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Multimedia Presentation Event!

Join us Saturday, Dec. 7th, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. for a presentation and open discussion highlighting two iconic martyrs of McCarthyism: Paul Robeson, and Vito Marcantonio. 

Location is: Penn South
343 8TH AVE (cross street 27th St.)
Building 8A Community Room
New York, NY 10001

Admission is free and light refreshments will be served.
Please spread the word!

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Gale Brewer Honored by the Vito Marcantonio Forum

To date, the VMF has presented the Vito Marcantonio Award to five outstanding progressives who have fought for human justice and equality.*

Since her teenage years, Gale A. Brewer has been active in the struggle against reaction and for progress. As Manhattan Borough President since 2014, she has continued to provide leadership for the progressive community.

The VMF proudly presented the Vito Marcantonio Award to Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer in a ceremony in New York City’s West Village on June 23rd 2019.

Please enjoy the YouTube video of our dramatic and entertaining awards ceremony:

The VMF invites you to attend our upcoming event, Paul Robeson & Vito Marcantonio: Martyrs of McCarthyism on Saturday, December 7th at 5:30PM. Address: Penn South | 343 8TH AVENUE, (Building 8A Community Room) | New York, NY 10001.

* Gale Brewer is the fifth recipient of the Vito Marcantonio Award. The previous four are Annette T. Rubinstein, Ralph Fasanella, Pete Pascale, and Melissa Mark-Viverito.

In solidarity,


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VMF Screening Event — SAT, NOV. 2nd, 2PM

You are invited to join The Vito Marcantonio Forum’s screening of Pane Amaro (Bitter Bread): A People’s History of the Italian-American Experience.

Pane Amaro (Bitter Bread)

WHAT: Screening of Pane Amaro (Bitter Bread) The Italian American Journey from despised immigrants to honored citizens. An open discussion will follow the screening of the documentary.
WHEN: Sat., November 2nd, 2019 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
WHERE: Community Room at the Mulberry Street Public Library:
10 Jersey St. (between Lafayette and Mulberry Streets) New York, NY 10012
Free Admission / Light Refreshments served

About the film:
Pane Amaro has been called the first comprehensive depiction of the early Italian immigrant experience on the East Coast of the United States. This feature-length documentary tracks the social, economic, and political transformation of Italians from immigrant victims of violence and prejudice to prominent members of American society.

About the filmmakers:
Gianfranco Norelli has produced & directed a wide range of award-winning documentaries focused on social and cultural issues. Pane Amaro is the product of a partnership with Suma Kurien, who co-wrote and co-produced the film.

Upcoming Vito Marcantonio Forum Event

On Saturday, December 7th 2019 at 5:30pm, the VMF is proud to host a multimedia presentation co-sponsored by LEAPS/Chelsea Rising (Limited Equity and Affordability at Penn South:

Paul Robeson and Vito Marcantonio: Martyrs of McCarthyism

Penn South
343 8th Avenue (Building 8A Community Room)
New York, NY 10001

Free Admission

Vito Marcantonio at right with W.E.B Du Bois at center and Paul Robeson on the left
Vito Marcantonio at right with W. E. B. Du Bois at center and Paul Robeson on the left
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From Old Neighborhood to Old Country: Vito Marcantonio Goes Transnational

By Roberto Ragone

The Vito Marcantonio Forum (VMF) achieved transnational status—a step towards transcendence—for the Italian-American politician known as the People’s Congressman, prego to an invitation to participate in “European Capital for One Day – Picerno: Capital of Human Rights” (“Capitale Europea per un Giorno – Picerno: Capitale dei Diritti”), a conference that took place from April 9 to 11, 2019, in his Italian ancestral home. Picerno is where Vito Marcantonio’s mother, Angelina Dedobitis, was born as were the parents of his American-born father, Saverio Marcantonio.

