Showing posts with label Italian American. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian American. Show all posts

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Margaret Fontana Assumes Role of Executive Director for New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission

 I'm incredibly proud to announce I've accepted the role of Executive Director for the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. I'm looking forward to this exciting chapter with an outstanding organization. Please read the full press release below. 



Trenton – March 18, 2024 - The New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission proudly announces the appointment of Margaret Fontana as its new Executive Director. With an extensive career spanning diverse sectors in media, nonprofit, healthcare, education and entertainment, Fontana brings a wealth of experience and a passion for cultural preservation to her new role.

A seasoned media executive with extensive expertise in various industries, Margaret Fontana has garnered a sterling reputation for her significant achievements. Her background includes notable roles as a writer and producer for esteemed networks such as NBC, Fox, and Discovery Channel, along with a decade-long tenure in corporate Fortune 500, nonprofit organizations, where she spearheaded award-winning media, leadership, and interactive marketing strategies.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Fontana founded the popular online community and blog, Italian American Girl, which boasts over 45,000 members and serves as a vibrant networking hub for Italian Americans worldwide.

Margaret Fontana's commitment to education and cultural enrichment is evidenced by her active involvement as a guest speaker at her alma mater Rider University. Fontana recently completed her Mini-MBA in Marketing & Communications from Rutgers University.

The New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission, established in 2002, is dedicated to promoting and preserving the rich culture, history, and heritage of Italians and Americans of Italian descent. As the newly appointed Executive Director, Margaret Fontana will support the Commission in its mission to coordinate cultural and educational programs that celebrate the contributions of Italian heritage to the fabric of New Jersey's diverse society. Fontana aims to expand its reach and impact through innovative initiatives and strategic partnerships.

"As an Italian American, it is an honor to join The New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission and contribute to the preservation of our rich cultural legacy," said Margaret Fontana. "I am excited to collaborate with stakeholders across the state to promote awareness and appreciation of Italian heritage among students, educators, and the broader community." 


Kicking off the Commission’s first major event since Covid, Fontana will lead the NJ Italian Heritage Commission in its Annual Conference on April 20th at Rutgers University, where “Increasing Awareness of Italian Heritage Through Film,’ will be the featured theme. A panel discussion led by notable educators and Italian American voices, will highlight the discussion on the ‘Integration of an Italian’s Dream Leads to the Origin of the Hispanic People and Beyond.’ Included in the presentations will be: 

·       What Is Happening with Our Statues?

·       The Roman Legacy in the Creation of America

·       Video: Gianni Bernego Gardin's Tale of Two Cities about Venice

·       St. Frances Xavier Cabrini - Immigration

To register for this event email Commission@njitalianheritage.org  

Please add RSVP in the subject line.

Sign in and Refreshments from 8:30am to 9:00am

Lunch & Musical Interlude Dame Dr. Mary Rorro




Sunday, August 13, 2023

Summer Italian Tomato Salad


 First tomato salad from the garden. ๐Ÿ… ๐ŸŒฟ ๐Ÿ… I added a chopped zucchini, tomatoes, red onion, basil, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Delicious and healthy.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

October is National Italian American Heritage Month - 'Why Some Italian-Americans Still Fiercely Defend Columbus Day' - NYTIMES


October is National Italian American Heritage Month where an legal order was always signed by the standing President, I just researched to see if our current president has signed anything and did not find it, maybe you will find it or maybe we will never see it again.

  It goes without saying our cultural history in America goes back to the 1800's where over 5.4 million Italian immigrated to the US to find a better life, We were vilified then as many Mexican Americans are now a days.  Granted in my case, my parents came to the USA with all the proper paperwork and protocol.  They did come here from a war torn Italy and my father created a foundation for my mother's arrival years later.   Today over 26 million Americans are of Italian descent making us the largest ethnic group.  Stats from Italian American Foundation

With evolution comes controversy, and as many of us grew thinking, Columbus day signified a day to celebrate our heritage here in the USA, as we were all taught in elementary school that Christopher Columbus discovered America, I mean he was Italian.  Well as we've become a more sensitive society to ethnicity and social awareness's, it has been deemed incorrect to celebrate Christopher Columbus because according to history he slayed and murdered Indigenous people in his quest to colonize the USA.  Last time I checked this was called Thanksgiving a national and huge economic engine of a holiday where we are basically celebrating the slaughter of native Americans, but there is no argument there, instead we focus on Columbus Day and the so called heinous acts of the explorer.  Instead in elementary school you were taught how the colonists had a dinner with the Indians and they were all so happy, were they?

