The Italian-American Triumvirate: #3 – Family

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We begin our third and final installment of the Italian-American Triumvirate to honor Christopher Columbus and all descendants of Italia during October as we celebrate Italian-American Month.

The third item on the list has been known by many names. In fact, those who remember football in the 1960s may also remember the three pillars being defined quite differently (and creatively). Italian-Americans played a prominent role in this.

On June 16, 1970, Brian Piccolo, starting running back for the Chicago Bears, died. Only seven months earlier, on November 16, 1969, Piccolo scored a touchdown on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons. He then surprised his teammates by Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #3 – Family”

The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country

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As mentioned last week, October is Italian-American Heritage Month. Not only do we take a day (either the original October 12 or the second Monday) to celebrate Christopher Columbus, the Italian that most influenced America, but, like other ethnic groups, we spend the entire month honoring those who immigrated to the United States centuries after the first Italian discovered a brand new world.

This is the second in a series of columns on “the Big Three,” the three institutions that, though they to some extent describe all Americans, speak especially to the cultural heritage of Italian-Americans.

Recall the meaning of “Italian-American.” It represents an acknowledgment that you are Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country”

The Italian-American Triumvirate: #1 – God

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Each October we celebrate Italian-American Heritage Month. The month is obviously chosen in honor of the Italian that most influenced America: Christopher Columbus. Of course, Columbus’ discovery of the New World predated the creation of the United States by about three centuries, but our country long ago adopted his journey as an inspiration for the nation.

Columbus has since been joined by many Italian immigrants who would become Italian-Americans.

That’s an important distinction: “Italian-American.” It recognizes that you are, in fact, an Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #1 – God”

The Real News About Kathy Hochul Being New York State Governor

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You’ve probably read the headlines about Kathy Hochul “making history” by becoming the first woman to hold the position of New York State Governor.

If you’re like me, you cringe every time you see the appellation “first” applied to anyone. With the clear exception of sporting events, landing on the moon, and a few others, the term “first” seems more like a back-handed compliment. In today’s world of woke, it makes people wonder if “token” wouldn’t be a better description.

And that’s not fair.

I know. I’ve lived with this designation. The “first” Italian-American to do this… The “first” Catholic to do that… The “first” graduate of Gates-Chili high school to…

Each time, despite the apparent good intentions of various speakers of those words, it always felt condescending.

While I’m proud of my heritage, I didn’t want to be remembered merely as an Italian-Continue Reading “The Real News About Kathy Hochul Being New York State Governor”

Declaration of (Italian) American Independence

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“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus/When he said the world was round…” So begins the lyrics of Ira Gershwin for brother George’s 1937 composition “They All Laughed.” The Gershwins wrote the song for the movie Shall We Dance, starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Frank Sinatra famously included the tune in his masterpiece Trilogy album, where he sings the closing lyrics “Who’s got the last laugh now?” with a knowing wink.

From Christopher Columbus to Frank Sinatra, it’s clear that Italians and Italian-Americans have had a tremendous impact on America. Over the next three weeks, we’ll focus on those names history books seem to have neglected.

Did you know Italian-Americans played a prominent role in the founding of America? For example, three of the first five American warships were named after Italians. These were Continue Reading “Declaration of (Italian) American Independence”

Celebrate! October is Italian-American Heritage Month!

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According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of illegal lynchings between 1882 and 1962 was 4,736. This data was compiled by the Department of Records and Research, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama; and published in: Ploski, Harry, and Williams, James; The Negro Almanac: A Reference Work on Afro-American, 4th ed. New York: Wiley, 1983. As you might suspect most of these lynchings (roughly 73%) were perpetrated upon blacks. It might astonish you, however, to learn the largest lynching event in U.S. history contained no black victims. Here’s how I discovered this fact.

A couple of weeks ago, Tim and Deb Smith’s “Mendon’s Historic Hamlets – Rochester Junction, Part 2” told the story of the death of Spencer Howe. The suspect, Nicolo DeNardo, fled the scene, but was later captured by police. The headline in the Democrat and Chronicle shouts “Struck Down by a Dago.” The casual use of that ethnic slur got me curious. Did other newspapers of that era also use it?

I quickly found out there’s an island called Dago in the Baltic Sea near the Gulf of Finland. Apparently, it was quite the popular place to wreck your ship in the eighteenth century.

I landed closer to my mark when I saw the following page two of the Friday, January 2nd, 1835 edition of The New York Evening Post. Here’s what it said: “Five Dollars Reward, for Continue Reading “Celebrate! October is Italian-American Heritage Month!”

The Joys of Celebrating Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day (Traditional)

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Those of you old enough to remember, remember this: Columbus Day is celebrated every year on October 12th. It’s not the second Monday of October, but a specific date. We’re not the only country to celebrate Columbus Day, although the exact date of celebration may be different. The specific date varies for the same reason the specific date of George Washington’s birthday varies. Based on the Julian Calendar, widely in use in 1492, Columbus and his crew finally sighted the sandy shores of San Salvador on the morning of October 12th, five days after they observed flocks of birds, indicating they were near land.

A century after Columbus discovered America, Pope Gregory XIII decided he had had Continue Reading “The Joys of Celebrating Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day (Traditional)”