The Vito Marcantonio Forum was founded on October 3, 2011. Over the ensuing eight years, its goals have been steadily accomplished. Among these successes was the naming, on December 2017, of the northeast corner of the intersection of East 116th Street and Lexington Avenue, “The Vito Marcantonio Lucky Corner.” At this site Fiorello LaGuardia—when he served five terms in Congress for East Harlem from 1922 to 1932 before serving as the greatest mayor in the history of New York City from 1933 to 1945. Congressman Vito Marcantonio, and the candidates endorsed by Marcantonio gave campaign speeches on Election Eve. Both LaGuardia and Marcantonio believed that the ritual of giving campaign speeches the night before Election Day at that location brought them good luck.

The naming of the Vito Marcantonio Lucky Corner represents acknowledgment of the Congressman, his political heritage, and his historical importance in the public sector. This is a symbolically significant act that helped to reverse the historical obliteration of his name and contributions after he died during the anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950s. 

News of that “Lucky Corner” achievement reached the Marcantonio family’s hometown of Picerno, in Basilicata in Southern Italy, that triggered a series of communications that concluded with the aforementioned invitation.

From left to right: Frank Marcantonio, Gale Brewer, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Christopher Bell, LuLu LoLo Pascale, Gerald Meyer, Gloria Quinoñes, and Roberto Ragone.

The government of Picerno, led by Mayor Giovanni Lettieri and Deputy Mayor Giusy Marisco, obtained funding from the Matera Foundation for a three-day conference featuring academic and artistic presentations about the life and times of Vito Marcantonio. The Conference’s related themes, which were rooted in Italian culture and history, showed the Congressman’s continued relevance to the United States and Italy. Matera, also located in Basilicata, had been selected in 2019 as the European City of Culture in celebration of its historical landmarks and archaeological ruins. in light of this decision , the foundation provided opportunities for local towns within the region, like Picerno, to apply for cultural and historical project funds.

The participation of VMF’s honored member Gary Bono and its co-chair Roberto Ragone was written into the budget.

Some months before plans for Picerno’s conference were finalized, Ragone had performed his one-man show—The Purgatory Trial of Vito Marcantonio—to a sold-out house in New York City. His play garnered significant attention through several online publications of the show’s review. 

The conference included a presentation about a book entitled, Etica del Dialogo (The Ethics of Dialogue) by a local author, Gennaro Curcio, which was followed by panelists’ commentary, including Carmine Curcio and Renato Cantore, who was among the first in Picerno to establish contact with the VMF.

The book presentation was held in a historic building where Picerno’s Municipality Council Meetings have taken place, but has now been modernized, for use as a major public venue. 

Saverio Romeo, a Picerno-raised, London-based technology consultant (who coincidentally bears the same first name as Marcantonio’s father) gave Bono and Ragone a tour of that same historic building. This occurred during the book presentation. This historical building includes a cinema library, a display of folk artifacts, including traditional dress from the different towns of Basilicata, and gallery space exhibiting art in the impressionist style by a local artist, Giuseppe Faraone.

Romeo interpreted the various presentations and served as tour guide to organizations, exhibits, and landmarks in the area, including a historic monastery overlooking Picerno.  

Bono and Ragone encountered townspeople who knew that Marcantonio’s intellectual mentor, Dr. Leonard Covello, also from the Potenza area of Basilicata, came from Avigliano, a town south of Picerno.

One woman informed Ragone, “Vito Marcantonio e il mio bisnonno (great grandfather).” 

Older signage for street named Vito Marcantonio; prior to the ceremony with new signage .

Romeo also introduced Bono and Ragone to the Associazione Insieme Onlus (Together Nonprofit Organization), administered by Maria Elena Bencivenga, which helps people with physical and mental disabilities. This organization has curated an exhibit explaining important areas of Picerno’s post-World War II history, including the structure of the Italian constitution, the political martyrs who fought against the Mafia in Italy during the same epoch, and the campaign they fostered against organized crime. 

