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New York's Italian Heritage and Culture Month will be celebrating its thirty-seventh anniversary this year. This year's theme is 2013 Year of Italian Culture in the United States. It will highlight Italian research, discovery, innovation and culture throughout the United States. The Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, Inc. (IHCC-NY, Inc.) has provided more than three and one half decades of special events, concerts, exhibits, lectures, and proclamations to celebrate and to better inform New York, the largest Italian city outside Italy, and other geographic areas throughout the United States and the world, of the important legacy of Italian and Italian American culture.
It is important to recognize from a historical perspective that in the spring of 1976, NYC Mayor Abraham Beame, proclaimed the first "Italian Culture Week," from May 17 to 23. The idea for such progress was proposed to Dr. Leo Bernardo, Director of the Bureau of Foreign Languages, who was easily persuaded of the value and importance of this project. Dr. Bernardo appointed Dr. Gimondo as citywide coordinator, resulting in the first celebration of Italian Culture Week under the auspices of the Bureau of Foreign Languages of the Board of Education of the City of New York. Nine years later, in 1985, the festivities moved to October, to coincide with various Columbus Day celebrations. By then, a week had become too short to encompass the range of programs so the week was transformed to "Italian Heritage and Culture Month." As the years passed, the Governor of the State of New York and the President of the United States joined in acknowledging this significant annual celebration in issuing proclamations in recognition of the heritage and culture of Italians and Italian Americans.
This pioneering month long celebration grew out of an idea from Dr. Angelo Gimondo, then President of the Italian Bilingual Educators Association and Superintendent of School District 30 in the Borough of Queens, NYC. Dr. Gimondo, honored by the Italian Government on several occasions including that of Gran. Uff. in the Order of the Star of Solidarity, was the head of the IHCC's group of volunteers who annually coordinated the celebration of Italian heritage and culture in the five boroughs of New York. Dr. Gimondo located like minded enthusiasm in Rosamaria Riccio Pietanza, then President of the Italian Teachers Association. Together they gathered numbers of educators and administrators with an interest in language and culture, many of whom continue to be presently involved with the IHCC-NY, Inc.
Soon, after inception, the idea to dedicate each year's event to a specific theme or personality representative of the history and culture of Italy and Italian Americans was conceived. Dr. Gimondo left as founder and president of the IHCC-NY, Inc. in December 2006, after 30 years of outstanding leadership and leaving an important legacy that continues today. He continues to serve on the Board as a prime collaborator and advisor.
Commencing in January 2007, Cav. Uff. Joseph Sciame, Vice-President for Community Relations at St. John's University, a past president of the national Order Sons of Italy in America, and a IHCC-NY, Inc. Board member since its founding, was elected President/Chair of the Board of Directors. Under his leadership the Board of Directors of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, Inc. continues to be composed of eminent representatives of New York's Italian and Italian American community. Each year the Board of Directors selects a new theme and then proceeds to create a theme poster and publish a Calendar of Events. The role of the Board of Directors continues to promote, coordinate, and manage the month long celebration. The themes are herein included for review and historical importance, and represent many individuals, concepts and events that have memorialized the Italian and Italian American movement.
In addition to its work on heritage and culture, as well as the annual award ceremonies for the DaVinci Award, conferred upon distinguished Italian and Italian American personages, the IHCC-NY, Inc. has sponsored a concert in Washington Square Park in honor of the 100 year birth of Giuseppe Garibaldi; sponsored a special anniversary gathering on the occasion of the 200th Birthday of Antonio Meucci, the true discoverer of the telephone; a special international art exhibit from Palermo, Sicily by Rosa Ponte Fucarino; partnered with the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America in the 500th Anniversary Celebration of Andrea Palladio; supported the efforts of the Italian and Italian American community in advancing the cause of the Advanced Placement in Italian at high schools in the USA; saluted the lifetime achievements of the late Rocco Caporale, Ph.D. and former Board Member; hosted a special tribute to international playwright Dott. Cav. Mario Fratti for his recognition of the play and movie "Nine;" and participated in annual flag raising ceremonies at Bowling Green, a site of the arrival of the first Italian, Pietro Cesare Alberti, to the New York shores. Commencing in 2010, the October flag raising has been held at the "Mother Italy" statue at Hunter College, NYC, followed by a traditional luncheon to celebrate Italian Heritage and Culture Month with the IHCC's Board of Directors. Most recently, the IHCC-NY, Inc. can be credited with advocating and successfully being a leader in the quest to obtain an official U.S. Congressional Resolution for the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy.
The IHCC-NY, Inc.'s role with the Office of the Consulate General, now led by Minister Natalia Quintavalle, as well as with the American Association of Teachers of Italian (AATI) and the Italian American Committee on Education (IACE), has been strengthened over the years in order to work in more collaborative ways so as to achieve common goals in education, heritage, culture, language, diplomatic respect and a better understanding of the "Italianita" that is so very important to the legacy left to Italian Americans by their families all. In fact, for most of the years of various activities it has been the Consuls General of Italy who have each fully supported the efforts of the IHCC-NY, Inc. as well as the Director of Istituto Italiano di Cultura di New York, now under the leadership of Dott. Riccardo Viale.
