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Articles by: Joey Skee

  • Life & People

    The Decorated Flowerpots of Brooklyn

    I spent this September looking at and thinking about a little known Italian-American folk art: the pebble and cobble mosaic planters in front of private homes in southern Brooklyn. 

     
    As a life-long resident of the borough, I have known these objects for decades. And I have studied the technique as part of my research on Italian-American yard shrines. But I had never focused specifically on these stone-encrusted vessels found in front yards, stoops, and porches. While they exist in neighborhoods with once large Italian-American populations, like Astoria, Queens, and Williamsbridge, the Bronx, I spent time in Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, trying to learn more.
     
    I was fortunate to have as my guide Anthony Scotto, who has been an invaluable source of information on Italian-American horticultural and artisan traditions. As he told me in an email:
     
    "Maybe I’m imagining a past here, but I can recall clearly a pebble and cement-filled childhood, a childhood where all surfaces where either pebbles or cement and where the two were united in planter containers across Brooklyn and Queens."
     
    Anthony and I visited five locations:
     

    7005 and 7009 14th Avenue, Dyker Heights

    1594 73rd Street, Bensonhurst. One of two rectangular boxes and an urn on a porch.

    1077 Bay Ridge Parkway, Dyker Heights.

    1611 81st Street, Dyker Heights. One of three houses with decorated planters on the porches, including 1601 81st Street (two rectangular boxes) and 1609 81st Street (two rectangular boxes flanking an urn).

    1570 and 1572 80th Street, Dyker Heights.

    I wasn’t able to verify the makers of these objects. Neither Michael Miranda and Leung Fong Seto (via his son Simon), the two homeowners on 81st Street that I spoke with, were able to provide any information about their provenance. “They were here when I bought the house,” both men told me. 
     

    Genoa, 2009.

    These decorated planters emerge out of a centuries-old tradition in the wider Mediterranean, going back to antiquity. Italy is one place where pathways, steps, and gardens are decorated with such pebble mosaics. 
     

    (left) Genoa, 2009; (right) Bickleigh Castle, Devon, England,
    courtesy Maggy Howarth's The Complete Pebble Mosaic Book (2009).

    Italian emigrants brought these aesthetics and skills when they went abroad. While I am still waiting to hear from the Frick Museum if the patterned stone walkways there were created by Italian artisans (a definitive book about the mansion fails to mention the outdoor stonework), we know that Italian POWs held in Devon during World War II took it upon themselves to craft a walkway of local river stones in a scalloped pattern.

    Frick Museum, New York City, 2010. Photograph: Leon Read.

    While this artisan tradition is not unique to Italy or Italian Americans, in New York City, this art is distinctly Italian American.

     

    Brooklyn yard art: (left) lighthouse, house facade decoration, and planters, 114 Mina Street, Kensington, 1985; (right), nonextant tower, 1235 78th Street, Dyker Heights, 1985. Photograph: Martha Cooper.
     
    It is difficult to date the planters. With the exception of the row houses on 81st Street that were built in 1950, all the houses were built before World War II. 
     
    These planters are embedded with what appears to be quartz beach pebbles and cobbles, primarily oval in shape and off-white in color. These may very well be from Long Island. Did the makers cull the city’s beaches to gather their materials? I asked geologist Stanley Schleifer for his input and he graciously offered the following:
     
    It’s hard to tell in the images but the white pebbles are probably quartz. Quartz is next to the hardest mineral commonly found on Long Island and it is the most resistant to weathering. Pebbles as large as the ones shown in your images are not likely to be found on south shore beaches and city beaches such as Rockaway, Brighton Beach, and Coney Island. There the beaches consist almost entirely of sand sized particles. On the north shore the headland beaches are likely to be composed of glacial till which is more likely to contain large pebbles and cobbles. Many of these would be composed of quartz, with the white “milky quartz” variety being the most common. White feldspar pebbles and cobbles would also be a major constituent. Headlands such as Montauk Point and Orient Point would also be expected to contain large pebbles and cobbles. While we can’t know for sure where the pebbles came from without doing a provenance study, the people creating these mosaics would be likely to get their materials from closest (and therefore cheapest) possible source. Excavating and sieving the till in the terminal moraines that run the length of Long Island, and are also found in Staten Island, would also be a good way to get these kinds of pebbles.
     
    Anthony has suggested that the makers most likely obtained the pebbles (as aggregate) from building suppliers or house contractors, in an era before ready-mix. 

     Walkway trim, 1077 Bay Ridge Parkway, Dyker Heights.

    There are a number of design elements that can be found among these examples and others found throughout the city:

    horizontal bands outlining edges to create distinct panels or sections,
    vertical lines dividing upper and base, in the urns,
    circular, oval, and diamond shapes, with the latter being prominent,

    the insides of these three shapes may contain a single stone creating a center, a cross (as with the walkway trim), or be filled in either with stones of similar size as those creating the form or with much tinier pebble.

    It is in the specific detailing of these common motifs that I believe we can begin to ascertain the individual craftsperson. But it has been, what I assume, to be decades since their creation, and we are far removed from the original makers' identities.

    Other Brooklyn planters.

     
    I might have come up with answers and perhaps met the makers had I inquired during the 1980s when I began my research on Italian-American folk arts and vernacular architecture in New York City.
     

    Nonextant house shrine, 108-50 48th Steet, Corona, Queens, 1985.
    Photograph: Martha Cooper.
     
