who originally took pity on Dante and willed his journey through the three realms. Her name is never mentioned in Hell, as that would be inappropriate. She is, however, referred to as “The Gentle Lady” who weeps for the distress of the author and poet. …... “There is a Gentle Lady up in Heaven, who grieves so……”

Dante’s faith leads him to walk in Purgatory in the way of the Mother of God. Mary appears in almost every chapter through the second realm of the afterlife as the exemplar of virtue (la virtù). Her name is directly stated by the souls who are undergoing “Purification.” They offer her her example of what it means to be “virtuous.” Dante knows the Catholic faith teaches that “atonement” is necessary for “salvation.” The mention of the Virgin Mary is quite appropriate for she is the one who can aid the absolution of sins for all souls in Purgatory.

“Mary, Human Perfection, the Divine Mother of Christ, the Bride of the Holy Spirit, and a mother to us all.” This is how Dante presents her in “The Divine Comedy.” He is a pilgrim led by Mary to God.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is representative for Dante of the seven virtues: humility, charity, meekness, zeal, poverty, temperance and chastity. These virtues, of course, counter the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony and lust. Dante relies on the New Testament to call attention to the appropriate virtue in the Blessed Virgin. His presentation of Mary comes according to the following biblical texts: Luke 1:38 (humility), John 2:1-11(mercy), Luke 2:41-46 (meekness), Luke 1:39 (zeal), Luke 2:7 (poverty), John 2:1-11 (temperance) and Luke 1:34 (chastity)

When you arrive in Paradise, the reader will feel the presence of Mary in the form of luminescence, colors and music. In fact, the Virgin Mary is ineffable to Dante. This place is much too beautiful for the poet to speak and there is so much Dante has to share with us. In Canto XXI, St. Bernard appears to say: “The Queen of Heaven, for whom I am all Aflame with love, will grant us every grace: I am her faithful Bernard.” He seeks Mary’s intercession on behalf of Dante.

In my opinion, the most beautiful part of Paradise is Canto XXXIII, the last and final of “The Divine Comedy.” A prayer by Saint Bernard reads: “Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son, more humble and sublime than any creature, fixed goal decreed from all eternity, you are the one who gave to human nature so much nobility that its Creator did not disdain His being made its creature.”

Unlike Roman Catholics, people of other Christian denominations may question Mary’s role in the plan of salvation. What need is there for a mediator, but Christ himself? Devotion to Mary is seen by some Christians as diversion for the soul in its journey to God. But in this great poem, Dante has softened this suspicion, enabling Mary as a key character to quell all disbelief.

Thanks to Mary’s intercession, Dante is given a glimpse of the Trinity, of the “love that moves the sun and the other stars” and returns to recount his journey.

“The Divine Comedy” includes themes that have been studied and paraphrased by theologians, historians, philosophers, numerologists, Greek and Latin experts. It has since been the inspiration for the world’s greatest works in literature, art and music.

Dante’s profound words convey a theme of powerful praise for the purity and humility of Our Blessed Virgin to allow all readers to enjoy this epic poem.

Editor’s Note: Cecilia DiLoreto Sarcone, holds a BA with Honors, Italian Language and an MA, Italian Language from Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) and is an Adjunct Lecturer of Italian at CCSU, Marist College and Rockland County Community College (SUNY).



Primo Interview
Author Jo-Ann Vega Recounts Her Early Life in the Bronx Among Her Italian Parents, Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts
- “Moments in Flight” considers the social upheaval of modern times in context with an Italian family’s search for the American Dream

Why did you write “Moments in Flight”?

I am among a diminishing number of people who actually knew my Italian immigrant forebears, brave, sturdy and impoverished, crossed the Atlantic Ocean as human cargo on ships. I wanted to share and preserve memories of their incredible resilience before their stories are lost forever. This is my way of thanking them for making my life possible. I’d like readers to enjoy the journey, the stories; get reacquainted with themselves and the history of the United States; and open the door to dialogue with others.