In all honesty, we don't need Columbus Day or Thanksgiving they are both if you want to break it down celebrating the same thing.  Its not about Italians at all.   This country before you and I was built on explorers from the 'Old World' coming to the "New World" and yes, according to history did in fact use heinous acts to colonize or so they say, you and I the person who is about 100 years old would NOT know either.  All we have is supposed history books.   The moral of the story, we are here in America, we have contributed to the history of this country along with many other ethnicities and cultures.  You can't deny history and label one person or one culture.   This is America. 

This was an article published in the NY TIMES; Take a look, a lot of great points. What do you think?

Why Some Italian-Americans Still Fiercely Defend Columbus Day

Sunday, May 26, 2019

An Early Father's Day Telling My Italian Father's Story & Honoring Him

 As Father's day is closely approaching, I find myself taking more and more pictures and documenting my father and his daily rituals.  This past May my father turned 89, he suffers a multitude of health problems and can't move around like he used to and requires a chair anywhere he goes, its been getting very hard for him as he loses his breath dramatically and can't go far like he used to.   Its been hard to see a man who has always been so strong physically slow down so much and be limited.  Although this is the current reality right now, he continues to inspire me.

So, as he slows down at this fast rate, I'm faced with thinking about all the great things about him right now and in my whole life.  My father's story is this:  He came to America in 1956 and took a ship ( The Olympia, and Andrea Doria, which are famous historical ships) to get here, it was a 10 day journey on his first voyage. This trip he made several times over the first years as he went back and forth to support his family after he made his first minimal money here in the USA. 

My father landed on Ellis Island, as one of the last immigrant groups to actually dock there, but obviously the more modern version.   He settled in Newark, N.J., where my great uncle put him to work right off the boat.  My father also worked for the American Can Company, which was also American Can Company ranked 97th among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts)

After earning some money, my father religiously sent money back to his mother and sister in Reggio Calabria, literally just to survive.

My parents both grew up very poor and poverty was common in Calabria.  Its was a very rural area (farm and agriculture) and with minimal work.  Even to this day if you're not in law enforcement, educator or government employee you're basically living the poverty line.  Today some families do well with their own businesses, but for the most part many emigrated out of Calabria and still do to this day and go towards either in Northern Italy or another country to sustain economic stability.

After World War II, my father was urged by my great uncle to come to America, so he could work and gain a better life.   The reason this all unfolded during that era was my father was the oldest of the family and was basically responsible for the family after my grandfather was killed in World War II.  My father's family never received official notice or my grandfather's body back from war, the government at the time sent a soldier to tell you that your loved one was killed in action.  It was a tragic time then for my father.  For my father when he was a small child he still remembers when German bomber planes were going over the mountains in Calabria and dropping bombs.  They were all living in bomb shelters built in the mountains, my father said there were actual true stories where German soldiers took Italian and American soldiers and would drown them in the wine vats.   My father also owned a goat who he loved that he said suffered a bomb injury from the shrapnel and eventually died.  My father was was just a little boy, can you imagine the horror?  Then fast forward to getting on a ship (mind you my father does not swim)  to a country you know nothing about because you have to make money and basically hope your family survives, it was the 1950s but even so, poverty was a reality.

My father married my mother when he went back to Italy for a visit and year's later in the 60s, she came to the USA on one of the first ever Pan Am flights.  My parents ended up having four children and I am the youngest.  Growing up there was never a time I remember my father not working.  He worked his day job in construction and then would come home eat and leave again to hustle and work other side job till late at night and then wake up and do again the next day.   What I learned from him was the hustle.  He worked his ass off, invested in buying his first homes in Newark, NJ - he would buy, refurbish and sell when he could, he did this all by himself and obviously at a time when the American dream was accessible.   My father was always an entrepreneur, he was busy none stop, but one thing I always knew was that he loved me, if he was leaving early in the morning, which was everyday at 5 am - he would stop in our rooms and say good bye and even as a smaller child he would bring me milk in the morning.  I mean you just can't make it up, so as Father's day comes around the corner, I celebrate my father for all things he did, does, and continues to do.   Let's celebrate all of our father's and Papas. 

Ciao- xoxo
Margaret






Thursday, March 21, 2019

Italian American News Anchor & Television Host; Alicia Vitarelli Shares An Exclusive Interview.

Alicia Vitarelli - New Journalist 

The Italian American Girl site is dedicated to showcasing and sharing news and notable profiles on influential Italian Americans around the world and in the community. This week we have an exclusive interview with New Jersey's most talked about and admired Italian American news anchor from News 12 New Jersey. She's also the host of an informative-magazine style and culinary show called, "Buck Wild" and "A Roma Aroma."


To learn more about Alicia Vitarelli we sat down to get the scoop on this Italian American Girl.