    But in 2005, I did meet Vincent Albi, a 87-year-old retired lithographer, who built a yard shrine in 1979 when he bought his corner house across the street from Marine Park, Brooklyn, as a tribute to his Barese immigrant father, Gregorio, who was a stone mason.
     

    (left) 2184 Stewart Street, Marine Park, Brooklyn, 2005; (right), St. Anthony shrine, Rosebank, Staten Island, 2012, Photograph: Christoper Mulé.

    Perhaps the most spectacular use of the pebble mosaic technique can be found at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Grotto in Rosebank, Staten Island. Hundreds upon hundreds of stones have been embedded in the surface of this structure—along with smaller shrines on the property—that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
     

    Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Grotto, Rosebank, Staten Island, 2012. Photograph: Christoper Mulé.
     
    The grotto was a collaborative effort of members of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society who began working on the structure in 1930s. The masonry work was attributed to Umberto Summa and Angelo Madrazzo. The stones were pressed into sandbox forms into which cement was poured, and when it hardened, the wooden frames were dismantled and the stone‑encrusted sections were removed and secured in place with cement, wire, and/or metal rods.
     
    While we may never know the names of the artisans who created the mosaics on this handful of planters in Brooklyn, their artistry and workmanship continues today. Simon was quick to point out how his Chinese-American immigrant father continues to use the flowerpots, having planted Calamondin oranges in each of the three. The decorated planters are the city’s legacy of Italian-American folk art.

    1609 81st Street, Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

  • Op-Eds

    The New Negative Image of Italian Americans



    Forget about Paulie Walnuts or Snookie or even Big Ang. The new threat to the public image of Italian Americans is the “outraged spokesperson.”
     
    You want “controversy”? The media now has its go-to people who are all too ready to make pronouncements in the name of “the Italian-American community.” Oh, they’re a colorful lot prone to utter the silliest things that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief at the sheer lunacy of their backward and disconcerting takes on Italian-American history and culture.
     
    The latest agita-du-jour is “Discovering Columbus,” the New York City art installation by Tatzu Nishi. With support from the Public Art Fund and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, this Japanese artist has conceptualized and is now implementing a thought-provoking art project concerning Italian Americana. The installation consists of a “living room” built around the marble statue of Christopher Columbus that stands atop the 70-foot-high column at Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. Visitors will be able visit the “living room” from September 20 to November 18, 2012 and see Gaetano Russo’s 120-year-old sculpture from a new vantage point.
     
    The living room project is part of a series Nishi has done in other cities, from Liverpool to Basel to Singapore, in which public monuments are made more accessible. In New York, the free exhibition will also entail a much-needed restoration of the Columbus statue. 
     
    A number of people affiliated with Italian-American organizations, including the Italian consul general in New York City, find the project intriguing:
     
    “ ‘Discovering Columbus’ will give people from all over the world the opportunity to come face-to-face with a majestic work of art normally seen from afar while allowing for the restoration of the Columbus Monument.” Frank Fusaro, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation. (CBS News, 08/22/12)
     
    “It opens up an opportunity to have a dialogue about the role of Christopher Columbus.” John Calvelli, secretary of the National Italian American Foundation. (CBS News, 08/22/12)
     
    And yet others have seen fit to express their opinions and “outrage” about the project:
     
    “Encasing this majestic statue in a cocoon of conceptual art demeans the community and trivializes history.” –Rosario Iaconis, chairman of the Italic Institute of America. (CBS News, 08/22/12)
     
    “Christopher Columbus is turned into some clownish figure in the middle of the room that many visitors are sure to find amusing — [it’s a] fun-house view of Christopher Columbus.” –Arthur Piccolo, “a vocal Italian-American advocate in the city.” (New York Post, 8/20/12)
     
    “He’s been sitting up there for 120 years with nobody bothering him, enjoying the view. And now this has to be done? I think this is just another swipe at the Italian-American community.” Andrè Dimino, president of the Italian American One Voice Coalition. (CBS New York, 08/20/12)
     
    “If the artist had attempted to stage a living room set around the Lincoln Memorial or the Martin Luther King memorial . . . sensitivities would have been aroused. It’s buffoonery masquerading as art.” John Mancini, executive director of the Italic Institute of America. (CBS News, 08/22/12)
     
    Leaving aside the fact that three of these individuals are not New York City residents, and that Piccolo represents no one but himself, we find ourselves in a position whereby the media in its endless appetite for “controversy” turn to the visionless, Philistine, and retrograde voices within Italian America for a quote. And the journalists, in turn, are rewarded with astonishing examples of frivolity and closed-mindedness. It is these voices purporting to speak on behalf of the “community” at large that represent the new negative image of Italian Americans.
     
    (For an example of how these entities stifle intellectual inquiry, see the Italic Institute of America’s lawsuit against Columbus University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, formerly known as Casa Italiana.)
     
    Nishi’s “Discovering Columbus” reframes the statue to offer an alternative perspective of a problematic historical character worthy of re-examination, as a number of Italian-American artists and scholars have been doing for a long time. Poet Diane di Prima, poet and literary scholar Robert Viscusi, the (now defunct) Italian Americans for a Multicultural United States, and others have called into question both Columbus and the national holiday. 

     
    In addition, the art project allows us to think about the history of the monument itself and the public display of Italian-American identity. The base of the monument proclaims that it is a gift from “The Italians Residing in America,” while another inscription notes that the public statue was the initiative of Carlo Barsotti, editor and owner of the city’s Italian-language daily, Il Progresso Italo Americano.  