An excerpt from chapter one reads: “I didn’t love him until I have my fourth or fifth child. It was one of those times when the message arrives as a blow. I unconsciously tensed to lessen the impact of my beloved grandmother’s frank admission, and felt the air forcibly expelled from me. For a few moments, I could not breathe or hear. Even now, decades later, my hands tremble as I type the words…My grandmother, in essence, was a mail order bride…”

The restrictions imposed by the covid pandemic have exacerbated social isolation and speeded up societal changes. Authentic stories are nutrients for healing, understanding and connection; they give us hope, especially during times of disruption; they tell us this too will pass; and they help us cope and endure. I invite you to read a free flip-book excerpt at

What is the storyline of “Moments in Flight”?

Part 1 is an extended eulogy to the Italian immigrants and an active childhood in the south Bronx playing on the streets without constant adult supervision. Part 2 details the impact of the famiglia’s relocation to suburbia, the quick addition of two siblings and coming of age during the relentless cultural upheavals of the 1970s. Part 3 is a bridge to today and life after work and parenting.
What makes you uniquely qualified to write “Moments in Flight”?

“Why me? An eyewitness, participant, and informed observer of the last half century of transformative change, I bring an independent voice and perspective. I’ve been at the business of writing and reflection for a long time... For more than three decades I’ve designed and delivered educational programs for business, academic, and community groups…”
What differentiates "Moments in Flight" from similar books that are available?

Crafted and with excerpts from 40 years’ worth of writing and journaling, “Moments in Flight” also features useful websites, historical timelines and a Book Club Discussion Guide.
How can I order "Moments in Flight"?

Available in 6x9 paperback at



- Italian Americans are Fighting Back with Key Victories to Boast
- However, Challenges Remain on Many Fronts

By Robert Petrone, Esq.

The fight to protect the legacy of Christopher Columbus has now become a worldwide war. Here are the latest developments:

1. In Italy, the Italian Parliament has passed a motion pledging to support Italian American activists in the United States seeking to preserve Christopher Columbus's holiday, statues, monuments and other namesakes. Parliamentarians Fuscia Nissoli and Federico Mollicone proposed the motion, which the Chamber of Deputies passed.  The United States mainstream media has failed to report on the resolution.

2. In Randolph NJ, the Italian American OneVoice Coalition (IAOVC) successfully convinced the Randolph School Board to vote 8 to 1 to reverse it's earlier decision to not only eliminate Christopher Columbus's name from the school calendar, but to eliminate all holiday names!  Thanks to the IAOVC's pressure, all holiday names, including "Christopher Columbus Day" are back on the school calendar. 

3. In Syracuse NY, the Columbus Monument Corporation has filed suit against the city and its mayor to protect the Columbus Statue in Syracuse's downtown Columbus Circle, arguing that the statue sits within a preservation district protected by "various state, local and federal preservation laws."  CMC Secretary Robert Gardino asks for support, which you can provide by emailing Mayor Ben Wash at to register your objection to Syracuse's plan to remove the statue. To learn more about the Columbus Monument Corporation of Syracuse, please log on to their web site at

4. In Waterbury CT, vandal Brandon Ambrose, caught on video beheading the Christopher Columbus statue outside City Hall was arrested by authorities after attempting to sell the nose of the statue online. He plead guilty and was ordered by the court to pay the city $8,800.00 to restore the statue. The residents of Waterbury have voted to keep the now-restored statue in its rightful place outside City Hall.

5. In Chicago IL, African-Americans are vociferously objecting to renaming Christopher Columbus Day to "Indigenous People's Day" on the grounds that the tribal peoples of the Americas enslaved many Africans.  Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore said the tribal peoples must "acknowledge their role in the rich history of Black slaves."

6. In Chula Vista CA, residents voted to permanently remove the Christopher Columbus statue in order to replace it with a new monument "honoring diversity and indigenous peoples," equating "[t]he Columbus statue and monuments" with "White supremacy."  

7. In Newark NJ, the city has replaced their Christopher Columbus statue with a statue of Harriet Tubman. Mayor Ras Baraka claims the replacement is "poetic" because "Harriet Tubman actually stepped foot here in this property," and "Christopher Columbus did not."

8. In Wilmington DE, the city removed its Christopher Columbus statue in 2020 because city officials saw "social media threats against it." Wilmington is also removing the statue to Declaration of Independence signer Caesar Rodney, whose family members were also Italian immigrants. Rodney is known for riding through the night on July 1, 1776, from Delaware to Philadelphia to cast the deciding vote to declare the United State's independence from Great Britain.