Romeo also brought Bono and Ragone to a technical high school, Albert Einstein Technical Institute for Electronics and Telecommunications, administered by Domenico Gravante, and housed in a building constructed with funding from the United States after the devastating earthquake of 1980. 

Bono and Ragone took part in a presentation organized by a teacher at the Institute, Dorina Ripullone and Simona Uagli, who interviewed the VMF members for a radio show/podcast.

Left to Right: Ragone, Bono, Renato Cantore, and Saverio Romeo after the book presentation.

Bono and Ragone watched a PowerPoint presentation about Marcantonio prepared by students, and a radio interview (using audio and photos) with one student portraying Marcantonio and another student interviewer asking questions about the past and a few miscellaneous questions about the present (for example, “What is your favorite sport?” “Soccer, of course,” replied Marcantonio.)

Students prepared questions for Bono, Ragone, and Dr. Carmine Curcio: a prominent heart surgeon and arts philanthropist who has published a two-part booklet: one part, summarizing parts of Dr. Gerald Meyer’s, Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician; and the second, a selection of speeches drawn from Annette T. Rubinstein’s, I Vote My Conscience, a compendium of excerpts from Marc’s Congressional speeches, radio addresses, and defenses in court.

The VMF’s ambassadors participated in other activities, including a panel moderated by Cantore, an honorary VMF member, with Bono and Ragone discussing the significance of Vito Marcantonio politically, symbolically, and culturally—to the historical trends of all those in the United States, and Italy, who are seeking a better life for all their categories.

View of Matera, the official European City of Culture from 2012.

The people of Picerno and, more broadly, the region of Basilicata rebelled against the monarchy in the revolutionary movements of 1799; and in contrast to many other municipalities in the south, voted in favor of the Republic as opposed to a Constitutional monarchy in the plebiscite following World War II.  

Panelists even found parallels between Marcantonio’s dedication to public service and the political careers of Antonio Gramsci and Niccolo Machiavelli.   

The scholarly panel was followed by a theatrical program that included Ragone dramatizing Vito Marcantonio’s July 1942 speech defending Italian Americans against discrimination during World War II. In this speech, Marcantonio called those who discriminated against Italian Americans and all other minorities of “playing Hitler’s game.” It just so happened that among the selections Dr. Carmine Curcio translated was the speech Ragone dramatized. This facilitated actor Ernesto Luongo’s rendering this discourse in Italian.  

Artistic Director/Actor Paolo Curcio and Luongo then performed their sketch with actress, Loredana Marcantonio (no relation), wherein two characters explain to a rather dense third character the importance of Vito Marcantonio.

A second sketch entailed bored elementary and high school students sitting against a wall, beneath a sign saying the street is to be renamed for Vito Marcantonio. They share their limited knowledge until a youngster emerges from behind the wall portraying the young congressman to tell them his own story.

The evening concluded with remarks from the Mayor, who invited Ragone to speak. Ragone revealed that his family is from the other side of the mountains from Picerno, in the Diano Valley, in the Salerno province in the Campagnia region.

He used some of the dialect both regions share. Speaking in a mixture of English, Italian, and the Neapolitan dialect, Ragone said: “Vito Marcantonio was a true progressive connected to the people. He wasn’t like some contemporary, elitist liberals that my parents would probably call ‘chiarfuzzi’ (snot noses) – ‘la gente con il nazo a l’aria’ (the people who’ve got their noses up in the air).”

The last day, Luciano Figliuolo and Prospero Carella, who had picked up Ragone and Bono at the airport, escorted them on a tour of Matera. This remarkably well-preserved town with a Biblical essence that served as a set for Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion, produced in 2004, and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s, The Gospel According to Matthew, produced in 1964.