     
    As a member of the prominenti (Italian elite leaders), Barsotti was, at best, problematic. As he attempted (and succeeded) to take credit for feting Columbus in the city and positioning himself as a representative of the community at large, he was publically denounced by his paesani in New York City as a profiteer. See the New York Times article May 24, 1892 (p. 3):
     

     
    Scholar Joan Saverino notes in her research on the 1925 dedication of the Columbus Monument in Reading, Pennsylvania, that Italian immigrants latched on to Columbus, a symbol of American Manifest Destiny, as a way to deflect racial prejudice. However, that choice revealed the “community’s” internal differences and myriad interests: 
     
    As we shall see in the example of the dedication of the Columbus Monument celebration, tensions also existed between the prominenti and working-class Italians. This will serve as an example of intra-ethnic tension, an area of investigation still under-explored in ethnic studies. The image of a singular and unified Italian community, displayed during public events, fractures if we look behind the scenes, where a different social reality prevailed. Working-class Italians did not always identify with the middleclass goals of the prominenti, and many never attended the elaborate celebrations. Others, while proud that Italians could carry off such pageantry, harbored resentment toward the prominenti for their achievements. The Catholic clergy, often at odds with a large number of Italians, formed a third source of contention. Despite the cacophony of voices representing diverse interests, values, and expectations, usually one group’s agenda prevailed, providing an illusion of unity to the non-Italian majority. With careful analysis of the orchestration of the event, the existing social and political fissures become evident. The Columbus Day celebrations were key events illustrative of how the prominenti introduced and promoted the new role of American ethnic.
     
    Italians in Public Memory: Pageantry, Power, and Imagining the ‘Italian American’ in Reading, Pennsylvania,” in Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives, edited by Joseph Sciorra (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011), 153-169.
     
    The farcical protest against the Columbus Circle art project alerts us to the simple fact that scoundrels, opportunists, charlatans, and buffoons have long been an integral part of the Italian-American experience, and they can be found at a monument’s plinth or its pinnacle, or quoted by the media. 
     
    Nishi’s “Discovering Columbus” provides us with an exciting opportunity to face our past, present, and future, up close and personal, warts and all. 


  • Art & Culture

    italianrap è morto! Viva Italian Rap!



    On August 30th, my personal website italianrap.com will cease to exist.


    Launched in December 1998, it was the first English website dedicated to hip hop culture in Italy. While simplistic in design, it was easy to navigate and filled with information that was not available to non-Italian speakers. It provided a history of rap’s evolution in Italy, a bibliography, a directory of artists bios, and, probably most importantly, translations of what are now classic Italian contributions to global hip hop. 
     
    In addition to my work, the site also featured that of people writing about the culture, including Bessie Barnes, Virginia Carlsten, George De Stefano, Fulvio Romanin (C-Sal), Laura Ruberto, Nicky Schäfer, Marco Solaroli, Antonio Ventresco, Aneglo Zeolla, among others.
     
    italianrap.com soon became a point of encounter for members of the Italian diaspora, as hip hop heads from around the world reached out to me. The site’s bulletin board was a place where folks from Australia, Canada, Belgium, Italy, France, United States, and other points on the hip hop planet came together.


    Eventually, scholars of Italian American Studies and others began citing  italianrap.com's significance including De Stefano's An Offer We Can't Refuse (2006) and Parati and Tamburri's The Cultures of Italian Migration (2011).
     
    By far the most remarkable thing to come out of italianrap.com was “Hip Hop From the Italian Diaspora,” an international, three-day festival/symposium in Tuscany sponsored by Queens College’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, the Rassegna di Arti Contemporanee “Cicli” Music Festival, and the townships of Montevarchi and Terranuova (Arrezo province). Lorenzo Brusci and I pulled together rappers, DJs, graffiti writers, and break dancers from Italy, as well as Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United States for this 2000 event.

     
    Piazza Varchi, Montevarchi, 2000.


    My web skills were always limited. The design and functionality of italianrap.com has not changed in all this time. In addition, I have not updated the site since 2008. Many of the links are broken. Communication within the community now happens elsewhere, and that’s a good thing. It’s time to let go.
     
    While italianrap.com is no more, its various versions from 1999-2012 are available at the “Internet Archive Wayback Machine.”
     
    I have met many amazing people through the site: aficionados, scholars, brilliant artists, and many others. Together, we have created a new way of connecting, imagining ourselves, of being, free from the restrictions of parochialism and insular thinking, all to a hip-hop beat.    

    italianrap è morto! Viva Italian Rap!

