Nov 3rd, 2013 people arrived at Frank Saponara’s Gaetana’s Cucina Italiana on Christopher Street to celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of the Vito Marcantonio Forum (VMF).
The event marked the VMF’s sixth public event since it reconstituted itself on October 11, 2011. Dedicated to keeping Vito Marcantonio’s legacy alive, VMF’s mission is also to re-introduce the viability of coalition politics into current political conversations.
Highlights of the event included the presentation by Professor Gerald J. Meyer, interspersed with an overview of the organization by writer Gil Fagiani and two dramatic interludes:
Roberto Ragone donned his Vito hat and gesticulations and reenacted a speech Marcantonio delivered in Congress on July 26, 1949 supporting legislation to abolish the poll tax, laying out the constitutional argument, but then passionately pointing out “there is something more fundamental here… and that is the struggle of [African Americans] for full equality.” The speech comes a year after the Democratic Party tried moving to the left politically on civil rights. This was to keep many of its members from voting for the Marcantonio-backed Progressive Party. Shortly after President Truman’s election, the Democrats abandoned the civil rights platform. In his remarks, while dismissing Southern claims that African Americans are happy under Jim Crow, Marcantonio highlights Northern hypocrisy, chiding his colleagues who campaigned for civil rights, but “not voting in the manner in which they declared themselves.” He underscored “discrimination, segregation, and police brutality in my own City of New York.”
Following the reenactment of a live Marcantonio, was Phil Paschal’s dramatization of Paul Robeson’s statement that he wrote and released to the newspapers when he learned of Marcantonio’s death. Since Robeson never read the statement to an audience, Phil Paschal helped us imagine Paul Robeson expressing saying Marcantonio was the “Thaddeus Stevens of the first half of the twentieth century.”
The next major event VMF will launch will take place, Saturday, February 22, 2014 at the New York Public Library on Mulberry St. in Little Italy.
Recent activities VMF has sponsored includes the celebration at the Brecht Forum of the 4th printing of Professor Gerald Meyer’s book, Vito Marcantonio, Radical Politician, 1902-1954 on October 27, 2011; the dedication of a conference room at Hostos Community College in Vito Marcantonio’s name at the behest of Professor Meyer, on April 25, 2012; the special tribute Vito Marcantonio and the Puerto Rican People: Solidarity and Progress, on November 28, 2012, attended by over a hundred people at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, at Hunter College; the panel Vito Marcantonio (1902-1954): Spokesperson for the Left, presented June 8, 2013 at the annual Left Forum at Pace College; and a guided tour to Marcantonio’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery on August 11, 2013 to commemorate the 59th anniversary of his death. A photo of the tour was featured on the front page of the daily Italian language newspaper America Oggi.
In April 2011 SUNY Press announced the fourth printing release of Gerald Meyer’s “Vito Marcantonio, Radical Politician 1902-1954.”
Lecture: Vito Marcantonio: National Spokesperson for the American Left
Gerald Meyer, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus Hostos Community College/CUNY
Thurs. October 27th, 2011 | 7:30 pm
Vito Marcantonio represented East Harlem in Congress for seven terms, from 1934 to 1950, and became the leader of the American Labor Party. During that time, he came closest to assuming the title “national spokesperson for the American Left.” On the occasion of the fourth printing of Vito Marcantonio: Radical Politician, 1902-1954, Gerald Meyer will discuss Marcantonio’s achievement of securing an electoral base in Italian Harlem and El Barrio, while courageously and effectively promoting the agenda of the American Left throughout the United States.
451 West Street (West Side Highway between Bethune and Bank Streets), Manhattan
Contact person: Max (212) 252-5201
Admission $5 / Refreshments