In October 2020, in the wake of a boiling anti-Columbus movement, ISDA President Basil M. Russo was unanimously elected by his peers to lead the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations. 

Within a matter of weeks, COPOMIAO became an incubator of advocacy and activism focused on addressing longstanding issues that were undermining and erasing Italian American history. 

Seemingly overnight, COPOMIAO launched coast-to-coast virtual summit meetings, established national committees, and sought to coordinate the efforts of all Italian American organizations. 

“For far too long our ancestors’ story has been targeted by radical public officials, agitators, and attention seeking reformists for their own misguided social and political gain,” said Russo. “It’s the Italian American way to be self reliant and not to play the ‘victim card’, but first and foremost we are about giving — and getting — respect. Our people aren’t toppling statues or discriminating against other groups, and thus, we used Columbus as a rallying cry that once and for all brought millions of Italian Americans together. Our work has flourished into a broad set of initiatives that pour resources and ingenuity into education, businesses, institutions, youth engagement, and diplomacy.” 

With the goal of fostering a new era of collaboration that would strengthen cultural relations, promote new trade, and bolster advocacy on issues of mutual concern between the Italian American community and the Italian government, COPOMIAO forged a new diplomatic partnership with Italy’s Ambassador to the U.S., Mariangela Zappia, at a special meeting held in Washington, D.C. on December 3, 2021. 

“The Embassy and Italian institutions on both sides of the Atlantic greatly appreciate all that you do, each day, to promote our language, culture and traditions — in short, our heritage — in this exceptional country,” noted the Ambassador in welcoming Russo and the COPOMIAO delegation. “The entire diplomatic network in the U.S. is proud to work with you, side-by-side, to continue enhancing and promoting our beautiful Italy.” 

Through the bold initiatives of both national and international collaboration undertaken in 2021, we as Italian Americans began a new chapter which will allow us to uphold our culture and form new and unexpected alliances that seek to benefit those both inside and outside of our heritage. 

2022 Will be a Year of Continued Success: 

Our ongoing work for 2022 includes: 

*Creating an Italian American Youth Summit Meeting that brings up-and-coming leaders and visionaries into the fold. 

*Working to create public education lesson plans that promote the Italian language and Italian American history. 

*Fostering Italian American museum exchange programs that will allow us to highlight our community’s contributions to our country. 

*Coordinating lawsuits to protect Columbus statues in Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Syracuse, led by nationally recognized attorney George Bochetto. 

*Initiating discussions with Indigenous Peoples’ groups to spark inter-cultural understanding and collaboration. 

Our successes have only been achieved because of our willingness to join hands and speak with a united voice at the national level. 

You and your organization can become part of this historic movement to embrace and preserve our storied heritage. 

Photo caption—

Kneeling Left: Charles Marsala, President of the American Italian Federation of the Southeast

Kneeling Right: George Bochetto, Bochetto/Lentz Law Firm

Sitting Row Left to right:
Berardo Paradiso, President of the Italian American Committee on Education; Anthony Ficarri, National Commandere for the Italian American War Veterans of the United States; Cav. Dr. Gilda Rorro, NJ Italian Heritage Commission; Marianna Gatto, Executive Director for the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles; Basil M. Russo, President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations; Rosemary De Luca, Secretary for the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations; Gina Biancardi, President of the Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere; Dr. Frank N. DeFrank, Immediate Past National President for UNICO National; Dr. Daniel L. Stabile, National President for the National Council for the Promotion of the Italian Language in American Schools, Inc. and Professor Santi Buscemi, Italian American Legal Defense Fund, Inc.

2nd Row Standing Left to Right:
Robert DiBiase, Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission; Gabriele Delmonaco, President for A Chance In Life (Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy); Andre DiMino, Communications Director for Italian American One Voice Coalition; Dr. Joseph Scelsa, President of the Italian American Museum; Pietro Segalini, Senior Vice President for the National Council of Columbia Associations; Richard A. DiLiberto, Jr., Chairman of the Delaware Commission on Italian Heritage and Culture; Joseph Sciame, President of the Sons of Italy Foundation; Kathleen Strozza, Trustee for the UNICO Foundation; Patricia Santangelo, President, Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of the Bronx and Westchester; Joseph Rosalina, Vice President for the Italian Sons and Daughters of America; Mary Ann Re, DC Liaison and Ron Onesti, President for the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans

Back Row Left to Right:
Patrick O’Boyle, American Delegation of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George; John Viola, National Columbus Education Foundation; Dom Amara, Chair for the Italian American Alliance; Truby Chiaviello, Publisher for PRIMO Magazine; Thomas Damigella, Italian American Alliance; Francis M. Donnarumma, President for the National Italian American Bar Association; Robert Ferrito, President for OSDIA Commission for Social Justice; James Rosapepe, Vice Chairman for the Italian American Democratic Leadership Council and Frank Maselli, Chair of the American Italian Renaissance Foundation

Not pictured: Stephanie Longo, Associate Producer for the Italian American Podcast