PRIMO Magazine
                 | Subscribe | Back Issues | Contact |
PRIMO Magazine
For and About Italian Americans
 
Home Mission Current Edition Subscribe Advertise Back Issues Books, DVDs, & CDs Reviews and Views Recipes Writer's Guidelines Editing Services Donations Contact Us
PRIMO Magazine

  Preview the current edition of PRIMO

       Third edition 2023 is published and en route to readers. On the cover...Pinocchio! 
       This is an awesome edition! Full of wonderful articles, commentary and images!

  • Call with your questions or comments at 866-677-7466 or email help@flprimo.com. Special offers: Buy one-year subscription and receive a free poster. Buy a two-year subscription and receive an Italian language phrase book. Buy a three-year subscription and receive a coffee mug.













 

 

 

 

 




The Latest News…from an Italian American Perspective:

Note: Content on the PRIMO web site is different from the print edition of PRIMO magazine. To read the latest articles in the newest print edition of PRIMO, please subscribe today.
Please remember to update your browser in order to view all material on our web site.

 

   

 

 

PRESERVE COLUMBUS DRIVE
Chicago Alderman Wants to Replace Columbus Drive with Barack Obama Drive
- Chicagoans Had No Problem with Columbus Drive for 91 Years
- Still in his first term, Alderman Lamont Robinson seeks confrontation with Italian Americans

By Truby Chiaviello

The great city of Chicago has more than 80 street names.

One is for Columbus.

Alderman Lamont Robinson, of the city’s 4th Ward, doesn’t like it. Still in his first term, he has proposed an ordinance to replace Columbus Drive with Barack Obama Drive.

Italian Americans are ready to fight this proposed change. The ordinance must be reviewed by the Chicago City Council’s Transportation Committee before debated and voted by the City Council.

There are many other drives, streets, avenues, lanes, to choose from in Chicago to name after President Obama. Why pick one named after Columbus?

“Insensitive and un-vetted,” says Ron Onesti, in response to the proposed name change. “As we commend Alderman Robinson’s intent of honoring a most worthy historic, home-town figure, why must it be at the expense of one ethnic group, and why take such a noble effort and attach it to an action offensive to the over 500,000 Americans of Italian descent in and around Chicago.”

Mr. Onesti is the president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA). His organization comprises the many small to large Italian American organizations in Chicago. He has gained national support to preserve Columbus Drive from the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).

The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA) is a member of the national organization, as led by Judge Basil M. Russo. Once the majority leader of the city council of Cleveland, Judge Russo knows well the game of politics. He believes Alderman Robinson is making a strategic error in trying to rename Columbus Drive in Chicago.

“Local leaders know they can attract media attention with these replacement ordinances,” says Judge Russo,” but such efforts afford them little political capital among voters, as these measures fail to address the real issues their constituents face, i.e., economic uncertainty and public safety concerns.”

The national organization of Italian American leaders, “wholeheartedly supports honoring past presidents from both sides of the aisle but not at the expense of our heritage,” says Judge Russo, president of COPOMIAO.

Robert Ferrito, president of the National Commission for Social Justice of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, says his organization is on the side of Chicago Italians.

“Alderman Lamont Robinson’s proposal to rename Columbus Drive after President Barack Obama is another instance of the ‘cancel culture’ undermining our heritage,” Mr. Ferrito says. “I believe tribute can be paid without erasing Christopher Columbus’s legacy.”

Mr. Ferrito calls on all Italian Americans, in and around Chicago, to get involved. “We urge you to voice your opposition to Alderman Robinson's proposal and request its retraction. Contact the Chicago City Council and express your concerns regarding this proposal. Let us stand united in preserving our history and heritage.”

Christopher Columbus Drive has, for 91 years, blazed a 2.2-mile path through Chicago’s famous Loop; from East Grand Avenue south to DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

It was on August 3, 1933, on “Italian Day,” as part of the Century of Progress celebration, when Chicago officially renamed, what had been Inner Drive, to Columbus Drive.

JCCIA represents over 50 Italian American organizations in the Chicago area. Its president, Ron Onesti, claims “the members are furious at the suggestion by Alderman Robinson. This is another flippant act against an ethnic group that has contributed much to this great city.”

The insults to Italian Americans are unceasing in the Windy City. Anti-Italianism reigns the mindset of more than one of the city’s past and present elected leaders.

Recall, it was back on July 20, 2020, when Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered, not one, not two, but, all three Columbus monuments in Chicago removed from their respective pedestals. She went back on her promise to the Italian American community after rioters showed up at her doorstep. In a stunning defeat for reelection, Lightfoot was succeeded by Brandon Johnson, a mayor who serves with socialistic zeal, going so far as to announce the government might open grocery stores as those modeled in Cuba. No word yet as to Mayor Johnson’s plan to return the Columbus monuments to their rightful positions, especially the edifice of Grant Park, where the city may have broken a contract when they removed the artwork.

In the summer of 2022, it was Alderman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez who sponsored a poll on her Twitter page to celebrate Italian American heritage. She tweeted multiple choice answers for worthy monuments limited to Italian ices, espresso machines and…cannoli.

Now comes Alderman Robinson with an unnecessary choice of roadways, to rename Columbus Drive to Barack Obama Drive.

Mr. Onesti offers a reasonable way forward.

“The JCCIA implores Alderman Robinson to retract his proposal and invite Chicago’s Italian American community to join the effort to find a relevant, all-inclusive, and positive way to honor a leader who is a symbol of pride for all Chicagoans, and a role model for its youth.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Ron Onesti is president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. There web site is https://www.jccia.com

 

DON’T DO IT!
Committee Urges N.H. Legislature to Vote Down Columbus Day Elimination Bill
- Members in committee voted 14 to 1 for Columbus
- “Inexpedient to Legislate”

By Mike Daigle

Break open the prosecco.

Good news on the legislative front!

The New Hampshire (N.H.) House Executive Departments & Administrative Committee voted H.B. 1335, the bill to eliminate Columbus Day as a state holiday, “Inexpedient to Legislate” by a 14 to 1 vote.

The Committee recommends to the full N.H. House of Representatives that the bill be voted down.

Friends of Italian Americans had nine speakers testify against the bill, including Senator Lou D'Allesandro and Representative Susan Porcelli. The only person speaking in favor of passage was one of the bill’s two sponsors.

We will still monitor this bill as it goes to the full House to make certain it is voted down.

Thank you to all Friends members who testified or went online to register your opposition to the bill.

Your voices were heard!

Editor’s Note: The writer is the president of the Friends of Italian Americans. The organization’s website is: https://friendsofia.org/

 

REINSTALL COLUMBUS MONUMENT IN COLUMBUS, OHIO…NOW!
Andre’ DiMino, President, Italian American One Voice Coalition, Makes The Case for Columbus in the City Named After Him
- Mayor of Columbus, Ohio, Andrew J. Gentler, Seeks to “Reimagine” Columbus
- Avoiding Lies and Misconceptions about the Founder of the New World

Dear Mayor Andrew J. Ginther:

I am formally submitting this on behalf of Italian American groups and individual members of our nationwide organization, The Italian American One Voice Coalition ("IAOVC").

Constituents of yours advised us about your "Reimagining Columbus" project and the public input you are seeking for the treatment of the Columbus Statue, which you removed nearly four years ago. We applaud your efforts at seeking public input at reinstalling the Columbus Statue.  However, we are extremely concerned that the input you will receive will be based on falsehoods and misconceptions.

The recent attacks on the legacy of Christopher Columbus were launched by a self-declared anarchist and Marxist, Howard Zinn, and his hatred for this country. He sought to destroy America by rewriting history with hurtful fabrications to demolish the underpinnings of our country. In his 1980 book, "A Peoples History of the United States," he denigrated Western Culture starting with false facts and distortions about Christopher Columbus, who was responsible for bringing Western Culture to this part of the world with his great achievement of uniting the continents. Zinn's books have been roundly and soundly debunked by prominent academics and authors such as Dr. Mary Graber in her book "Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America" and Rafael Ortiz, an author of indigenous heritage, who has penned four books defending Columbus by disputing Zinn with primary sources and historically accurate descriptions.

Based on experiences around the country, we are extremely concerned your team of "historians and consultants" advising on this project could be replete with devotees of Howard Zinn's false teachings, and not reflective of the actual facts about Columbus, as from experts such as Dr. Graber and Mr. Ortiz.

In addition to the above, are you considering Columbus' importance as an iconic symbol to generations of Italian Americans? Are you aware that the largest single-day lynching in America was of 11 innocent Italian Americans in 1891, as well as other lynchings and disgraceful treatment suffered by Italian American immigrants? And, did you know that in 1892, the 400th anniversary of Columbus arrival, President Harrison declared national celebration of the first Columbus Day as an atonement and apology to Italian Americans, and a sign of their acceptance into America?  Since that time, generations of Italian Americans have revered Columbus as that apology and acceptance into this great country. That is why attacking Columbus is an attack on Italian Americans.

Therefore, we sincerely hope you will do the right thing. Don't let your "Reimagining" of the Columbus statue fall victim to the lies of Zinn.  Please don't perpetuate his hatred for America. Please do not allow those who have been brainwashed by the teachings of an America-hater affect how Columbus will be portrayed, especially (and ironically) in the city named after him!

What occurs with the Columbus statue should not marginalize, defame or insult Italian Americans by perpetuating the false narrative of the great explorer.

On behalf of Italian Americans in your city, state and across the country, we hope you will carefully consider these facts before allowing incorrect treatment of this iconic symbol to Italian Americans - and actually all Americans.

Very truly yours,

Andre' DiMino
President

Editor’s Note: The web site for the Italian American One Voice Coalition is at https://www.iaovc.org/

 

HISTORIC ALLIANCE
Italian Americans and Native Americans Unite Against Cancel Culture
- Both Sides Shatter Myths of Division as Perpetrated by Mainstream Media, Political and Academic Opportunists
- Keep Columbus Day! Keep Native American Icons! No More Woke!
What’s The True Background of the Redskins’ Name and Logo

By Truby Chiaviello

An alliance for the ages begins.

Italian Americans and Native Americans unite to fight cancel culture censorship.

Italian American One Voice Coalition, Italian American Alliance, the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, UNICO National, and other Italian American organizations, both large and small, have allied themselves with Native American Guardians Association.

Their collective goal is to stop the censorship of American history and culture. They want to keep Columbus Day. They want to keep Columbus monuments and statuary in public squares. They want to keep Native American signs and mascots. They want works of literature and cinema, such as those belonging to western and historical genres, to be read and shown, as originally created, without concealment of material deemed, today, “offensive.”

It was in February, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, when both groups met to forge their historic alliance. Members of Scranton UNICO National sponsored the event, to be headlined by Andre’ DiMino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition (IAVOC) and Eunice Davidson, president and founder of Native American Guardians Association (NAGA).

“We are so pleased and honored to be joining with NAGA to foster unity and not division,” said DiMino. “We support NAGA’s mission of preserving Native American heritage as they now join with us to defend our heritage by preserving Columbus Day.”

DiMino was given a ceremonial star blanket by Eunice and her husband, David Davidson, as a symbol of solidarity between both ethnic groups.

Thomas Damigella, of the Italian American Alliance, is credited with bringing both sides together. He witnessed how NAGA was pushing back against cancel culture advocates in Boston. He thought the time had come to unit both groups for a national effort against historical censorship and revisionism.

According to a statement by IAOVC, Native American and Italian American communities share a common experience of marginalization and misrepresentation in mainstream discourse. Both groups have faced historical injustices and stereotypes that continue to impact their communities today. By joining forces, they aim to confront the harmful effects of cancel culture and reclaim their narratives.

NAGA is a national organization based in Devils Lake, North Dakota. Their membership consists of Native Americans who belong to the many tribes, on and off reservations, throughout the United States. Their mission is best summarized by their slogan: “Educate, Not Eradicate.”

Led by Eunice Davidson, NAGA began in response to efforts by cancel culture activists to censor out of existence names and iconography associated with Native Americans. NAGA now leads a petition drive to bring back the name and logo of the NFL team, Washington Redskins, as purged and replaced, in 2022, with the uninspiring, Washington Commanders.

NAGA’s web site hosts a page of misconceptions to undercut claims by many in academia and mainstream media that certain depictions in popular culture are offensive to Native Americans. They share several polls by Sports Illustrated, Washington Post and others to show significant majorities of Native Americans prefer to keep the Washington Redskins name and mascot.

NAGA relays the true history of the term “Redskins.” Native Americans sought to distinguish themselves from European settlers, they say. “The historical Redskin actually has nothing to do with the color or race of the Indian at all. It is specific to those early, red-painted native warriors who were known for their bravery, skill and fighting spirit. The Red Men were Red-painted warriors ready for battle.”

Washington chose the name “Redskins,” in 1933, based on the team’s first head coach and several key players who were Native Americans. The famous mascot was created in 1971 by a Native American, Walter ‘Blackie’ Wetzel, based on the profile of Blackfeet Indian chief, White Calf.

How NAGA collaborates with key Italian American organizations will begin with virtual meetings. Andre’ DiMino describes the first such get-together as a “Solidarity Session,” scheduled on March 10.

Eunice Davidson says, ”These sessions will provide a vital platform for our communities to come together, share experiences, and explore strategies to combat the negative impacts of cancel culture. By standing in solidarity with one another, we can challenge the erasure of our histories and promote a more inclusive and equitable society."

Editor’s Note: Pictured are the attendees of the event sponsored by UNICO National in Scranton where Italian Americans announced an alliance with Native Americans. Andre’ DiMino is seated with the ceremonial blanket next to Eunice and David Davidson. You can learn more about the Native American Guardians Association by logging on to their informative web site, https://www.nagaeducation.org/

 

BIDEN AND MELONI CONFER IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Second Time Both Leaders Meet
- Support for Ukraine Remains Vital for Both Countries
- Efforts to Improve Africa Undertaken by Italy and the United States
Where Does Biden Stand on Columbus Day?

By Truby Chiaviello

Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first female prime minister, came to Washington, on March 1, for what was a quick meeting with President Joe Biden. She was then on her way to Toronto, Canada, where she was to meet there the next day with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Inside the White House Oval Office, President Biden greeted Prime Minister Meloni, with “Georgia, On My Mind,” by the late Ray Charles, playing in the background. The two were seated in front of a lit fireplace for a photo opportunity and joint statement to the press.

“Look, Italy and the United States are strong allies and really close friends,” said President Biden. “And as you said when we first met here in the Oval Office, Giorgia, that we have each other’s backs. And we do. And you’ve demonstrated that from the moment you took office.”

This was the second occasion for Meloni, as Italy’s prime minister, to meet President Biden in the White House. She said, “During our last meeting here in Washington, we said we wanted to improve our bilateral cooperation and our trade, and we did it. For in 2023, our bilateral trade reached the highest amount ever with $102 billion of exchange. So, I think we did a good job, but I also think that we can do even better. And I hope this will be our mutual goal for this year.”

Meloni was appointed in December to serve as president of the Group of Seven (G7) for a one-year term, as rotated among other member leaders. The political and economic forum comprises Italy and the United States, but also, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan. Meloni’s presence in Washington was in dual roles, as prime minister of Italy and as president of the G7.

While sitting beside Meloni, President Biden took the opportunity to speak in support of legislation, now pending in the U.S. Congress, to provide funding for Ukraine and Israel in the current conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Later in the day, Will McIntee, Senior Advisor, Office of Public Engagement in the White House, organized a session for members of the Italian American press and Italian American leaders to gain more information about the bilateral meeting between Italy and the United States. Andrew Johnson, Senior Director for Europe for the National Security Council, was on hand to espouse the strong relationship between the two countries.

“This is a unique opportunity for the two of them to connect,” Johnson said in reference to President Biden and Prime Minister Meloni. “We are latched up hand in glove with Italy in a host of priorities, most notably our shared commitment to Ukraine.”

In the Oval Office, Prime Minister Meloni mentioned how Italy and the United States are working together to help with economic development in Africa. She hopes by improving employment opportunities and living standards there, fewer Africans will illegally migrate through Italy.

Johnson underscored the two countries commitment to Africa through “large scale projects such as the Global Infrastructure and Investment’s Lobito Corridor.” He says the United States and Italy are trying to help build a massive “rail line through Congo…and a clean energy project in Angola to become the largest solar farm in the world.”

Support for Ukraine was at the top of the list of important topics discussed between Prime Minister Meloni and President Biden. “Italy has done an enormous amount in the way of humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine,” said Johnson. “Prime Minister Meloni has consistently professed support for Ukraine among EU leaders, most recently for the EU decision in February for a multi year commitment of $54 billion for Ukraine. This is an important development to communicate to Putin that the U.S. and her allies are committed to Ukraine and not walking away from this issue.”

Some time this summer, the White House will host a celebration to mark the 75th anniversary of the NATO alliance, according to Johnson. Leaders of the participating countries are expected to meet in Washington for the historic milestone. No doubt, Prime Minister Meloni will be among them for this unique event.

A few questions were allowed from members of the press and Italian American leaders in attendance. Andre’ DiMino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, inquired about pending legislation, S-2970, to eliminate Columbus Day. DiMino asked, if passed by both chambers of Congress, will President Biden veto the bill.

Johnson’s quick reply was a reference to the White House statement on Columbus Day in the fall, last year, “to…speak for itself.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured is President Biden and Prime Minister inside the Oval Office. The article was posted on March 2.

 

FATE OF COLUMBUS DAY STAGNATES IN U.S. SENATE
Bill to End Federal Holiday Now Rests in Judiciary Committee
- Italian Americans Must Keep Up The Pressure
- One Senator, Jon Ossoff, Is Especially Vulnerable
“I am constantly imploring people to call Senators and Reps to oppose this disgraceful, ant-Italian, anti-American Senate Bill S-2970,” says Andre' DiMino

By Truby Chiaviello

 

Keep calling. Keep emailing. Keep up the pressure.

Italian Americans can defeat S. 2970, the bill, to eliminate Columbus Day a federal holiday, as introduced last year by Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat, of New Mexico.

The proposed legislation is now stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The goal is to let it die there.

Last week, Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations and Andre’ DiMino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, urged all Italian Americans to get involved.

They requested every Italian American contact their U.S. Senators by phone and email.

Since then, the lines have been lit up in the Senate. The emails are non stop. The message is loud and clear. Columbus Day must stay the way it is!

A federal holiday to be celebrated the second Monday of every October is what Italian Americans want for Columbus Day. What Senator Henreich and others seek is to swap that out for Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

According to Andre’ DiMino, Senate bill S.2970 “has not been added to the Judiciary Committee agenda, as of yet. Hopefully it will stay that way and will die in committee.”

The Judiciary Committee, made up of 21 U.S. Senators, has to first endorse the legislation to be sent to the Senate floor for a full vote.

According to DiMino, a debate on Columbus Day is not a high priority for members of the Judiciary Committee. He says, “With all the other issues they are dealing with (impeachment, Ukraine, funding, etc.) we hope they don’t get to it.”

Italian Americans must remain vigilant. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Italian Americans must not depend on the bill dying in the Judiciary Committee. “We can't rely on that,” says DiMino. “I am constantly attending meetings, making calls and sending out emails imploring people to call Senators and Reps to oppose this disgraceful, ant-Italian, anti-American Senate Bill S-2970. The alliance we formed with the Native Americans was specifically to aid in that effort. We must prevail - and this bill must die!”

Italian Americans are engaged like never before. Calling and emailing their U.S. Senators can be most effective in defeating this proposed anti-Italian bill.

Some Senators, now serving on the Judiciary Committee, face tough reelections in the future. They will be especially sensitive to the current outcry.

Senator Jon Ossoff, Democrat, of Georgia, comes to mind.

He was elected to the Senate by the slimmest of margins in 2020. He defeated incumbent, David Perdue, in a runoff, with 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent of the vote.

Georgia is a state where many Italian Americans have moved to in recent years. Approaching three percent of the state’s total population, there are now 238,027 Italian Americans who are residents of Georgia.

Remember this figure when analyzing Ossoff’s reelection hopes in 2026.