More importantly, Matera was featured in Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli – a loosely autobiographical novel that promoted a scandal that caused the Alcide De Gasperi Administration to remove people living in caves without electric light and running water to homes made for human beings. Levi’s work exposed the scandal as did his sister, a doctor in Torino. Many of the impoverished locals’ families have resided there for decades (perhaps centuries), but were moved to modern housing elsewhere in the town. In the 1960s this history became the focus of preservation and tourism efforts. These efforts led to UNESCO citing Matera’s great significance. When we arrived in Matera, we encountered that there was an exhibit space showing the paintings of Carlo Levi in Matera not far from the entrance to the ruins. 

From left to right: Dr. Carmine Curcio, Gary Bono, Deputy Mayor Giusy Marisco, Mayor Giovanni Lettieri, Actor Ernesto Luongo, Roberto Ragone, Artistic Director/Actor  Paolo Curcio, Actress Loredana Marcantonio.

The visit to Picerno is not only part of a campaign of vindicating Vito Marcantonio as the unsung hero eradicated from history, but also one that validates the investment in emotion, intellect, time, and energy by members of the Vito Marcantonio Forum, which is dedicated to disseminating and sharing knowledge of the life and work of Vito Marcantonio and his mentors, Fiorello La Guardia and Dr. Leonard Covello. The VMF has striven to correct the historical record, which most often has ignored or misrepresented Marcantonio’s unceasing work on behalf of those left out of the American Dream  The VMF applauds his courageous fight for a more authentically democratic United States of America and in the invaluable and important frame of reference for coalition-building. 

The Vito Marcantonio Forum appreciates the hospitality of the people of Picerno, and the people of Picerno feel the same way about having advocates in the United States. As knowledge of Marcantonio grows globally, other interested parties will emerge who appreciate the universal application of his humane brand of politics.

Roberto Ragone

A VMF Member’s praise for the article above:

What a magnificent job this illustrated article is. Molte grazie to all who produced it, especially to Roberto Ragone, who has the makings of a professional journalist. I plan to pass it on to certain persons who will profit and learn from it.

I was especially impressed by the achievements of the native Italians who are contributing to the dissemination of the narrative and legacy of Vito Marcantonio. Their sophistication and cosmopolitan culture should not surprise anyone. After all they come from Basilicata, an integral part of Magna Graecia — the cradle of ancient Greco-Roman civilization — the foundation of our Western civilization. Vito had all that legacy in his DNA!  His very name is Marcus Antonius in the original classical Latin! How asleep are all those who are unaware and/or indifferent to this unparalleled heritage, especially Italo-Americans!  What a magnificent job this illustrated article is. I was especially impressed by the achievements and contributions of the native Italians who are contributing to the dissemination of the narrative and legacy of Vito Marcantonio. Their sophistication and cosmopolitan culture should not surprise anyone. After all they come from Basilicata, an integral part of Magna Graecia — the cradle of ancient Greco-Roman civilization — the foundation of our Western civilization. Vito had all that legacy in his DNA!  His very name is Marcus Antonius in the original classical Latin! How asleep are all those who are unaware and/or indifferent to this unparalleled heritage, especially Italo-Americans!  Enough said!  

Adolfo Freda


1) Sat. November 2, 2019: A screening of Pane Amaro (Bitter Bread): A People’s History of the Italian American Experience. The director, Gianfranco: Norelli and producer, Suma Kirien, will lead a post-screening Q & A. This event will take place at the Mulberry Street Public Library, from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. Free admission; light refreshments served. 
2) Sat. December 7, 2019: “Paul Robeson and Vito Marcantonio: Martyrs of McCarthyism
.” This multimedia event will bring dramatic presentations, film, and music to cast light on the shameful persecution of two great American icons. With Maria Lisella, Gerald Meyer, Roberto Ragone, Stephen Siciliano, and more! Time and venue will soon be announced. Stay tuned!

The Vito Marcantonio Forum meets no more than seven, two-hour meetings per year. For the last eight years, this investment of time and effort has produced approximately 60 public events. The VMF has also encouraged educational and cultural production. Please consider joining us in these efforts by contacting us at VitoMarcantonioForum@gmail.com

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Gale A. Brewer Receives the Vito Marcantonio Award!