Today, owing to the work of the IHCC-NY, Inc., a multitude of programs and events are organized by cultural associations, community centers, libraries, schools, and university departments of Italian in the Greater New York metropolitan area to proudly celebrate October's Italian Heritage and Culture Month. Moreover, other states such as Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., Wisconsin, and several others, have worked to follow the lead of the IHCC-NY, Inc. and enhanced their activities in their respective states for the month of October.
For the year 2012, the Board of Directors, joining with the theme in Italy, determined that it be appropriate in its role to recognize Italians and Italian Americans, by celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the life of Amerigo Vespucci 1454-1512, a man whose discoveries of new lands, sense of entrepreneurship and enthusiasm led to America being named after him in subsequent years.
In the spirit of Vespucci, 2012's IHCC's theme is "The Legacy of Italians in the Americas," and to that end, all discoveries by Italians and Italian Americans can be saluteed and hailed in special ways. Indeed, the legacy lives on!
ITALIAN HERITAGE & CULTURE COMMITTEE – NY, INC.
MISSION AND VISION STATEMENTS
The mission of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee, New York, Inc. (IHCC-NY, Inc.) is to:
• Raise public awareness of Italian heritage and culture;
• Coordinate sponsorship of programs that celebrate Italian heritage and culture;
• Sponsor the Italian Heritage and Culture Month activities annually;
• Promote the study of Italian language and culture among all ethnic groups;
• Engender pride in Italian-Americans about their own heritage; and
• Encourage positive portrayals of Italian-Americans in the media and with the general public.
The Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, Inc. will conduct, sponsor or participate in activities throughout the year, with special efforts focused on the celebration of Italian Heritage and Culture Month.
The vision of the IHCC-NY, Inc. is to be a dynamic organization in the Italian-American community that will collaborate on and foster an appreciation of Italian and Italian American contributions to the world.
The IHCC-NY, Inc. will:
• Solicit funds to carry out its mission and fulfill its vision;
• Network with Italian and Italian American resources to gain active individual and group participation;
• Assist in promoting Italian heritage, culture, and language; and
• Provide quality materials to educational, cultural groups and other entities.
The IHCC-NY, Inc. will encourage and/or sponsor programs at schools, colleges, civic entities, ethnic and other organizations so as to promote Italian heritage, culture and language; and achieve greater positive recognition for the contributions of Italians and Americans of Italian descent to our society.
Below is a chronological listing representing the array of themes employed throughout the last three decades:
2012-Amerigo to America
Amerigo Vespucci 1454-1512
The Legacy of Italians in the Americas
2011-150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy
2010 - Maria Montessori:
An Internationally Renowned Educator and Physician
2009 - Galileo Galilei - Father of Modern Astronomy
- Giuseppe Petrosino - Italian American Crime Fighter 1860-1909
2008 - Andrea Palladio - Architect for the Ages 1508-1580
- Antonio Meucci - The True Inventor of the Telephone 1808-2008
2007 - Giuseppe Garibaldi - Eroe dei Due Mondi/Hero of Two Worlds 1807-2007
2006 - Celebrating the Italian Genius The Leonardo DaVinci Legacy
2005 - Giuseppe Mazzini- the Political Idealist of the Italian Struggle for Independence
2004 - Amerigo Vespucci
2003 - Focus on Italian Opera
2002 - Constantino Brumidi - Artist of the United States Capitol
2001 - Giuseppe Verdi: A Tribute to Italy¹s Patriotic Composer
2000 - Italy in the Year 2000: Italian Heritage and Cultural Roots at the Threshold of the New Millennium
1999 The Italians of New York: Five Centuries of Struggle and Achievement
1998 New York City at 100: Italian Americans Commemorate the Immigrant Experience (Patria e famiglia)
1997 The Voyages of Giovanni Caboto: 500th Anniversary
1996 Italy and its Regions (L¹Italia delle Regioni)
1995 Guglielmo Marconi: Centennial of the Radio
1994 Italian Americans in Law: From Beccaria to Scalia
1993 The Legacy of Italy¹s Artistic and Cultural Contributions to the World
1992 Cristoforo Colombo 500th Anniversary: The Legacy Lives on
1991 Italian Americans: The Legacy of Cristoforo Colombo
1990 William Paca: Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Jurist, 3 times Governor of the State of Maryland
1989 Italians Reaching Out: Antonio Meucci, Inventor of the Telephone, and Mother Cabrini, Missionary of the Immigrants
1988 Lorenzo Da Ponte/Academia
1987 Year of the U.S. Constitution: Mazzei and the Italian Contribution
1986 Year of Lady Liberty
1985 Building America
1984 Year of the Etruscans
1983 Italian Culture Week
1982 Italian Culture Week
1981 Italian Festival of the Arts
1980 Italian Culture Week
1979 Italian Culture Week
1978 Italian Week, Board of Education of New York
1977 Italian Culture Week
1976 Italian Culture Week