The senator received 2,374,519 votes to his opponent’s 2,214,979. Italian Americans have more than the number of votes to send Ossoff to defeat if he votes to eliminate Columbus Day. No doubt, he and his staff will closely monitor the phone calls and emails they receive about this important issue. The more Italian Americans who contact him, the more likely he is to keep Columbus Day a federal holiday.

Both DiMino and Russo are veterans of political causes. They have fought many battles to keep Columbus Day and Columbus monuments in many places in America. They know that numbers matter. Italian Americans can win if they engage in the process.

All eyes are on Democrats who serve on the Judiciary Committee. On the topic of Columbus, their party is more divided than the Republicans.

Democratic mayors of major cities have all but wiped out Columbus in a Cancel Culture barrage. Yet, Democratic voters and their representatives who live outside big cities feel differently. Many are sick and tired of incessant censorship of history, literature, film and other forms entertainment. They understand that no figure of history is perfect. Columbus Day is a worthy holiday to celebrate the discovery of America.

Who’s Who In The Senate Judiciary Committee

The following is a list of U.S. Senators who are members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and the percentage of Italian Americans who live in their states.

DEMOCRATS:

Dick Durbin, D, Illinois, chairman of the committee, 5.75% Italian Americans.

Sheldon Whitehouse, D, Rhode Island, 15.5% Italian Americans. Now up for reelection.

Amy Klobuchar, D, Minnesota, 2.18% Italian Americans. Now up for reelection.

Chris Coons, D, Delaware, 8% Italian Americans.

Richard Blumenthal, D, Connecticut, 16% Italian Americans. Now up for reelection.

Marie Hirono, D, Hawaii, 2.12% Italian Americans. Now up for reelection.

Corey Booker, D, New Jersey, 14.5% Italian Americans.

Alex Padilla, D, California, 3.5% Italian Americans.

Jon Ossoff, D, Georgia, 2.13% Italian Americans. Up for reelection in 2026.

Peter Welch, D, Vermont, 7% Italian Americans.

Laphonza Butler, D, California, 3.5% Italian Americans. Appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October 2023 after Senator Diane Feinstein died. An election is underway this year to in California to fill the Senate vacancy.

REPUBLICANS:

Lindsey Graham, R, South Carolina, Ranking Member, 2.8% Italian Americans,

Chuck Grassley, R, Iowa, 2% Italian Americans

John Cornyn, R, Texas, 2% Italian Americans

Mike Lee, R, Utah, 2.5% Italian Americans

Ted Cruz, R, Texas, 2% Italian Americans

Josh Hawley, R, Missouri, 3.3% Italian Americans

Tom Cotton, R, Arkansas, 1.5% Italian Americans

John Kennedy, R, Louisiana, 4.5% Italian Americans

Thom Tillis, R, North Carolina, 3% Italian Americans

Marsha Blackburn, R, Tennessee, 2.2% Italian Americans

Editor’s Note: You can contact your U.S. Senator by accessing https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm. The web sites for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is https://copomiao.org/ and the Italian American One Voice Coalition is https://www.iaovc.org/ The article is posted on 2-27-24.

 

SHOWDOWN IN THE SENATE
Columbus Day Debate Hits Congress
- Senate Bill S. 2970 Seeks Elimination of Federal Holiday Status
- Italian Americans Are Called to Contact Their Senators Today
- Don’t Let This Bill Out of Judiciary Committee
“…this Senate Bill is an important challenge that we can and must win,” says Basil M. Russo

By Truby Chiaviello

CALL YOUR SENATORS AND INSIST THEY PRESERVE COLUMBUS DAY AS A NATIONAL HOLIDAY

Basil M. Russo puts out the call to all Italian Americans: “Call your Senators and insist they preserve Columbus Day as a federal holiday.”

Senate Bill S. 2970 was introduced last September by Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat, of New Mexico. The proposed legislation now has 13 sponsors, all of whom are Democrats, with additional support for the bill given by, none other than, Senator Bob Casey, Jr., Democrat, who is now up for reelection in Pennsylvania

S. 2970 is up for debate in the Judiciary Committee. If agreed upon by a majority of senators there, the proposed legislation goes to the Senate floor for what may be a simple majority vote. By party line, the Democrats win, and the Senate will deem Columbus Day out and Indigenous Peoples’ Day in.

If passed in the Senate, the House of Representatives must then make the final call. An equivalent bill must be introduced in that chamber. Take nothing for granted. Yes, the House now has a Republican majority, albeit slight. With the onset of a new election, the Democrats could take control. If S. 2970 is passed in the Senate, then it is all but certain that a Democratic controlled House would move to eliminate Columbus Day as a federal holiday.

Italian Americans are urged to act, now.

The Italian American Conference of Presidents has been formed as a new 501(c)4 organization to allow for political advocacy on a more intense level than the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIA).

Basil M. Russo is solidly at the helm of the Italian American Conference of Presidents as he is with COPOMIAO. He relies on his legal and political experience, as a judge and former majority leader of the Cleveland City Council, to push hard to save Columbus Day in Congress. He is joined by the ever energetic, Andre Dimino, of the Italian American One Voice Coalition (IAOVC). Both men, and their respective organizations, lead the fight now in the Senate.

Italian Americans are urged, by Judge Russo, to “voice your opposition to Senate Bill S. 2970 that would erase Columbus Day and designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples' Day.”

“Columbus Day was intended to encourage greater acceptance of immigrants,” claims Judge Russo, “and the holiday must be preserved to honor not only our ancestors but also the 18 million Americans of Italian descent living today. Uphold our history, before it's too late.”

Access the link, below, to find your two U.S. Senators to contact them to save Columbus Day:

https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

The Italian Conference of Presidents and IAOVC provides a suggested format for calling your state's two U.S. Senators about Senate Bill S. 2970. Be courteous and professional:

1.) Identify as a resident of your state:

"Hello, my name is _______ . I'm a resident of {your state) am calling Senator about Senate Bill S. 2970 and,

2.) Advise that you are against this bill and ask that the Senator vote against it:

"I am against this Senate Bill and Senator ___ should vote against it.,,

3.) Explain why you are against the bill:

"Senate Bill S. 2970 would eliminate Columbus Day by changing It to Indig­enous Peoples Day. Columbus Day must be preserved for the 18 million Italian Americans as it represents an apology for the horrible treatment and discrimination our immigrant ancestors endured. President Biden confirmed the critical importance of Columbus Day to Ital­ian Americans In his President Proclamations in 2022 and 2023. Italian Americans are a recognized group under the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution - changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day is a vio­lation of our civil rights and an insult to Italian Americans across the coun­try and in our state.,,

4.) Provide the alternative:

"Instead of discriminating against Italian Americans, recognize Indigenous Peoples on International Indigenous Peoples Day, August 9, as already rec­ognized by the United Nations.,,

5.) Repeat the objection to the Bill:

"Therefore, I urge Senator ____ to oppose Senate Bill S. 2970 and not discriminate against Italian Americans.,,

6.) Request hearing back from the Senator:

"I would like to hear back from Senator ___ about my request. My phone number is _____ and my email address is ___ _ .Thank You."

*****

Basil Russo says prominent Italian American leaders have worked directly with White House officials, over the past two years, to develop Columbus Day proclamations to explore the history behind the holiday not widely taught in U.S. schools. 

In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison organized the first national Columbus Day parade in New York City. The purpose was to ease a diplomatic crisis between the United States and Italy after the largest lynch mob to ever assemble on American soil murdered 11 innocent Italian immigrants in the streets of New Orleans. 

Given the massive success of President Harrison’s NYC parade (attended by more than one million people), Italian Americans used Columbus as a vehicle through the 1900s to fuel their assimilation and fight waves of anti-Italian persecution. Today, the holiday pays tribute to Italian American pride and heritage.

Columbus Day is worth fighting for…Contact your Senators today!

 

WHY CELEBRATE VERRAZZANO?
The Quincentennial of the Discovery of New York and America’s East Coast Inspires All of Us

By Dr. Stefaan Missinne

Who is this Giovanni da Verrazzano to first set foot on the East Coast of the United States, to discover New York on April 17, 1524?

A famous bridge in New York, streets in different U.S. cities and states, a brandy, a car route in Wilmington, North Carolina, avenues, a school, parks, monuments, nursing centers, a record label, a university program, a college, a commissioner's film, a capital fund, a wine and wine cellar, barges, a hotel, a castle in Tuscany and even a restaurant on the Pacific Highway in Washington are named after him. Are these reasons to celebrate this discoverer?

Celebrating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of New York and the East Coast by Verrazzano is most worthy. We understand why his name is so often used for public projects and landmarks. This is a milestone in American history to make people recognize the historical roots they didn't even know they had. Such historic moments do not happen every day. This teaches us to appreciate and cherish the past.

When celebrating Verrazzano, an astronaut of his time, in the service of a young French King, one becomes aware of ourselves and the people who are near and important to us.

Verrazzano was astonished to find land not on a map. He was a Christian. He wrote a travelogue. This historic paper was bought by an American banker in Rome in 1909 for $3,000 USD (now equal to $100,000). This literary birth certificate of New York is now at the J. Pierpont Morgan Library in Midtown Manhattan.

Verrazzano describes where he was and where he had contact with native Americans. He was mostly welcomed. His story, full of puns, is fascinating. He is unlike any other explorer of his time.

Verrazzano was only human. He was mistaken. He thought he had discovered an open sea route to China. It was the Pamlico Sound.

The Tuscan navigator writes about the plants, the animals, the tranquility, and the aura of the unknown land on the American East Coast which he compares with paradise, Archadia.

He sailed in a small ship with a crew of 50 along the shoreline from South Carolina to North Carolina to Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Maine to Newfoundland in Canada. A distance comparable to from Chicago to Las Vegas, from Rome to Helsinki.

Many people are stuck in their personal past to think of their ancestors. Even though their past does not equal the future to come. But, knowing the past, helps to cope with the future. Celebrating 500 years of American history may strengthen self-confidence and increase motivation to do and achieve even more.

There are American families of Italian and French descent. They and many of their relatives will appreciate being able to celebrate this milestone.

Should important decision-makers fail to let this historic discovery pass without celebrating it, this seems to me a bygone opportunity to fill the hearts of those with familial connections to their ancestors in faraway Europe with pride and joy.

Editor: Dr. Missinne is from Vienna, Austria. He is the author of a new book, from Cambridge Scholars Publishing, to be released in March, 2024 titled: “A Reassessment of Verrazzano´s Travelogue. https://www.cambridgescholars.com/.

 

 

LACCETTI FOUNDATION TO DONATE SUN DIAL TO UNION CITY, NEW JERSEY
Terrazzo Mosaics Will Be Highlighted
- A Commemoration to Vicenzo Pellerin, Artisan of Union City
- Italian Themed Program for High School Students

By Silvio Laccetti, Ph.D.

The Silvio Laccetti Foundation has announced plans for a major project: The Pellarin Sun Dial For Union City, New Jersey.

This initiative has many facets and components to compliment one another in a grand program. The arts of terrazzo and mosaic will be specifically highlighted. The purpose is to commemorate the important role of Vicenzo Pellarin in the transfer of technology, expertise and artisanal work from Italy to the New World.

The Foundation will present Union City with a specially crafted Sun Dial measuring 4 feet in diameter, to be placed in Ellsworth Park. The site has particular significance because the family of Vincenzo Pellarin settled in that area of Union City. His son was a physician for the city’s school system for decades. The family home is situated opposite of Ellsworth Park on New York Ave. Dedication is scheduled to coincide with Earth Day 2024 festivities.

The Foundation is actively cooperating with The William Musto Cultural Center of Union City and the Mayor's Office. We will involve schools and the general public in various projects relating to the art of terrazzo. For example, students may engage in poster contests, essay writing, independent workshop activities and treasure hunts. This latter activity will uncover various places in the local area to showcase terrazzo workmanship. The Foundation hopes to inspire media coverage of these many Italian-inspired activities.

In addition, allied programs are set to begin for a Girl Scout troop in St. Louis and a junior high school in Boston.

About Terrazzo

Terrazzo is a mixture of stone, marble, glass and quartz chips mixed into a bonding agent (mortar or special cement). The material can be applied to various surfaces ranging from floors - Grand Central Station in New York has such flooring - to walls and fixtures in homes and public buildings. The Hollywood Walk of Fame employs terrazzo for its star plaques. The mixing, application, curing and polishing are subtle arts for artisans trained in special schools like the Scuola Mosaicisti di Friuli in Spilimbergo, Italy. The Foundation hopes to open a line of communication between this special school and students from New Jersey.

The Silvio Laccetti Foundation is widely known in New Jersey for bestowing its Garibaldi Award to high school students who excel in Italian Studies and community accomplishments. Additionally, the Foundation is globally known for sponsoring three successful environmental WorldCast seminars for high school students from the United States, Brazil, Australia, Denmark, Ireland and Italy in real-time.

Editor’s Note: For readers of this article who have memorabilia or life experiences in the terrazzo-mosaics’ trades and wish to share this with the public, please contact lbarrrera@ucnj.com at the Musto Cultural Center.

 

A CALL TO CELEBRATE VERRAZZANO
Italian American Leaders of New York Are Urged to Come Together to Commemorate This Extraordinary Explorer
- So Too Italian Americans In States from North Carolina to Maine Should Demand Commemoration of Verrazzano
- A Temporary Move of the Verrazzano Monument Remains Justifiable in Light of the Construction Taking Place Inside Battery Park

By Truby Chiaviello

 

 

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America’s East Coast by Giovanni da Verrazzano. Yet, most Americans won’t know it, if things remain as they are.

Arrangements to celebrate this profound feat of exploration are sadly non-existent.

Never mind the shoreline from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to, as far north, as Newfoundland, Canada, was first recorded and mapped by Verrazzano. Never mind that subsequent adventurers, for the Dutch and British, relied on the path first blazed by Verrazzano. None of the states to arise from his discovery, along the East Coast, have announced any event to commemorate him. As with Columbus, Italian Americans must fight for recognition of this great Italian.

Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, and other Italian American leaders, have tried to create a groundswell of support for public tribute to Verrazzano.

Their focus is on New York City.

The Big Apple is the best place to celebrate Verrazzano. The Florentine explorer came ashore in Lower Manhattan on April 17, 1524. He was the first of the Eastern Hemisphere to set foot in New York. He made contact with Lenape Indians, there, in a model of peaceful interaction and exchange between Native Americans and First Europeans.

Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association, continues to advocate for a parade and ceremony in honor of Verrazzano, although support from City Hall is lax. Indeed, Mayor Eric Adams, in his annual state of the city address, this year, announced a scheduled celebration for discovery by the Dutch; but he made no mention of the Italians.

Battery Park, in New York, is home to the Verrazzano monument, a bronze masterpiece sculpted by the Sicilian, Ettore Ximenes. The artwork was commissioned by the Italian American community in New York, in 1909, when, city leaders, back then, refused to acknowledge the Florentine as the founder of Manhattan. It was Henry Hudson, for the Dutch, who was officially deemed first discoverer; although Verrazano beat him by 85 years.

In normal circumstances, the Verrazzano monument, inside Battery Park, would be the ideal location for a ceremony to mark the 500th anniversary of the explorer’s discovery. Yet, the area is undergoing a serious restoration project.

PRIMO recently toured Battery Park to see a stunning bronze edifice, one of the finest of the city’s public artworks, beset by new construction. Orange is the color of many plastic cones, mesh and barricades to enclose the statue and pedestal. A massive aluminum trailer to house the office of engineers and supervisors shadows the Verrazzano monument. Few pedestrians were seen inside the park on a bright sunny day. Instead, illegal vendors, plying various goods, dominated the setting until they scattered after hearing a policeman’s whistle.

In a letter to Mayor Eric Adams, dated February 14, John J. LaCorte, Ph.D, president of the Italian Historical Society of America, joined the call to move the Verrazzano Monument on a provisional basis. His father, John LaCorte, began the Italian Historical Society of America, in 1949, with a mission to bring greater recognition to unsung Italian American heroes; the likes of Verrazzano and others.

PRIMO continues to support the proposal to temporarily move the Verrazzano monument to the Bowling Green plaza, as proffered by Mr. Piccolo. This should be a brief relocation limited to the few days or one week celebration of the Italian explorer. Then, the monument should be immediately returned to Battery Park, where it has stood for more than a century. We understand that, in response to Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, necessary restoration must be made to Battery Park. However, in light of the 500th anniversary of New York’s discovery, this special moment should not be overshadowed by the rudiments of construction.

If agreement cannot be reached between Bowling Green and Battery Park regarding the monument, then both sides need to set aside their differences and come together. Verrazzano first set foot in Manhattan in the area of Bowling Green and Battery Park on April 17, 1524.

Italian Americans of New York, not to mention Italian Americans of the states of the East Coast, should press for a period of celebration for the great Verrazzano. At a minimum, official acknowledgement by state and municipalities should be made of this exceptional figure of American history. New York, especially, must be the locale of serious commemoration for Verrazzano.

Time is of the essence. If a public event cannot be organized by the date of the April milestone, then another day, hopefully, before the end of this year, should be scheduled for public adulation. We call on all Italian American leaders of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to lead the way for other states to follow. We urge everyone to come together to forge a proper celebration in thanks to Verrazzano for his discovery.

Editor’s Note: Photographs of the Verrazzano Monument and Battery Park were taken by Dima Chiaviello. Date of the editorial is February 17, 2024.

 

THE OLDEST PERSON IN AMERICA IS ITALIAN
Edith Ceccarelli Celebrated Her 116th Birthday on February 8th
- Second Oldest Person in the World
- What’s Her Secret?

By Arthur Piccolo

In the serene town of Willits, nestled within the verdant embrace of Northern California's landscapes, resides a living testament to history, resilience, and the quiet grace of longevity.

Edith Ceccarelli, known as Edie to her friends and family, was born on February 5, 1908.

She is the oldest person in America, today, and second oldest in the world. A woman who lives in Spain is nine months older.

Edie’s parents, Agostino and Maria Recagno, were Italian immigrants who settled in Willits, a town, in Mendocino County, surrounded by redwoods. Edie's father was a lumber worker and grocer.

Edie married her high school sweetheart, Elmer Keenan, and together they adopted a daughter, Laureen. Even after Elmer's passing and a subsequent marriage to Charles Ceccarelli, which also ended in widowhood, Edie's indomitable spirit never wavered.

Edie’s life is a bridge spanning over a century. She has seen the evolution of technology, the shifts in global politics, and the ebb and flow of societal norms. Yet, through it all, her connection to her hometown has remained unbroken.

Each year, the town of Willits comes together to celebrate Edie's remarkable life. The annual parade is a vibrant cavalcade of community spirit, where residents and local officials honor this extraordinary woman. From vice mayor to the Boy Scouts, and even the local dog-walker, the parade is a testament to the love and esteem Edie holds within her community.

On her 116th birthday, the excitement in Willits was palpable. Streets were adorned with balloons and streamers, with cars decorated for the occasion, all converging towards the Holy Spirit Residential Care Home, where Edie now resides. The highlight of the celebration was, of course, the carrot cake – Edie's favorite.

Edie has outlived her siblings, her spouses, and even her daughter, yet her legacy continues to inspire and uplift those around her. She is a symbol of endurance, a beacon of history, and above all, a beloved member of a community that cherishes every moment with her.

Edith Ceccarelli’s Secret to Long Life

Edie’s fondness for red wine aligns with scientific research that touts heart-healthy benefits. Enjoying a small amount of red wine regularly, as Mrs. Ceccarelli does, might contribute to her extraordinary age. Additionally, her emphasis on staying out of unnecessary drama and leading a peaceful life could play a significant role in her wellbeing.
Beyond her dietary habits, Mrs. Ceccarelli also enjoys wearing the color pink, dancing, and going for leisurely walks. Crucial elements for a healthy and fulfilling life are to embrace joy, physical activity, and a positive outlook. This combination seems to have worked wonders for Edie, allowing her to reach an impressive age while maintaining her zest for life. Go for 120 Edie!! And become the oldest American who ever lived. And 122… the oldest human ever!!  Bravo!!!