Manhattan Borough President Gale A Brewer

The Vito Marcantonio Forum proudly presented the Vito Marcantonio Award to Manhattan Borough President, Gale A. Brewer in a ceremony in New York City’s West Village on June 23rd 2019.

Gale A. Brewer was awarded for her outstanding service to the community that she has served since she began working in politics during the late 1970’s. Mary Anne Krupsak, the former Lieutenant Governor of New York. From 1978 to 1990, she was chief of staff to then-New York City Council member Ruth Messinger.

Brewer served on the New York City Council for 10 years beginning in 2002. Brewer helped to enact legislation protecting domestic workers and has chaired committees that include General Welfare, Higher Education; Housing & Buildings; Mental Health; Technology; Transportation; and Waterfronts—to name a few.

Brewer was ineligible to run for re-election to the City Council in 2013 because of term limits. In February 2013 Brewer announced she would run for Manhattan Borough President. Brewer won the general election on Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

Since receiving the Vito Marcantonio Award, Gale Brewer has written a thank you letter saying “I write to convey my deepest thanks to you and the other members of the Forum for presenting me with the 5th Vito Marcantonio Award on June 23rd at Gaetana’s Restaurant. I so admire Marcantonio’s compassion for the ‘man in the street,’ his incredible perseverance and unflagging spirit, and the inspiration he gave so many through hard times and long struggles for justice.”

Gale A. Brewer is the fifth recipient of the Vito Marcantonio Award. The previous four are Annette T. Rubinstein, Ralph Fasanella, Pete Pascale, and Melissa Mark Viverito. Gale A. Brewer is married to Cal Snyder. They have adopted several children. Their son Mo Sumbundu carries on the family tradition of working in government at the Empire State Development Corp.

Holding Gabrielle Napolitano’s poster is (clockwise from left): Gerald Meyer, Maria Lisella, Gale Brewer, Chloe Swift, Adam Meyer, and Roberto Ragone. Photo by: Jennifer Wishnow
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Come Support the Vito Marcantonio Awards Luncheon Honoring Manhattan Borough President, Gale A. Brewer!

Sunday, June 23rd 2019
12:00pm – 4pm (program begins at 1pm)

Music by Los Mas Valientes – Traditional Latin Jazz with a NY Beat
Guests will enjoy a delicious Italian cuisine at:

Gaetana’s Restaurant 
143 Christopher Street (intersecting Greenwich Street)
New York, NY 10014

The Vito Marcantonio Forum (VMF) is presenting the Vito Marcantonio Award to Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, who has represented her constituents in the progressive tradition and has been active in politics since 1975.

Join this celebration by purchasing tickets at an amount you can afford:

Manhattan Borough President Gale A Brewer
Buy tickets for Vito Marcantonio Forum Award Dinner Honoring Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

Friends: $20
Supporters: $30
Benefactors: $100

You can purchase tickets (or make a donation) here.

Alternately, you can email Roberto Ragone at Roberto.Ragone@gmail.com or GeraldJMeyer@aol.com

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Join us for a book presentation with author Peter Duffy, for The Agitator: William Bailey and the First American Uprising Against Nazism

Mulberry Street Public Library
10 Jersey St. New York, NY 10012

Wed., May 29th | 6:00-7:30 PM 

The Vito Marcantonio Forum is proud to support a presentation for The Agitator, a biography of Bill Bailey, a decorated Abraham Lincoln Brigade veteran, who is best known for leading a group of young Communists in 1935 aboard the SS Bremen that was docked in New York  Harbor, for the purpose of tearing-down the Nazi Flag.

Subsequently, Bailey and his comrades were arrested on a number of serious charges. Vito Marcantonio, who served as their defense attorney, succeeded in having all charges dismissed. 

This story of an anti-fascist’s dramatic and remarkable victory against Nazism is an inspiration to anyone compelled to resist when signs of oppression are on the horizon.

