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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Proud to be Italian!

Dear friends,

Today I want to share with you a special day in my recent life!! Last Sunday, February 21st, it was a day I will remember for years to come. The OSIA New York State Commission Social Justice (OSIA CSJ) honored me for having distinguished myself by my contribution to the Italian and Italian American Community by fighting bias, bigotry, and discrimination against all Italian and Italian Americans. For being a positive good role model for the Italians and the Italian-Americans and, as the beautiful glass engraved Award said “To Giada Valenti in recognition of the outstanding contribution you have made to all mankind through your gift of music”.
I was honored together with Anthony J. Izzo, Chief Organized Crime Control Bureau of the NYPD, one of the greatest and bravest men I have ever met.

I have received in my life all kind of Awards, always related to my musical talent, which I always say is a gift and a blessing from God!!
In 2008 I was also awarded "Woman of The Year" by the Italian Charities of America.
Even though I felt then like I had just started to do things in this world, I was humble to receive that one and when I was asked to receive this one, well I was so proud.
Both of those Awards were given to me for my behavior, for something I’ve learned from my family: to be the best that I can be, to be respectful of everybody, to love the others and myself and to be proud to be what I Am.
My grand father Ruggero will be so proud of me: he’s the one who always told me "People see what you show to them!“ Be the best that you can possibly be and people will see it!”
Such great acknowledgments will give me even more strength and motivation to be the best that I can possibly be for the rest of my life, as a human being and a musician.

I was asked to receive this Award last year in October, a few days after I had performed for the State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in Manhattan at the St. John University. That day Tina Haemmerle, a wonderful woman that I had learned to know a few years ago, introduced me to Stella Grillo, the present President of the CSJ. Tina, who’s also immediate past President of the CSJ, she’s a wonderful woman, loved by everybody for her charisma and wonderful personality. She is involved in many organizations but she’s also a fantastic teacher in Long Island. A few years ago, I was asked to meet the kids of a school in Long Island where my friend Annamaria Izzo teaches, and to talk to them about my music and being Italian! It was a fantastic day and to talk to the kids and hear them sing was just a special day. Children are the future of the world and to get them involved with any kind of positive activity is something very important and, in a matter of fact, something I’m planning to do even more actively in the near future. Tina was also there too that day, since some of the kids where from her class! Tina loved the fact that I had found the time to go to Long Island to do this for the school and had never forgot that. So that day in October she introduced me to the President of the CSJ, Stella Grillo. A few days later Stella called me and asked me if I would accept the Award at their Annual Gala Dinner Dance. Of course I was honored to accept it.