Q: As an Italian American Girl what is your cultural Italian upbringing, who in your family comes from Italy?
A: I was born and raised in New York City in an Italian household. While my mother is not Italian, my father's family has very strong roots a has kept the culture alive and well in our home. His mother, Marie (Vitale) Vitarelli, will be 97 years old in July. She still makes sauce on Sundays and says it's the olive oil that is her secret "fountain of youth." Her family came from Calabria, where they owned a bakery. My grandfather, Umberto Vitarelli, came from Craco, in the Basilica region. As the next generation of Italian Americans, we were schooled by Roman Catholic nuns and priests, celebrated all of the Italian and Catholic holidays, and traveled to Italy often (I have been there about 10 times).

Q: You’re the host of a very successful show called, “Buck Wild” and you also anchor for News 12 NJ, do you feel you have any pressure as an Italian American to represent the Garden State in a positive light?

A: I don't feel the pressure, rather the responsibility. I think both young Italian Americans AND young people from New Jersey have to work extra hard to combat some very negative stereotypes that persist and are fueled by reality TV shows. I take my role in this regard very seriously, knowing how important it is to spread a positive message and fuel a good image of both my culture and state.

Q: What part of your Italian upbringing do you identify with most? Why?

A: That's simple. Family. I am sure you get this answer often and that is because the family unit and time spent together are two of the most powerful building blocks of Italian culture. Sunday dinners are not merely meals, but bonding experiences, and keeping that tradition alive has bridged the cultural divide between older and younger Italian Americans. I also identify with the work ethic of our immigrant ancestors who traveled here to find "The American Dream," working hard, complaining little. I attribute my work ethic to that and also believe that very little can hold us back if we have a dream. They overcame many obstacles and led by example and I intend to keep that spirit alive!

Q: Have you ever been to Italy and do you have any family there you know of that you would possibly connect with in the future?

A: I have been to Italy many times, from coast to coast, soaking in the arts, culture and history, and admiring the way the locals live, eat and experience their incredible country. I am in the process of connecting with relatives on Facebook (seriously!) and also learning the language.

Q: How has participating in Italian American events this past year affected your passion for your culture?
A: I have been honored three times as the Italian American Woman of the Year by various groups in New Jersey, and I could not be more proud to not only represent my culture and showcase it to the state, but to connect with New Jerseyans who are doing the same. I am amazed at how strong the community is here. As a native New Yorker, I was raised amongst very proud Italian Americans, and I am humbled to have been so warmly and generously embraced by the New Jersey community. I see their accomplishments everywhere, and being able to share that with my viewers is an incredible honor as well. There are so many wonderful groups here doing fantastic work, and I am thrilled to be working with them.

Q: Being that we’re both Italian Americans living in New Jersey we’re subjected to many stereotypes and including the more recent debates stemming from the MTV show “Jersey Shore;” Do these stereotypes create or offend you or do you think they’re based more on a tri-state cultural theme?

A: Good question. I have always said that stereotypes don't create themselves. Watching shows like "Jersey Shore," I can say that there are young people among us in the tri-state area who do live, speak and act that way. It is unforvision of our culture based on a small pocket of people seeking 15 minutes of fame, regardless of the ramifications on our reputation as a whole. What is more unfortunate is that there is more negative publicity than positive examples of young Italian Americans who are doing wonderful things to make our culture proud. I feel we have to work extra hard to push the good examples to the forefront!

Q: How good of an Italian cook are you and what types of Italian dishes do you prefer to make? Or suggest?

A: I am a work-in-progress cook! I have been married for three years and have truly made it my mission to master Italian cuisine! I grew up with an Italian grandmother who wouldn't let you within feet of her stove, so while I grew up eating the dishes every day and watching them be prepared, it wasn't until later in life that I tackled it on my own. Some of my favorite dishes to make include homemade ravioli and various pastas (orchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage is a good one, and I LOVE pesto!) I am constantly learning and evolving in the kitchen and I have a great hands-on coach in NJ 101.5 radio host Dennis Malloy (who IS 100% Italian). Together we host a weekend cooking show on News 12 New Jersey called "A Roma Aroma."

Q: Do you feel your upbringing has supported your success as a television personality? Will we be seeing you on national news for the future?

A: I absolutely feel my upbringing contributed to my success, especially when it came to paving my own path. I was the first person in my family to get a college degree (and a Masters Degree) and leave the "nest." I have studied and worked both abroad and here in various states, and that feeling of being a pioneer is something I felt was in my blood. I have an incredibly strong work ethic, and rarely rest. I absolutely hope to take my career to the national level, and also have a family someday. I have a wonderful husband Matthew (who also comes from a strong, amazing Italian American family). He supports me and my endeavors and I could not be more proud of him as well.