Editor’s Note: Pictured is a portrait Caesar Rodney and his statue in Wilmington that was removed by the city. The writer of the article, Mr. Petrone, is an attorney based in Philadelphia and serves as the south Philadelphia chapter president for Filitalia International. He provides expanded reports in his Christopher Columbus University segments at Radio Voice Italia,


The Women of Ancient Italy
The Author of “Priestess of Pompeii” Explains What Life Was Really Like in Antiquity
- The novel covers all aspects of the ancient world, from pagan worship to political intrigue

In “Priestess of Pompeii,” Sandra C. Hurt conceived a trilogy to take readers on an amazing journey through ancient Pompeii and Rome. Her main character is Rufilla, a girl adopted by the rich and powerful Isticidii family. We read a firsthand account of antiquity when men and women coped with Rome’s transition, from Republic to Empire. PRIMO met with the author to discuss her book and her thoughts on Italy’s ancient past.

What attracted you to write about ancient Pompeii?

In the early 1990s, I attended a lecture on women in art that would change my life. The woman who captured my heart was immortalized in a fresco housed in the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, circa first century BCE. I still can't get this real-life woman out of my mind. Her name is Rufilla Istacidia, but this was perfect for a historical novel because little is known about her.

"Priestess of Pompeii - The Initiate's Journey" contains an extraordinary amount of information about Italian antiquity. Please give us some insight into what lengths you went to research this period to convey such incredible details.

My research took me first to Italy and then several years studying the Classics at Indiana University to learn and fall in love with the history of ancient Romans and Greeks. More trips back to Italy and then several to Greece, including Crete, have given me opportunities to experience first-hand the cities and excavation sites that gave a richness to telling her story. Meeting and learning from American archaeologists, art historians, the academics and people of Italy and Greece, both ancient and modern, enriched my experiences. I continue to attend lectures given by learned women and men who have continued to share their wisdom and insights into the ancient world.

What were some surprises you found in your research? What were those "wow" moment(s) when you came across a unique fact(s) about ancient Pompeii and Rome that you hadn't expected?

Pompeii has a recorded history with finds from excavations of artifacts and, in some cases, houses built over earlier ancient houses. The earliest finds, so far, are back to 600 BCE, but with the fact that there were established farming communities as far back as 2000 BCE, I can't help but wonder what will be unearthed next. The rich farmland around Pompeii, which developed due to the eruptions of Vesuvius, seems to have given generations of people a reason to repopulate and restore Pompeii even after each eruption.

"Priestess of Pompeii," revolves around key female characters. We tend to think of the past as a time of oppression for women; but as you detail in your book, women had considerable power, influence and independence in ancient Pompeii. Please comment.

Italian women in the first century BCE did not have the right to vote. But same as today, women have always had conversations within their women's groups, with their husbands, male friends and lovers. The histories were all written by men, thus "his-story." But recent scholarship has given us insights into how women, especially Roman women, were taken seriously. Livia, Augustus' wife, is a good example, although modern writers such as Robert Graves', I, Claudius have often given her a less than flattering look.

Remember, even Greek women, who were much more repressed, were given voice through the playwright Aristophanes when he wrote the play Lysistrata, a bawdy, anti-war comedy. In it, women of the warring cities are persuaded by a strong Athenian woman by the name of Lysistrata to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers to force the men to negotiate peace. The play was first staged in 411 BCE – 21 years into the Peloponnesian War. Ironically, all the roles were played by men.

As the title of your book signifies, the pagan beliefs of ancient Rome come into serious play. What was it like to live a life where gods and goddesses held sway?

This is strictly my opinion, but from my research, it seems that early on, the Roman religion was animistic and later developed its own gods and goddesses. Due to a large Greek population in areas around Pompeii, Romans adopted many of the Greek gods but kept their Roman names. They took their religion seriously, giving homage to all the gods and goddesses. But they also had their favorites. Rituals were essential and were performed for specific deities. For example, Venus was the patron goddess of Pompeii.

There were street altars and often an altar in the kitchens. In many homes, there was a sacred room, lararium, devoted to honoring specific deities as well as the spirits of their families' ancestors. Many began their day with a prayer and request for the day, not unlike many of us today.

