I’ve been thinking about sharing what I believe will be two comforting subjects for our readers. Comforting has different meanings to different people, however, as the focus of this magazine centers on Italians and Italian American’s, I am pretty sure both of these thoughts and subjects will appeal to all readers regardless of age, gender, or location.
The first subject is a bit of a report, some of which comes from NIAF’s website, on the wonderful National Italian American Foundation’s 42nd Anniversary Gala Nancy and I were privileged to attend in Washington, D.C., recently. The Gala attracted Italian Americans from across the country and friends from Italy for two days of music, food, friendship, education, entertainment and Italian pride in celebrating our heritage and culture. The nation’s premier Italian American gathering this year was presented by the NIAF Region of Honor, Sicily, and Unioncamere Sicilia, the association of Sicily’s Chambers of Commerce.
Highlighting a long weekend of events was Saturday evening’s centerpiece, the formal Awards Gala Dinner, featuring Sicilian fare and recognizing five outstanding honorees who have achieved special distinction and reflect the pride of the Italian and Italian-American communities with their outstanding accomplishments. Emceed by Emmy Award-winning journalist and Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo and NIAF President and Chief Operating Officer John M. Viola, it was an evening that brought more than 1,500 guests to their feet with celebration, laughter and tears.
Opening the evening, Emmy-Award winning actor, NIAF Celebrity Ambassador and Sicilian American Michael Badalucco, welcomed guests with emotional comments about Sicily, quoting lines by Sicilian poet Nino Provenzano, who was in the audience. Badalucco urged that the love of Italy be passed on to younger generations: “They must know that they are a part of a proud and noble heritage,” he said, and then to loud applause added, “I don’t mean to brag, but where would America be without Italians?”
I certainly do not want to minimize any of the five honorees accomplishments, the presentations of the awards and all of their inspirationally speeches, but the one I want to single out was when Basil Russo introduced the three finalist filmmakers and their films of the inaugural Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, a grant to fund creative filmmakers to capture aspects of the Italian American experience. Following 30-second video clips from each, the screen switched to Atlanta where Russo brothers Anthony and Joe are filming their current movie, “Avengers: Infinity War.” With their mother, Patricia, they announced their 2017 grant winner: “Italian American Baseball Family” by Roberto Angotti. This film is what I mean by comforting. This is a must-watch 60-minute film that relates how Italian Americans assimilated into popular culture through America’s favorite pastime. I promise you will love this film. To view the film, go to; www.orderisda.org click Resources, then Film Forum, scroll to winner, “Italian American Baseball Family.” Thank you Russo Brothers and family for your commitment and support.
My second comforting thought is what I get out of attending the Gala. Meeting so many like-minded proud Italians and Italian American’s makes me believe our culture will be preserved. Knowing there are so many people and organizations committed to sharing Italian American culture, history and traditions and encouraging our younger Italian Americans to appreciate our life style, is comforting.
I encourage you to join any or many of the organizations, either nationally, locally or both and see what you will get out of this. You don’t have to be a volunteer, donate time or money to be a good member just keep informed and support these groups at whatever level makes you feel good and comforting.
Check out niaf.org, osia.org, orderisda.org, wetheitalians.com and, of course iacvegas.com. When in Vegas, enjoy a great evening at our club. Stay well.