Q: Which Italian Americans do you look up to in mainstream media?
A: In my business I honor and respect all of the broadcasters who kept their Italian surnames, as I did. I was told many times that it would hold me back, that it is not understood or embraced in some parts of our own country. To me, it is a badge of honor and I wear it proudly. I admire others who do the same. Positive examples are so important to our culture and I am happy to be a part of that.

Q: As a media personality do you think positive television programming focusing on the achievements of Italian Americans is lacking and how can we as Italian Americans work to improve our image in mainstream media?
A: I do believe it is lacking and hope to see more Italian Americans showcased and celebrated for doing great things. I tell young people to consider this: the most powerful and irreparable thing in life is a reputation. Once it's marred, it is very hard to repair that damage. Consider the impact your actions have not only on YOUR life, but on your culture.

** I should add Alicia Vitarelli has since moved onto to a Philadelphia station 6 ABC. **


Thank You to Alicia Vitarelli For A Fantastic Interview! Grazie Alicia!

For the latest on Alicia go here: https://www.facebook.com/alicianews/

This story orginally posted April 1, 2010 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

My Italian Father and His Garden...

If you're Italian or grew up Italian American with strong Italian traditions than that would mean someone in your family has an Italian garden. The garden that you grew up knowing with tons of tomato plants, eggplant, basil, zucchini, (from which you got your zucchini flowers to make fritelle) and so on.. what didn't the Italian garden have?

In my case, you were the kid who went to school bragging about your father's garden and how you ate fresh vegetables or how you made tomato sauce at the end of the summer with the tomatoes from your garden. My mother would always prepare nightly dinner in the summers with all fresh vegetables right out of the garden, now a days this is called "GREEN" or "ORGANIC." Who knew my mother and father had me living so green conscious and organic from an early age, to me it was just normal. It still is. So when people talk about starting a herb garden, I kind of snicker not because it's funny, but because I laugh to myself about how lucky I am that I grew up with such a vast knowledge of agriculture, good food, great cooking and always understanding the quality of what you eat.


My father still grows tons of tomato plants as you can see from the photo above and we do in fact make our sauce with those tomatoes from the garden, which lasts the whole winter. It's a tradition we preserved as Italian Americans-- my brothers, sister and myself hold this to be very sacred and consider ourselves extremely fortunate to know how to bottle the sauce in jars. Not only are we making our own sauce, but we've learned to cultivate fruit trees, such as peach trees, which we make our own jam and pies. We know my father is the garden guru, he has neighbors and strangers just stopping in his yard nightly just to ask him questions about how to grow the best garden. Not only does he give advice, but he's giving away plants too, better yet he comes to your yard and plants it for you. It gives him immense pleasure to see others succeed in gardening. No one like my father, that is for sure. So, if you were thinking of actually starting that garden, stop thinking and just do it - there is something extremely therapeutic to gardening and not only that, but it's preserving a very important tradition in our Italian American culture.

** Update my father is now 89 years old and is preparing his seeds for this summer's garden. 


Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Italian-American's Guide to a First Visit Home

Everyone’s first trip to Italy is bound to be special. The land’s natural beauty, rich history and vibrant culture create an atmosphere that’s unlike any other in the world. Coming to Italy for the first time is even more special if you come from an Italian-American background. You may technically be a tourist, but you’re also a child of the land who’s coming home to the place where you can trace back your roots.

As a returnee to the motherland, you’ll want to see as much of it as you possibly can in the limited amount of time that you have. It’s your opportunity to reacquaint yourself with where your bloodline came from and to experience what Italy is all about.

If you’re an American of Italian descent, here’s a list of places that you’ll want to visit when you go to Italy. You may not be able to land on all of these locales in one trip, but you’ll want to hit as many of these targets when you do make the trip. Here are our suggested places along with useful info on food and language:


Do Your Research
 The first place to begin this exciting journey is to research the roots of your family in Italy. A great number of the Italian diaspora left the towns and villages near Rome, along the Amalfi Coast and the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Whether you know the exact ancestral village of your family or just the general region, a journey to Italy will greatly enrich your Italian pride.


Caput Mundi
 Start your journey in the Italian capital of Rome. The Eternal City was once the capital of the ancient world and is now a vibrant, chaotic mix of  modern comforts and relics of the past. You can stand in the Piazza Campidoglio which was designed by Michelangelo and just around the corner, visit the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland).
 Photo

Photo: Piazza Campidoglio in Rome

For those of you who have an interest in history, it’s important to understand how young Italy is.The country wasn’t the state that we know now until 1871. For centuries, Italy was a group of semi-autonomous territories ruled by monarchs, foreign leaders and popes. Rome was named the capitol of the Republic of Italy when the nation was put together, giving birth to the Italy that we know and love today.


