The Federated Italo-Americans of Southern California is an umbrella organization that unites many clubs and societies supporting the Italian heritage in Southern California.
Originally organized “to gather the strength of all Italo-American organizations and unify their efforts,” of significant value is its role in bringing together community leaders to plan celebrations of major events, to exchange and share ideas, to honor outstanding individuals and organizations and to preserve the Italian heritage.
Two important commemorations highlight the year for all members: The first being Italy’s Republic Day in June, which celebrates the anniversary of when Italy became a Republic and promotes mutual appreciation and friendship between the United States and Italy. The second event being Columbus Day in October, named after famed explorer Christopher Columbus, which celebrates what Italians and Italo-Americans have contributed to the formation and growth of our great nation.
Federated was founded in 1947 by Louis J. Canepa and served as its first president. Since then, many distinguished community leaders have served as the head of the organization. As of date, there are over 70 organizations under the umbrella of Federated, with the number increasing to over 130, when adding the local chapters of Order Sons of Italy in America and the Italian Catholic Federation.
“It’s very important for the leaders of our community to have a place where we can come together, meet one another, share ideas and build a strong Italian American presence together,” says Ann Potenza, Executive Director of the San Gennaro Foundation and current President of Federated. “And just like the United States of America, Federated is made up of many strong, individual groups, all unique in identity, yet all united under a common umbrella for a greater good. Ours is perpetuating Italian culture and heritage; what’s not to love about that?!”
Some of the “United Families of Federated”, as Potenza likes to refer, have been around longer than others, such as the Garibaldina Society, OSIA, Italian Hall and L’Italo Americano, each dating back over a hundred years and all being vital links to the community’s Italian heritage.
Then, there are some of the newest families, like the Feast of San Gennaro and Commissione Giovani, both of Los Angeles, and theGeorge L. Graziadio Center for Italian Studies at CSULB, all attracting new generations of Italian Americans passionate about networking and immersing themselves in Italian and American culture.
One of the most visible Federated members in Los Angeles is St. Peter’s Italian Church, first founded on North Spring in 1904 before relocating to its present location on North Broadway in 1915. St. Peter’s is not only home to Federated’s monthly meetings, but also to ICF Branch 67 and many societies, including; St. Anthony’s, San Padre Pio, Santa Lucia, Canneto Colony of Saints, San Trifone, Famiglia del Cuore di Gesu, Fameja Veneta, Sacro Cuore di Gesù and Maria S.S. di Costantinopoli, many originating from where members immigrated, continuing local traditions and Saint’s Feast days from Italy’s regions.
The categories of organizations under Federated vary; from film festivals, performance groups and festivals all the way to language, religion, business and education, etc. The common thread of all is celebrating and preserving the Italian culture. When dignitaries from Italy visit Southern California, the Federated members come together to welcome the visiting guest, such as when the Mayor from Rome visited or when there is a new arrival or departure to the Consoloto Generale D’Italia Los Angeles, also considered a member under Federated, as well the Istituto Italiana di Cultura and the Italian Tourism Board and associates.
“United we stand, divided we fall” is a famous coined phrase that has been used by many people over the years, from nations and states to speeches and songs, and used as another reference by Potenza when advocating for organizations to unite under the umbrella of Federated, “The basic concept is that unless the people are united, it is easy to destroy them. If you are an active, passionate member of our Italian American community, you’ve probably put in a lot of sweat keeping our culture alive and active in one way or another…wouldn’t you be pretty upset if your hard work preserving our Italian culture was destroyed or lost along the way if you didn’t have the support behind you when you most needed it?”
Potenza may just have a point: like the United States, all of the groups come in different shapes and sizes. Most of the time they go about their own business, usually celebrating their victories or mourning their losses within their own group, but there are times they must come together as one, to remind the outside community of the Italian and Italo-American cultural contributions and gifts to this world, as they do during October’s “Italian Heritage Month” and various city-wide Columbus Day celebrations held in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Pedro.
But at other times, when the need arises, the community also calls upon each other to join forces to help their Italian brothers and sisters preserve the Italian language in schools, or in times of greater devastation, such as after the L’Aquila and Emilia Romagna earthquakes. In 2009, under the guidance of Past-Presidents Nick D’Egidio and Robert Barbera, Federated was very instrumental in holding many local fundraisers for the victims of the L’Aquila earthquake. Over $70,000 was eventually raised by the community’s efforts, with a portion going to purchase a van for the children of La Casa Famiglia Orphanage in L’Aquila.
The Federated Italo-Americans meet the third Thursday of every month in the Casa Italiana at St. Peter’s Italian Church. Federated is not intended to take the place of any of the local clubs in the community, it is an umbrella and there are no membership fees. All Italo-American organizations are automatically included on the roster and all are invited to attend meetings and functions, preferably with a rsvp for dinner.
If you are interested in learning more about the local Italo-American organizations and not yet a member, you are welcome to attend a Federated meeting and meet the other leaders and learn more about them~perhaps you will become involved and be one of the next leaders preserving the Italian heritage in the Italo-American community!