The Agitator by Peter Duffy

The VMF encourages all of its members and supporters to join us at this free event, and if this is not possible, to purchase The Agitator from the author’s website
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Vito Marcantonio commemoration in Picerno, Italy 2019

Picerno’s Commemoration of Vito Marcantonio

We are proud to announce that the hometown of Marcantonio’s family, Picerno, Italy is commemorating Vito Marcantonio with a three-day festival beginning on April 9th, 2019.

VMF founding member, Stephen Siciliano, a journalist who hosts Marcantoniana, published a story just over a year ago covering the Street Naming Ceremony at Marcantonio’s Lucky Corner on East 116th Street and Lexington Avenue in the East Harlem section of Manhattan. Saverio Romeo, a Picerno native currently residing in London, read the story and got in contact with us to inform the VMF of their intention to do an extended version of the VMF’s street naming.

Vito Marcantonio Lucky Corner street naming ceremony 2017
Frank Marcantonio Jr, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Speaker of the City Councily Melissa Mark-Viverito, LuLu LoLo Pascale, Gloria Quiñones, Roberto Ragone; Back row: Christopher Bell, Gerald Meyer

The Municipality of Picerno has had the idea of an event on Vito Marcantonio for a long time. Matera, a site of great historical significance, has received from the United Nation the distinction of Capital of Culture. This has helped provide the financial opportunity for developing a commemorative Marcantonio event within a moment of great visibility for the entire region of Basilicata, which is located in Southern Italy, is an explosion of stories, characters, and ideas all coming from its towns and villages.. We all hope the event will be just the beginning of a number of activities celebrating the legacy of Vito Marcantonio, a great defender of human rights.

Various personalities from Avigliano, the hometown of Leonard Covello, the incomparable educational philosopher who dedicated his life to Italian immigrant children, will attend the event in the hope of creating a connection between the two towns based on the Marcantonio-Covello mentorship that evolved into a partnership.

In addition, the event organizers have sponsored two VMF members to attend the Festival in Picerno! The VMF has elected Roberto Ragone and Gary Bono as our ambassadors for this enriching journey that will help promote.

We look forward to hearing a report back from Roberto Ragone and Gary Bono who will share their experiences with Picerno and with those who attend to find ways to continue this valuable relationship.

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The Purgatory Trial of Vito Marcantonio

On January 27, 2019 The Vito Marcantonio Forum & Word Of Art Productions presented The Purgatory Trial of Vito Marcantonio, which was written and performed by Roberto Ragone, Directed by Art Bernal with an introduction by Gerald Meyer.

Roberto Ragone during the open discussion following the performance of The Purgatory Trial of Vito Marcantonio

The following review written by Gabe Falsetta and Gary Bono, originally appeared in The People’s World and later in The Indypendent:

On a recent Sunday afternoon in New York City an audience of more than 50 people was treated to a unique one-man show, The Purgatory Trail of Vito Marcantonio, written and performed by Roberto Ragone and directed by Art Bernal with introductory remarks by Professor Gerald Meyer. Professor Meyer is the author of the definitive biography of the progressive congressman and the co-chair, along with co-chair Ragone, of the Vito Marcantonio Forum.

The play opens on Aug. 9th, 1954, the day of Marcantonio’s death. Though a Catholic, Marcantonio was denied a Catholic burial by New York’s extreme right-wing cardinal, and thus the action of the play centers around an imagined plea by Marcantonio to be released from purgatory — the repository of souls that God assigned neither to Heaven nor Hell  — and be allowed to ascend into heaven.

By way of a defense, Ragone, as Marcantonio, presents excerpts from his speeches in Congress and dramatized reenactments of incidents from his life. Ragone carries these texts (explaining each of these key moments in his life) in a portfolio each of which illustrate his record of selfless service to his constituents and his loyalty to his East Harlem community.