Naples and the Amalfi Coast
 An easy distance from Rome is the ancient ruined city of Pompeii, the city of Naples and the enchanting Amalfi Coast.  Spend a day exploring Pompeii and learning about this once wealthy Roman town that was buried alive by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.Its fragments come alive with vibrant frescoes, houses, temples and shops all preserved in the volcanic ash that sealed the locale’s fate.

Head overto the city of Naples. It’s bordered by Vesuvius on one side and by the Bay of Naples on the other.  You can visit Bourbon castles, shop in lively markets and take long walks along the bay on newly pedestrianized lungomare.

Just under an hour from Naples is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The over 1,000 twists and turns along the SS163, also known as the Amalfi Coast Drive, affords views off dizzying precipices, sparkling seas and fragrant lemon groves. Spend a few days exploring the pastel villages that seem to precariously cling to the steep cliffs. Take the time to immerse yourself in the culture and observe how the residents of this area have preserved a lot of elements in the old Italian way of life.


Photo: Road going to the Amalfi Coast


Sicily
 A large portion of Italian-Americans can trace their roots back to Sicily – Italy’s largest island. If you’re Italian-American and you’re not sure where your family hails from, there’s a good chance that this is your ancestry’s motherland. When you visit Sicily, be sure to see Mount Etna, the dramatic and still active volcano near the ancient cites of Ragusa, Noto and Modica. Modica, with its soft, orange baroque architecture is best known for the delicious chocolate that it produces. Combine learning about your family history with ancient history in the town of Agrigento with a visit to the Valley of the Temples.  The 5th century BC ruins are set in an almond grove with beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea.


Photo: Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily

Food
 Food is as much a part of Italian culture as art, fashion and history are. Italians who migrated to the US in its early days brought along their great culinary practices which have evolved over time. The result is a separation of paths between authentic “Italian cuisine” and what we know in the mainstream to be Italian food.

For the record, there really is no such thing as Italian food. The culinary styles in Italy are diverse and regionalized. What you’ll see being served in Rome will be vastly different from what you’ll see in Venice. Also, a lot of dishes that you might recognize as Italian in the US do not actually exist in Italy. A lot of what Italian-Americans know as Italian food are actually creations of Italian migrants who established food businesses when they were in the US. The difference in the availability of ingredients and the tastes of customers in America have compelled Italian cooks to improvise and adjust their recipes according to local supply and demand.


For instance, you will not find spaghetti and meatballs served together in Italy. You may get a strange look from a waiter if you ask for chicken parmesan. You’ll definitely not want to ask for Caesar dressing on your salad even if it seems like the right thing to do. In Italy, olive oil and balsamic vinegar are the preferred flavorings for fresh vegetables.

Language
 I was recently chatting with a millennial 9th-generation Roman over a plate of amatricina and he said something interesting about Italian-Americans who visit Italy.  He explained to me that they often speak Italian with a vocabulary from 100 years ago. Using words that now in modern Italy only bis-nonna’s use and with a degree of formality seldom heard. Think of it as akin to someone speaking like one of our founding fathers. Also, know that sometimes the slang or dialect you may have learned at your grandfather’s and uncle’s knee may be infinitely more vulgar than you intend.

Your first trip to Italy will infinitely strengthen your Italian American identity and heritage.It’s a very special feeling that gives you a better sense of belongingness and perspective about yourself and the world around you, Pack your bags, board that plane and enjoy your trip to the land that gave rise to your family. Hopefully, your first trip to Italy is just one of many more to come. Ciao!


About the Author
 Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of  Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients. For more on Priscila and her work, connect with her on Google+.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Columbus Citizens Foundation Committed to the Preservation of the Columbus Monument



 The Columbus Citizens Foundation is committed to the preservation of the Columbus Monument at Columbus Circle.

Over the years, Columbus Day and the Columbus Monument have played a vital role in Italian-American acceptance and the celebration of Italian culture. 

The statue itself was created by renowned Italian sculptor Gaetano Rosso in 1892 and funded by Italian-American immigrants through newspaper sales. At the request of the city, the Columbus Citizens Foundation is proud to have played a significant role in the statue’s restoration, which was completed in 1992.

Every year we are asked the question, “Why is the celebration of Columbus important to the Italian- American community?” The legacy of Columbus was essential in truly legitimizing our transition from Italians to Americans. Our Italian-American ancestors, facing bigotry and discrimination, identified Columbus as an Italian celebrated greatly across America for establishing a lasting bridge between the Old and New World. 