  • Op-Eds

    A Ph.D. in Basket Weaving



    It has come to my attention that I stand in the crosshairs of one Richard Annotico, a fulminating yet paltry blogger. (See link and text below.) The depth of viciousness, ignorance, bigotry, and pettiness is appalling but it comes as no surprise to those of us who have witnessed such Italian-American anti-intellectualism from others, such as Arthur Piccolo. I’m proud to join the ranks of distinguished scholars of Italian American Studies like Fred Gardaphé, Anthony Tamburri, and Donald Tricarico who have been attacked on-line with similar diatribes.  To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, “I welcome the hatred.”
    Annotico’s blog post was prompted by a digitally-distributed “open response” from John Mancini, executive director of The Italic Institute of America. This letter was originally a private one mailed directly to me on September 26, 2011 (see attached) to which I replied the following week (see attached Page 1 and Page 2). I’m surprised that Mancini decided to take what he initiated as a private conversation to the digital arena. No matter. While I disagreed with Mancini’s premise, I was pleased to read that he took the time and care to make his case intelligently and respectfully. The same cannot be said for Annotico’s vituperations. 
    The casual reader will note Annotico’s horrid prose and typos (e.g., “it’s Italian American Review,” “admoired”), the hyperbolic writing style that has come to characterize Italian-American anti-intellectualism (e.g., “despotism,” “relations with ANY OTHER ETHNIC Groups”), and the fetid stench of anti-Semitism.
    Annotico—who claims to know me for “over the decade” although we have never met— accuses me of being many things, and I quote:
    1.      “Turncoat” vs his Italian Ancestry
    2.      Self Loathing of his Italian Ancestry
    3.      being a Cypto -Italian
    4.      a former website designer
    5.      a rap music aficionado
    6.      a PHD in Basket Weaving
    7.      disparage his Italian Ancestry
    8.      Defending Spike Lee
    9.      Misreporting the “Bensonhurst Incident
    11. A “Basket-weaving” pseudo-intellect
    These charges are hysterically funny even as they underscore a tragic level of narrow-mindedness and maliciousness, and are evidence for dismissing his pronouncement outright.
    However, what is most disturbing about Annotico’s virulent tirade is his flawed notion of Ethnic Studies, Italian American Studies, and scholarship in general:
    the PURPOSE of ETHNIC Studies is to PROMOTE PRIDE and the POSITIVE ASPECTS of the ETHNICITY to counter all the NEGATIVITY in the Society/Media.

    Ethnic Studies is NOT intended to present a "Balanced" view, BUT to COUNTER the DISTORTED Negative STEREOTYPES rampant in the SOCIETY.
    This is not an attack of me but a community of scholars.
    We are currently experiencing a proliferation of stimulating research on Italian-American history and culture, as well as the larger Italian diaspora. For the past decade we at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute have provided a forum for scholars, authors, visual artists, and filmmakers to present their work in a rich and diverse array of programming, including an annual conference, ongoing exhibitions, and monthly lectures, readings, and screenings. All free and open to the public. In addition, the Calandra Institute has re-launched the scholarly journal Italian American Review and published several books on various topics such as education, language, and film.
    Annotico and his ilk maintain that the uncritical, flag-waving triumphalism that emerged out of the 1970s white ethnic movement is “the PURPOSE of ETHNIC Studies.”  This is not the basis for rigorous and sustained scholarship. 
    The question becomes how do we reply to this rampant anti-intellectualism as a community? Do we simply ignore such repugnant pronouncements or do we respond collectively, and if so, through which channels? 
     
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
     
    Fri 9/30/2011 
    Calandra's Sciorra's Anti -Italian Prejudice - This Time re : "And They Came to Chicago"
     
    Joe Sciorra, of the Calandra Institute, and Editor of it's Italian American Review, is Not only an example of one who has risen far above his skills and talent. (with nepotism, despotism, favoritism rather than MERIT), he has once again, and still over the decade I have known him, been a "Turncoat" vs his Italian Ancestry. 
     
    I don't know if this results from a Self Loathing of his Italian Ancestry, or a the use of a Technique used by those who would rather be associated with the "Power Group" and uses every opportunity to show them he is Not one of "those other Lowers", or being a Crypto -Italian, or if it is his Sheer Ignorance, Sciorra (blogs under the name of "Joey Skee"), is a former website designer, and a rap music aficionado. who earned his Ph.D in Folk Lore (sorta like a PhD in Basket Weaving ) http://www.italianrap.com/me.html.
     
    "Joey Skee" has never lost an opportunity to disparage his Italian Ancestry, whether it be by Defending Spike Lee ( a consistent Italian detractor- and also a movie employer of Skee's sister), Misreporting the "Bensonhurst Incident" as an "Italian Racist Riot" rather than a   "Turf War" (since there was at least one black in the Italian group), and Promoting Johnny MeatBalls DeCarlo, who is a Chest beating "Guido",    (a Mafia, and a "Jersey Shore" admirer, and a Calandra Blogger), along with promoting Italian Folklore as a way of inferring how backward and primitive Italians are. These are only few examples of a litany of Anti -Italian transgressions.
     
    "Skee" and other Calandra Executives, AMAZINGLY seem Unaware that the PURPOSE of ETHNIC Studies is to PROMOTE PRIDE and the POSITIVE ASPECTS of the ETHNICITY to counter all the NEGATIVITY in the Society/Media.  
     
    Ethnic Studies is NOT intended to present a "Balanced" view, BUT to COUNTER the DISTORTED Negative STEREOTYPES rampant in the SOCIETY. In fact in Jewish American Studies, even FACTS that are TRUE and POSITIVE,, but that "might" be bad for the Jewish Community, by showing it's power or wealth are "buried" because such revelations "might" incite Anti-Semitism.  
     
    In regard to Prof. Naison,I was unable, after great research, to uncover ANY credentials for Prof. Naison to critique ANY Italian American History. It is also MOST interesting that while Naison is disturbed by the absence of an analysis of Italian/ Black relations, he expresses NO concern about ANY analysis of Italian relations with ANY OTHER ETHNIC Groups, such as Irish, and Polish among others. that Italians were in STRONG competitor with. And If Not, Why Not.???? Is Mr Naison's Afro Ethnicity Studies causing MYOPIA????? 
     