 

2-10-24
BRING IT…NEW HAMPSHIRE!
Call to Action! Help Us Save Columbus Day in the Granite State!
- Italian American Alliance Embraces Two-Front Battle
- A State, Famous for Its Motto, “Live Free or Die,” Battles Cancel Culture Infiltration
- Instructions To Save Columbus Day in New Hampshire

By Truby Chiaviello

Italian American Alliance vigorously takes on two fronts in the war to save Columbus Day.

Massachusetts and, now, New Hampshire.

The Granite State, famous for its motto, “Live Free or Die,” contends with the vexing issue of whether or not to keep Columbus Day a state holiday.

A call to action has been made by the Italian American Alliance for all Italian Americans to contact members of a committee in the New Hampshire House of Representatives with a demand to keep Columbus Day.

Legislation is pending.

New Hampshire House Bill HB 1335 Removal of Columbus Day has been docketed for a hearing by the NH House Executive Departments and Administration Committee at 2pm, February 21, 2024 in the Legislative Office Building, Room 306-308, 33 North State Street, Concord, NH 03301.

A call to fight is reminiscent of Daniel Webster’s 1843 dedication to the Battle of Bunker Hill. He said America’s Minutemen found strength to take on the British Empire from the spirit of “Columbus…above his age, as his life shows; but he doubtless addressed his followers…to lead them on…”

The Italian American Alliance urges all Italian Americans to send an email opposing bill, HB1335, to the members of the New Hampshire House committee.

A list of email addresses for committee members, along with a sample email to send, has been provided by the Italian American Alliance. (See below)

The organization’s instructions are to “simply cut and paste the email addresses into the address section of your email program. You can do the same with the sample subject heading and text of the e-mail. Do be sure to fill in your name and other relevant information where indicated.”

The Italian American Alliance looks forward to a battleground across the border. Their statement, issued to the press, reads: “Rest assured we will fight this attack on Columbus Day in New Hampshire as vigorously as we have in Massachusetts.”

*******************************************************************

NH House Committee Members: 

MCGuire4house@gmail.com
Matthew.Simon@Leg.state.NH.us
Shane.Sirois@leg.state.nh.us
rep.tony.lekas@gmail.com
grbailey@metrocast.net
Santonastaso@CheshireLiberty.com
Tom.Dolan@leg.state.nh.us
Jason.Gerhard@leg.state.nh.us
seboyd2020@gmail.com
Carroll.Brown@leg.state.nh.us
Jaci.Grote@leg.state.nh.us
peterbarrettschmidt@gmail.com
jgoley03104@yahoo.com
Dianne.Schuett@leg.state.nh.us
Michael.O'Brien@leg.state.nh.us
Fred.Davis@leg.state.nh.us
Daniel.Fitzpatrick@leg.state.nh.us
Sherry.Gould@leg.state.nh.us
Juliet.Smith@leg.state.nh.us
Latha.Mangipudi@leg.state.nh.us

*******************************************************************
Suggested sample email:

Subject: Bill H1335 Removal of Columbus Day

Dear Committee Members,
 
I am writing to you regarding the pending bill to remove Columbus Day as a NH state holiday.

I believe Italian-Americans should be recognized and respected by not taking Columbus Day away from them as a State Holiday. Columbus Day 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.
 
Very Respectfully,
(YOUR NAME)

Editor’s Note: The web site for the Italian American Alliance is https://www.theitalianamericanalliance.com/

 

 

NIAF MANSION…UP FOR SALE
Peter F. Secchia Building Listed at $3.99 Million
- For 30 Years, The National Headquarters for The Foundation
- North of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.

By Truby Chiaviello

Are you in the market for a 8,000 square foot house in the nation’s capital?

Yours for $3.99 million.

That’s the asking price by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) for, what had been, the last 30 years, the headquarters of the renowned national Italian American organization.

Named after the former U.S. ambassador to Italy, from 1989 to 1993, the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia building was the pride of NIAF. The 117-year-old mansion stood as the titular symbol of the organization, its yellow facade displayed as the key image on their web site and, oftentimes, on print marketing material, its Italianate designed home found at 1860 19th Street, N.W., in the Dupont Circle Historic district in Washington, D.C.

Now, looking for a buyer.

Real estate sites, such as Redfin, Zillow, Prevu, Realtor, and many others, were abuzz, today, with the announcement of sale; the first time the home was listed since 1994. Details include a property type as a single family home with seven bedrooms, one full bath and three half baths, not to mention an annual property tax of almost $57,000.

NIAF has hired Douglas Elliman Real Estate, a company specializing in luxury properties, to sell the building. No announcement by NIAF was made as to a new location for their headquarters.

Luxury home magazines and news sites seem the exclusive recipient of NIAF’s announced sale. Press releases about the building’s new listing to Italian American publications are, thus far, non existent.

Reporter Liz Lucking broke the story for Mansion Global, a web site by the Barron’s Group, with a mission, in part, to “provide its high net worth audience the ability to search luxury listings for sale around the world.”

The Ambassador Peter F. Secchia building is now one of many for the hot real estate market inside the nation’s capital. Descriptives abound to underscore the beauty and splendor of the mansion, with one excerpt, by the realtor, as indicative:

“…step inside the main level, you are greeted by the timeless allure of inlaid parquet floors, high ceilings, and abundant natural light cascading through large windows. Extraordinary architectural details like gold foil egg molding are amplified by a grand staircase leading to the second level, which is currently utilized as offices for NIAF.”

Real estate agents Matthew Windsor and Lyndsi Armenio gave NIAF high marks for retaining many of the original decorative elements of the mansion, as built in 1907. Windsor was quoted, about the property, as having, “great bones and a lot of amazing details that would make it a wonderful trophy home.” 

The hope is for a corporation or a country to purchase the building for a principal setting in the nation’s capital, according to the realtors.

Editor’s Note: The web site for NIAF is https://www.niaf.org/. To view the property listing, please log on to https://www.elliman.com/metrodc/sales/detail/762-l-2813904-131_dcdc2127364/1860-19th-st-nw-dupont-circle-washington-dc-20009

 

 

HELP US WIN IN MASSACHUSETTS!
Two Bills, Pending, Seek to Cancel Columbus Day
- Italian Americans Are Called to Stop This Legislation
- Please Contact Members of the Joint Committee of State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Before February 7
- Tell Them to Keep Columbus Day in Massachusetts

By Tom Damigella, Italian American Alliance
Save Columbus Action Group

Thank you for your continued support in fighting to keep Columbus Day a state holiday in Massachusetts.

It was reported to us in November that the group calling for a ballot question in 2024 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People Day collected ZERO signatures. As a result, this effort to erase our Italian-American heritage has been defeated.

However we must still contend with two bills pending before the legislature which would also cancel Columbus Day.

As you recall, in October, the Italian American Alliance (IAA) had members attend a public hearing to express opposition for both bills at the State House.

We argued that Columbus Day should remain a state holiday. To eliminate Columbus Day is an unfair attack upon our Italian heritage based on politically motivated charges against Christopher Columbus.

We still need your support to stop these bills from moving forward.

The bills, H2989 (sponsored by Rep Christine Barber (D), Somerville) and S1976 (sponsored by Sen Joanne Comerford (D), Northampton) must receive a favorable recommendation from the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight by February 7 in order to move forward in the current legislative session.

Can you please take a moment to write the committee members asking them to oppose these bills and to vote against moving them out of committee?

You must do this before the deadline of February 7th.

We have provided email addresses for members of the committee along sample text you can send.

Also, if you have any questions regarding this process please email us and we will answer them for you.

Thank you for taking action and please don't hesitate to share this issue with your friends and community. We appreciate your support.

The emails for the committee members are:

Nick.Collins@masenate.gov
Joan.Lovely@masenate.gov
Liz.Miranda@masenate.gov
Marc.Pacheco@masenate.gov
john.velis@masenate.gov
peter.durant@masenate.gov
Antonio.Cabral@mahouse.gov
Chynah.Tyler@mahouse.gov
Christopher.Markey@mahouse.gov
Estela.Reyes@mahouse.gov
carmine.gentile@mahouse.gov
michelle.ciccolo@mahouse.gov
Mary.Keefe@mahouse.gov
Judith.Garcia@mahouse.gov
Rodney.Elliott@mahouse.gov
fred.barrows@mahouse.gov

Suggested sample email:

Subject: Bill H2989/S1976 To replace Columbus Day with IPD

Dear Committee Members,
 
I am writing you regarding the pending bills 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. There is also the option of recognizing August 9th which is already designated by the United Nations since 1999 as Indigenous Peoples Day. 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.
 
Very Respectfully,
(YOUR NAME)

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 https://www.theitalianamericanalliance.com/

 

ERIC ADAMS, APOLOGIZE!
The Mayor of New York Insults All Italian Americans in His State of The City Speech
- No mention of Giovanni da Verrazzano’s Discovery of New York
- Instead, he praises the Dutch!

By Arthur Piccolo

It’s 1909 all over again!

Back then, the mayor of New York and other city leaders presented a major year-long celebration to mark the 300th anniversary of
Dutchman Henry Hudson’s discovery of New York City in 1609.

Except it was a blatant lie.

The commemoration of Hudson, in 1909, was a horrible insult to the Italian community.

For it was not Hudson, but Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who discovered New York City; and the feat was not accomplished in 1609, but, rather, almost a century earlier, by Verrazzano, on April 17, 1524.

Italians did not count then, so the city leaders made us invisible.

Italian New Yorkers responded, that year, by commissioning and creating the legendary Verrazzano Monument, in defiance of those lies.

Now, 115 years later, another mayor of New York, Eric Adams, has repeated this terrible insult.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Verrazzano’s epic discovery. Yet, in in his State of the City speech, on January 24, Mayor Adams never mentioned Verrazzano. There was not a word in his speech about the Italian explorer.

There was only praise for the Dutch.

To quote Mayor Adams: "This year, we will start planning for a major milestone in history: the 400th anniversary of the founding of New York City. 2025 will be a year to look back on how far we have come in four centuries and celebrate the enduring spirit of our city."

Italians and the great explorer, Giovanni de Verrazzano, are made invisible again!

Mayor Adams is planning a yearlong celebration with the Dutch and to commemorate Dutch settlers, who brought the first enslaved Africans here!!

Africans played an essential role in building New Amsterdam. Yet, there was absolutely not a word, let alone a yearlong celebration proposed by Mayor Adams to mark Verrazzano's 500th anniversary with our Italian community.

Mr. Mayor, it’s time for an apology to history, to Italian New Yorkers and Italian Americans. It’s time to celebrate the 500th anniversary of New York by Giovanni da Verrazzano!

Editor’s Note: The writer is chairman of the Bowling Green Association and co-founder of the Lower Manhattan Historical Society. Mr. Piccolo was responsible for bringing Arturo DiModca’s bronze masterpiece, “Charging Bull,” to Bowling Green in 1989.

 

 

Primo Review
CABRINI
The Early Life of Mother Cabrini Makes for an Excellent Film
- Set for Release March 7
- Anti-Italianism Highlighted

By Truby Chiaviello

Look no further than the first scene in “Cabrini,” to be the most harrowing of any in recent memory.

Set in Manhattan near the turn-of-the-century, the film shows a boy pushing a cart, with his dying mother inside. He rushes through the streets of New York shouting for help in Italian. No one is able to understand him. Dressed in ragged clothes, the boy is considered a loud nuisance, until a policeman chases him away. That night, in an obscure side street, the boy grasps the tragedy of loss, only to take refuge underground with the other motherless children.

The scene is representative of the state of destitution that Italian immigrants faced in America until the arrival of Sister Frances Xavier Cabrini, better known as Mother Cabrini.

A feature film about the life of America’s first saint is a most worthwhile endeavor.

Distributed by Angel Studios, “Cabrini” is set for release on March 7 in theaters across the country.

Roman Catholics and Italian Americans will find “Cabrini” an excellent film about a woman who, arguably, did more than anyone to relieve the suffering of millions of people in America.

A film built around the experiences of a key character must have as its star a person who can carry the story from beginning to end. Such is the Italian actress, Cristiana Dell’Anna. Originally from Naples, Cristiana brings an uncanny resemblance to Mother Cabrini. Petite and exotic, the beautiful actress starred in the Italian TV series, “Gomorrah,” about organized crime in Naples, before cast opposite Toni Servillo in the feature film, “King of Laughter,” about the imposed censorship of comedic playwright Eduardo Scarpetta.

In “Cabrini,” Cristiana captures the varied emotions of a nun who must overcome a host of obstacles in building orphanages, hospitals and care centers for the poor and dispossessed. The film never shies away from the spirit of anti-Italianism, still with us, today, that contributed to much of the needless misery of many Italian immigrants.

“Cabrini” is directed by Alejandro Monteverde, a pioneering filmmaker, from Mexico, who espouses a Catholic interpretation of contemporary events. His film, “Bella,” in 2006, about abortion, won rave reviews as did his film, “Sound of Freedom,” in 2023, about child trafficking. For “Cabrini,” Monteverde continues his record of making outstanding films. However, unlike his earlier fare, in “Cabrini,” he had to leave the present for a time and place of more than a century ago. He had to rely on exceptional set and costume designs to bring the past to new life for today’s audiences.

In “Cabrini,” viewers are introduced to Sister Cabrini in her convent in central Italy. Disappointment casts a dark shadow over her and the other novices after the Vatican refuses another request by her to begin a missionary in China. Sister Cabrini then travels to Rome, where she has to practically barge her way in to see Pope Leo XIII, played by the always exceptional Giancarlo Giannini. Impressed by the nun’s vigor, the pope offers to meet with her alone for afternoon tea. There, the pontiff insists she begin her mission, not in the Far East, but, rather, in Lower Manhattan, where Italian immigrants face incredible squalor.

Scenes to follow are mostly centered inside the muddy, overcrowded streets of New York’s Five Points, an enclave of poverty, in 1890, made famous from the photographs of Jacob Riis, as shown in the anthology, “How the Other Half Lives.” Monteverde captures the level of despair of the tenements, almost unimaginable by today’s standards. It is here where the group of nuns establish their first orphanage.

Mother Cabrini seems to be the only one in New York who wants to help poor Italian immigrants, according to the film. Scenes are replete with her meeting those who were originally tasked to assist the newcomers to find them either incompetent or uncaring. The parish priest of the Five Points she encounters consumes a pot of spaghetti while he expresses the hopelessness of the situation. An Irish physician, who treats the orphans under her care, is beleaguered to the point of ambivalence. Most unnerving is the reaction to Mother Cabrini by New York’s archbishop, Michael Corrigan, played by actor David Morse. When she seeks help to raise funds for an orphanage, he orders her not to solicit the Irish or Anglo communities. She is limited to the Italians who are mostly penniless.

“Cabrini” conveys the incredible determination of the titled character. What’s most shocking is how anti-Italianism works to delay or prevent Mother Cabrini from providing care to the needy. The character, Mayor Gould, played by John Lithgow, seeks to stop the nun’s efforts at every turn. A Google search shows no one by that name ever elected top post in New York. He is a fictional, yet symbolic, character, likely named after Jay Gould, the railroad baron, who financed the corruption of Tammany Hall. He, like others, however, will meet his match in Mother Cabrini.

New York was not the only location where Mother Cabrini was called to help. Hers is a cross country journey of hope from New York to Chicago to Denver, Seattle and New Orleans, among other cities and regions. To truly capture the drama of her contributions is to take several feature films; or, better yet, a television series. “Cabrini” can only provide us the story of Mother Cabrini, at the outset of her missionary work, in New York.

“Cabrini” is a film most welcomed in today’s cinematic world beset by too many offerings of senseless violence, sex and debauchery. Here is a story of a true American hero who accomplished incredible feats. “Cabrini” allows us to relish the miracles of God’s grace in the guise of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.

“Cabrini” is excellent!

Editor’s Note: To learn more about the film “Cabrini,” including a listing of showtimes, as set for release on March 7, please log on to the Angel Studios web site at https://www.angel.com/movies/cabrini

 

 

Evviva Hollywood!
A CINEMATIC NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The First Ever Renaissance Award Convenes with Great Success
- Louis D’Esposito, Executive Producer at Marvel Films, Is First Recipient
- Joe, Anthony, and Angela Russo Host Award’s Gala at Their AGBO Studio Complex in Los Angeles
- Funds Raised for The Russo Brothers Italian American Filmmaker Forum and Italian American Future Leaders
Behold a future of Italian American recognition in Hollywood

By Truby Chiaviello

It’s a new day in Tinseltown.

Italian Americans, of Hollywood, are, from now on, to be righty recognized for their important contributions to cinema. New filmmakers are to be encouraged to make short films with themes related to the Italian American experience.

Enter the Russos.

Film directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, along with their sister, Angela Russo-Otstot, have conceived and organized the Renaissance Award and The Russo Brothers Italian American Filmmaker Forum, with support from the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO); as led by their father, Judge Basil M. Russo.

On January 18, the first ever ceremony and gala for the Renaissance Award was convened inside the Russos’ AGBO film studio complex in Los Angeles. A beautifully designed sculpture of Murano glass was given to the award’s first recipient; none other than Louis D’Esposito, executive producer and co-president at Marvel Studios, the dominant box office force in today’s Hollywood.

Presidents and top officers of various Italian American organizations from all parts of the country came to attend this important event. They were joined by film stars Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista, of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Joe Piscopo, Saturday Night Live alum and radio show host, actor Michael Badalucco, singer Lena Prima, daughter of Louis Prima, and Frankie Valli, the great rock crooner.

The theater inside AGBO was filled to capacity as Joe and Anthony Russo began the ceremony. They were joined, on stage, by their sister, Angela, chief creative officer at AGBO, who paid tribute to their parents, Basil and Patricia Russo, sitting in the front row.

Angela proclaimed the goal of the Russo Brothers Italian American Filmmaker Forum was to help fund Italian American themed short films and documentaries. An additional purpose was to help raise funds for the Italian American Future Leaders Conference, held earlier in January to great fanfare, in Fort Lauderdale, founded by COPOMIAO Vice President John M. Viola, also in attendance at the gala event in Los Angeles.

Actor, writer, and director, Jon Favreau, who is Italian on his father’s side, was there to present the Renaissance Award to Louis D’Esposito. It was Favreau who directed “Iron Man,” a key film, in 2008, to help solidify box office supremacy for Marvel Studios. Favreau had recruited his good friend, D’Esposito, to serve as a producer for the film. By then, D’Esposito had made his way up the Hollywood ladder as first assistant director for dozens of films such as “Basic Instinct,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Because of the success with “Iron Man,” D’Esposito continued as executive producer for subsequent Marvel films. He then became co-president at Marvel Studios, sharing duties with the renowned, Kevin Feige.

D’Esposito served as executive producer for films that, together, have generated more than $30 billion in box office revenue for Marvel Cinematic Universe. Joe and Anthony looked to D’Esposito as their mentor when making four top films for Marvel:

“Avengers: Endgame,” 2019, $2,8 billion revenue
“Avengers: Infinity War,” 2018, $2.1 billion revenue
“Captain America: Civil War,” 2016, $1.2 billion revenue
“Captain American: The Winter Soldier,” 2014, $714 million revenue

“Avengers: Endgame” remains second, in a neck-and-neck race, to James Cameron’s “Avatar” for the highest grossing film in history.

In receiving this year’s Renaissance Award, D’Esposito paid tribute to his Italian American upbringing. He was born and raised, in what he claimed was “New York’s real Little Italy,” along Arthur Avenue, in the Bronx. He is famous in Hollywood for his infectious optimism and relentless energy. His nurturing spirit stems from his Italian American roots. His hands-on approach is to facilitate production. He can be found on set or on location to ensure the needs are fulfilled for everyone, in front of, and behind, the camera.

During the award ceremony at AGBO, a montage of photographs was presented of actors and actresses, who played Marvel superheroes and villains, beside a broad smiling D’Esposito. Some, including several directors, and Marvel co-president, Kevin Feige, taped congratulatory videos to praise D’Esposito for his unwavering support and vigor.

D’Esposito said the Renaissance Award was rightly named for the versatility of the Italian spirit. He is no different from many in Italy, he says, who enjoy art, food, wine, and various scholarly pursuits. Although he makes his living from visual images, D’Esposito admits to spending his free time reading novels and biographies. Special thanks to his wife and family came with a deep appreciation by him for being the first recipient of the Renaissance Award.