The New York State Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) is a wonderful organization that was this year also celebrating their 30th-year of existence. The New York State Commission for Social Justice (CSJ) is the anti-defamation branch of the, Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), Grand Lodge NYS.  The CSJ is an Italian American group designed to specifically to engage in the work of combating defamation of Italian Americans and other groups.  The CSJ’s parent group, OSIA, is the oldest and largest Italian fraternal organization of men and women in the United States and Canada. Its two primary goals are to fight bias, bigotry and defamation of Italian Americans and other groups, and to promote a positive image of Americans of Italian decent through their Positive Image Program. This program offers posters, bookmarks, book covers, and their Telly Award winning video-documentary, “Italian American Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.”
The CSJ has worked in the last 30 year on various projects and with numerous organizations to ensure a positive image of Italian Americans and other ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds. The CSJ aggressively promotes the study of the Italian language, history and culture. The CSJ also supports with positive image materials Italian Clubs on college campuses, high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. The CSJ was instrumental in reestablishing the College Board Examination in Italian.  This achievement test in Italian, which was used by students as their foreign language requirement for entrance into college, was discontinued in 1973.  The cancellation resulted in a decline in the study of Italian.  The NY CSJ began a campaign to have the College Board reinstate the test. Negotiations took many years and finally in 1988, the College Board agreed to reestablish the examination and was finally reintroduced in June 1990.
NYS CSJ has also a media monitoring program entitled, MEDIA (Media Evaluation, Decision, Intelligence, Action) that has been active and successful.  It has monitored newspaper articles as well as TV and radio broadcasts.  When discriminatory remarks directed at Italian Americans have been made, they have been addressed.
And every year they honor two Italians or Italian Americans for their contribution, and last Sunday, it was my turn to be honored by such a great organization.
The Event was held in a very nice catering hall called Russo at the Bay in Howard Beach, NY. I didn’t know what to aspect exactly. I knew that there to support me there would have been some of my best friends here in the USA. Angelina and Alfonso Izzo, that I call my “American family” with one her two their daughters AnnaMaria and her husband Angelo, their her two little girls, Adriana and Anna Clelia, who I love to death, and my friends Angela Toscano, Lissa Pericolosi, Lisa Kayola and Susan Korwin. All dear friends, all of them, great friends that I met thanks to my music.  I was so happy to know they were there with me and for me.
I got at Russo at the Bay on perfect time, thanks to Jack and Anna who were my ride, other two fantastic people I met through my music. Jack is a fantastic tailor and he had adjusted many of my stage dresses, and Anna is his wonderful wife!!
As soon as I walked in at Russo at The Bay, the National President of the OSIA, Joseph J. DiTrapani, welcomed me and congratulate me. That was such a great honor. And from that moment on it was even clearer to me of the entity of this Award.
More than 200 guests were there and they all were congratulating me. And one by one, I started to spot so many friends that where there to surprise me and honor me with their presence. I was so emotional and happy!! I was so happy to see John and Jan Vigiano, President and first lady of the Brumidi Lodge of the OSIA, and also two of the greatest people in the world. John is former Marine and retired FDNY Captain, the most decorated firefighter in America, and together with his wife Jan my heroes. They lost their only two sons on 9-11, one a FDNY and one a NYPD. My friendship with John and Jan has enriched my life on so many levels: they are two of the most loving, giving and strong people I’ve ever met. Another blessing that music has brought into my life.
But there was also Nancy DiFiore Queen, past President of the Grand Lodge of New York State, John Fratta, former President of the Petrosino Lodge in NYC and his brother Joey, current President of the Petrosino Lodge in NYC. And so many new wonderful people who knew me from my Concerts, and that I’ve never met before. I got to meet some of my Facebook’s friends like Domenico Cutrone, who was there with so many friends and family member for me, and the wonderful Teresa Formato who I had met in Queens a few months back after one of my Concerts.
From noon till 2PM was time for talks and food at a fantastic open buffet where, as in the tradition of the Italian, great food was served. I used the time to eat of course and to chat with my friends, Angela, Lissa, Lisa and Susan.  People were constantly coming to my table to congratulate me with my Award and to tell us that we were a table with very good-looking women. The table of the “models” as they were all saying while taking pictures of us! We had so much fun!! I’m always so busy with my music that I don’t get to spend real time with my girlfriends, so it was nice to finally be there with them in such a joyful event!! Thank you girls!!
And then it was time to get into the room for the Award Ceremony. Well the protocol was that the people were getting into the room first, and then the distinguish guests and the people of the Commissions would follow with the Honorees, Chief Anthony Izzo and me.
I was accompanied in the room by Richard Haemmerle, a fantastic man and also Financial Secretary of the CSJ. Everybody was standing up and was applauding as the distinguish guests and honorees names where pronounced. When it was my turn to walk in I was so touched to see all of them standing up to show me their love and respect. I get a lot of standing ovations and applauses, but I can only tell you that the emotions of it, it’s something I can never get used to it: it’s wonderful and I’m so grateful to God for each and every of it! And in this occasion my heart was beating even extra fast!! I never felt so honored and I was, honestly, quiet emotional.
We took seat at the honorees table that was placed at the end of the big room facing the rest of the guests. What a view. It was great to see so many wonderful people of Italian heritage!! So many smiling faces, so much joy, pride and love in the room.
The Ceremony started with what it has been my honor to do so many times in so many Official Ceremony: the National Anthems of America and Italy. This time to sing them a lovely young soprano, Danielle Reed, from which I have received a very sweet e-mail the day after the Ceremony, where she was thanking me for having inspired her to be proud of her self and also for my kind look after she sang. So sweet of her. And she did a great job.
And then it was time for the speeches. The fantastic Vice President Josephine Morici Cohen started introducing all the honorable guests sitting at the Honorees table and of course the Honorees, Chief Anthony Izzo and me. Then the President of the CFJ, Stella Grillo, took the stand and after acknowledging and congratulating Chief Izzo and myself, made a short speech about the work of the Commission of Social Justice of the last 30 years!! Impressive!!