    Is it mere Coincidence that Prof Naison's remarks were merely "echoes" of what "Joey Skee", has been saying for at least 10 years??? 
    Is THAT why "Skee" chose Naison to review the Italic Institute Video, or even the lower motive of "dissing" a competitor? Then again, Prof. Naison's Jewish Guilt about his Parent's Racism toward Blacks (as noted in his own memoir "White Boy") might be causing him to become hysterical/ overcompensatory, rather than scholarly?   
    Having "Sciorra" a "Basket Weaving" pseudo-intellect as Editor, and "Johnny Meatballs" a "Wannabe Mafia/Guido" as a Blogger, and choosing other dubious contributors really undermines Calandra's credibility. It is a Travesty to the Italian American community that such a resource is being Squandered. 
     
    I have always admoired the Italic Institute, and it's long time scholarly and zealous defense of the Italian American, on niggardly resources, and always look forward to their far more informative and readable "The Italic Way" and their "Officers Log".  
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    An Open Response to the Editor of the Italian American Review
    26 September 2011
    Joseph Sciorra, Ph.D., Editor, Italian American Review                                     
    The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute
    Queens College, 23 West 43rd Street, Suite 1700
    New York, NY 10036
    Dear Dr. Sciorra:
     
    Regarding Volume 1, Number 2, Mr. Naison's review of our video, And They Came to Chicago. 
    Just for the record, this production was a joint venture by the Italic Institute and Modio Media, originally conceived by our president Bill Dal Cerro. It was shown on PBS in Chicagoland to a very warm reception. As with most, if not all, ethnic productions on PBS the tone was essentially positive. After all, local PBS stations around the country use such broadcasts to raise operating money from the target communities.  
     
    So, it struck us as odd that Mr. Naison would expect any ethnic group to present a contrary side of itself on public television. He spends two-thirds of his review asking that our community admit to surviving on government hand-outs, that we come clean on our relations with African Americans, and that we not 'sanitize' our history. Worse, he suggests we conform to Spike Lee's bigoted film versions of the Italian American experience.  
     
    When I googled Mark Naison, I found that he teaches African-American History at Fordham University in New York. Now the question is why was a New Yorker, who teaches African American history, asked to review a video about Chicago Italian Americans in an Italian American journal? Could it have something to do with your own focus on Italic racism? I'm reminded of your panel discussion at Queens College a few years ago, Are Italians White?, which was planned around that very theme. I objected to it then, you will recall. Are taxpayers sustaining such endeavors?
     
    If the racial taunt weren't enough, Prof. Naison's annoyance at the video's message that Italian Americans succeeded by dint of their sweat and sacrifice smacks of anti-Italic prejudice. Notwithstanding the flood tide of New Deal programs and unionism, which lifted many ethnic boats in the 1930s, who would deny that Italian Americans found more success in entrepreneurial pursuits such as restaurants, pizzerias, delis, green groceries, construction, barber shops, shoe repair and even trash hauling? And of course, Italic saving rates, low divorce rates, home ownership, parental sacrifice and economy are well known. Regrettably, Italian Americans never approached the level of success in tapping into government programs that Prof. Naison?s landsmen or African Americans achieved.
    Finally, I am disturbed that your associate editors, Anthony Tamburri and Fred Gardaphe (a native Chicagoan and participant in our video), acquiesced in allowing such a prejudiced review to go to press. It was a disservice to the honor and the sacrifices of our community.
     
    John Mancini, Executive Director
    The Italic Institute of America
    Website: Italic.org
    Tel: (516) 488-7400
     
    The ANNOTICO Reports Can be Viewed (With Archives) on:
    [Formerly Italy at St Louis] 

  • Op-Eds

    Whose Day Is It Anyway?

    “Whose Day Is It, Anyway?”

    The Poet Mulls over Some of the Choices
     
     
     

     

     
     
     
     

     

     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     
     
     
    Frank Capra of Happy Endings & Leftist Leanings Day!
    That’s one we could use.
     

     
     

    Il Giorno di Leslie Scalapino!
    Il Giorno di Ben Gazzara!
    Il Giorno di Sacco e Vanzetti!
     
    Il Giorno di Martino Scorsese.
    Il Giorno di Tomaso Centolella
    Tutti giorni sono giorni di Sacco e Vanzetti
     
    Is it your day, Rocky Graziano,
    idol of my teen years
    with your thick voice on the radio
    “It was a good fight
    I was in good condition
    Hello, Ma”
    (I got your autograph at a grocery store on Spring St)
     
    Madonna?
    Madonna Mia or as we used to say
    “Marron!”
     
    Back in the Day
    It was Connie Francis Day
     

     

    Then a few years later it was
    Julie Bovasso Day
    Julie doing “The Maids”
    in a tiny downtown theatre,
    turning gender & theatre around/1952
     
    Whose day is it anyway?
    Maybe we could rename it
    every year–
     
    Then maybe today would be
    Tony La Russa Day?
    Carpe Diem, Tony!
    You never know, you know?
     