"Priestess of Pompeii - The Initiate's Journey" is Book One. Can you give us a preview of Book Two?

Nothing is known about the real-life Rufilla Istacidia, except that she was a priestess. However, modern-day archaeologists think that she may have owned the Villa of the Mysteries, so Book Two will be about the fictional development of the Dionysian rituals and the making of the famous frescoes that fill the ritual room in the Villa of the Mysteries, located just outside the town of Pompeii. Rufilla's character will evolve and flourish as she matures, facing difficult circumstances but finally taking her place as Priestess of Pompeii.

A third book will complete the series and will bring the story into the modern era.

Editor’s Note: PRIMO reviewed “Priestess of Pompeii” to acclaim a story as brought to life through extraordinary research and insight by the author. You can read more about Sandra C. Hurt and purchase her novel at her web site:


- A Supplemental Recollection to an Article in PRIMO’s Current Edition Titled, “Alfred Hitchcock’s 'Italians'”
- “I had known of some of his scripts and there was one that had been made into a film that was a particular favorite of mine.”

By John Primerano

In 1993, I worked in the film, “Two Bits,” playing a husband and father who attends a wedding with his wife and daughter. Joseph Stefano had written the screenplay based on his early life in South Philly. As the PRIMO article mentions, Mr. Stefano wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Psycho,” based on Robert Bloch's novel of the same title.

“Two Bits” starred Al Pacino and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. It told the story of how Mr. Stefano grew up in Philadelphia, went into the service during World War II and, when discharged, was in New York, where he was married. He was listening to a jukebox one night and thought he could write lyrics as good as a song that had been played multiple times. He went on to become a lyricist and then a writer for film and television.

One day, I saw Mr. Stefano watching the action from a corner, away from the set, while we were shooting in South Philly. I had known of some of his scripts and there was one that had been made into a film that was a particular favorite of mine. I was not in the scene and decided to cross the street to speak with him. I said hello and introduced myself.

"You wrote one of my favorite films,” I said. He gave me a quiet, yet cordial, hello. I could see, after mentioning the phrase, "one of my favorite films,” he was expecting, and steeling himself, for one more person to say, "Psycho.” I then finished the sentence by saying, “The Black Orchid,” which had starred Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn. If you have seen the movie, you know it's about a widowed Italian woman whose husband was murdered by a small-time gangster. She then meets an Italian widower. The two get together despite the woman's sorrow and the possessive jealousy of the man’s daughter.
When I mentioned the title, Mr. Stefano's eyes pleasantly lit up in surprise and, I noticed, with satisfaction. We talked about the movie and he told me, with what I noticed was a bit of pride, that Sophia Loren had told him, that “The Black Orchid” was one of her personal favorites of the many films she made. 

We didn't have much time to talk, as I had to get back to the set, and I never crossed paths with him again. However, it's an experience I remember well, mostly because I believe Mr. Stefano was truly surprised by the film I mentioned. He epitomized for me the man who feels he can do something, like songwriting and screenwriting, without much background or education in those areas; but he stays at it to become a success through determination.
Editor’s Note: Pictured is a poster of “The Black Orchid,” screenwriter Joseph Stefano and Italian poster for “Psycho.” Mr. Primerano is a professional singer, musician and songwriter who performs regularly in venues throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey. Please visit his web site at


- Italy is Ruled by a Dictator, Says the Author. America is not.
- True Federalism Exists in America, Albeit Beside a Powerful Oligarchy

By Dr. Christopher Binetti

Italy is ruled by a dictator. If you have read my previous article, you know that I believe this. My detractors have not actually supplied any facts to contradict my assessment. Mario Draghi is going to be in power until 2023, by all appearances. An unelected man gets to stay in power for another two years thanks to the support of the European Union, which is trying to colonize Italy. What does that sound like to you? It sounds like dictatorship to me.

Is the United States better off?

The United States is run by a broad oligarchy - a ruling class that seeks to erase the voices of non-constituents. Academia, media, sports, the entertainment industry, many state and local politicians and many national political elites belong to the broad oligarchical class that seeks to rule America. Do not make the mistake of believing this coalition to be liberal-progressivism; it is illiberal at its core. Real liberals do not cancel people. A monopolistic newspaper in New Jersey has me blacklisted, in part, for supporting Italian American civil rights.

