First Person

A blast from our past

After more than 30 years of editing Fra Noi, I thought I knew a thing or two about the challenges our ancestors faced in America at the turn of the 20th century. I’ve learned from countless articles about the crowded tenements and abject poverty, the dangerous jobs at scant pay, and I can enumerate the Sicilian-born laborers lynched by a New Orleans mob in 1891. But to know is one thing and to understand quite another. My eyes were truly opened to the gross indecencies our forebears endured when I attended a preview screening of “Cabrini” on Oct. 24 at …

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Triumph of the spirit

This year’s Columbus Day celebration in Chicago might not have been the biggest ever, but it certainly was the most remarkable. Absolutely everything conspired against it, from the slow pace of city approval to forecasts of rain and fears of protests that kept some on the sidelines. But permits were finally issued; a promotional blitz ensued; and floats, cars, bands and other marching units were rallied in weeks instead of months. On Oct. 11, a lone bus arrived at Casa Italia along with a gray dawn to shepherd the intrepid to morning Mass at Our Lady of Pompeii Shrine. Fr. …

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Community takes fight for Columbus to next level

Jan. 14, 2021, was a landmark day for the Chicago-area Italian-American community. That’s when we took a quantum leap forward in our efforts to undo the false narrative that threatens to permanently sweep Christopher Columbus from the local landscape. We’ve had great turnouts at press conferences, strategy sessions and rallies, but this was the first time we “entered the lion’s den,” and we comported ourselves admirably. The occasion was a Zoom meeting sponsored by the city of Chicago to field input regarding the future of the city’s many statues, Columbus’ among them. With key decision makers from the city slated …

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We did it!

Fra Noi readers are nothing if not devoted. You demonstrate that every month in the remarkable rate at which you renew your subscriptions, the little notes of thanks and praise you send with your payments, and the inspiring number of gift subscriptions you give. In the last several weeks, you’ve taken that devotion to a whole new level, responding to our fundraising appeal with a tidal wave of generosity. Nearly one in every five of you answered the call with contributions ranging from $5 bills to a mindboggling $2,000 check. With donations still flowing in at press time, the wave’s …

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Community goes virtual to outwit COVID

I’m ceaselessly amazed by the ingenuity and tenacity we show in the face of adversity. A half year ago, the coronavirus had us against the ropes, sending us scurrying for shelter and forcing us to cancel every blessed event we were so blithely planning. Yet here we are today, with COVID-19 still bearing down on us, back in the middle of the ring bobbing and weaving as we find ways to celebrate community and culture while keeping the pandemic at bay. For the past 16 years, a cavalcade of authors and scores of enthusiasts have gathered in the Florentine Room …

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A remarkable 60 years

Time sure does fly when you’re on a lifelong adventure. I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since I put the finishing touches on my first issue as editor of Fra Noi. I still recall how thrilled and terrified I was. To be honest, I was on pretty shaky ground for the leap I was about to make. All I had to stand on was a journalism degree, some freelance work and brief stints at a pair of community newspapers. But the publisher at the time saw something in me — perhaps a passion for my heritage or a drive …

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Fighting fiction with the facts

The Chicago-area Italian-American community was dealt a devastating series of blows in the waning days of July. It’s impossible to express the damage done to our collective psyche when Chicago’s three Columbus statues were plucked by the city from their pedestals in the wee hours of the morning and whisked off to storage. According to Mayor Lightfoot, the moves were made in the interest of public safety and are only temporary, but a profound sense of betrayal and loss remains. The question is, how do we most effectively respond? As Fra Noi goes to press, the Joint Civic Committee of …

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 Rewriting the antidefamation script

At a moment in our history when conflict is rampant and emotions are running high, Chicago-area Italian Americans are charting a decidedly different course. They’re building coalitions, employing quiet diplomacy and reaching out across the divide to build support for their causes. The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans has been at the forefront of this strategic sea change, beginning with a more inclusive approach to the Columbus Day Parade. Historically a celebration of Italian pride, the parade has become increasingly multicultural, with last year’s event boasting nearly a dozen floats representing a variety of African, Hispanic, Asian and white …

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Special deliveries

The reputation of the once-vaunted U.S. Postal Service has taken its share of hits in recent decades. Who doesn’t have stories about damaged or mis-delivered letters, or long lines at the local post office?  As a magazine editor, I have my own tales of woe that include having to replace more than a dozen copies a month that mysteriously disappear into the system, or waiting for weeks to receive notifications that required my immediate attention. It’s easy to wonder what ever happened to those valiant couriers who braved rain, snow, heat and gloom to swiftly complete their appointed rounds. If …

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Finding joy

Joy can seem as hard to come by nowadays as hand sanitizer, but at least there’s good news when it comes to joy. You don’t have to wait for a restock at Target. The supply is limitless if you know where to look. If you’re lucky enough to be sheltering in place with someone you care about, you can begin your quest with a great big hug. Studies show that an embrace of 20 seconds or more releases a flood of hormones that elevate your mood and promote relaxation and happiness. There have been hugs aplenty at our house since …

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