A call for unity and action! That’s the message of Keynote Speaker Virginia Gardner, President of the Italian American Alliance – National, at the Conference of Italian American Organizations in Connecticut, hosted by the Italian-American Defense League.
Gardner began her speech by jokingly pointing out how “Anglo” her last name by marriage is, but then her speech took on a serious tone, “If you take nothing else from tonight’s dinner, please take the word UNITY. Our unity is vital to our survival. Every group, committee, club, here tonight, must pledge to work together. We will never be silent or invisible again. UNITY.”
Topics discussed included Italian-American bias and discrimination, Italian heritage and culture, and the preservation of Columbus Day and Columbus statues. Gardner continued, “We spoke openly about why we were so passionate about Columbus. We all had this in common, we were all discriminated against, ridiculed, been on the receiving end of ethnic slurs, the question always asked, ‘Is your father in the Mafia?” and the not so funny Italian jokes. We pledged to never give up defending Christopher Columbus and our culture and history.”
The dinner began with a blessing for unity and guests enjoyed the voice of Tony Vermiglio singing Italian-American classics in between speeches. Many left the conference expressing that the speakers were genuine, informative, and inspiring. Altogether, sixteen different organizations were represented from sixteen different towns.
Prominent members of Connecticut’s Italian-American community attended the business meeting at Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven. Distinguished guests included Honorary Consul of Italy in Hartford Barbara Battaglino Zichichi, Stamford UNICO’s Dr. Al Fusco, and Greater Hartford UNICO’s President Mary Joan Picone. Members of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, AMITY Club of New Haven, Berlin Political Independent Club, American Italian Women of Greater New Haven, and Italian-American Defense League were also in attendance.
Other prominent guests of Italian-American descent included Candidate for Secretary of the State Dominic Rapini, North Haven Mayor Michael Freda, and Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti. Republican Candidate for U.S. Congress Lesley DeNardis and Independent Candidate Amy Chai both attended and are vying for the Congressional seat of Connecticut’s third district against Incumbent Rosa DeLauro who supported the removal of the city’s Christopher Columbus statue in Wooster Square. Michael Costanza, founder of Constitution State Educators, also made the trip to New Haven.
Most importantly, follow-up to the conference includes action steps to promote Italian-American values: family, faith, and hard work. The following resolution was adopted by the IADL as a first step in uniting people of Italian descent in Connecticut.
September 28, 2022 : A Resolution of the Conference of Italian American Organizations in Connecticut
As almost twenty-percent of the population of Connecticut claims Italian descent, new generations of Italian Americans are losing their cultural identities. As Italian Americans in Connecticut, we are called to learn, review, and reflect upon our shared heritage, history, and customs to pass on to future generations. Though, at times, the Italian immigrant story was painful, it is also a story of resilience, hope, and success. Though the Italian-American journey is unique, it gives hope to future generations of Americans of the impossible – escaping hardships and living the American Dream.
Now, therefore, the Conference of Italian American Organizations agrees to a committed plan of action to:
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