Democracy is endangered outright at the national level and essentially over in New Jersey and other “progressive” states. However, in the oligarchical lands of America, there is still more freedom here than in Italy, where a national dictatorship prevails. Because Italy is a unitary state, where all real power is held by the central government, not the regions, there is no counterbalance to the current prime minister’s power.

The United States is federal. Power resides at federal and state levels. State leaders can check the federal government and vice-versa, as it should be. However, in a unitary state, the central government has all the power. If a region of Italy tries to go its own way, it cannot win.

In contrast, states in America have rights. This is true no matter who rules the nation. Ultimately, the United States is a union of states. When states become ruled by an oligarchy, like in New Jersey, the regional bureaucracy and oligarchical elected politicians cannot rule with impunity unless supported by national elites. It is not easy to run both national and state levels with a single oligarchical coalition.

That said, the Democrats, my party, are trying to turn the nation into a unitary oligarchy, which would set the stage for a dictatorship, right or left-wing in the future. The electoral laws that Democrats want to impose on states will bring us closer to a unitary state, as it is in Italy.

Despite our challenges, the United States is much better off than Italy. Both countries are ruled by leftist coalitions of a sort, but the coalition in Italy has no real power because they are beholden to Draghi and his allies in the European Union. Biden is no dictator and relies on many other groups and individuals for power. We may be a questionable democracy and certainly not a liberal democracy, but we are far from a dictatorship thanks to checks and balances, federalism and the independence of the judiciary.

Editor’s Note: The views, all or in part, as expressed by the author may not be shared by PRIMO. Dr. Binetti’s email address is He currently heads the Italian American Movement.


- Italy’s Proposed “Zan’s Law” Seeks to Curb Freedom of Speech, Press and Religion
- Is America Next?

By Cameron Cutrone

Summer’s always a time for love. And Italians know a thing or two about that. However, love in the current age has been a little less Romantic, and increasingly more politically charged.

Recently Italy’s lower house passed “Zan’s Law,” penned by activist and politician Alessandro Zan. It seeks to curb “homophobia” on it’s face, but as other politicians like Matteo Salvini and even the Catholic Church have pointed out, it could limit freedom of speech, press, assembly, and even personal conscience if applied as broadly as it’s proponents would have it. Keep in mind, we’re talking about speech some may deem offensive, not a global pandemic. So this has many Italians saying “basta!” Enough already.

Anyone who cares about the sacred freedoms listed above has to look at this law carefully, as this type of legislation is bound to reach America’s shores soon enough.

For years, the LGBT movement has focused on increasing freedom, a laudable goal if the whole point is to be a part of society, rather than a marginal subculture. But recently it has taken a turn, not towards more freedom for themselves, but LESS freedom for individuals who voice an objection, be it private, public, religious, or secular.

Moreover, as the readers have undoubtedly noticed, multinationals and Fortune 500 companies are 100% into celebrating “Pride Month.” They have an enormous influence in molding public opinion. That is a clear sign of not only acceptance, but even approaches the territory of advocacy. It is that exact point that needs addressing.

Those behind Zan’s Law, and undoubtedly their counterparts on this side of the Atlantic, don’t distinguish very well between the concept of tolerance (simply accepting LGBT people as members of society, worthy of the same rights) and advocacy (active allies in a social movement).

They are two different concepts. One should not view a person as a criminal or hater for simply tolerating their existence, but refusing to “celebrate” their sexual preference. Too often, the words “hate speech” are confused with someone who, even modestly in their individual capacity, disagrees with LGBT activists or their tactics.

This legislation has a chance of being made law in Italy, and is most definitely on the horizon in the United States. It must be handled by affirming the rights of individuals and organizations to voice their opinions, and exercise their conscience. Corporate America has made it’s stance clear. So why not let individuals and churches have their opinions too? This works for everyone. Western values like these have taken us (including people of an LGBT lifestyle) very far, both in Italy and the USA. Let’s not give up on those values so easily out of fear. We can’t criminalize people who profess their belief in marriage being between a man and a woman, or that women’s sports should be exclusively for people with X chromosomes. Let us be reminded that respecting diversity has nothing to do criminalizing those with different points of view. 

Editor: The writer is a proud Italian American from Texas. The views expressed may not be shared by PR