Italian American culture and history under attack

BY JOHN A. FRATTA  |  Is it me or is there something wrong? For me it all began on Sept. 19, but I know it has been going on for many years. On Sept. 19 and 20, the New York Daily News ran an attack piece on the Feast of San Gennaro. The article made it look as if there was something going on with the feast’s funds, but, of course, it was not true.

Well, let me rephrase that. The article was not accurate and the reporter, Gregg Smith, lacked journalistic integrity. His numbers were right on how much money was taken in by Figli di San Gennaro and even how much was given to charity.

However, and this is where he lacks journalistic integrity, he omitted facts he knew — because I told him — about what our expenses were. He listed in the article that we gave 5 percent to charity, when if fact, we gave over 80 percent of our profit to charity.

To add insult to injury, the next day he wrote an article headlined, “EXCLUSIVE: Feast of San Gennaro lights done by mobsters despite claims of being Mafia-free, records show about an electrical company that was charged with a crime.” But what he failed to mention was that Figli di San Gennaro let this company go after it was charged with this crime — eight years earlier. The current company, like every other vendor in our feast, is vetted by the New York City Department of Investigation, and only then can we enter into a contract with them. Smith knew this also but choose not to mention it.

Now, on to the next attack. October began our Italian Heritage and Culture Month and Columbus Day. The city of Seattle, through its City Council, passed a bill to do away with Columbus Day and rename it Indigenous Peoples Day. Minneapolis did the same thing. The one day in the calendar year that we have to promote our culture and heritage has been under attack.

The rewriters of history have charged that Columbus was a vicious man who slaughtered the Indians. I was not there in 1492 and neither were any of you. So all we have to go on is the word of those that choose to change history and make good bad and bad good. Now, had they changed the name of the day to Italian American Heritage Day it would not have been that bad.

Now, let’s have a chat about those indigenous people that are so upset with Columbus. First and foremost, Columbus never set foot in North America. The new land (to him) that he found was in the Caribbean. So those that are making this charge that he did this to their ancestors are full of it, unless they lived in the Caribbean.

Now, if Columbus did what they accuse him of doing, it is a disgusting act. But let’s remember scalping, which was a brutal act perpetrated by indigenous peoples — or are history’s rewriters going to remove that from our history? So, sure, let’s honor them and not Columbus.

Now to the next attack… . Luigi Del Bianco was the chief carver of Mount Rushmore. Del Bianco was a very talented artist who came to America to live the American Dream. His job was carving the refinement of expression in the faces of the four presidents. The documentation exists and his family is trying to get the National Park Service to give Del Bianco the recognition he deserves. The National Park Service has refused. This man worked tirelessly on this project and never received the credit due him. Kind of sounds like Antonio Meucci, the true inventor of the telephone.

And now to the next attack… . Two Italians are running for Congress in Staten Island. A show host, Chuck Todd, said on the air that this race is a battle of two warring mob families. This time, after pressure, he apologized, both in e-mail responses and then on the air. However, the bigoted Daily News compared Governor Christie to Tony Soprano, as it has done in the past. Now, whether you like Christie or not, this is an attempt to hurt his chances to run for president. They have not apologized yet.

Only Italian Americans suffer these attacks. It remains open season on us because we allow it.

Fratta is a member of the board of directors of the Feast of San Gennaro, the annual 11-day festival in September along Little Italy’s Mulberry St. His great-grandfather founded the festival 88 years ago with a group of immigrants from Naples.

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