Italian American Delegation to Meet with Rome's Top Leaders

Apr 25, 2022 266

BY: Basil Russo

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).

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.

Our Culture on the Line

In the late 1800s and the early 1900s, many of our ancestors fled southern Italy to escape famine, disease, natural disasters and crushing poverty. 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.

The International Stage

My fellow presidents and I turned COPOMIAO — a relatively inactive 36-member East Coast umbrella organization — into a bustling, 54-member national nonprofit. 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.

This diplomatic collaboration was launched in December when Mariangela Zappia, Italy’s first female ambassador to the U.S., agreed to my request to host a reception for 55 of our national leaders at her residence in Washington DC. During that meeting we struck a landmark partnership to strengthen cultural relations, foster new trade, and bolster advocacy-related initiatives.

A Giant Leap for Italian America

We are now building upon this strategic relationship by taking a delegation of 32 Italian American representatives overseas 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.

Ultimately, the goal is to imagine what progress looks like next year, in five years, in a decade. Our ancestors taught us to aspire, and now’s the time to put their principled and faithful vision into action. 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.

Italian Americans 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. 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.

Thank you to all who are attending this historic trip, and a special thank you to the thousands who are standing behind this effort.

SOURCE: Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations

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