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Italian American Heritage Month

On Monday, October 2nd, our event for the day was the official opening of Cleveland's Italian American Heritage Month that took place in the Rotunda in Cleveland City Hall.

Prior to the start of the program, we visited with several of the people who would be honored that evening including Mr. Aldo Campellone (Business) who, along with his brother Robert who was also being honored, employs newly arrived Italian Immigrants at their business which is "ABC Piping Company"; Ms. Lorraine Dodero (Culture Arts) who cheerfully said that she had no idea who nominated her to receive this award but would make it her goal to find out; and Mr. Billy Donato (Performing Arts) an entertainer who has performed all over, particularly in Las Vegas, but said that Cleveland was his home town and was therefore part of his heritage so getting this award meant more to him than any other honor that he had received in the course of his career. 

As was the case the previous day for the St. Colman Church gathering at the West Side Irish American Club, the ceremonies were hosted by District 15 Cleveland City Councilperson Matt Zone who is of Italian descent and talked about how cooperative Mayor Frank Jackson (who is partially Italian too) was in establishing Italian American Heritage Month twelve years ago.

Then the opening prayer was given by another person who had Italian ancestry, Bishop Nelson J. Perez, Diocese of Cleveland, who called our attention to the terrible tragedy that had taken place in Las Vegas the previous day asking for our love go out to the victims. 

Young Mr. Giovanni Castiglione sang the Italian National Anthem and Mr. Donato led us all in the singing of our U.S. National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner. A "welcome" was given by Mayor Frank Jackson and Ms. Pamela Dorazio Dean and Ms. Rose A. Zitiello, of the Italian American Heritage Month Committee, credited all of the people who worked so hard to make this night possible.

The awards were then dispersed out and; in addition to the Campellone brothers, Ms. Dodero, and Mr. Donato; the honorees were Mr. Julius Ciaccia, Jr. (Public Servant); Mr. Gino Latessa (Individual) and the late Mr. Paul Sciria (Lifetime Achievement) whose award was accepted by his daughter, Paula. All of the honorees talked about how much their Italian heritage meant to them and how grateful they were to be given these tributes. Along these lines, the Campellone brothers went a bit further and talked about what it was like immigrating to the United States in 1966 with no money at all and no knowledge of the English language and the journey they underwent to become the successful businesspeople that they now were.

In addition to the honoring the before mentioned people, a powerful speech was given by Mr. Basil Russo, President of the Justinian Forum of Northeast Ohio, regarding the importance of Italian Heritage Month and of Columbus day to the Italian American people. He went on to speak of the discrimination that they underwent from 1892 until just after World War II. One case in point is that during that war, 600,000 Italian American had to carry I.D. cards as possible enemy allies as well as having to put up with curfews, relocations, loss of jobs, etc. And while this was happening, some 500,000 Italian Americans served in the U.S. Armed Forces and countless others put in long hours at defense factories. Mr. Russo concluded by noting that it was not until the 1990's that Italian Americans were officially regarded as being assimilated into American society. Thus, it took 100 years to accomplish this.

Another very pertinent address about the history ofItalian Americanswas given by Ms. Serena Scaiola, Honorary Consul of Italy in Cleveland and in Ohio, who was kind enough to share with us her notes. Some of the facts that she mentioned included that Italian Americans are the fourth largest European ethnic group in the United States, and overall the seventh. From 1880 to 1915 alone some 13 million Italians migrated out of Italy (mostly from the Southern portion) largely due to economic conditions making it the largest recorded migration in world history and during this time period perhaps 4 million Italians immigrated to the U.S. passing through Ellis Island. A big reason for this was that there was a labor shortage in the U.S. after the Civil War so Italians were actively recruited to fill the gaps even though the work was, for the most part, downright drudgery. This ended with the outbreak of World War I which was followed by the series of laws passed against immigration by the U.S. Congress back in the 1920's.

Ms. Scaiola reviewed all of this in order to help us and those of Italian American descent to appreciate "the sacrifices, struggles, successes and extraordinary contributions given by their ancestors to the development of this great nation."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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