    Jimmy Giuffre
    Whose Day is it?
    Alan Alda
    Joe Lovano

     

    Judy Canova Day
    Her loud voice on the big wooden radio
     

     

                “Good night, Mrs. Calabash
    (or whatever that name was he said
    week after week
    I never figured it out–)
    Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash
    wherever you are”
    And the grown-ups would turn off the radio
    and we’d go to bed
     

     

    O It’s Louis Prima Day, for sure!
    We gotta have one of those!
    Or wait
     
     
    Who knew it could be
    Frank Zappa Day
    Was he actually born on this planet?

     

    Aha! I’ve got it–
    Yogi Berra Day
    Yogi Berra Day
     
     
     
     
     

     

    You choose
     
  • The Death of Jimmy Roselli



    I ventured to Hoboken yesterday to pay my respects to singer Jimmy Roselli who died on June 30thHis funeral mass was held at St. Ann’s Church, which is preparing for its annual festa. Approximately 100 people were in attendance, including family and local residents.
     
     
    Roselli’s renditions of Neapolitan classics were the soundtrack of a generation of Italian Americans—especially in the northeast—whose lives existed between neighborhood-based, working-class immigrant parents and the consumer-based, Italy-centric “new” Italian-American ethnicity. His fans were familiar with and often knowledgeable of the cadences in turn-of-the century Campanian dialects that flourished here over the course of a century.
     



     

    He helped fortify the Neapolitan canon in the United States with his recordings of “Anema e Core,” “Torna a Surriento,” and “O’ Surdate Nnamurato,” and “Core ‘ngrato.” He was the voice of Neapolitan music for many; director Martin Scorsese understood this all too well when he used Malafemmena” in the soundtrack of his 1973 Mean Streets.
     
    I have to admit I wasn’t always fan. As a teenager, I ran from the over-the-top orchestrations and histrionic emoting that came to identify the Neapolitan sound of nightclub music. “Mama” didn’t bring me to tears and “‘A Tazza‘e Café” wasn’t my idea of dance music.
     



     

    Over time I have become more ecumenical musically and more appreciative of Roselli in particular. Out of the all the Italian-American singers of his generation he perhaps is alone in being able to sing in Neapolitan, enunciating properly the words in a heartfelt delivery. His use and control of vibrato is at the heart of the emotional impact his singing conveys. 
     
    Much has been written about Roselli, from a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal to a New Yorker feature (which both focused on the urban legend of Sinatra’s vindictiveness), to a book-length biography. And yet his passing has received scant attention beyond the New Jersey press. Almost a week after his death, neither The New York Times or the Italian-language daily America Oggi have run an obituary, and i-Italy.org has yet to post a single news item. 
     
    In 2002, director Paolo Santoni highlighted Roselli in his documentary Neapolitan Heart, a refreshing look at the transnational aspects of Neapolitan music. Any passione for Neapolitan music that ignores Jimmy Roselli’s music and legacy does so to its own detriment.

  • Events: Reports

    Benefit Concert for Calandra Institute, June 10th



    BENEFIT CONCERT

     
    Friday, June 10, 2011, 6 pm
     
    John D. Calandra Italian American Institute
    25 West 43rd Street, 17th floor
    between 5th and 6th Avenues
     
     
    Please join us for an exciting evening of performances to benefit the Calandra Institute and its journal Italian American Review. Enjoy music and spoken word as presented by world-renowned artists John Giorno, Vic Ruggiero, Penny Arcade, and John La Barbera. Wine and refreshments will be served. 
     
    The Calandra Institute is the only academic research institute in the country dedicated to the study of Italian-American history and culture. In the past five years, we have introduced ever more engaging scholarly and cultural programming for your appreciation. The more recent additions to our unique offerings include the newly relaunched journal Italian American Review, an annual three-day, international conference, the webcasts of Italics 2.0 and Nota Bene, and the upcoming exhibition “Migrating Towers: The Gigli of Nola and Beyond.”
     
    We have been able to do this and much more, providing it all free to you, the Calandra Institute's friends and colleagues.  
     
    Tickets: $35 at the door or in advance.  Cash or check made payable to "Friends of the Calandra Institute Foundation." (We do not accept credit cards.) If you are unable to attend the concert, the Calandra Institute is also accepting tax-deductible donations.
     
    Please RSVP by calling (212) 642-2094 or emailing [email protected] 
     
    We thank the performers who are volunteering their time and talents to benefit the Calandra Institute. The evening's program of innovative artists includes:
     
    John La Barbera, a guitarist and mandolinist, was a founding member of I Giullari di Piazza, a New York-based Italian folk music and performance troupe. He has composed the music for original "folk operas" such as The Voyage of the Black Madonna (1990). La Barbera has also written and performed the musical scores for such films as Children of Fate (1992) and Sacco and Vanzetti (2007). In 2009, he published the book Traditional Southern Italian Mandolin and Fiddle Tunes.
     
    John Giorno is an innovator of poetry and performance whose career spans fifty years and is intertwined with contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, William S. Burroughs, and Brion Gysin. His recent book Subduing Demons in America (2008) is a survey of his revolutionary work as a poet.  Giorno is fabled for his high-energy performances, honed at rock and art venues around the world.
     
    Penny Arcade (born Susanna Ventura) emerged in the 1980s as a primal force in the New York art scene and an originator of performance art. With high camp and street-smart, punk-rock cabaret showmanship, her work explores themes including women's sexuality, censorship, working class and immigrant identity. Bad Reputation, the first book by and about Penny Arcade, was published in 2009.  
     