Lear more: https://www.columbuscitizensfd.org/announcements/the-columbus-citizens-foundation-is-committed-to-the-preservation-of-the-columbus-monument-at-columb


Controversial topic - Saving Columbus Circle Monument in New York City, -- CF statement "Every year we are asked the...
Posted by Italian American Girl on Sunday, September 3, 2017

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Italian American Girl T-Shirts - Shop Now!

Italian American Girl T-Shirts! Last of the stock available now till the New Year! Make great gifts! #italianamerican http://www.italianamericangirl.com/p/italian-american-girl-t-shirts.html

Posted by Italian American Girl on Saturday, December 19, 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Be Featured on the Italian American Girl Site

If you have an event, press release, book, music, art announcement or product, please message me here to have your...

Posted by Italian American Girl on Saturday, July 11, 2015

Italian American Girl T-Shirts

Italian American Girl T-Shirts! #tshirt #italianamerican http://www.italianamericangirl.com/p/italian-american-girl-t-shirts.html

Posted by Italian American Girl on Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

PBS SERIES “THE ITALIAN AMERICANS,” NARRATED BY STANLEY TUCCI AND FEATURING TONY BENNETT, DAVID CHASE, JOHN TURTURRO, CONGRESSWOMAN NANCY PELOSI, GAY TALESE AND MORE, TO AIR FEBRUARY 17 & 24, 2015

WETA, in Partnership with the National Italian American Foundation, to Hold a Multi-City Screening and Public Discussion Tour

 THE ITALIAN AMERICANS, a new two-part, four-hour documentary series about the Italian experience in America, will premiere on PBS on Tuesdays, February 17 and 24, 2015, 9–11 p.m. ET (check local listings), WETA announced today. The series, written and produced by John Maggio and narrated by Academy Award-nominated actor Stanley Tucci, explores the evolution of Italian Americans from the late nineteenth century to today, from “outsiders” once viewed with suspicion and mistrust to some of the most prominent leaders of business, politics and the arts today.

In support of the broadcast of THE ITALIAN AMERICANS, WETA, the producing public television station for the series, in partnership with National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), the nation’s leading organization for Americans of Italian heritage and a community engagement partner for the project, are organizing public screenings and discussions that will explore Italian contributions to American culture, and how Italians redefined American identity. Screening events are scheduled to take place in New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The tour launched in Seattle on September 23 at NIAF’s annual Festa Italiana Luncheon in conjunction with the NIAF/Frank J. Guarini Media Forum at the Seattle Yacht Club, where filmmaker Maggio served as the keynote speaker and presented the audience with highlights from the series.

THE ITALIAN AMERICANS reveals the unique and distinctive qualities of one immigrant group’s experience, and how these qualities, over time, have shaped and challenged America. Unlike other immigrant groups, many Italians did not come to America to stay. At the turn of the 20th century, most came to work, earn money to support their families, and eventually return home. Nearly half of the first generation Italian immigrants did return to Italy. For those that made America home, their struggle to maintain a distinct Italian culture was guided by remarkably powerful ideals of family that had always been at the center of their lives. In the Italian family, the needs of the collective came before the individual — a value system often at odds with American ideals of freedom and personal choice. While the power of the Italian family became a source of strength, it also bred suspicion, popularized in popular media as a dark, criminal element. This clash of culture echoed through generations of Italian Americans and, as they entered positions of political, social and cultural influence, it has left its mark on the American landscape.

“The first waves of Italian immigrants in this country weren’t embraced very warmly by mainstream society,” said Maggio. “There were basically held at arm’s length and looked upon with a certain amount of disdain and suspicion.  But eventually, the children of those first immigrants, and their children, began to gain a foothold in positions of power, and would become some of the most influential and important leaders of American life in the 20th century.”

Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and chief executive officer of WETA, said, “This series will share with public television audiences a universal aspect of the immigrant story — the struggle of a group to adapt to a new environment and become participants in American life — while also spotlighting the distinct experience and unique, engaging culture of Italian Americans.”

“Our series strips away the stereotypes about Italian Americans to reveal a complicated and rich narrative, little understood by most Americans,” said Jeff Bieber, executive producer for WETA. “As we have shown in all our initiatives on immigration, American history is far more muddled and chaotic then what is typically taught in school. The more we understand our sometimes troubled past, the stronger we become as a people.”

John M. Viola, president of NIAF, said, “When our NIAF leadership team first had the opportunity to view this film, we were so thrilled to find a project that told our community’s story in an objective and engaging manner.  John Maggio has created the film that I had wished to see for so many years and I believe that everyone in our community who tunes in will find something of themselves and their family in this wonderful project.”