I felt incredible honored when the National President of the OSIA Joseph DiTrapani took the stand and, referring to me, said that my appearance at the last year NELA Gala in Washington was the “highlights of the night”. I will never get used to receive compliments and to get this from him was very special to me. An event the Nela Gala that was already so special for me since I had the honor to perform and meet the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden and the great actor Joe Mantegna.
And then it was time for the Awards. Chief Izzo was the first to receive it. The President of the NYPD Columbia Association Anthony Cesarano introduced him. To hear all the accomplishment of Chief Anthony Izzo was very impressive. What a great man he is and so humble and such a nice person. Chief Izzo was feeling just like me. He was also smiling with his face and his soul too when he stood up to receive the Award and the beautiful flowers! I could feel that!! A great moment for a fantastic man that I’m so honored to call my friend.
It was now time for my Award. To introduce me was supposed to be my dear friends, famous movie producer, Sonny Grosso. But due to medical problems, it couldn’t be there. So to introduce me was my own JJ, who, even if he knows me better than everybody else in the world, had a kind of speech to read!! I had no idea what he was planning to say, so it was fantastic to hear him listing, with his usual pride and love, all my accomplishments, so far. Everybody loved the fact that he was so emotional himself and so full of pride for me.

And then, there I was standing up to receive the Award and the flowers with all the guests looking at me and applauding. What a moment!!! I had 2 minutes to thank everybody and to say something, and I didn’t have written down a single note. But while there looking at the room and the guests, I got my speech: directly from my heart to my mouth!! The beauty of that moment, the view of so many wonderful people of Italian heritage gathering together to celebrate, all my wonderful friends at my table and around the room ...suddenly I knew what to say. Something that my grandfather had told many times as a child, and that now, more than ever, I was seeing happening just in front of me.
I told them what I was seeing right there in front of me and what I had experienced since the first day I came, 5 years earlier, in this country: the Italian American are a huge group of honest, wonderful people, successful people in their own different businesses, people that share like me the wonderful values of family, friends, and the deep love and pride for their Italian heritage. They may not captivate the attention of the media that often since the bad people seems to get more “eyes on them” that the good ones.

But I said these are the Italian Americans that I know and I have learned to love since the first day I landed in this county. And I said a beautiful saying my grandfather was saying to me as child: “A BEAUTIFUL FOREST THAT GROWS, MAKE LESS NOISE THAN A TREE THAT FALL”” and that was what I was seeing in front of me: a beautiful “forest” flourishing and growing and ready to show their beauty to the world!!

The applause was huge and later I got to hear from everybody how touching and beautiful my speech was. And it was at that moments that I decided for myself to continue my journey to promote the beauty of Italian Culture and Language even louder and stronger so to try to make the beautiful “forest” noticed by the world!!

I always wondered if we tend to react with interests to the bad news and the bad actions of bad people because we like that or if we do that only because good actions of good people are never praised and never make first page on the newspapers and are seldom on TV.
I don’t know what you think, but I’m convinced actually that we listen to bad news and bad actions by bad people, including some very bad reality shows, just because those are the only things we get to hear, see and to read about it. We are kind of used to it.
I wonder if we would start to praise good people and their good actions and totally ignore those who are bad, will the “good” at a certain point exceed the “bad”?