Before and after the ceremony, guests were treated to outstanding Italian food, as prepared by Bolognese chef, Steve Samson, of nearby Rossoblu, one of LA’s top Italian restaurants. Glasses of prosecco and original cocktails were continuously served inside the stunning AGBO studios. The gathering provided a special opportunity for Italian Americans leaders, from different parts of the country, to greet, meet, and discuss the latest challenges facing our community. The evening highlight was when the Jazz band, on hand to entertain guests, was joined by Lena Prima to sing several of her father’s most famous songs, such as the perennial hit, “I Am Just a Gigolo.”

The Russos are to be commended for conceiving and sponsoring the Renaissance Award. Their planned annual event can set a new precedent of recognition for Italian Americans in Hollywood. Although many Italian Americans contributed mightily to cinema, they received little in the way of accolades from the Hollywood establishment of past generations. Pioneers in cinematography, film editing, and special effects, were, all but, snubbed for Oscars, such as Joseph A. Valentine, Sol Polito, Nicholas Masuraca, George Tomasini, Tom Savini, and many more. Some of the most influential filmmakers in history never received due recognition such as Brian DePalma, Dario Argento, Sergio Leone and Mario Bava.

The Renaissance Award inaugurates a new era of respect for the best of Italian Americans in cinema. We look forward to more awards to come in the years ahead.

Salute!

Editor’s Note: Pictured from left to right at the first annual Renaissance Ward is Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Louis D’Esposito, Basil M. Russo, Patricia Russo, Jon Favreau, and Angela Russo-Otstot. You can learn more about The Russo Brothers Italian American Filmmaker Forum at http://agbo.com/community/the-russo-brothers-italian-american-filmmaker-forum. Web sites for ISDA and COPOMIAO are https://orderisda.org/ and https://copomiao.org/. The web site for Italian American Future Leaders is https://www.iafuture.org/. The web site for Marvel Studios is https://www.marvel.com/

 

 

Primo Interview
A RIGGED ELECTION
Michael Polelle Conveys a Fascinating Tale of Assassination and Medical Villainy in “American Conspiracy.”
- “…I wanted to do a thriller novel based on a presidential election that goes off the tracks and takes the country to the brink of political, legal, and social chaos.”

Just in time for this year’s presidential election is Michael Polelle’s extraordinary new novel, “American Conspiracy.” The lawyer-turned-author delves into the depths of political and legal intrigue, coupled with the latest in strange medical technology. PRIMO interviewed the author about the potentialities for rigged presidential elections by nefarious elites.

Please tell us where your family came from in Italy.

My father's side of the family came from Sicily. Before coming to the United States and marrying my grandmother in Chicago, my paternal grandfather was a native of Lascari in Sicily, about five miles from Cefalu and thirty-one from Palermo. My mother's side of the family came from Emilia-Romagna in the the north. My maternal grandmother was a native of Crespellano, a small town about nine miles from Bologna. My mother was born in Crespellano but came as an infant to the United States with her mother where my grandfather had found work in Illinois.

“American Conspiracy” is a fascinating new novel. What led you to write this book?

The presidential elections of 2016 and then 2020 surprised me. Although I had taught constitutional law in Chicago, little time was spent on the law surrounding the selection of a president. I realized for the first time how fragile the constitutional system is regarding elections. Aside from the Electoral College, the intricacy of the electoral provisions conceals legal bobby traps. The last two elections have only revealed a few of the problems. So, I wanted to do a thriller novel based on a presidential election that goes off the tracks and takes the country to the brink of political, legal, and social chaos. 

“American Conspiracy” incorporates a number of incredible issues; one of which is a futuristic medical procedure to turn back the years - a sort of fountain of youth. Where did you get this intriguing concept? And, how real is it?

Advancing age has a way of turning your attention to such possibilities. In fact, the procedure is real but the results are highly controversial. The procedure called parabiosis is a laboratory technique used in physiological research whereby two living organisms are surgically joined so that they become one physiological system. Around 2005, Stanford researchers noticed that when a young mouse and an old mouse were surgically bound together so that they shared the same blood flow, the old mouse became younger in fundamental ways. Silicon Valley, especially the billionaire Peter Thiel, took note and supported the research. The buzz surrounding this research took a hit more recently when the FDA cracked down on "youth" clinics charging exorbitant fees for procedures deviating from the Stanford research. Just getting a transfusion of young blood is not enough. The two circulatory systems have to be combined into one and the usual ways of doing it are rather grizzly. Great for a thriller novel but not so much for the mental tranquility of the patient.

Your writing voice is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and other gritty detective novels. Briefly explain your style.

I don't consciously think of style when I write early drafts. For the final draft, I do try for clarity and precision with the fewest words possible, at least for a former law professor. I think it is the nature of contemporary politics, especially in my native city of Chicago, that provides the grittiness. Corrupt social forces  strive to make "the straight places crooked" in a reversal of the biblical injunction to make "the crooked places straight." When you write political and legal thrillers, there's going to be conflict between the light and dark social forces. This conflict between the forces of light and dark is essential to thrillers.

What did you find most challenging and most rewarding in writing “American Conspiracy?”

The most challenging aspect of writing reality-based legal and political thrillers set in the present is that you run the risk that some factual base of the novel has been changed once the novel is published. This occurred in a minor way when the Electoral Count Act was amended in 2022. You try to avoid this but nothing, not even law and politics, remain the same after publication. The most rewarding aspect was the self-satisfaction I had in writing to the best of my ability what I felt was a novel that did not make the battle between good and evil simplistic. I hope the reader understands that even Jim Murphy, a Chicago detective, and Commissario Leone, my protagonists, have their less attractive sides in their sometimes overzealous and over-righteous thirst for justice. As someone once said, there is good in the worst of us and bad in the best of us. To have good intentions turn into bad results or bad acts be the source of future goodness reflects the complexity of life, especially in the world of law and politics.  It's much easier to demonize or stereotype characters on the other side of a conflict but not as satisfying as trying to understand their points of view. I think novels should broaden our points of view. 

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

I thought I was finished with American Conspiracy. I feared and wanted to avoid the work necessary for another novel. But, a series of scenes kept coming back that I knew would have to be turned into a novel. I'm working on it now. Unlike, Rome and Italy, the setting for “The Mithras Conspiracy,” and Chicago, the setting for American Conspiracy, the setting for this new novel will  generally be my present location in Florida and Guantanamo Bay Prison and the migrant crisis along the southern border, the Supreme Court, the nightmare memories of 9/11, and who knows what else will end up in this brew still percolating? I like the idea of a trilogy of novels dealing with conspiracies. 

Editor’s Note: PRIMO gave “American Conspiracy” a rave review. You can purchase the novel and learn more about the author at https://www.mjpolelle.com

 

Super Wildcard Weekend
GRIDIRON ITALIANO - NFC
The First Round of the NFL Playoffs Features Italian Americans as Players and Coaches for The NFC
Go Defense!

By Truby Chiaviello

Look to a team’s defense to find Italian Americans.

Most of the teams in the first round of the NFC playoffs have Italian Americans coaching linebackers and lineman to stop the opposition from scoring points.

Of course, times have changed since Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, winner of the NFL’s first two Super Bowls. Yet, the die was cast back then for, what is today, large, multi-tiered NFL franchises. Teams have as many coaches and managers, today, as they do players.

The stakes are higher than ever for a team to win the Lombardi Trophy. Yes, more money and marketing comes with victory. Yet, the pride in knowing your team is the best of the best still inspires players to win.

As we did with the AFC, we now give you a Who’s Who of top Italian American talent for the NFC this Super Wild Card weekend. We share our predictions of who will win. Who do you pick?

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES VS. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Not surprising that the Philadelphia Eagles have the most Italian Americans of any team’s coaching staff this Super Wild Card weekend. Italians rank as one of the top ethnic groups in the City of Brotherly Love. Much of that love is for their head coach, Nick Sirianni, hired by the Eagles in 2021. He’s been a winner since day one. Under Sirianni’s watch, Philadelphia made it to the playoffs every year, topped off with a Super Bowl appearance last year against the Kansas City Chiefs. With 11-6 record, Philadelphia has a number of Italian Americans, besides Sirianni, on the sidelines; such as Matt Patricia, senior defensive assistant, Kevin Patulla, passing coordinator, Joe Pannunzio, assistant special teams coordinator, T.J. Paganetti, run games specialist, and Mike DiAngelo, defense quality control. On the playing field, we have two notable Italian Americans for the Eagles: Grant Calcaterra, number 81, tight end, and Rick Lovato, number 45, long snapper.

With a win-loss record of 9-8, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers barely made it to this year’s playoffs. They take on the Eagles, a team hampered with injuries and other afflictions late in the season. No player on the Buccaneers stands out as an Italian American. Rather, their coaching staff includes several figures such as Anthony Piroli, conditioning coach, Nick Rapone, safeties coach, and Mike Chiurco, defensive assistant.

Primo’s pick: Eagles by 3

DETROIT LIONS VS. LOS ANGELES RAMS

With an impressive win-loss record, 12-5, this year could be the first for the Detroit Lions to make it to the Super Bowl. The team’s offense is one of the best in the NFL thanks, in part, to Samuel Laporta, 87, at tight end. The Lions defense is far less stellar, but good enough to hold most opposing teams to fewer points. Italian American Alex Anzalone, number 34, linebacker, is most noticeable with shoulder length blond hair, reminiscent of Fabio.

Coming to Detroit to play, with a win-loss record, 10-7, will be the Los Angeles Rams. We all remember Vince Ferragamo and Ray Malavasi, quarterback and head coach of the Rams, who, together, went on to the Super Bowl to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980. Today, only one Italian American makes it on a team that won the Super Bowl two years ago. Joseph Coniglio, outside linebackers’ coach, has a bright future, with experience at the college and professional levels. Can he and the Rams’ stop the Lions?

Primo’s pick: Lions by 4.

DALLAS COWBOYS VS. GREEN BAY PACKERS

The 12-5 Dallas Cowboys might still be considered America’s Team, but, with little connection, this year, to Italian America. The Cowboys enjoy excellent rankings: Number 1 in offense and number 5 in defense. Mike Solari, the defensive line coach, has trained his players to be especially aggressive. They were ranked first in their division in quarterback sacks in 2023.

Vince Lombardi could be proud of this year’s Green Bay Packers. The team eked out a playoff berth with a 9-8 record, but, played hard until the last game, against arch rivals, the Chicago Bears. Several members of the Packers’ coaching staff are Italian American such as Rob Grosso, offensive quality control, Kirk Olivadotti, inside linebackers’ coach, and Rich Bisaccia, assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.

Primo’s pick: Cowboys by 6

Editor’s Note: The photographs depicted, beginning with the top set, from left to right: Nick Sirianni, Rick Lovato, Grant Calcaterra, Matt Patricia, Joe Pannunzio, Joe Coniglio, Alex Anzalone, Sam Laporta, Kirk Olivadotti, Mike Grosso, Rick Bisaccia, and Mike Solari.

 

 

 

 

Super Wildcard Weekend
GRIDIRON ITALIANO - AFC
The First Round of the NFL Playoffs Features Italian Americans as Players, Coaches, Managers, and Owners
Who does PRIMO pick to win?

By Truby Chiaviello

The quest for the Lombardi Trophy begins.

Super Wild Card weekend is upon us.

Ready for battle, in the first round of the NFL playoffs, on January 13 and 14, 2024, are top teams for the American Football Conference (AFC).

Fans await a weekend of outstanding football. They know that whoever wins the wild card goes on to play in the second round playoff competition next weekend. The two teams left standing will then play for the AFC championship. The winner of that game is bound to face the champion of the National Football Conference in the Super Bowl.

The Lombardi Trophy is named after Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, winner of the first two Super Bowls, in 1967 and 1968. His no-nonsense quest for excellence remains the driving spirit of NFL champions. The winner of the Super Bowl receives the Lombardi Trophy.

Italian Americans are to pay special attention to football players who share their ethnicity. We give you a who’s who of top AFC Italian American talent for Super Wild Card weekend. We share our predictions of who will win. Do you agree? Who do you think will win?

CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. HOUSTON TEXANS

Number 15, Joe Flacco, is the big story, this weekend, in a career comeback as quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Once a mainstay for the Baltimore Ravens, Flacco led that team from 2008 to 2018, with playoffs, AFC championships, and a MVP award for a Super Bowl win in 2013. Beset by injuries, however, Baltimore traded Flacco to the Denver Broncos in 2019. A year later, he was demoted to backup status for the New York Jets. Flacco then gained a preseason stint for the Philadelphia Eagles, before another backup turn for the Jets. His NFL career, seemed, all but, finished; when in November 2023, the Cleveland Browns hired him as quarterback for practice sessions. When starter Deshaun Watson suffered a season ending injury, Flacco got the call to play quarterback. Little was expected of the veteran. Yet, Flacco grasped the moment to throw accurate passes for five games out of six as wins and a Browns’ playoff berth.

Houston Texans will host the Browns this Wild Card weekend. Media attention is rightly focused on Houston’s new sensation, rookie quarterback, C.J. Stroud. His coming to Houston, not to mention the team’s overall success, is owed, in large part, to Houston’s general manager, Nick Caserio. It was the New England Patriots who first hired Caserio back in 2001. He belonged to the Super Bowl franchise there to serve as the team’s personal assistant, talent scout, and personnel director. Hired by Houston in 2021, Caserio finds himself at the cusp of transforming the Texans into a dynasty team, reminiscent of the Patriots.

Primo’s pick: Browns by three.

MIAMI DOLPHINS VS. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Who is the most influential figure in today’s NFL? Look no further than Vic Fangio. Miami’s defensive coordinator has been coaching in the NFL since the mid-1980s. Over the years, he has perfected a style of defense, informally termed the Fangio Way. Call it “Prevent Defense Light.” Fang’s goal is to prevent the bomb toss or equivalent big offensive play. He looks to his safeties and cornerbacks for a mobile defense. His tackles and ends are spread out thin while the linebackers are ready to stop the run, as trained by Miami’s linebacker’s coach, Anthony Campanile.

Is the Fangio Way good enough to stop quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and the defending Super Bowl champions, the Chiefs?

The answer is to be found in frigid Kansas City, where temperatures are expected to drop to single digits.

The Chiefs are acclimated. But, what say the team from sunny Miami? Several Italian Americans stand out for Kansas City. First up is Steve Spagnuolo, the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator. He began his coaching career, as far back as 1983, as a player personnel intern for the Washington Redskins. Since then, he has risen through the coaching ranks for number of teams; some of which are as far away as the Barcelona Dragons, in Spain, and the Frankfurt Galaxy, in Germany. Spagnuolo has been with the Chiefs since 2019. For the Chiefs’ offense, two linemen, each of whom is 6’4” and 300 pounds, have Italian blood. Mike Caliendo, number 66, began playing offensive guard last year, just in time for the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. If not picked up as a free agent, Caliendo was to pursue a career in medicine, thanks to his outstanding 3.9 GPA in biomedical studies at Western Michigan University. Also, at offensive guard, is Nick Allegretti, number 73, a large powerful football player who, since 2019, blocked for the Chiefs’ speedy running backs. Then, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, on January 16, 2022, he got his chance for NFL glory. He received a short pass from Mahomes to step over the goal line for his first, and, thus far, only touchdown.

Primo’s pick: Chiefs by six

PITTSBURGH STEELERS VS. BUFFALO BILLS

In this matchup, only the Buffalo Bills retain a special Italian American connection. The team’s owner are husband and wife, Terry and Kim Pegula. Upstate New York is the realm for Pegula’s sports empire. Besides the Bills, the couple owns the Buffalo Sabres hockey team, not to mention the Buffalo Bandits, in lacrosse, the Rochester Americans, hockey, and the Buffalo Beuts, women’s hockey. Terry Pegula is originally from Carbondale, Pennsylvania. He is a self-made billionaire who struck it rich in oil and gas exploration, one of the first to utilize the fracking system.

Primo’s pick: Steelers by one.

Editor’s Note: From left to right, per each line of photographs, is Joe Flacco, Nick Caserio, Anthony Campanile, Vic Fangio, Mike Caliendo, Nick Allegretto, Steve Spagnuole, and Terry and Kim Pegula.

 

 

STRONGER. BETTER. BOLDER
Basil M. Russo Leads Effort to Reignite Italian America
- COPOMIAO President Calls for National Unity at Meeting on December 30
- Impressive Successes Reiterated: First-Ever White House Italian American Reception and Future Leaders Conference
- Reasserted: Defend Columbus in Every City
- More Organizations Sought for National Effort to Promote and Defend Italian American Heritage
The Vatican. The White House. What’s Next? Hollywood!

By Truby Chiaviello

Stay Strong. Stay United.

That’s the clarion call for 2024 by Judge Basil M. Russo.

President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), Judge Russo presided over a vigorous and productive meeting on December 30, 2023. Some 50 Italian American organizations, from around the country, attended this virtual gathering where echoed the mantra of Pax Romana: Strength in numbers.

“The goal is to create a spirit of national unity for Italian Americans throughout the country,” said Judge Russo. “This allows us to elevate the stature and importance of the Italian American community, not only in our country, but, in Italy, as well.”

The COPOMIAO meeting began at 11 a.m. on the last Saturday of 2023 with a reminder of the impressive accomplishments under Judge Russo’s leadership.

At the top of the list…The White House.

Judge Russo made headlines, this past October, when he convinced President Biden, and his staff, to issue a new and improved Columbus Day proclamation for 2023. Then, on October 12, history was made when the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, graciously hosted the first-ever reception in the East Room to celebrate Italian American heritage month at the White House.

“We’ve been to the president’s house, the pope’s house, the ambassador’s house, the Italian Supreme Court, the Italian chamber of deputies,” Judge Russo reminded members. He then announced a first—ever event for Italian Americans. “In two weeks, we we will be in Hollywood.”

Judge Russo has spearheaded the Renaissance Awards event scheduled for January 18 in Los Angeles at AGBO studios. Key producer for this year’s Oscar best picture winner, “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” the film company remains in the creative hands of founders, Joe and Anthony Russo. Two of Hollywood’s most important filmmakers, sons of Judge Russo; they directed the second highest grossing film in history, “Avengers: Endgame,” with almost $3 billion in revenue. The film was one of many to come from Marvel Studios, perhaps the most dominant filmmaking enterprise in history. Louis Esposito, president of Marvel Studios, will be the subject of tribute at the coming AGBO gathering. Mr. Esposito’s contribution to film and television will be rightly celebrated. This event affords an opportunity for Italian Americans to meet and greet top figures of Hollywood.

Judge Russo has made it his top priority to unite Italian American organizations.

“We’ve traveled the country, talking to many organizations as to why it’s important for us to work together if we are to have a collective voice to influence American culture,” said Judge Russo at COPOMIAO’s end-of-the-year meeting. “We’ve only been able to gain such respect because of our collective strength. Together, we have power that none of our organizations have individually.”

Since Judge Russo took over, COPOMIAO has grown from 36 to 63 member Italian American organizations from every corner of the United States. In past years, the New York City metropolitan region was, all but, the exclusive domain for COPOMIAO. A concerted effort by Judge Russo was to broaden and diversify membership. Today, organization members are found, in not only New York, but, also, in California, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Massachusetts, and other states.

The year-end meeting welcomed eight new member organizations to COPOMIAO. They are:

Dante Club - Sacramento
Delaware Italian American Foundation
Louisiana Italian American Political Action Committee
Pirandello Lyceum
San Francisco Italian Athletic Club
Societa da Vinci
Ulster County Italian American Foundation
WLPO (World's Leading Personalities Org.)

Judge Russo reiterated his support for the Italian American Future Leaders Conference, to be held January 12, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

On hand was John Viola, vice president of COPOMIAO, former executive director of the National Italian American Foundation, who, along with Patrick O’Boyle, founded Italian American Future Leaders, the organization behind the precedent setting conference to garner rave reviews in 2023.

“Last year’s event was a very successful gathering of young people between the ages of 21 and 35 to workshop and network,” said Viola. “It has generated a lot of goodwill and good results. We found last year that a lot of young people are very interested in the Italian American community. However, they are not interested in doing some of the things done in past years, such as the petty infighting and the sins of ego to fracture our community and make us ineffective.”