    Vic Ruggiero is musician, songwriter and producer. In addition to releasing over a dozen solo albums, most recently Don't Feed The Cats In Iraq (2010), he is the lead singer for the celebrated New York City-based ska band The Slackers. His songs, delivered in his unmistakable Bronx accent, range from narrative ballads to poetic musings often inspired by the Beat poets and deal with themes such as political skepticism, love's tribulations, and redemption. 

  • Events: Reports

    Benefit Concert for Calandra Institute, June 10th



    BENEFIT CONCERT

     
    Friday, June 10, 2011, 6 pm
     
    John D. Calandra Italian American Institute
    25 West 43rd Street, 17th floor
    between 5th and 6th Avenues
     
     
    Please join us for an exciting evening of performances to benefit the Calandra Institute and its journal Italian American Review. Enjoy music and spoken word as presented by world-renowned artists John Giorno, Vic Ruggiero, Penny Arcade, and John La Barbera. Wine and refreshments will be served. 
     
    The Calandra Institute is the only academic research institute in the country dedicated to the study of Italian-American history and culture. In the past five years, we have introduced ever more engaging scholarly and cultural programming for your appreciation. The more recent additions to our unique offerings include the newly relaunched journal Italian American Review, an annual three-day, international conference, the webcasts of Italics 2.0 and Nota Bene, and the upcoming exhibition “Migrating Towers: The Gigli of Nola and Beyond.”
     
    We have been able to do this and much more, providing it all free to you, the Calandra Institute's friends and colleagues.  
     
    Tickets: $35 at the door or in advance.  Cash or check made payable to "Friends of the Calandra Institute Foundation." (We do not accept credit cards.) If you are unable to attend the concert, the Calandra Institute is also accepting tax-deductible donations.
     
    Please RSVP by calling (212) 642-2094 or emailing [email protected] 
     
    We thank the performers who are volunteering their time and talents to benefit the Calandra Institute. The evening's program of innovative artists includes:
     
    John La Barbera, a guitarist and mandolinist, was a founding member of I Giullari di Piazza, a New York-based Italian folk music and performance troupe. He has composed the music for original "folk operas" such as The Voyage of the Black Madonna (1990). La Barbera has also written and performed the musical scores for such films as Children of Fate (1992) and Sacco and Vanzetti (2007). In 2009, he published the book Traditional Southern Italian Mandolin and Fiddle Tunes.
     
    John Giorno is an innovator of poetry and performance whose career spans fifty years and is intertwined with contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, William S. Burroughs, and Brion Gysin. His recent book Subduing Demons in America (2008) is a survey of his revolutionary work as a poet.  Giorno is fabled for his high-energy performances, honed at rock and art venues around the world.
     
    Penny Arcade (born Susanna Ventura) emerged in the 1980s as a primal force in the New York art scene and an originator of performance art. With high camp and street-smart, punk-rock cabaret showmanship, her work explores themes including women's sexuality, censorship, working class and immigrant identity. Bad Reputation, the first book by and about Penny Arcade, was published in 2009.  
     
    Vic Ruggiero is musician, songwriter and producer. In addition to releasing over a dozen solo albums, most recently Don't Feed The Cats In Iraq (2010), he is the lead singer for the celebrated New York City-based ska band The Slackers. His songs, delivered in his unmistakable Bronx accent, range from narrative ballads to poetic musings often inspired by the Beat poets and deal with themes such as political skepticism, love's tribulations, and redemption. 

  • Events: Reports

    Talking Folklore



    This year, Fordham University Press published the anthology Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives. The book, which I edited as part of the new series "Critical Studies in Italian America," explores local knowledge and aesthetic practices, often marked as “folklore,” as sources for creativity and meaning in Italian-American lives. Sunday dinners, basement kitchens, backyard gardens, accordion music, Sicilian oral poetry, a Columbus Day parade, and neo-stregheria (witchcraft) are some of the dynamic, hybrid cultural forms discussed in the book.
     
    As the contributors demonstrate, folklore provides occasions for observing and interpreting behaviors and objects as part of lived experiences. Its study provides new ways of understanding how individuals and groups reproduce and contest identities and ideologies through expressive means. Italian Americans abandon, reproduce, and/or revive various cultural elements in relationship to ever-shifting political, economic, and social conditions. By taking a closer look and an ethnographic approach to expressive behavior, we see that Italian-American identity is far from being a linear path of assimilation from Italian immigrant to American of Italian descent but is instead fraught with conflict, negotiation, and creative solutions.
     
    Select images and excerpts from the introduction and the eleven chapters can be found on the book’s Facebook page. You can search and purchase the book online at amazon.com.
     
    As the editor and contributor, I will be presenting the Italian Folk in venues throughout the New York metropolitan area. Follow the links below for additional information about the respective presentations:
     
    May 18th: Morgagni Medical Society (members only) at the Tiro A Segno Club, Manhattan
    June 11th: Italian American Writers Association at the Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia Street), Manhattan, along with poet Michael Cirelli (Everyone Loves the Situation)
    June 14th: Casa Belvedere (79 Howard Avenue), Staten Island, along with author Joanna Clapps Herman (The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America)
    September 15th:The Old Stone House (336 3rd Street), Brooklyn, along with Nancy Carnevale (A New Language, A New World: Italian Immigrants in the United States, 1890-1945), Jennifer Guglielmo (Living the Revolution: Italian Women's Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945), and Joanna Clapps Herman (The Anarchist Bastard)
    September 29th: Columbian Lawyers' Association of Nassau County (members only) at the Westbury Manor, Westbury, Long Island
    December 6th: The Gotham Center for New York City History, CUNY Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avemue), Manhattan.