Reenacted are such things as Marcantonio’s impassioned pleas for the establishment of a “second front” in Europe during WWII to assist the beleaguered Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, his defense of jailed Puerto Rican Nationalist, Pedro Albizu Campos, and his lonely stance in opposition to the Korean War.

The play illustrates how Marcantonio never compromised his progressive principals; always serving as a champion of equality, a fighter against injustice and a defender of the common folk.

Also documented: the relentless hostility of the powers-that-be toward Marcantonio. They continually plotted and schemed against him, changing the boundaries of his district until it extended as far south as Sutton Place. They even changed the election laws to his detriment.

Initially, these attempts at sabotage were in vain, he was reelected six times. Contributing greatly to Marcantonio’s success was the fact that during his time in Congress he had an unparalleled record of direct service to his constituents.

In his introductory remarks, Professor Meyer read extracts from letters sent to Marcantonio from people in his district thanking him or asking for help. With that kind of grassroots support, he proved hard to beat and the only way his opponents could succeed removing him from office was through the immense effort of getting all the other political parties to unite against him.

There are many memorable highlights’, e.g., the eulogy given at Marcantonio’s wake by the great Paul Robeson; a back and forth with a friend of questionable reputation, the gangster Tommy Lucchese, who Marcantonio showed respect while rejecting his offer of a personal bodyguard; and Marcantonio’s successful defense of black leader and communist W.E.B. DuBois, who aptly said the main hurdle of the 21st century would be overcoming racism.

Although this New York performance was a limited engagement Ragone and Bernal have already been approached about possible performances in other cities and it may, in part, even be available for viewing on YouTube, so many others may get a chance to see this play in the future.

TodayMarcantonio, perhaps the most progressive representative to ever hold a congressional seat, has largely been written out of history. The Vito Marcantonio Forum’s goal is to reverse this wrong.

Photo (from left to right): Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Dubois, Vito Marcantonio. Photographer unknown.

Note: This article has appeared in the following fine publications:
People’s World, La Voce, WetheItalians.com, Primo, Indypendent, L’Idea, Portside, ItaliansRUs.com

Puerto Rico on Our Mind

“Protests Shook the Halls of Power in Puerto Rico,” a very worthwhile article published in July 25th’s New York Times, notes its organizers’ belief that these historical demonstrations are not “spontaneous.” The article shows the high degrees of organization underlying these determined and successful mass demonstration. It quotes Shariana Ferrer, a leader of Puerto Rico’s women’s organizations: “This is an organic movement… but it is not a spontaneous movement.”

Significantly, women’s and gay/lesbian organizations are playing major roles in these activities. This development underscores that so-called “identity politics” has the potential of translating into coalition politics.

These mass demonstrations specifically called for Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation. More importantly, the evidence reveals that while Puerto Rico is officially a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico has the attributes of a nation.

While calling for Rosselló’s resignation, the symbol of this movement is not the placards calling for Rosselló to step down. It is, and will continue to be, the flag of Puerto Rico (for many years displaying this flag was a criminal offense). Protesters waved countless Puerto Rican flags. Not one American flag was flown. No less significant, not one word of English was spoken from the platforms, nor was it used in any of the slogans. While one reggaton piece was composed overnight to be performed at the demonstration, the musical background for these manifestations have been classical ballads expressing love for Puerto Rico and “plenas,” a folk genre traditionally sang at political demonstrations. A long-time favorite plena at manifestations of all kind goes: “Que bonita bandera; Que bonita bandera; Que bonita bandera, es la bandera puertorriqueña.” In short, the style/rhythm of these rallies was distinctly Puerto Rican.

As Congressman representing East Harlem for seven terms, Vito Marcantonio (1902-1954) submitted five bills demanding Puerto Rico’s independence, “with indemnification for the damage the United States had imposed on the Island.” While maintaining Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States, it is time to reconsider this proposal.

Gerald Meyer, Co-Chair Vito Marcantonio Forum