I love to meet people who inspire me, who makes me feel happy and save, I’m always so happy to hear about the success story of friends and family so I wonder why not also on TV and on the news also from other people around the world?

I wonder if it would work like it happens in fashion and in the music business a lot: at time we don’t like right away something that the fashion industry creates, but then when we start to see that fashion item over and over all around us…..at a certain point we start to like it. For me it was the case of the boots Hugs…I thought they were horrible….now, after two years of having seen them at the feet of almost everybody, I kind of like them and I own a pair myself!!

The same principle is used by the music industry, without us even knowing that! We may not like a song right away. But if we keep hearing that tune over and over at the radio, at a certain point we find our self-singing it and there we go…we kind of like it!!

So if we only get to see and hear great things and cheer for the good news, will we at a certain point dislike to hear depressing bad news of ugly bad-acting people anymore?

I wish we could try that!
I kind of do that in my life and I must say that my world is a great place to live in. At time of course some bad people cross my way, but I let them go, I don’t look at them….and doing so all I keep into my life, and all that matter  is a beautiful group of fantastic people. All of you dear friends, fans and supporters!! A beautiful forest that grows everyday!! Could that work for everybody? I wonder….




Going back to the Ceremony, Chief Izzo and I also got a wonderful proclamation from Edward P. Magnano, County Executive of Nassau County. And then it was asked if the guests were having something to say or to give to the honorees, that was their time. And with my great surprise Teresa Formato stood up and she had two wonderful presents for me and Chief Izzo. Mine was a bag full of incredible fantastic beauty professional product from her Company, all product made in Italy. And Teresa also said a few sweet and unforgettable words of recognizing for Chief Izzo and me!! This was another confirmation that there are so many wonderful people in the world!!!   Thank you Teresa!!



It was then picture time, kissing time and dinnertime. Yes, more wonderful food, this time served at the tables. You know what we say in Italy: we say that people eat to survive/live. We Italian, we survive/live to eat!!


I really didn’t had that much time to eat that night, since I took the time to go through the tables and say hello to all the fantastic people that were there for me, and to sing their Ceremony books!! And to enjoy the company of all my friends and the little Anna Clelia, that didn't wanted to leave my arms. More pictures and kisses everywhere and then was cake time: a wonderful cake made especially in honor of Chief Izzo and me!!  I’ve never felt that proud!!!! I was overwhelms with so many joyful emotions, as you can imagine!

There was so much joy in the room and music…my CD was playing alternating with some dancing songs too…you know us Italian we love to dance…and so we all did!! What a day of joy!!


There was also a "Souvenir Journal"  for all the guests  full of Congratulations adds for Chief Izzo and me: thank you to all the people who express their love and support in it!  A special thanks to Frank Valanzola, VP Wealth Management of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney  for his love and support always and to Gina and Salvatore of Alloro Resaturant in NYC.

Time flew away fast and before I knew it was time to go home!! One extra surprise was there for me: my wonderful friend Lissa Pericolosi surprised me also with a late present for my last month birthday: a wonderful   Yankee candle and a beautiful Candle cover set and a very touching card …I’m so lucky to have found thanks to my music so many wonderful friends!! And since “friends are the family we choose from our self”, I can say that I have chosen the best friends in the world for myself!! Thank you Lissa!!

Thank you also to all the other friends that weren’t there that day since you all live in different places of the planet: I love you all and I cherish your friendship and support immensely!! Everyday of my life I can feel your love and support true your letters, messages and e-mails. I love you all!! You are the beautiful forest where I feel so blessed and save to fly, to live and to dream. Grazie di cuore Vi voglio bene,
Than you also to Natale Mannino for all the pictures of this wonderful event.

Love always and stay tune for my next Monday blog on “March 8; Woman’s Day”!!


Giada





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