Queens, NYC (January 26) – Yesterday was a milestone in more ways than one. Domenic G. Giampino, a Sicilian-American activist based here in Queens, had previously begun teaching an introductory course in the Sicilian language (probably the first of its kind in the United States). Monday, January 25 was the day his students received their certificates for successful completion of the course. Yesterday was also the first time yours truly decided to go out and “push the flesh” (i.e. get off my rear end and actually meet people) since making the commitment a few months back to take a proactive approach in helping to disseminate and perpetuate the culture and history of my people.
Both of these milestones occurred at the same location: Italian Charities of America, 83-20 Queens Blvd. Elmhurst, Queens. I am grateful to Domenic for informing me of this event, and for introducing this neophyte to some wonderful people. I am also grateful to the folks at Italian Charities of America for maintaining an island for the cultures of the peoples of Italy in the veritable ocean of cultures and peoples that is the City of New York.
The evening started off with an important talk by Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, the Founder and President of the Italian-American Museum in Manhattan (the only museum of its kind in the country!). Dr. Scelsa gave those in attendance a brief history on the activities of the museum, as well as its plans for the future. He also updated us on the movement to drive the racist, anti-Southern Italian effluvium known as Jersey Shore from the airwaves.
Sadly, the news at this time is not good. Dr. Scelsa informed us the show is so popular that for every sponsor we scare off, another is waiting in the wings to take its place. It appears H.L. Mencken was correct when he wrote: “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” Rather than discourage me, however, this only solidifies my resolve to run that show off the air!
Immediately following Dr. Scelsa’s talk, Domenic invited his students up to receive their certificates of completion. It was noteworthy that three of the seven students were obviously in their early 20s. A hopeful sign for the future, perhaps?
Afterwards, the folks at Italian Charities held a raffle while delicious finger food was served. It was during this time I mingled and got to know some of the others in attendance, including Vincent Titone, an operatic tenor, and Sotiris VanVakys, a blogger who maintains an impressive five blogs devoted to Sicilian culture.
Needless to say, I should have done this years ago! Rather than cry about what should have been, though, it’s time for me to get busy. This foray into ethno-cultural issues is as much a learning experience for me as it is a teaching one. The more I spoke with those in attendance last night the more I realized how much I still needed to learn, starting with my own people’s language!
By Niccoló Graffio
(Left) Domenic Giampino awards certificate of completion to student Rose Ann Pusateri-Rowe. (Right) Domenic Giampino posing with "the flag”.