Through extensive archival materials and interviews with scholars and notable Italian Americans such as Tony Bennett, Dion DiMucci, David Chase, Gay Talese and John Turturro, who speak from personal experience, THE ITALIAN AMERICANS tells the story of those who played vital roles in shaping the relationship between Italians and mainstream American society. These include the stories of the following individuals:

Amadeo Giannini, who founded the Bank of Italy in 1904 in San Francisco to help Italians who could not secure loans or financial assistance elsewhere. He would later build it into the largest financial institution in the country and rename it Bank of America.
Arturo Giovannitti, the union activist and poet who led the Lawrence Textile Strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.
Rudolph Valentino, who introduced a new image of the sex symbol to movie audiences of the 1920s, yet still endured the prejudices directed at Italians of southern extraction
Joe DiMaggio, who became one of the most celebrated baseball players of his generation, but whose parents were labeled “Enemy Aliens” during World War II.
U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who each broke new ground for Italian Americans in public service

The series also presents the expertise and insights of historians, scholars, journalists and authors including Donna Gabaccia, Thomas Guglielmo, Gerald Meyer, Robert Orsi, Mary Anne Trasciatti, Lawrence DiStasi, Bruce Watson, Stephen Fox and Selwyn Raab.
A companion book of the same title by journalist Maria Laurino, published by W.W. Norton, will also be released in December 2014, tied to the project activities.

THE ITALIAN AMERICANS is a production of WETA Washington, D.C., and Ark Media, in association with John Maggio Productions. The series executive producers are Jeff Bieber and Dalton Delan. The series writer and producer is John Maggio. The producers are Muriel Soenens and Julia Marchesi. The music composer is Gary Lionelli. The editors are George O’Donnell and Seth Bomse. The narrator is Stanley Tucci. Special thanks to project community engagement and promotion partner The National Italian American Foundation (www.niaf.org). Corporate funding is provided by DelGrosso Foods. Foundation funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the Annenberg Foundation. Major funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the Public Broadcasting Service.

###

About WETA
WETA Washington, D.C., is one of the largest producing stations of new content for public television in the United States. WETA productions and co-productions include PBS NEWSHOUR, WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL, THE KENNEDY CENTER MARK TWAIN PRIZE, IN PERFORMANCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE, and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including THE STORY OF CANCER: THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES, premiering in Spring 2015. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.

About NIAF
The mission of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is to serve as a resource for the Italian American Community; to preserve the Italian American heritage and culture; to promote and inspire a positive image and legacy of Italian Americans; and to strengthen and empower ties between the United States and Italy. For more infomraiotn, visit www.niaf.org.

About PBS
PBS, with its over 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches nearly 120 million people through television and over 29 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and its website, pbskids.org, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the Internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, non-profit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,300 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. More information about CPB is available at www.cpb.org.

CONTACT:
Dan Roberti/Brian Moriarty, Dan Klores Communications (DKC), 212-685-4300; Daniel_roberti@dkcnews.com/brian_moriarty@dkcnews.com

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Going Back to Italy

It's been a long time since I've been back to Italy or my parents home town in  Italy.  The reasons for not going back seem to get more complicated and I seem to get busier with either life or work.  Going to Italy used to very important to me to at least visit once a year.  My parents haven't been back in a while either just for reasons of life, getting older and handling their financial business and issues here.  As I've posted in the past, my parents are in a place now where the time has come where they have to either have sell off or condense their lives.  My parents have always managed to live a modest life, work hard and own their own homes, but are faced with many challenges here in America as seniors.  As the daughter of senior parents it's not easy taking care of all those things, my parents are complex people, who don't like you in their business, but I guess we're past that now, my siblings and I try very hard to be care givers, but as many of you with strong headed people --especially Calabrese parents--- that task is not easy.  It's a very strange day when you realize your once strong parents are getting old, are old and now need your help.  I'm sure throughout your life you get upset with you parents for different reasons and then the day comes when you realize your roles are reversed.  So, getting mad anymore is gone and now we as children have to do our best to take care of our parents, even if we still don't agree with them.. ( I laugh as I write this, because they are so damn stubborn!)

I travel often for either work or pleasure, but it seems lately more domestically, my goal is to get back to Italy soon and do my normal visit and stay in our home town in Italy.  There is nothing like Italy and it's my second home, but America is my first and our lives are here.  I'm sure many children of immigrants struggle with this sort of identity crisis.  I love my Italian family as well and sometimes I get upset when I hear they think Americans live like KINGS, and in essence I feel we work very hard with every reward earned.  Today was a day of reflection and an inside scoop to the journey of getting back to Italy.  I will be in Italy in the next few months, stay tuned.