Some 100 young Italian Americans came to the January gathering in Fort Lauderdale, last year. Attendance is expected to increase this year to over 150. Participants, from almost every state, are sponsored by different Italian American organizations. COPOMIAO has raised funds to pay the travel expenses for each of the young emissaries.

“The goal is to eventually turn over to the young to let them lead the conference,” said Viola, who, also, along with O’Boyle, hosts the popular Italian American Podcast. Plans are to organize various events to inspire a spirit of activism among young Italian Americans.

At the meeting, Judge Russo asserted his unwavering support to win all legal and political battles to preserve Columbus Day and Columbus monuments. On hand was Andre DiMino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, who took over that organization, after its founder, Dr. Manny Alfano, passed away last year. He updated members on his effort to quash a pending bill in Congress to eliminate Columbus Day.

On the legal front, attorney George Bochetto, who won a string of stunning victories to preserve Columbus monuments in Philadelphia, conveyed his work in court to defend Italian Americans. Bochetto and his team of lawyers had sued Philadelphia in federal court to reverse a decision by then-mayor, Jim Kenney, to cancel Columbus Day. The judge, in that case, made a bizarre ruling that Italian Americans did not have standing to protect their cherished holiday. Bochetto appealed the decision up the chain of federal courts, only to be denied certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court. He now sets his sights at the state court level in Pittsburgh. There, a Columbus statue in Schenley Park remains wrapped in plastic. Bochetto feels this case has a better chance in state court to overcome the obstacle of standing that thwarted his efforts at the federal level.

Leaders from member Italian American organizations who attended the December 30 meeting echoed Judge Russo’s call for national unity. Ron Onesti, president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, in Chicago, expressed his optimism that Columbus statues may return to Grant Park, and other locations in the city, torn down in 2020. Tommy Damigella, an officer in the Italian American Alliance, based in Boston, spoke up for a collective report on all organizations fighting to save Columbus monuments in different areas of the country.

“People think we are losing, losing, losing,” decried Damigella. “That is not the case. We’ve had some major successes” such as in Boston where a Columbus statue damaged in 2020 was repaired and now stands in a new location. “We need a national platform,” he said. “We need a national conversation.”

The New Year is upon us. The battles continue. Columbus Day must be saved. Columbus monuments must remain standing. Judge Russo and COPOMIAO members are committed to the preservation and promotion of Italian America.

Editor’s Note: The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is https://copomiao.org/

 

 

Op-Ed
STELLATO STUNG BY STEREOTYPES
Bigoted Put-Downs by Peyton and Eli Manning Take Down Sports Agent
- A Fedora Hat, Nice Suit, Deemed “Slimy”
- Italian Americans Powerless to Stop Such Degradation

Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

On Monday, December 11, on “the Manningcast,” podcast show, NFL greats, Peyton and Eli Manning, made racist comments directed at an Italian American. Subsequent tweets by the brothers echoed their bigotry. Their object of persecution was none other than Sean Stellato, the agent for Tommy Devito, replacement quarterback for the New York Giants who has become the talk of town after winning three of the last four football games.

Mainstream media often condemns such illusory or petty racism. This past Monday, Peyton made a faux apology; only to mock Stellato more. Just then, news broke that Devito dropped Stellato as his marketing agent. He chose someone else, not Italian. Stellato still has a job, mind you; but he has been demoted to serve as negotiator between the quarterback and team.

Media reports seem unanimous in claiming that Devito planned to make this change in representation before comments by the Mannings. Do you believe this? I don’t.

Stellato suffered the sting of anti-Italianism. He was ridiculed and degraded. He suffered a loss in business because of stereotypes perpetuated by the Mannings and mainstream media.

The powerlessness of Italian Americans is root cause of this sad and needless controversy. Two Anglo-white men from the South can say racist things about an Italian American and get away with it. Not only that, mainstream media joins in on the insults to help facilitate a loss of business for the Italian American.

Eli Manning has long been a hero of mine. Yet, he and his brother, Peyton, should both be condemned as racists for their comments. Eli called Stellato “slimy,” a well-known racist trope for Italians and other Mediterraneans. Related to the “greaser” stereotype, but worse, this put-down equates the “sliminess” of Italians’ hair and skin with perceived deceptiveness in character. The trope goes back, at least, to Madison Grant’s racist screed, “The Passing of the Great Race” in 1917.

Peyton Manning currently controls Omaha Productions. He tweeted on his site that Stellato had cutlets in his briefcase. He referenced “gabagool,” a mocking allusion to how Italians might pronounce the delicacy meat, “capicola.”

Italian Americans do not have critical mass in the media. So, when Stellato, an Italian American proud of his culture, who wears a fedora hat and dresses in a nice suit, is seen on the sidelines of the Giants game, on Monday Night Football, he can be ridiculed and humiliated by the Mannings. The media can embrace a stereotype of Italians being deceitful and unreliable. Eli and Peyton Manning are not “cancelled”; as they surely would’ve been if Stellato was African American, Latino or Asian. Instead, it is Stellato who suffers. He is the one who is cancelled. He is the one who is demoted. He is the one who loses business.

Italian Americans have become second-class citizens in New Jersey. The Mannings know it. Stellato knows it. DeVito knows it. DeVito’s new non-Italian agent knows it. Italian Americans in New Jersey know it. The federal government is partially responsible. They have classified us as “non-Hispanic white.” Worse, however, is how New Jersey, my home state, has denied Italian Americans affirmative action benefits and minority protections. We have little to no political power. Our media voice is practically non-existent. Our status is so minimal that our complaints go unheard when two sports celebrities destroy a fellow Italian American.

Repeat after me - Italophobia

The word is absent in any major dictionary. Despite the 1891 massacre of Italian Americans in New Orleans, no Anglo-white progressive will admit the long history of Italophobia in this country. We need to use this word to get our politicians to admit the inconvenient truth that affirmative action should apply to Italian Americans. We need to use this word to ensure protective status to Italian Americans in the work force.

Italians must insist on recognition and reclassification as minorities to stop Italophobia in New Jersey and everywhere else in America.

Dr. Christopher Binetti is an Italian American civil rights activist and President of the Italian American Movement, a 501c3 organization that argues for minority status for Italian Americans. He can be contacted at cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu, 732-549-2635, and 732-887-3914. The views expressed are the author’s and may not be shared by the publisher of PRIMO.

 

 

Op-Ed
STOP SENATE BILL #2970
- Italian American Activist Offers Strategy to Keep Columbus Day
“…they are not worried about and don’t care about Italian American political power because they believe there isn’t any.”

By Arthur Piccolo

Italian Americans who do not see Senate # 2970 as a serious threat are kidding themselves.

Why?

Because the bill currently has, at least, 11 co-sponsors in the Senate and 56 in the House. That is all you need to know to get scared.

For what should be a very “controversial” bill, to gain so many supporters in Congress, proves they are not worried about and don’t care about Italian American political power, because they believe there isn’t any.

Native American groups and their allies are making a very big push concerning S #2970. They want this bill passed in Congress in 2024 because they do not know what Congress and the presidency will look like in 2025.

So, if we do not organize, if we do not fund a sophisticated counter attack beginning right NOW, we are facing the most damaging humiliation the Italian American community has ever suffered. And there is no coming back. It will only get worse. The Native American coalition will use their spectacular victory to broadcast everywhere. They will keep going until NO state, NO city, NO town will ever recognize Columbus Day again. That includes New York City!

Anyone reading this who thinks they know “somebody” who will make sure this bill does not pass is fooling themselves. Anyone who thinks President Biden will not sign it if it passes in Congress is a fool.

Nobody will stop this unless Italian American organizations, including all the best known, and lots of wealthy powerful Italian Americans, all unite in one, brilliant, united campaign and strategy.

It is impossible to overstate the damage Senate # 2970 will do to Italian American identity if it becomes law. And there is no precedent in all of American history for what Native Americans are hell bent on doing. They want to steal our holiday and uniquely humiliate Italian Americans. Anyone who takes any position other than this is fooling themselves. There would not be 67 sponsors if Italian Americans were considered significant. Even a few pathetic Italian Americans in Congress have co-sponsored this bill. We are truly weak in DC.

This bill should have been dead on arrival. We have only one option. That requires a bold, innovative strategy, right now, that will go into action at the very start of 2024.

Here is that kind of plan.
1) The process will begin with a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If it does not receive a majority vote, passage becomes more difficult, but not impossible. Democrats control the Senate in 2024. ALL co-sponsors are Democrats, plus two so-called Independents. All Democrats will likely vote to approve the bill. They do not need any Republican votes for passage in the committee.

2) It is unclear if a House committee will also hold hearings on this bill. If the Senate committee voted to move this bill to the entire Congress it will be to our advantage. The Republicans control the House right now, but with the slimmest of margins.

3) Two individuals in Congress have the most power. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Mike Johnson have official and procedural ways to either move or block legislation from reaching the floor for a vote. The issue, here, is very specific to S #2970. To get the bill off the 2024 calendar, or, delay the Judiciary hearings as late in 2024 as possible. Once the intense election season begins by Labor Day, Congress will spend little time in session. It is unlikely that any new legislation becomes law late in 2024.

Worrying about the next Congress in 2025 is useless, for now.

4) We must know where Schumer and Johnson stand on S #2970. I would like to think they will both be supportive of Columbus Day. But, how strong is their support?

5) Back to the Senate Judiciary Committee, we must impress as many senators as possible to oppose S #2970.

6) Effectively reaching members of the Judiciary Committee must be an “inside” job based on the way power works in the real world in DC. We absolutely need physical meetings with each of these senators.

7) This will not work in a haphazard, uncoordinated, rag tag campaign to STOP S #2970.

8) A new high powered lobbying group must be formed right away if we want to stop this. and that includes leading members of existing Italian American organizations. The new lobbying group can be called Italian Coalition to Protect Columbus Day. Nothing like this can or will happen without funding for a very skilled executive director and a small qualified savvy staff and lots of other necessary expenses.

Keep in mind neither the Italian American Congressional Delegation (IACD) with 29 Italian Members and 200 Members of Congress have even put out statements opposing S #2970.

9) In my view, a minimum of $1 million and, hopefully, much more to get the job done. Will some of the many thousands of very successful Italian Americans write big checks for such an effort? Yes, you are very right to be skeptical. Those who can easily contribute money should do so if they care enough to stop Italian American from suffering the ultimate indignity. If they don’t care, then all is lost.

10) Concurrently, we must find one (and hopefully many more) member of Congress who will right now introduce an alternative piece of legislation to provide Indigenous Peoples aka Native Americans their own annual national holiday on a day of their choosing that does NOT conflict with the dates of exiting national holidays. THIS IS ESSENTIAL.

 

Editor’s Note: The writer is the chairman and founder of the Bowling Green Association in New York. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he remains active in Italian American affairs. He was instrumental in having the “Charging Bull” sculpture by Arturo DiModica a permanent gift to Bowling Green. The views expressed are the author’s and may not be shared by PRIMO.

RUSSO SHOWS UNWAVERING SUPPORT FOR CHICAGO
Italians in the Windy City Seek to Return Three Columbus Statues
- Gathering Convened by Ron Onesti and JCCIA Strategizes Way Forward
- A Review of Past Achievements by COPOMIAO

By Truby Chiaviello

Chicago Italians continue their fight to return to their city, not one, not two, but three Columbus statues, torn down in 2020 by former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who lost reelection earlier this year in a massive landslide.

Ron Onesti leads the way as president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA). Members came together before Thanksgiving to discuss the Columbus statues and other important issues with special guest, Basil M. Russo, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO).

A city famous for its political machinations, Chicago saw its Italian American community come together to vote out Mayor Lightfoot in March. Her stinging defeat was a message to the new mayor, Brandon Johnson, and those of other cities, that you destroy Italian landmarks at your peril. It is better to meet with the Italian American community and settle disputes amicably rather than give in to the riotous mob.

Congratulations were extended to Onesti and JCCIA by Russo. Chicago’s Italian American organizations were commended for their unity and fighting spirit. 

“Strength doesn’t mean much without conviction and vision, and the JCCIA’s strategy in numbers runs parallel with COPOMIAO’s mission of unity and broad collaboration,” said Russo.

A review of past achievements by Judge Russo conveys a way forward in Chicago and elsewhere in the country. Along these lines, COPOMIAO — with the insight and support of its' member organizations — has achieved the following since 2021: 

• The launch of Italian American Future Leaders, a national annual conference and fellowship platform that is connecting our younger generations to the Italian American cultural experience. The application process is open now for individuals, ages 21 to 35, who want to attend “IAFL2” this January. 

• A precedent-setting celebration, hosted at the White House by First Lady Jill Biden, during Italian American Heritage Month

• An ongoing collaboration with the Mayor of Genoa, in the reexamination of Columbus' life and legacy

• The Coordination of Lawsuits across the country that have resulted in several favorable court rulings to preserve Columbus Statues 

• The initiation of a successful National Campaign that prompted the White House to issue an appropriate Columbus Day Proclamation in 2022 and 2023

• The promotion of an inclusive Italian Heritage Curriculum in grades K-12 throughout our country to ensure our culture is taught in our schools 

• A National Meeting of Delegates In NYC and a reception with the Consul General of Italy to coordinate mutual goals 

• A Meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State, and a Private Audience with Pope Francis, to discuss the significant role the Catholic Church has played in our heritage 

• A Historic Trip to Rome to meet with prominent Italian Government Officials to develop stronger cultural and commercial ties 

• A Private Reception at the home of the Italian Ambassador in Washington, D.C., to establish a more productive working relationship 

Judge Russo said, “Stay tuned for what’s coming next, as COPOMIAO leaders continue to elevate our culture and heritage across all generations.”

Editor’s Note: Pictured is Ron Onesti, president of JCCIA, and Basil M. Russo, president of COPOMIAO, having dinner with members of JCCIA. The web site for JCCIA is https://www.jccia.com/. The web site for COPOMIAO is https://copomiao.org/

 

THE WEST IS WON
Italian American Runners Excel in West Coast Championships
Matt Strangio and Robert Di Donato Rush Ahead

By Silvio Laccetti, Ph.D.

It is rare to see Italian Americans achieve high marks in the sport of Cross Country. But this year is a memorable exception. Our greater community has two high achieving stars, Matt Strangio and Robert Di Donato.

Strangio is a student at the University of Portland and is a resident of Folsom, California, just a short distance outside Sacramento. In high school, he was a three-time All-American and a four-time state champion. In 2023, he got off to a slow start, having been laid up with a serious flu at the beginning of the season. But he battled back from disappointing performances, all the way to becoming the 10k champion of the West Coast Conference. He followed that up with a silver medal in the NCAA West regionals, finishing behind the reigning national 10k champion from Stanford. He won All-Regional All-Star honors in arguably one of the toughest NCAA regionals.

In the final NCAA championship, he finished in the top third of all competitors.

Robert Di Donato is a sophomore at Stanford University, where he was named last year as the top freshman cross country runner in the PAC 12 conference. This year, he came on strong in the conference championships and finished in seventh place in the NCAA Western regionals, earning similar honors to Strangio's. He continued his strong performance in the championship race, finishing 49th in the country, just nine places below All-American ranking.

Both Matt and Robert will be competing next year in both the indoor and outdoor track when we can expect even stronger performances from them.

Editor’s Note: The author, a retired history professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, is founder and principal of the Laccetti Foundation. Pictured is Matt Stragio, cross-country runner at Portland State University. 11-22-23

 

Urgent Notice 11-13-23
COLUMBUS DAY AT RISK IN THE U.S. SENATE
Call Your Senator Today to Tell Him to Keep Columbus Day
- Italian Americans in Pennsylvania are Urged by PRIMO Not to Reelect Senator Bob Casey (D)

By  Andre DiMino
President of the Italian American One Voice Coalition

We have just been advised about a bill that was introduced in the Senate to eliminate the Columbus Day Federal holiday and instead have that be a Federal Holiday for Indigenous People. This requires immediate action from everyone!

Here is a brief excerpt from a lengthy email sent by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) with his endorsement of this new bill:

"On September 28, 2023, Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico introduced S. 2970, the Indigenous Peoples' Day Act. This legislation would designate the official holiday recognized on the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples' Day, celebrating the rich, vibrant, and diverse cultures of Indigenous communities that have long been overlooked throughout our Nation's history."

Please contact your U.S. senators immediately for them to oppose this bill. Italian Americans are a recognized group under the 14th Amendment and this is discrimination; favoring one group over another. We have nothing against Indigenous People - but they already have International Indigenous Peoples Day, as declared by the United Nations, for August 9.  So, don't take away our holiday - recognize 8/9 for IPD.

Please remember what the late Dr. Manny Alfano founder of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, always said - "If we say nothing and do nothing, we will surely become nothing!"  We must now ALL say something AND do something - or we will lose our federal holiday!

Let us forge ahead in defense of our great heritage!

HERE IS HOW YOU CAN CONTACT YOUR SENATOR TO KEEP COLUMBUS DAY

You can contact your U.S. senator’s office directly, according to information in the JPEG image, below. Call the first six digits, 202-22…followed by the listed phone number of your specific senator. For example, Senator Mike Lee’s phone number is 202-224-5444.

A constituent may also call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. An operator will connect you directly to the Senate office you request.

Please remember who has endorsed the pending bill to eliminate Columbus Day: Senator Bob Casey! He is now up for reelection in 2024. If you live in Pennsylvania, please do not vote for Casey for reelection.

 

“My comrade-in-arms.”
A TRIBUTE TO DR. VINCENZO MILIONE
- Chief Researcher at the Calandra Institute in New York, Who Pioneered Demographic Studies of Italian Americans; an Advocate for Italian Americans
- They Called Him Enzo; A CUNY Legend Passes

By Maria Fosco

In receiving the news that my colleague and good friend, Vincenzo Milione, had passed away, I found myself deeply saddened. Enzo, as we called him, was hired by the John D Calandra Italian American Institute, City University of New York, in 1987. This was a year after I started working there. I was the first person to meet him and we instantly bonded over our Italian heritage and similar immigration history. His family emigrated from Sicily at the same time my family emigrated from Abruzzo. We walked the same paths with tremendous love for our Italian culture and heritage.

Enzo was unique. He was very intelligent and highly educated. As I recall, he received his Ph.D. at the age of 25. What I loved about him was that, as educated as he was, he deeply understood the trials and tribulations of immigrants. We both had a love for economic geography and often discussed theories and principles of current situations. His doctoral dissertation on public transportation was based on the struggles his parents had when they arrived in this country and had to navigate the complex system of buses and trains in New York. His degrees were in physics and civil engineering, but his love was for the socio-economic development of Italian Americans.

Enzo was the director of research and education at Calandra. He understood the complicated lives of Italian immigrant communities. He had a unique perspective on their plight. He navigated through their social and educational needs. He gathered statistics on the dropout rate of Italian Americans in New York City high schools and the hiring and inclusion of Italian Americans at City University of New York (CUNY). He developed a keen sense in studying the demographics of the faculty, staff and students. He became a socio engineering researcher in the field of Italian American studies, a title no one had before or after him.

Enzo was unique in his thoughts and theories. He was passionate about his work. For him, it was all about justice. He developed a fierce advocacy for the rights of Italian Americans. He gave a voice to those who felt lost. Although our careers paralleled while we were both at the university; in 1992, they became intertwined. That year, CUNY made the decision to dismantle the Calandra Institute, which resulted in the Federal Civil Rights Case, Scelsa v. CUNY No.92 Civ 6690 (CBM). Enzo’s statistics were the heart of the case. My role was more anecdotal. Nevertheless, we both found ourselves in the witness room, waiting to give testimony. We knew much of the case depended on what we had to say. Our years as colleagues became one of mutual support to face this trying experience. From then on, we looked out for each other. We developed a deep bond that only comrades in arms develop. We knew what it was like to be in the trenches.

Enzo and I worked well together. We often had philosophical talks. We rehashed our roles to get done what was needed for the future of Italian Americans at CUNY. Enzo became an advisor to me and I gave him the emotional support to continue his work. As the years passed, we became old friends. Always blunt with each other, we developed a sibling relationship.