  • Events: Reports

    The Italian-American Political & Moral Bocce Club of Paradise's Inaugural Annual Spring Fling Dinner Dance, Gala, and Reception



    The Italian-American Political & Moral Bocce Club of Paradise*
    cordially invites you to its 
     
    Inaugural Annual Spring Fling Dinner Dance, Gala, and Reception**
      
    Friday, April 8, 2011, 6:00pm
     
    Union Hall
    702 Union Street

    Brooklyn, New York 11215
    (right off the corner of 5th Avenue)
     
    ***bocce court on the premises***
     
    Spring is in the air, and it’s time to move from the indoor court to the outdoor court! We have a lot of work ahead of us: sweeping and leveling the court, watering, packing, and smoothing the clay, refurbishing the sideboards and backboards, upgrading the rubber bumper, refreshening the tricolor score board, recalibrating the Bocce Cup MeasurerTM, and polishing the pallino so that we are in keeping with the Bocce Standards Association best practices for bocce courts.
     
    Please join us as we celebrate with our Mondo Bambini youth league, the Macaroni Rascals, who have been training diligently under the dutiful eye of our very own Dr. Mary Plaza, D.M.V. We are proud to open the FESTA with an exhibition match and are proud to see our youth, the next generation, carrying AVANTI our bocce culture and heritage.
     
     
    We are honored to honor IAP&MBCofP member Alvara Gigiriva who went on to World Renown, clinching both the Northeast Tri-State Inter-League Bocce Championship and the Super-Frustalupi Gran Premio (IBCA), and who, but for a mere 0.5 centimeters, failed to win the renowned Champion of Champions League “Pallino D’Oro” of the Americas Cup. Mrs. Gigiriva is now a retired periodontist residing in Darien, CT.
     
     
    Alvara Gigiriva, Villa Roma, Catskill, NY 1965

     
    In addition, we will be presenting the 2011 IAP&MBCofP Honorees Award to Vin, a longtime member, and supporting him in his relentless work to achieve his goals, which requires many hours of dedication, fueled only by Vin’s passion to fulfill a childhood dream, a dream that was realized as a young boy from the first time, when he was able to envision himself as someday being a success, from that day on, a slowly burning desire has been instilled in Vin, although he started his career much later in life, it is now evident that his childhood dream must become a reality. We would like you to join us by coming out and showing your support and appreciation for Vin and his undying efforts.
     
     

    Vin, Pursuing the Dream

    Passaic Valley Regional High School, 1985

     
    The IAP&MBCofP will give its coveted William Cimillo Menefreghista Carpe Diem Award to the first ten people who show up. 
     
    Exclusive Film Premiere

    BACI BOCCE!!!:
    How a Humble Game from Italian Mountain Villages, Coastal Towns, and Urban Borghi Traveled the Globe to Capture the Hearts and Minds of Just about Everybody



    Director Guido Anselmi, recipient of the IAP&MBCofP’s Gerardo L. Colonna and Catherine C. Balotta Grant, will be joined by Professor Vanessa Longo-Murphy of Montclair State University, who served as the film’s academic consultant, for a post-screening discussion
     
    The Italian-American Political & Moral Bocce Club of Paradise is dedicated to the political and moral benefits of Italian-American bocce. Established in September 2009, the IAP&MBCofP has 160 Facebook members.  Its mission is to celebrate the diversity of the nation's estimated 26 million people of Italian descent, their family members and friends, and the larger Italian diaspora world wide, and their family members and friends (but not Italians vacationing in Brazil, Thailand, or the Dominican Republic).
     
    Anthems and Entertainment by mezzo-soprano Bianco Castafiore, the "Milanese Nightingale," singing the aria BOCCE E BARBERA” and, from Porgy and Bess, BOCCE BOOGIE.”
     
    Space is limited! Reserve your ticket today!
    Age 3 and a half  & Under FREE!
    Senior discount!
     
    Remember the Italian-American Political & Moral Bocce Club of Paradise’s motto:
    Se ‘ng n’amma sci, sciam’nninn, se non ‘ng n’amma sci, non ‘ng’n sciam scenn.
     
     
     
    Organizing Committee:
     
    President: Cav. Rust. Enrico Conti, J.C.D., Mech.E.
    Vice-President: Veronica M. Sciuè, D.S.S.c., D.M.V.
    Secretary: KaNèesha Leilani al-Jamil-O’Neil née Yamaguchi, Esq.
    Treasurer: Chickie Santo Janni di Gianola
    President, Men’s Auxiliary: Filomena Dobbins
    Mondo Bambini Bocce League: Dr. Mary Plaza, D.M.V.
    Honorary Academic Consultant: Professor Vanessa Longo-Murphy (Montclair State University)
     
    For more information please contact: [email protected].
     
    *Not affiliated with the Italian-American Political & Moral Bocce Club of Paradise of Philadelphia.
     
    **Please indicate your choice of primo (Fettuccine alla crema di gamberetti e brandy or ravioli quasi tutto), secondo (chicken cutlet scarpariello or bass in padella con pomodorini), contorno (crocchette di patate e speck or melanzane al Posillipo) and dolce (bocceball tartufo or zuppa inglese all’ungherese). No vegetarian options available.

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