-Margaret

Sunday, October 5, 2014

LIGABUE Italy's Record-Shattering Rockstar Announces American Debut - October Dates!

New York, NY — Renowned Italian singer, songwriter, film director and author Luciano Ligabue caps a record breaking quarter-century career with his first-ever concert appearances on the American continent.  Taking off from Manhattan's Terminal 5 on October 19th, the iconic performer makes stops in Los Angeles (October 22nd at the Whisky a Go Go) and San Francisco (October 24 at the DNA Lounge), before touching down at Miami's Grand Central on October 26th.  This US run of dates is a continuation of Ligabue's  "Mondovisione Tour – Mondo 2014"  in support of the acclaimed artist's 10th studio album "Mondovisione," released in November 2013 and certified Italy's top selling album of that year within four weeks of release.

The Emilia-Romagna born Luciano Ligabue spent his young adult life working jobs in the region's agricultural factories, while simultaneously moonlighting as a radio DJ and cutting his teeth as a bandleader on the local rock club circuit.   Ligabue released his first record at the relatively late age of 30 with an eponymously titled album in 1990.  Arguably the most successful debut in the history of the Italian music business, Ligabue's life experiences proved central to the formation of the artist's narrative as a songwriter and in his ability to intimately communicate as a storyteller on a national level.  "Ligabue" the album went platinum connecting him as a solo artist with millions of fans in a way not previously seen in Italy, playing some 250 dates up and down the Italian peninsula over the next 3 years, including a pair of opening slots for U2 on their "Zoo TV Tour" at stadium's in Naples and Turin.  By 1997 Ligabue had confirmed himself as a stadium headliner in his own right with the first of 11 appearances at Milan's temple of football and music San Siro.  In 2005 Liga, as he is commonly known, set the still unbroken European record for tickets sold in a single concert in the form of a "hometown" gig at Campovolo in Reggio Emilia.  The US trade publication Pollstar registered a staggering 165,264 fans in attendance at the event.   As a musician Ligabue has released 10 studio albums, 4 live albums, 2 greatest hits albums, 1 soundtrack album, all certified multi-platinum in Italy.

Luciano Ligabue's debut in the world of film proved equally auspicious with 1998's "Radiofreccia" which screened at the Venice Film Festival and was the subsequent winner of multiple trophies at both Italy's Nastri d'Argento and Davide di Donatello awards for Ligabue's screenplay and direction.  Considered at once a cult classic, commercial success and critical favorite in Italy, "Radiofreccia" was added to the permanent film archive of New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2006.  Also a published author, Luciano Ligabue has penned 4 works including novels and poetry.  His 1997 literary debut "Fuori e Dentro il Borgo" was yet another award-winner; the collection of short stories picked up the prestigious Elsa Morante prize.

Ligabue has taken part in many of Italy's seminal events of the past generation including 1996's Pavarotti and Friends concert in Modena (the legendary tenor also an Emilia Romagna native), 2005's Live 8 concert in Rome (Italy's part in 10 simultaneous benefit concerts held in as many countries and organized by Bob Geldof), 2012's Italia Loves Emilia benefit concert for relief in the earthquake-struck region, and 2014's Sanremo Festival where Ligabue appeared as a special guest.

The US leg of Ligabue's Mondovisione Tour – Mondo 2014 is presented by Riservarossa and F&P Group.

Sunday, October 19, 2014                New York, NY
Terminal 5
610 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019
Doors: 6:30pm / Show: 8:00 pm
$50.00 Advance / $55.00 Day Of Show
(212) 582-6600
http://www.terminal5nyc.com/event/672015

Wednesday, October 22, 2014             Los Angeles, CA
Whisky a Go Go 
8901 Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Doors: 7:30pm / Show: 8:30pm
$50.00 Advance / $55.00 Day Of Show
(310) 652-4202
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ligabue-tickets-12093286345

Friday October 24, 2014                 San Francisco, CA
DNA Lounge 
375 Eleventh St
San Francisco, CA 94103
Doors: 7:00pm / Show: 8:30pm
$50.00 Advance / $55.00 Day Of Show
(415) 626-1409
http://www.dnalounge.com/calendar/2014/10-24.html

Sunday, October 26, 2014                Miami, FL
Grand Central
697 N Miami Ave,
Miami, FL 33136
Doors: 7:30pm / Show: 9:00pm
$50.00 Advance / $55.00 Day Of Show
(305) 377-2277
http://grandcentralmiami.ticketfly.com/event/625215-ligabue-miami/

Ligabue Online
http://facebook.com/ligabue