Enzo and I were together during the 9/11 attacks. I will always remember that day. We were desperately trying to get instructions from the administration. Enzo was in his office, next to mine. I went to him to devise a plan to get the staff out of the office and on their way home. I recall, I had just returned from speaking to the police outside when Enzo met me in the office. He told me the first tower had collapsed. We both just stared at each other with a look of dread. We needed to get everyone out. Little by little, we sent the staff home. I begged Enzo to please leave. He refused. He was not going to leave me alone in the office. As soon as the staff left, he said to me, “Are you ready?”

I vividly remember standing in the building lobby with Enzo where we watched the chaos in the streets. We both looked at each other and took a deep breath. We stepped outside and started heading north. We had to get to the 59th Street bridge. We walked at a swift pace. I tried to keep up. It was complete havoc. Everyone was trying to cross the bridge on foot. I remember him saying, “Come on, Maria, let’s keep moving.” Midway across the bridge, we watched the destruction of the World Trade Center. He said to me, “I want to take a picture of you here so that we both remember this moment.” It’s not exactly what I wanted to do, but he pulled out a small camera and took a shot. It took us two hours to get from the office on 43rd Street to the Queens side of the bridge. When we arrived at Queensborough Plaza, it was time to separate. He was headed to Maspeth and I was going to Astoria. He asked if I was OK and if I could handle getting home alone. I said I was fine, but he had a longer way to go. We hugged each other and promised to call one another as soon as we got home. He was definitely my comrade-in-arms for a second time.

In 2007, when the new administration arrived at the Calandra Institute and summarily demoted him (not by their definition), I was beyond livid. This was a man who made history in the Scelsa v CUNY case. I called him during the Christmas break in 2007 and told him to fight it. I would help at all costs. I was already removed from Calandra by the administration, but he stubbornly decided to stay. He paid the price and spent the next 15 years fighting to keep the integrity of his work relevant and his legacy alive. It was frustrating and sad to witness. I occasionally got on the phone with him. He told me to get back into the fight. He was strategizing and planning my next step. But I was tired. He still had the fight in him.

I recall hearing he developed lung cancer while I cared for my mother who was in palliative care. Fighting the CUNY system not only takes an emotional toll on a person but a physical toll as well. No matter what, he stuck it out. In my own role at CUNY, away from Calandra, I continued to speak to him to get updates on the statistics of Italian Americans at the university.

My last conversation with Enzo was when he called me while I was going through my own cancer treatment. It was around Christmas time. He told me to have hope and not to worry. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer for some time, he said, but was still up and running. I appreciated the call and was happy that he reached out to me.

Enzo was a man of integrity, honor and righteousness that few can claim. He was a quiet man who spoke little but made his words count. He was as stubborn as he was kind. He now rests in peace. May he protect all who loved him.

Editor’s Note: The writer is the co-founder and vice president of the Italian American Museum in New York. From 1986-2008, she was the director of administration at the Calandra Italian American Institute. Our condolences are extended to the surviving family and friends of Dr. Vincenzo Milione.

 

Op-ed
DON’T FORGET THE ARMENIANS
The Recent Horrific Killings of Israelis in Gaza by Palestinian Terrorists Was Preceded by the Slaughter of Armenians in Azerbaijan
- Italian Americans Must Support Those of Mediterranean and Southwest Asian Descent Who Face Persecution

By Christopher Binetti, Ph.D.

Italian Americans are alone in America.

Columbus Day is severely threatened in Massachusetts, at the state level, and in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere, at local levels. We are an increasingly despised ethnic minority with a serious need for more political power and social activism. We must speak out, advocate and demonstrate.

This Columbus Day Weekend, the horrific events unfolded in Israel. To be clear, Hamas and Islamic Jihad own all responsibility. Israel has no blame for these attacks. They have every right to self defense. I was stunned both by the barbarity of Hamas and also the lack of global support for Israel. Russia, in particular, has allied with the anti-Israeli forces in the world.

Israel is shaken by these attacks. Jews, all over the world, are terrified and outraged.

However, within the last month, the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan were ethnically-cleansed by the Azerbaijani government and army.

And the world said nothing.

Once again, Russia sided with the aggressor, Azerbaijan. However, under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Italy helped Azerbaijan, both politically and economically. Israel gave weapons to Azerbaijan. No one has clean hands in Nagorno-Karabakh; however, Russia and Turkey seem to have been the main backers of this final offensive to send 100,000 Armenian refugees out of their homeland.

Israel should reverse course and support Armenia. We should urge Meloni and Italy to do the same (this seems to be happening to some degree, already). If the Armenians were Muslims, they would not have been ethnically-cleansed. The United States would not have allowed it and Turkey would not have pushed so hard for it to happen. If Azerbaijan were a Christian or Jewish country, the world would be condemning the attacks. Instead, mouch of the world, including the United States, remains quiet.

Those supporting Palestine’s right to exist and “right of return” are among the most fervent deniers of Armenians’ right to autonomy within Azerbaijan. The utter hypocrisy of the Muslim world on Palestine is thus revealed.

Italians have few allies in America. However, we could align with other ethnic groups, such as Israelis and Armenians.

The oppression of Israel by Muslims (including Arabs) is totally ignored. Instead, Israelis, in particular, and Jews, in general, are blamed for the political radicalism and violence of the Middle East. Arab and Muslim rule were emphasized by many people I spoke with in Jordan, when I visited that country this past May. Israel is seen as an existential threat because the country is free of Arab and Muslim control. I heard Jordanians say things like, “Jews and Christians can stay, as long as they are under Arab (and Muslim) rule.” Such thinking has led the Maronites to be persecuted in Lebanon, where they are forcibly being, “Arabized.” Look at Iraq where Christians and Kurds are denied full freedom. The current conflict in Israel has nothing to do with land conquered in 1967. Rather, Palestinians, and the Arab and Islamic countries who support them, want to go back to 1948, when the land was under full Arab-Muslim rule.

Let us be clear, every group is capable of doing evil things. Christians and Jews are no better or worse than Muslims or atheists or any other group. We are all flawed. Islam is also a wonderful religion and Arab culture is amazing. However, right now, Arab and Muslim aggressors are being treated as victims when they victimize Christian and Jewish people. The global left, my side of the political spectrum, is largely responsible for this. Take, for example, Lisa McCormick, a far leftist from New Jersey. She described as a “Crusade” a bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Senator Bob Melendez, to provide protections to Armenians in Azerbaijan. She was clear that to kill or drive out Christians was not something of concern for her and her ilk. She, either, doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that Armenians could face full genocide by the Turks and Azerbaijanis within the year.

Getting Americans to care about the Armenians is hard, because like Italians and most Jews, they are classified in the Office of Management and Budget’s proposed ethnic/racial scheme as “white” or “European.” Armenia is not in Europe. The country lies in Western Asia. Armenians are not unlike Italians and other Americans of Mediterranean descent. They are not white. They are under attack in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Italians can only exist as a free people, here, and in Italy, if we align ourselves with oppressed people from countries, not dissimilar to our own. We must unite with all Mediterranean people and those, from Western Asia, who are being killed and driven out of their homes. Armenians face political isolation globally as we Italian Americans do nationally. The international press ignores them as the national press ignores us. Their heritage is to be expunged in Azerbaijan as ours is to be in America. Meanwhile, Israel, a brave Mediterranean country is at war for its very survival. We must support Israel 100 percent, but we must not forget about the Armenians, either.

Dr. Christopher Binetti is a professor of Political Science and History and an Italian American civil rights activist. He can be reached at 732-549-2635 and 732-887-3914 and cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The views expressed in this essay are the author’s and may not reflect those of the publisher and staff of PRIMO.

 

MARCO POLO AND CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
Two Great Italian Explorers Unfairly Maligned Today
- Some Scholars Doubt Polo Reached China
- Some Scholars Accuse Columbus of Terrible Crimes
I believe these accusations and reactions to be unjustified.

By Michael J. Ranieri

Marco Polo’s epic journey to China and the four voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean and Central and South America constitute two of the greatest adventure stories in world history. These trailblazers endured unimaginable hardships and risked their lives in pursuit of the vast riches of the East. They were not however, purely driven by gold and spices. Spreading the Christian faith was an important, though generally less recognized, motivation for their arduous quests. And at various times during their lifetimes and even today these transcendent explorers have been misunderstood and maligned.

During Marco Polo’s lifetime, he was called an imposter, liar and deceiver. Despite all evidence to the contrary, there are historians, today, who insist he never traveled to China. Christopher Columbus was also treated harshly in his day. He was accused of being a cruel and unfit administrator and, for this, he was arrested, imprisoned and sent back to Spain in chains. He was later exonerated for these “crimes”, but his name and reputation never quite recovered during his lifetime. Revisionists today also accuse him of crimes for which he was not even present.

In the late 13th century, Marco Polo at the age of 17, left the comfortable surroundings of his native Venice where his family operated a prosperous trading business. Along with his father, Niccolo, and uncle, Maffeo, he traveled 5,600 miles along the dangerous Silk Road (a network of trade routes that linked East and West) for over three years until he reached the summer place of Kublai Khan in Shangdu (Xandu in modern day Inner Mongolia).

The trip was rife with hardships. The Venetian trio journeyed on horseback, camel and donkey over and through mountain passes, inhospitable deserts and rough terrain where food was often scarce or spoiled. They dealt with insects, poisonous snakes and harsh climate conditions ranging from the bitterly cold to searing desert heat. In addition, they withstood the life-threatening dangers of traveling through lands plagued by bandits. Conditions were so difficult that Marco fell seriously ill and spent an extended time in what is today Northern Afghanistan.

Marco didn’t embark on this trip naively. He knew its perils because his father and uncle had both been on the Silk Road before him, visiting the court of Kublai Khan in 1266. The main reason he went on this journey was to become a successful businessman and return with riches to Venice.

As accomplished traders who traveled extensively and spoke several languages, Marco, his father, and uncle employed their background and skills to amass a fortune working in the Mongol administration. Marco also worked as a tax collector, assessor and traveled around China and neighboring countries as a personal emissary or ambassador for the Khan, perhaps the richest and most powerful man in the world at that time (and arguably for several centuries to come).

The Polos risked their lives in their quest for gold, pearls, gems, spices, carpets and silk and they would return to Venice with enough riches to live comfortably for the rest of their lives.

The religious purpose for their travels was to convert Kublai Khan, the most powerful ruler in the known world, to Christianity. What made the Polos think that this was possible?

Kublai Khan was an ecumenical ruler who was open to learning about different religions. Upon hearing tales of the miraculous healing powers of oil from the Holy Sepulcher, thought to be the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, Khan asked Niccolo and Maffeo to return to China with a vial. At the Khan’s request, the Polos also agreed to petition the Pope for 100 priests be sent from China to teach his subjects about Christianity.

Only two priests journeyed with the Polos to the Mongol capital. More accustomed to the comforts of church life, both turned back soon after confronting the harshness of the Silk Road. “If the Pope had sent out persons duly qualified to preach the gospel, the Great Khan would have embraced Christianity, for which, it is certainly known, he had a strong predilection,” claimed Marco.

Marco was the only of the Polo clan who wrote about the journey to China. “Travels of Marco Polo” became one of the world’s most popular and best-selling travel books of all time. Marco was not the first from Europe to visit China, but it was his book which opened up a whole new world to the West. Marco’s chronicles introduced Medieval Europe to a “merchant’s paradise” filled with powerful emperors, vibrant, exotic cities, huge armies, unusual spices and cuisine, and imperial treasures. Marco’s greatest legacy, however, is that by providing new, detailed information about cities, towns, and rivers in China and along the Silk Road, he inspired countless European merchants to find a more direct route to the riches of the East.

One such explorer, who hailed from Genoa, was Christopher Columbus. There is no doubt Marco Polo inspired Columbus. Columbus read the Polo memoirs and brought it with him (along with the Bible) on his voyages to the New World. He wrote notes in the margins of the book and took particular interest in Polo’s descriptions about the location of gold, spices, pearls and precious gems. Next to a passage in which Polo wrote that Cipangu (Japan) had “gold in the greatest abundance, its sources being inexhaustible,” Columbus wrote “copious gold.” He also paid particular attention to the cash crops like pepper, cinnamon, and cloves mentioned by Polo and dreamed of importing them to Europe at a great profit.

Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus had the same primary motivation: they both wanted to strike it rich. Unlike Polo, however, Columbus didn’t merely want to amass wealth for himself or his family. Columbus wanted to find enough gold and spices in India (which was synonymous with Asia, including China, during Columbus’ time) so that the Spanish sovereigns (Ferdinand and Isabella) who sponsored his voyages, could eventually finance a crusade to - in his words - “conquer the Holy Sepulcher; for thus I urged Your Highnesses to spend all the profits of this enterprise on the conquest of Jerusalem.”

Columbus hoped to obtain these “profits” by taking a western route from Spain straight to Asia instead of sailing south around Africa then east to Asia like other European explorers. With vast quantities of gold, the Spanish sovereigns could fund a new crusade to take back Jerusalem from the Muslims. Columbus, a pious Catholic, thought it was his destiny to help convert the world to Christianity.

No new crusade was ever undertaken, but Columbus was motivated by religious fervor and never stopped his own “missionary” efforts. He propagated Christianity throughout his life: He told the natives when he first arrived in Hispaniola in 1493, “The monarchs of Castile have sent us not to subjugate you but to teach you the true religion.” He petitioned Pope Alexander VI in 1502 to send missionaries to the Indigenous peoples of the New World so they could accept Christ. Even in his will, he established a fund to finance missionary efforts in the lands he discovered.

While Columbus never did reach India, nor found vast quantities of gold and spices to make another crusade possible, because of his indomitable will and perseverance, he did introduce to Europe new lands, and a new continent. Columbus was the first European to explore the Caribbean and Central America, including Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Venezuela in South America.

Like Marco Polo, Columbus had to endure a great deal. He overcame hurricanes, shipwrecks, mutinies, political coups, battles, sickness of all types and perhaps worst of all, Spaniards, who simply never liked working for not only an Italian foreigner, but a lowly commoner.

It took courage to sail four times across the Atlantic (1492-1504) on small, cramped wooden ships with no modern nautical instruments and with dry, maggot-filled food. But Columbus was a very capable mariner, expert at dead-reckoning navigation, who was able to prove to his sponsors that crossing the Atlantic was possible. Even before Columbus set sail, he was mocked by the Council of the Spanish Sovereigns who rejected his proposal three times. They doubted one could sail safely from Europe across the Atlantic to the other side - India. It took eight years and intense lobbying in Portugal, England, France, and his native Genoa before Columbus was able to convince the Spanish monarchy to finance his voyage in 1492.

Columbus proved to be a persistent, courageous and intrepid explorer – the first European since the Vikings to reach the Western Hemisphere (but the Vikings never made an impact or difference historically) and his accomplishments have been celebrated ever since.

When 19th century Americans left their homes to look for a new way of life in the West, they honored Columbus’ boldness and heroism by naming scores of cities, counties and institutions after him. 23 of our 50 United States have a town or city named after Columbus and 29 States have one named Columbia (a poetic version of the name).

Despite his historical achievements, Columbus is often criticized, today, for atrocities during his attempts to reach the Indies. He has been accused of being a racist, rapist, slaver, maimer, murderer, and agent of genocide. To indigenous rights advocates, he has become the personification of all that is wrong with colonialism.

I believe these accusations and reactions to be unjustified. While it may be fair to label Columbus as a poor and ineffective administrator of land and people under his supervision, a thorough reading of primary source materials yield scant evidence that Columbus ordered, supported or committed atrocities such as genocide and rape by his own hand. As such, Columbus’ failings and the despicable actions of other Europeans who came after his voyages and his time as Governor in the New World should not overshadow his accomplishments.

Many atrocities attributed to Columbus occurred when he was not even present. For example, Columbus was at sea when his men disobeyed his order to treat the indigenous people well and respect the women of La Navidad, a settlement on the northeast coast of what is today, Haiti. Instead, his men went on a rampage, seized gold and other goods and took advantage of the local women. In addition, there are revisionists who blame Columbus for atrocities that were committed not by him but by one of his successors, Nicolas de Ovando, who was Governor of the Indies from 1501 to 1509.

Marco Polo has also not been immune to criticism, especially in his own lifetime when he was ridiculed. His detractors have questioned whether he in fact visited China. They claim that he was an imposter and would ask: How could Marco Polo spend 21 years in the East and never mention the written Chinese character, the widespread use of chopsticks, tea, the practice of foot-binding, or the Great Wall? He has also been accused of exaggerating or telling tall tales. For this reason, the Travels of Marco Polo is known as Il Milione in the Italian language. Scholars speculate that milione was Marco’s nickname because of his propensity to often use the word “millions” when describing all forms of revenue.

It is true that many stories in the Polo book are based on hearsay and some are fabricated. However, most historians believe that the Polos did reach China and Marco’s book was unquestionably valuable to future generations of explorers.

In the pursuit of money and a desire to spread Christianity when the world was polarized by different faiths (particularly Christianity and Islam) these pioneers, despite the hardships and risks involved, remained deeply committed to achieving their goals. And in doing so, Polo linked the West with the East - inspiring merchants and missionaries to follow his example and travel to China, and Columbus linked Europe with a new continent - discovering people and lands Europe did not know existed while planting the seed of commerce and the Christian faith wherever he traveled.

Editor’s Note: The writer lives in Florida. This article was posted on October 10, 2023.

 

Basil M. Russo Goes to Washington
FIRST-EVER EVENT TO HONOR ITALIAN AMERICANS TO BE HELD AT THE WHITE HOUSE
- Dr. Jill Biden, First Italian American First Lady Will Host Historic Gathering on October 12
- U.S. Capitol Sees “Potentially Dangerous,” a Documentary about the Mistreatment of Italian Americans in WWII
- Judge Russo Will Lead an Effort to Win an Apology from U.S. Government for Mistreatment of Italian Americans in WWII

By Truby Chiaviello

All roads lead to Washington.

That’s the message heard loud and clear from a week of special activity by Judge Basil M. Russo in the nation’s capital.

As the president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO), Judge Russo garnered major victories for Italian Americans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The White House and U.S. Capitol are on board to celebrate Italian American Heritage Month this year.

First up, The White House.

The big announcement came yesterday, on October 3rd. A special Italian delegation has been invited to the White House to meet with Dr. Jill Biden, our country’s first Italian American First Lady.

The wife of President Joe Biden will, on Thursday, October 12th, host the first-ever event celebrating Italian American Heritage Month at the White House.

It was this past July when Judge Russo, on behalf of COPOMIAO, wrote Dr. Biden about the possibility of an event to honor Italian Americans.

On September 25th, the First Lady agreed to graciously invite a large delegation of COPOMIAO leaders to the president’s official residence.

Judge Russo sees this a precedent-setting moment. He says, “This is the first time in history that the White House has ever hosted an event celebrating Italian American Heritage Month.”

The opportunity arose, in part, from Dr. Biden’s Italian lineage. Her paternal grandfather emigrated from Sicily.

“We are extremely grateful to the First Lady for creating this wonderful event that will allow us to focus national attention on the many exceptional contributions Italian Americans have made to our great country,” says Judge Russo.

The U.S. Capitol was quick to follow the First Lady’s lead, but, in different context.

On September 28th, an event was convened to kick off the start of Italian American Heritage Month inside the U.S. Capitol. In attendance was Judge Russo, Michael Polo, new president of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy of America, Representative Bill Pascrel and fellow members of the Italian American Congressional Caucus.

The purpose of the gathering was to view the award-winning documentary, “Potentially Dangerous.”

Here is a film funded by the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, an organization founded in 2017, named for Joe and Anthony Russo, sons of Judge Russo, whose AGBO studio produces some of Hollywood’s top films, today. There have been 48 filmmakers who have, thus far, received grants, to total $400,000, from the Russo Brothers. Filmmakers are to depict the Italian American experience in a positive way in order to receive funding. Several productions have appeared in prominent film festivals in both the United States and Italy. “Potentially Dangerous” was the winner of the 2021 Russo Brothers Film Forum competition. AGBO and the Italian Sons & Daughters of America are current sponsors of the film.

“Potentially Dangerous” conveys the sad saga of some 600,000 Italians in the United States, who, by virtue of their ethnicity, were considered enemies of the state. They were closely watched by the FBI, only to have their homes and livelihoods taken away from them while over 1 million of their sons fought and died in World War II.

“Infamously, Joe DiMaggio’s father, a fisherman living in California, was forced to hand over his boat to the U.S. government,” says Judge Russo.

“Potentially Dangerous” was shown to members of the U.S. Congress by the Italian American Congressional Caucus. In his capacity as president of both COPOMIAO and the Italian Sons & Daughters of America, Judge Russo addressed the gathering. He spoke of the need to remember this sad chapter in American history. He was joined by Zach Baliva, the creator and director of the film.

“The tragic irony of this situation,” said Judge Russo, “is that while hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants were being subjected to curfews, property confiscation, loss of their homes and jobs, and confinement in internment camps in the U.S., 1.2 million of their sons were fighting and dying overseas in World War II.”

Judge Russo now leads an effort to obtain a formal apology from the U.S. government for the mistreatment of 600,000 Italian Americans in World War II. 

Italian American Heritage Month is to be one of historic making activity this year as Judge Russo and others move for greater social equality and political parity for all Italian Americans.

Editor’s Note: “Potentially Dangerous” is currently airing on PBS. Check your local listings, and learn more at https://www.potentiallydangerousfilm.com
Web site for COPOMIAO is https://copomiao.org/

 

 

FIGHT TO SAVE COLUMBUS HEATS UP
Battlefronts Open to Preserve Columbus Day and Columbus Monument
- Rochester, We Must Reinstate Columbus Day
- Massachusetts, We Must Defeat Two Bills That Seek to Change Columbus to Indigenous Peoples Day
- Syracuse, We Support the Columbus Monument Corporation in Their Legal Appeal to Save The Columbus Monument in Columbus Circle
- Mount Vernon, NY, We Support the Pushback Against Changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day

By Truby Chiaviello

 

Never mind the heat and humidity, August was an eventful month for Columbus haters.

They were active in New York and Massachusetts. They tried to move the proverbial ball forward to eliminate Columbus Day and a Columbus Monument.

Italian Americans, however, were there to stop them.

We are fortunate to have activists on our side who were not caught off guard by the summertime assaults. They and their respective teams monitored events in the courts and in the legislatures to fight back at a moment’s notice.

We applaud the efforts of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, the Italian American Alliance, the Columbus Monument Corporation and the Columbus Heritage Coalition.

What happened in August is to be countered in September and October. Here are summaries of the latest battlefronts in Rochester, New York, Massachusetts, Syracuse, New York and Mount Vernon, New York.

Reinstate Columbus Day in Rochester, New York

“Our brothers and sisters in Rochester, New York, are requesting assistance,” says Andre DiMino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition (IAOVC).

A rally is scheduled for city hall at High Noon on October 6th. All Italian Americans are urged to come together to support the return of Columbus Day in Rochester.

Previously, the city council, there, had voted to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.

“While we absolutely support the recognition of the contributions and history of indigenous peoples,” says Mr. DiMino, “we believe that this change discriminates against Italian Americans by choosing one ethnic holiday over the other.”

“We believe that Rochester can honor both perspectives by designating a separate day for Indigenous Peoples’ Day on August 9th, in line with International Indigenous Peoples’ Day, already recognized by the United Nations.”

Both ethnic groups should be duly celebrated in the city of Rochester, to “foster inclusivity and diversity within our community without pitting one group against another,” says Mr. DiMino.

IAOVC encourages all Italian Americans, throughout the country, to get involved to restore Columbus Day in Rochester.

Mr. DiMino says, “Your voice matters in this conversation, and we encourage you to take action today by contacting Mayor Malik Evans, his administration, and the Rochester City Council to express your concerns, educate them about Columbus Day and request the reinstatement of Columbus Day on the city's calendar.”

All Italian Americans are asked to contact the following elected officials to request the reinstatement of Columbus Day in Rochester, New York.

- Mayor Malik Evans: Mailto:Malik.Evans@cityofrochester.gov
- Rochester City Council: mailto: Council@cityofrochester.gov
- City of Rochester Information: mailto:info@cityofrochester.gov
- Barbara Pierce, Council President: Mailto: Barbara.Pierce@cityofrochester.gov
- Linda Kingsley, Council Vice President: mailto: Linda.Kingsley@cityofrochester.gov

Keep Columbus Day in Massachusetts

The Italian American Alliance leads the battle to save Columbus Day in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts state legislature is the setting. There, the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight will consider two bills to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day as a Massachusetts state holiday.

House Bill, H2989 is sponsored by Rep. Christine Barber (D), Somerville and the Senate Bill, S1976, is sponsored by Sen. Joanne Comerford (D), Northampton.

A hearing is scheduled on October 3rd, at the state house, on the prospect of changing the holiday. The exact time and location will be announced a week prior the date of the hearing.

Tommy Damigella, chairman of the strategic planning committee of the Italian American Alliance, says, “There will be two opportunities to help in our effort to stop these bills: You can sign up to give live testimony at the hearing. You can submit written testimony to the committee.”

The emails for the committee members are:

mailto:Nick.Collins@masenate.gov
Mailto:Antonio.Cabral@mahouse.gov 
mailto:Joan.Lovely@masenate.gov
mailto:Liz.Miranda@masenate.gov

mailto:Marc.Pacheco@masenate.gov
mailto:john.velis@masenate.gov
mailto:Bruce.Tarr@masenate.gov
mailto:Chynah.Tyler@mahouse.gov
mailto:Christopher.Markey@mahouse.gov
mailto:Estela.Reyes@mahouse.gov
mailto:carmine.gentile@mahouse.gov
mailto:michelle.ciccolo@mahouse.gov
mailto:Mary.Keefe@mahouse.gov
mailto:Judith.Garcia@mahouse.gov
mailto:Rodney.Elliott@mahouse.gov
mailto:fred.barrows@mahouse.gov
mailto:Peter.Durant@mahouse.gov

Suggested sample email:

Subject: Bill H2989/S1976 To replace Columbus Day with IPD

Dear Committee Members,
 
I am writing to you regarding the pending bills 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. There is also the option of recognizing August 9th which is already designated by the United Nations since 1999 as Indigenous Peoples Day. 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.
 
Very Respectfully,

(YOUR NAME)

Let’s Win in Syracuse

A victory in the first phase of the lawsuit was followed by a defeat in the second. Now comes the third opportunity in the courts.

In August, the appellate court ruled against the Columbus Monument Corporation in their lawsuit to save Syracuse’s Columbus Monument. One justice mused that since the statue had not been removed, yet, the legal challenge to Mayor Ben Walsh’s promise to do so was…premature. In other words, we have to wait and see the chains around the edifice with construction workers at the ready before a valid challenge can be made.

A statement by the Columbus Monument Corporation read: “We don’t agree with the court, and are asking them to reconsider this decision based upon the facts. If that fails, we will bring it to the Court of Appeals. And if that fails, we will start all over, and file the lawsuit again.”

“Since Mayor Walsh won’t meet with us, this all-volunteer group stands ready to continue the fight as he attempts to destroy one of Syracuse’s most important historical landmarks, and erase the heritage of Onondaga County’s European immigrants.”

The Columbus Monument Corporation has organized a public rally scheduled for Saturday, October 7th at 9:45 a.m. The gathering is to be held at the Columbus Monument at Columbus Circle in Syracuse. A press conference will be held after the rally. All Italian Americans are invited to participate at the rally and to stay engaged by visiting the organization’s web site at https://columbusmonumentsyracuse.com

Keep Up The Pressure in Mount Vernon, New York

A move , there, by city council to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day backfired in August in Mount Vernon.

According to Angelo Vivolo, president of the Columbus Heritage Coalition, “Members of the community reacted quickly to the ill-advised resolution, causing the council to postpone a vote. This hurtful and discriminatory proposal will likely return when the council reconvenes.”

Mr. Vivolo asks all Italian Americans to “send a message to the council to stop dividing communities and instead dedicate a separate, special holiday to honor the indigenous.”

Here is the link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeinZQA6SerYcNCbJ_dUdAy0wPVNfOufnRD8EjqT1iUPt3Cdw/viewform

Mr. Vivolo penned a letter to the Mount Vernon city council to read:

To the Honorable City Council Members of Mt. Vernon, N.Y.:

On behalf of Italian Americans of Mt. Vernon and all its residents of good will, I urge the distinguished members of the City Council to reject divisive and hurtful legislation that would abolish Columbus Day and instead put forth a measure that separately and rightfully celebrates the culture and contributions of indigenous peoples.

In short, we ask that you stand with us to stop the hate and seek the truth. Make no mistake, we totally support the concept of a separate Indigenous People Day, but not at the expense of offending other cultures, religions, or ethnicities. To offend even one culture is an offense to all.  

Italian Americans comprise the second largest population in Mt. Vernon, and we are united with many members of the Latino community, including the Spanish and the Portuguese descendants who celebrate their ancestors, their language, culture and traditions drawn from a human migration that Christopher Columbus began five centuries ago.

The woke mob's invidious crusade against the fundamental tenets of Western Civilization rests upon the hollow foundation of selective observation, poorly evidenced, empty of context, clarity and meaning.  Columbus is merely their chosen target. But in maligning Columbus, they reject and outright deny his exceptional achievements. Columbus was the first to discover a sustainable wind-powered, trans-Atlantic route and return to Europe with proof of a new world. He introduced the wheel for widespread use. He adopted an indigenous boy into his family as his own son. Slavery pre-existed for centuries throughout the western hemisphere prior to his arrival. Columbus himself never owned slaves nor could he have known or prevented the exchange of contagious diseases on both continents resulting from the first contact. 

Columbus the explorer completed four recorded voyages across the Atlantic, showing great courage, determination, and skill. Today, his legacy endures with every migrant who seeks opportunity and a better life. 

We ask that you rightfully and properly recognize the native cultures with a day of their own and support all those who strive to celebrate in a spirit of unity epitomized by the inscription chiseled into the pedestal of the Columbus Circle landmark: “To the World, He Gave a World.”

Sincerely,
Angelo Vivolo
President, Columbus Heritage Coalition

Editor’s Note: This article was posted on September 23, 2023. The web sites for lead organizations mentioned in this article are:

Italian American One Voice Coalition
https://www.iaovc.org/

Italian American Alliance
https://www.theitalianamericanalliance.com/

Columbus Monument Corporation
https://columbusmonumentsyracuse.com/

Columbus Heritage Coalition
https://www.columbusheritagecoalition.org/

 

Primo Review
“SUBURRA”
A Cinematic Rarity is Now Available in DVD and Blu-Ray
- The film, to inspire the Netflix TV series, of the same title, was an obscurity…until now
- Niche distributor, Unearthed Films, has copies ready for sale

By Truby Chiaviello

You’re wrong to think the suburbs was exclusively an American phenomena.

Actually, Italy is where the first suburbs began.

Credit Cicero for the concept.

In first century B.C., the great statesman came up with the word to describe a new class of patricians who lived at the outskirts of the capital city. They were “suburra,” he said, meaning “underneath the city.”

Hence, the film by Stefano Sollima, from 2015, is aptly titled. “Suburra,” is a present-day neo-noir saga of corrupt politicians, greedy priests and brutal gangsters, with their eyes on the prize, the suburbs of Rome, or, more specifically, Ostia.

The plot centers on a new law to be passed in the Italian parliament to allow for the development of resorts and casinos in the seaside sprawl west of Rome. Ostia is to become the new Las Vegas.

“Suburra,” shares its name with the TV series on Netflix based on the film’s story and characters, yet stretched out over several years’ worth of episodes. Although critically acclaimed when released in 2015; the movie was, all but, impossible to view.

Until now, that is.

Unearthed Films, a distributor of horror and exploitation films, based in Los Angeles, has acquired the rights to distribute “Suburra.” According to Stephen Biro, president and CEO of Unearthed Films, “Suburra” posed some challenges to acquire because of the film’s relative obscurity, in contrast to the popularity of its spun-off TV series. Beginning on September 26th, however, copies of “Suburra,” the feature length film, will be available for purchase on Blue Ray and DVD at the Unearthed Films web site: www.unearthedfilms.com.

Fans of the TV series will cherish the film. Much of the action in “Suburra” is set in Rome, a city not normally associated with organized crime unlike Naples, Palermo and Coscenza. Only, within the last two decades, Rome has become a key destination for black market intrigue.

“Suburra” is based on the 2013 novel of the same title by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo. Story and characters cover the exploits of Mafia Capitale, the name given by the Italian press to describe a class of professional criminals in Rome in 1999. A key character in the film is Valerio, a.k.a., “Samurai,” played by Claudio Amendola. He is representative of a new breed of Roman racketeers and enforcers, who got their start, not as petty criminals, but, rather, as neofascist operatives.

In the film, Samurai fronts as the owner of a gas station; yet, he serves as point man for Mafia clans in Naples and other cities in the South. With financial backing from the Vatican bank, he sets his sights to turn Ostia into Europe’s Sin City.

The scheme relies on a member of parliament, Filippo Malgradi, played by Pierfrancesco Favino, to head a committee to try and change the land development law. Meanwhile, a local thug, who goes by the acronym “Numero 8,” played by Alessandro Borghi, is hired by Samurai to beat up and torture small property owners to force them to sell at below market value.

After a workday ends in parliament, Malgradi, who, on the surface, a family man, with a wife and child, spends the night at a nearby hotel. His mistress, Sabrina, is there with her friend, a minor, waiting to takes drugs and have sex with him. From the balcony of the hotel room is a view of Saint Peter’s basilica, while, inside, the girl dies from an overdose. Fearing a scandal, Malgradi abandons Sabrina alone with the corpse. She contacts a young mafiosi, Spadino Anacleti, played by Giacomo Ferrara, to dispose of the body.

Knowing it was Malgradi who was with the women the night before, Spadino confronts the member of parliament to blackmail him. In response, Malgradi recruits a colleague with ties to the Mafia. He hires Numero 8 to scare Spadino away from the blackmailing scheme. Instead, Spadino is killed by Numero 8. This sets off a chain of brutal events. Spadino’s older brother is the local crime boss, Manfredi Anacleti, played by Adamo Dionisio. Word goes out to the street for information leading to the the identity of the killer. Another character, Sebastiano, played by Elio Germano, is a friend of Sabrina’s. From her, the assassin is revealed for Sebastiano to inform Manfredi with hopes to erase a debt his late father owed the mobster.

Such is the web weaved in “Suburra.” The vendetta by Manfredi is to undermine the project in Ostia. As a Mafia war ensues, alliances are formed to extract violence and treachery.

“Suburra” thrives on the interactions of nefarious characters, superbly played by the ensemble cast. The direction is tightly presented to highlight creative action and violent sequences. Lighting and styling conveys an ancient city in a dystopian aura of neon colors.

“Suburra” shares a notoriety first established by “Gomorrah,” the Italian TV series to depict Camorra crime families in Naples, as based on a film, of the same title, released in 2008. As most scenes are shot on location, “Suburra” will do for Rome, what “Gomorrah” did for Naples. Parts of the city, far away from tourist itineraries, are explored. Not just the seedy underbelly, the middle class and working class sections of Rome convey a dynamic city overlooked by most observers.

“Suburra” is an excellent display of Italian talent in front of and behind the camera. The story and characters grasp the attention of the audience from the first scene to the last. What transpires is mesmerizing and thrilling.

For those fascinated with Italy, not to mention excellent cinema, “Suburra” is a film for the ages.

Editor’s Note: You can purchase copies of “Suburra” by accessing the web site for Unearthed Films at www.unearthedfilms.com. Photographs by Emanuele Scarpa. This article was posted on 9/21/23.

 

ITALIANS OF NEW MEXICO
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.

 

8-10-23
BATTLE OF BEACON HILL
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 https://www.theitalianamericanalliance.com/ 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…
APPEALS COURT RULES AGAINST COLUMBUS MONUMENT CORPORATION IN SYRACUSE
- 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: https://columbusmonumentsyracuse.com/

Underway is a Go-Fund-Me page to help keep the Columbus Monument in Syracuse: https://www.gofundme.com/f/preserve-a-landmark-of-italian-heritage?utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer

 

CLUELESS
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. https://twitter.com/RossanaFor33/status/1555243153854287876?s=20

 

LA STUPIDA
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 info@33rdward.org. 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
info@33rdward.org

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.

Sincerely,

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

 

Primo Essay
LIFE: ODE TO ITALIAN
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.

 

AN AGENDA FOR THE AGES
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 https://copomiao.org/

 

WE SUPPORT RUSSO
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 https://copomiao.org/members/

 

Primo Interview
ON THE PROWL FOR POETIC EXPRESSION
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 Amazon.com

 

6/16/23
RESTORING THE BALTIMORE COLUMBUS MONUMENT
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 https://www.facebook.com/SonsOfLittleItaly/

 

Op-ed
ITALIAN AMERICANS HAVE BECOME POWERLESS IN NEW JERSEY
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, cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The views of the writer may not be shared by the publisher or staff of PRIMO.

 

 

ON THE ROAD AGAIN FOR ITALIAN CINEMA
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.”

Delta
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.

Chiara
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.

Fireworks
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.

Margins
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.

Strangeness
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.

Princess
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 https://www.filmlinc.org/

 

The call of history…
GRANT US CERTIORARI
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 https://copomiao.org.

 

 

THE TOWER OF LIGHT COMES TO STATEN ISLAND
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 www.garibaldimeuccimuseum.org

 

LIGHTS, CAMERA…LOTS OF ACTION!
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.

Now…Amazon!

“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 Amazon.com Prime. Date of article 5-10-23

GRANDMA’S GRAVY

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
magic.

Editor’s Note: The writer’s email address is elisarev37@gmail.com

 

Op-ed
INCLUDE ITALIAN AMERICANS AS MEDITERRANEAN IN US CENSUS
- 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!

Sinceramente,
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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu.

 

Primo Interview
A HEROINE AMONG THE SICILIAN VESPERS
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…
APPEALS COURT HEARING ON COLUMBUS MONUMENT IN SYRACUSE IS SET FOR THIS MONDAY, APRIL 3RD

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:

https://ad4.nycourts.gov/njs/term/argument/calendar?date=2023-04-03T00:00:00.000Z&venue=1

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: https://columbusmonumentsyracuse.com/

Underway is a Go-Fund-Me page to help keep the Columbus Monument in Syracuse: https://www.gofundme.com/f/preserve-a-landmark-of-italian-heritage?utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer

The appeals court case will be live streamed this Monday, April 3rd at the following link: https://ad4.nycourts.gov/njs/term/argument/calendar?date=2023-04-03T00:00:00.000Z&venue=1

The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations features their web site at https://copomiao.org/

 

SEE YOU IN…U.S. SUPREME COURT
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 History.com, 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 https://copomiao.org.

 

GOLAR TUNDRA ARRIVES
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, http://www.italienspr.com

 

CALL TO ACTION - KEEP COLUMBUS DAY IN MARYLAND!
PROPOSED MARYLAND HOUSE BILL 446 TO REPLACE COLUMBUS DAY with INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S DAY

TELL THEM TO KEEP COLUMBUS DAY IN MARYLAND

CONTACT Now…

Committee Chair, Joseline Pena-Melnyk, 410-842-3502 joseline.pena.melnyk@house.state.md.us

And…

Sponsoring Delegate, MARLON AMPREY 410-841-3520 marlon.amprey@house.state.md.us

Cc Antonio Nino Mangione Maryland Representative District 42A :nino.mangione@house.state.md.us

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!

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

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.

STAND UP FOR TRUTH AND JUSTICE, NOT FALSEHOODS AND INTOLERANCE!

STOP THIS BILL!

 

Primo Interview
LEADER OF THE MYSTERY WRITERS’ PACK
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: https://www.amazon.com/Case-One-Eared-Wolf/dp/1942500742

 

 

TODAY’S ITALIAN DIASPORA
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

 

ABSURDITY AT NOTRE DAME
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
GO WEST, YOUNG MAN
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.

 

FIND THEM, ARREST THEM, PROSECUTE THEM
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 https://www.columbusheritagecoalition.org/leadership/

 

Columbus’ Revenge...
MAYOR LIGHTFOOT LOSES REELECTION IN CHICAGO
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.

 

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT COLUMBUS
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.


BACK INTO THE FREY
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 https://copomiao.org. The web site for the Columbus Monument Corporation is: https://columbusmonumentsyracuse.com.

 

ODE TO A NATIONAL GATHERING
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.

ITALIAN-AMERICAN HYMN
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: rdiangelica@aol.com. 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
FAST TIMES AT STATEN ISLAND HIGH
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


Primo Interview
BACK ON THE HILL
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

VICTORY IN BROOKLYN
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 https://www.columbusheritagecoalition.org/leadership/

 

THANK YOU, ITALIANS
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,
Andrea

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 https://andreadigiuseppe.com/en/

 

Primo Exclusive, 12-19-22
L’ONOREVOLE ANDREA DI GIUSEPPE
- 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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu.


Give It Up, Mr. Mayor!
BOCHETTO  -  2  
JIM KENNEY - 0
- 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 www.bochettoandlentz.com. To learn more about ongoing activities by the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations, pleas log on to www.copomiao.org

 

 

FORGET IT GALICIA, COLUMBUS WAS ITALIAN
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): https://www.cervantesvirtual.com/obra-visor/relaciones-y-cartas-de-cristobal-colon--0/html/010bc306-82b2-11df-acc7-002185ce6064_275.html

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: http://www.officialchristophercolumbus.com/p/shop-now.html

11-25-22
GIVE HIM A STAMP
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 domamara@aol.com and/or Virginia Gardner at virginiagardner@aol.com.

 

 

THE GALL OF GALICIA
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!

 

ITALY’S LITTLE AFRICAS
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.

 

 

FOR THE REPUBLIC
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.

 

SHE’S IN A NEW YORK - GLOOMY - STATE OF MIND
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: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/s2759
Assembly bill: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/a10728

 

Primo Interview
THE MOB GOES TO WASHINGTON
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

 

 

WRITING & DRAWING
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 Amazon.com

 

FOR THE LOVE OF LUPA
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 https://cincinnatiparksfoundation.org/projects/the-capitoline-wolf/

 

 

 

THE HISTORY OF MY NAME
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 www.lulu.com. Pictured is the author, who shares his name with King Alfonso V, a type of olive and wine.

 

 

RESTORATION IN PROGRESS
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 https://www.calliopearts.org/ and https://www.theflorentine.net


FRANCESCO PONTORIERO WINS GARIBALDI AWARD
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
MOST ACCURATE PORTRAIT OF COLUMBUS
- 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

PHILLY CROONER JOHN PRIMERANO PENS COMPLAINT TO BANK OVER COLUMBUS DAY

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

 

MESSAGE RECEIVED LOUD & CLEAR AT THE WHITE HOUSE
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.

Victory!

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.

WHITE HOUSE PROCLAMATION - COLUMBUS DAY 2022
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.

WHITE HOUSE PROCLAMATION - INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY 2022 (EXCERPTS)
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
DON’T SAY “NO,” JOE!

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 — https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

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:

PRESERVE OUR HISTORY, HONOR THE FEDERAL COLUMBUS DAY HOLIDAY

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: https://copomiao.org

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!

 

 

PRESIDENT BIDEN, MEET WITH US!
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 www.copomiao.org.

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.

 

LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT
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.

Respectfully,
Basil M. Russo
President, Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations (COPOMIAO)


A PROCLAMATION ON COLUMBUS DAY, 2021
BY PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN

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.


COLUMBUS DAY PROCLAMATIONS OF PAST PRESIDENTS
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.”

 

THE EUROPEAN UNION IS BEST FOR ITALY
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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu. The views expressed may not be shared by PRIMO’s publisher and staff.

 

Primo Review
TO PARODY OR NOT TO PARODY…THAT IS THE QUESTION
“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…
WRECKING BALL BARAKA
- 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 https://www.columbusheritagecoalition.org/leadership/

 

Op-ed
GOOD RIDDANCE
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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu 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.



DON’T SCAPEGOAT COLUMBUS
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 https://www.theitalianamericanalliance.com

 

CHARACTER ASSASSINATION 101 CLASS NOW IN SESSION
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.”

Huh?!

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 www.copomiao.org.

 

COLUMBUS DAY STAYS IN MASSACHUSETTS
- Italian Americans Come Out for a Strong Win to Keep Holiday

By Tom Damigella

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 https://www.theitalianamericanalliance.com/

 

COOL MEETING, HOT AGENDA
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 www.copomiao.org. You can learn more about the Columbus Citizens Foundation at their web site, www.columbuscitizens.org.

 

7-29-22
RUSSIAN UKRAINIAN WAR LEADS TO EXPLOITATION IN PIOMBINO
Italy’s Government Decided In Secret to Anchor Re-gasification Plant in Tuscan Coastal City

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 https://www.comune.piombino.li.it/

 

RETURN LUPA TO CINCINNATI
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.

 

Op-Ed
WHY WE PROTEST AGAINST THE RE-GASIFICATION PLAN IN PIOMBINO
- 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 www.italienspr.com

 

Primo Review
GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK
- “The Gray Man,” Exciting, Engaging, Excellent

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 https://www.netflix.com/title/81160697. The writer is a part-time actor, playwright and rising Pre-Med junior at California State University in Los Angeles.

 

 

MASSACHUSETTS' ITALIAN AMERICANS NEED OUR HELP
Anti-Columbus Day Bill Advancing in the Massachusetts Legislature
- Please Write the Speaker of the House in Massachusetts

By Italian American Alliance

Friends,

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.

WE ARE ASKING YOU AGAIN, TO PLEASE EMAIL SPEAKER MARIANO!

Here is the Speaker's email.

Honorable Speaker Ronald Mariano: Ronald.Mariano@mahouse.gov

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.

Sincerely,
(name)
*********************************************************************************************
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 https://www.theitalianamericanalliance.com/

 

HOLLYWOOD’S HEROIC DUO: JOE & ANTHONY RUSSO
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 https://www.netflix.com/title/81160697. The web site for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations is www.COPOMIAO.org and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America is www.orderisda.org 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.

 

 

IS NEWARK BIG ENOUGH FOR WASHINGTON, COLUMBUS & TUBMAN?
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 https://www.columbusheritagecoalition.org/ Pictured is a statue of George Washington in Newark and the empty pedestal of the Columbus Monument.

 

ITALIAN AMERICAN WINS ITALY SPONSORED RACE
- 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 slaccetti@verizon.net.

 

ITALY TO GIVE MEDAL OF HONOR TO TWO ITALIAN AMERICANS, POSTHUMOUSLY
- 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 www.italianamericanmuseum.org. The email address for Mary Ann Fusco is m@macfusco.com

 

Primo Interview
ELISA MARIE SPERANZA
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 https://www.elisamariesperanza.com/

 

YES TO HARRIET TUBMAN; YES TO COLUMBUS
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 https://www.columbusheritagecoalition.org/ Pictured is the Columbus Monument in Newark, before and after removal.

 

 

7-3-22
RAGE IN PIOMBINO
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 https://www.affaritaliani.it/ The web site for the city of Piombino is https://www.comune.piombino.li.it/ Professor Corrado Malanga speaks about Piombino at https://www.facebook.com/watch/?ref=search&v=569135401275938&external_log_id=fad1f579-e862-4ae9-89e1-851663363dc7&q=piombino

 

 

 

IF IT’S AMERICA, IT’S COLUMBUS
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 BWalsh@syrgov.net

Editor’s Note: The web site for the Columbus Monument Corporation is: https://columbusmonumentsyracuse.com

 

 

 

DR. MANNY ALFANO PASSES
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 https://www.iaovc.org.  Top photograph of Dr. Manny Alfano followed by photographs of IAOVC in action advocating for Columbus Day and IAOVC logo.

 

MY MENTOR, DR. MANNY ALFANO
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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu and by phone at 732-549-2635.

 

 

OPEN ROADS NEW ITALIAN CINEMA FESTIVAL RETURNS
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.

FREAKS OUT
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.

THE CODE OF SILENCE (Una Femmina)
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.

THE KING OF LAUGHTER (Qui ride io)
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.

LENORA  ADDIO
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.

ON OUR WATCH
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.

THREE FLOORS (Tre Pani)
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.

UNFINISHED (Il Palazzo)
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 https://www.filmlinc.org/festivals/open-roads-new-italian-cinema-2022/


5-18-22
ALL ABOARD FS ITALIANE
The State-Owned Company Controls Italy’s Railway System
Greater growth and passenger inclusiveness are sought

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.

RAILWAY heART

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 railwayheart@fsitaliane.it.

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.

Turin-Lyon

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 www.fsitaliane.it

 

ON TO ROME
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, COPOMIAO.org, 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, www.copomiao.org

 

 

BOOK REVIEWS - 1ST EDITION 2022
A Dynamic Reading Selection for Children of All Ages
From Melbourne to Maryland, From Calitri to California
Food, Faith, Family and Tales of Murder

WHAT GOD LOOKS FOR IN OUR LIVES
By Chloe Jon Paul
Available at Amazon.com www.chloejonpaul.net

    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.

NEIGHBORS COOKING
Dishes Enjoyed by Friends
With Select Recipes by Terry Bartolozzi
By John Oliano
Available at Amazon.com

    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.

THE MELBOURNE CONNECTION
By Joanne Fisher
Published by Joanne’s Books
www.joannesbooks.com   Available at Amazon.com

    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.

THE CASE OF THE ONE EARED WOLF
A Sergeant Markie Mystery
By Anthony Celano
Published by Boulevard Books Available at Amazon.com

    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.

ASINELLA, THE NANNY DONKEY
Written by Joanne Russo Insull Illustrated by Kelly Artieri
Available at Amazon.com   www.joannerussoinsulll.com

    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.

CLAYTON SHARP: MESSENGER OF WARNING
By Eugene J. DiCesaris
Five Star Publishing   Available at Amazon.com

    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.”

PRESERVING OUR HISTORY
By Mario Toglia
- with Josephine Galgano Gore
Published by Xlibris Available at www.xlibris.com Available at Amazon.com

   “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.

POLITICA  E PROSA
Translated Excerpts of Speeches & Novels in English and Italian
Essays by Truby Chiaviello Translations by Deirdre Pirro
https://www.onlineprimo.com/books.html

    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: https://www.onlineprimo.com/books.html

 


4-9-22
THE DEATH OF THE PRISONER OF EF ACADEMY
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 https://orderisda.org/. Endorsed by PRIMO Magazine, George Bochetto, running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, has a web site at https://bochettoforsenate.com/. The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations has a web site at https://copomiao.org/

 

 

3-25-22
PETRONE V. VASQUEZ: MANO A MANO CON IL NEMICO
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 https://video.ibm.com/recorded/131509285. The Columbus Heritage Coalition has a web site at https://www.columbusheritagecoalition.org/


3-12-22
SYRACUSE ITALIANS REACH OUT TO ADVERSARIES
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 www.columbusmonumentsyracuse.com.


3-11-22
SUCCESS IN SYRACUSE
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 www.columbusmonumensyracuse.com. We continue to send our prayers, support and do all we can to help them win.

 

 

3-3-22
Primo Endorsement
TOM SUOZZI FOR GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK
- 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 https://suozziforny.com/.

 

 

Primo Interview
JOANNE RUSSO INSULL
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 https://joannerussoinsull.com

 

“WAR CRIME”
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 www.bochettoforsenate.com

 

WE STAND WITH THE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE
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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu.

 

 

Primo Endorsement 2-23-22
SUPPORT THE CANDIDACY OF SEAN PIGNATELLI
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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu.


Covid Chronicles 2-15-22
IT’S MATTARELLA AGAIN
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

 

ILARIA OREFICE SINGS CANTO A TENORE
- 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: https://www.ilariaorefice.it/

 

 

 

ITALIAN MISSIONARIES KILLED IN 2021
- 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
TYGERIAN LACE STUNS DC FASHION SCENE WITH HER NEW “ALL SEASONS” COLLECTION
- 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 https://www.facebook.com/tygerianlace/

 

 

1-16-22
APPEAL IT NOW
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

Appeal!

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 www.copomiao.org. 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 www.bochettoforsenate.com. PRIMO enthusiastically endorsed Mr. Bochetto for the U.S. Senate.

 

Covid Chronicles 1-15-22
ITALY HIT HARD BY OMICRON
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

 

1-11-22
Primo Endorsement
GEORGE BOCHETTO FOR THE U.S. SENATE
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
MALREPRESENTATION OF ITALIANS EXTENDS TO EXTREME PRO-ABORTION LAW IN NEW JERSEY
- 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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu

 

1-10-22
2021 WAS A WATERSHED YEAR FOR ITALIAN AMERICAN UNITY
- 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.

 

1-8-22
THE COLUMBUS STATUES IN NEWARK
- 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.

 

1-7-22
UPDATE
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
CITY COUNCIL MEMBER - VINCENTE MARTINEZ ORTEGA - IN PUEBLO, COLORADO IS COLUMBUS STATUE VANDAL
- According to Pueblo City Charter, No Convicted Felon Can Serve on the City Council
- Contact Prosecutor to Retain Felony Status for January 7 Hearing

 

1-4-22
SYRACUSE ITALIAN AMERICANS MAKE THEIR STAND
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 www.columbusmonumensyracuse.com. We send our prayers, support and do all we can to help them win.

 

1-2-22
- Italian Americans Are Called to Action
CITY COUNCIL MEMBER - VINCENTE MARTINEZ ORTEGA - IN PUEBLO, COLORADO IS COLUMBUS STATUE VANDAL
- 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
Email: codychristian@elpasoco.com

………………………………………………………………………………………

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 codychristian@elpasoco.com

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.

Sincerely,

Name
City, State

 

 

1/1/22
ITALIAN AMERICAN ONE VOICE COALITION REVIEWS PAST YEAR AND CHARTS COURSE FOR 2022
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 mannyalfano@comcast.net.

To support IAOVC’s efforts at defending and educating about Columbus and Italian American civil rights visit iaovc.org/donate

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.

 

12-31-21
Response to “In Defense of Chris Cuomo” Op-Ed
THE CUOMOS ARE VICTIMS OF THE TIMES
- 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.

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART (AND FOOD) IS
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 www.compass.com 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 www.LikeItaliansDo.com, 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 www.SerataItaliana.club, TEXT 323-533-8623 or email info@oksanafoundation.org



 

Op-Ed
IN DEFENSE OF CHRIS CUOMO
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 cbinetti@terpmail.umd.edu or call him at 732-549-2635.

 

Primo Review
“HOUSE OF GUCCI”
- 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 https://www.houseofguccimovie.ca/home/

 

 

CHRISTMAS IN ROME
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 https://www.christmasworld.net/ The web site for Hundred cribs in the Vatican is https://www.100presepi.it/en/

 

WREATHS ON HALLOWED GROUND
- 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 https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/. The Arlington National Cemetery reports some 25 burials occur there almost every day. Their web site is https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/#/.

 


MEMORIES OF PAIN IN NAPOLI
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.

 

 

HOW ITALIAN DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
An All-Italian Experience is Provided by “Like Italians Do”
- Classes, Events and Tours
- Learn the Italian language, culture and history one engaging class after the other; top it all off with incredible trips to Italy
- Sardinia and Sicily are regions of special focus


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.

You need not be Italian to appreciate the country’s beautiful culture, energetic language and delectable cuisine. In fact, Italian clubs and culture programs from around the country offer everyone, of all ages and backgrounds, the opportunity to live and feel as Italian as they want — a great way for sharing your passion for Italy with like-minded people!

Here’s all you need to know about Like Italians Do, the all-Italian experience you were looking for.

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.

If you’ve always wanted to know more about Italy, its produce, cuisine and beautiful culture, sign up at www.LikeItaliansdo.com to be part of the fastest-growing Italian-loving community in the country! Now, if you want to share with your loved ones a fully immersive experience, travel with Alex and Maria Catja to Italy to take the road less traveled! There’s no better way of exploring a country than with local guides.

Sign up for the yearly Italy Dream Vacation!

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.

And talking about art, Italy is heaven for history and architecture buffs. From medieval castles to grand palaces and from the Teatro Massimo to the mighty Cathedral of Syracuse. There’s something exciting to see in every town in Sicily and Sardinia, if you know where to look.

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.

If you ever wanted to walk the verdant rows of vines in Italy’s most famous vineyards and explore the dim-lit cellars where your favorite wine awaits to be opened, wineries in Italy are always happy to receive visitors. There’s more. If you thought you knew Italian music, theater and opera, wait until you experience it where it was born. Culture is everywhere!

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! www.LikeItaliansDo.com!

 

MATTEO TERESI
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 edgen@mac.com

 

 

UNITED WE STAND
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, https://copomiao.org/  To read the latest activities at the Embassy of Italy, please log on to https://ambwashingtondc.esteri.it/ambasciata_washington/en/

 

BOSTON BETRAYAL
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.

Sincerely,
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.

Sincerely,
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 https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council/lydia-edwards.

 

ITALIAN AMERICAN LEADERS FORGE A STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH ITALY’S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES
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, https://copomiao.org/

 

 

 

TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE
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 alienwriter_7@yahoo.com.

 

 

Covid Chronicles
COVID-19 SETBACK IN ITALY
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
AUTHOR CHLOE JON PAUL DISCUSSES HER BOOK, “WHAT GOD LOOKS FOR IN OUR LIVES”
"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 https://www.chloejonpaul.net/

 

 

BOOK REVIEWS - 3RD EDITION 2021
How Life Should Be Lived at All Ages
From Brooklyn to Naples, From Newark to Calitri
A Tyrant is Condemned, Hollywood Stars are Praised


PLAY JIMMY ROSELLI - A NOVEL
Growing Up Italian American In 1950s Brooklyn
By Kenneth J. Uva. Available at Amazon.com

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.

THE CLASSROOM OF LIFE
Tools to Overcome Obstacles & Adversity
By Anthony J. Cedolini Available at Amazon.com
www.drtonycedolini.com

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.

CELEBRATING THE HERITAGE
By Mario Toglia Available at www.xlibris.com
Available at Amazon.com www.calitriamerica.com

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.”

MUSSOLINI ALSO DID A LOT OF GOOD
By Fracesco Filippi
Published by Baraka Books of Montreal
Available at Amazon.com Available at www.barakabooks.com

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.

ENTERING THE AGE OF ELEGANCE
A Rite of Passage & Practical Guide for the Modern Maturing Woman
By Chloe Jon Paul
Available at Amazon.com www.chloejonpaul.com

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 Africa...an 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.

NEWARK, ITALY + ME
By Daniel P. Quinn Available at Amazon.com

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.

GIOVANNI: STREET URCHIN OF NAPLES
By Joseph Polacco
Published by Compass Flower Press
Available at Amazon.com www.josephpolacco.me

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.

MY CLASSIC RADIO INTERVIEWS WITH THE STARS -
VOLUME ONE
By Michael Dante
Published by Bear Manor Press Available at Amazon.com

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
ROME HOSTS G20 SUMMIT
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: https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/archivio/mostre/jeff-koons-shine/

 

CALITRI IN AMERICA
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 www.xlibris.com, 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 RISE (AND FALL?) OF ITALIAN FOOD
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 www.gruppo-italiano.com

 

You Do Not Support Us…
ITALIAN AMERICAN LEADERS OUTRAGED AT PRESIDENT BIDEN’S PROCLAMATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY
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.

Sincerely,

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, www.copomiao.org

 

HISTORY OF ITALIAN AMERICAN DISCRIMINATION AT THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK (CUNY)
Third of a Three Part Article
1991-2021
- 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
CASTLE BALSORANO
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 http://www.onlineprimo.com/books.html

 

Covid Chronicles
GREEN PASS ITALY

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.

 

CONTINUED CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT OF COLUMBUS DAY IS SOUGHT BY ITALIAN AMERICANS
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 https://copomiao.org/history/

 

 

WHY WE CELEBRATE COLUMBUS DAY
- 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 N