Yesterday evening, the 16th annual ILICA Cultural Event took place at Brooklyn’s spectacular Liberty Warehouse. ILICA, the Italian Language Inter-Cultural Alliance, gathered esteemed members of the Italian and Italian American community again after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, to not only recognize Italian excellence within the community, but also to pass the torch to the next generation. In a speech given by Vincenzo Marra, the ILICA founder and chairman stated, “You don’t go back, but step aside.”
ILICA was founded based on the belief that the Italian language, along with literature and art, are fundamental factors in the creation of productive citizens of tomorrow. Through the use of the Italian language and the knowledge of its versatile applications, ILICA promotes events in the fields of art, medicine, science and tourism, as well as other types of initiatives that unite these two cultures, operating between the US and Italy.
The Consul General of Italy, Fabrizio di Michele, who could not be in attendance, sent a message which was read by ILICA president and Woman of the Year recipient, Professor Donna Chirico:
“Mr. Vincenzo Marra, I am pleased to hear that after a three-year hiatus, you will again host the ILICA annual gala this year in its 16th edition entitled, ‘A New Beginning’. I admire your dedication to promoting Italian language in New York, as a means to encourage the study of Italian literature and art and embrace the fields of science and medicine. Although I would have loved to be a part of the new beginning, institutional engagements prohibit me from being with you physically. I send greetings to all the attendees, and congratulations to honorees Donna Chirico and Alex Carini. I look forward to participating in the future events you will host and to collaborating with you in the support of our beloved Italia.”
Former FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro then took the podium, stating about Mr. Marra, “More than 20 years ago, this gentleman reached out to our fire department at our darkest moment, and all he said was, ‘What can I do?’”, thus underlining the immense demonstration of Marra’s affection for, and devotion to, New York City during and after 9/11, from which grew a friendship between the two men.
During the event, Rome-based Mvula Sungani Dance Company accompanied the gala dinner with their spectacularly choreographed dance ensemble, accompanied by world-renowned choreographer Mr. Sungani, who was invited to the podium to speak following the dance presentation, by Mr. Marra, stating:
“This is for those who still don’t know that Italy is changing, that Mvula Sungani was born in Italy, and he speaks Italian much better than most of us. So, then, he will say a few words to this audience as a proud Italian.”
Mr. Sungani then took the podium, expressing his delight at being able to participate in the event with his troupe, highlighting how he and his company are a part of the ILICA family. He also thanked Prof. Anthony Tamburri, Dean of the Calandra Institute, who he stated, is often of great support to him, and wished great luck to ILICA’s future president.
The two important gala awards each year are ILICA’s Man and Woman of the Year. For 2022, the Man of the Year Award went to Alex Carini, Founder and CEO of Carini Group Real Estate:
“I’m truly honored to receive this award […] Regarding ILICA, everyone who knows me knows that I am proud of everything that I do, of my Italian origin. […] They say you can take a man out of Italy, but you can’t take Italy out of a man […] The American Dream […] What I have received is far beyond anything that I could ever dream of.” He thanked his parents who were in Italy, and spoke about how his mother selflessly encouraged him to come to America on his own to pursue his dreams, realizing how difficult such a sacrifice as a parent must have been, especially as the parent of an only child – a selfless act that Carini stated only now that he is a parent, he can understand. He also thanked his wife, Adele, who is expecting their second child, and who supported him in starting his own business. He went on to thank his team, who he kidded, “put up with me”, but made sure to comment, “I want you to know, thank you, and I appreciate you”. He lastly stated, “They say the American Dream is dead. I know that it’s not. Nobody said it’s going to be easy, but with sacrifice, we know that it is possible.”
For the women’s category, the 2022 Woman of the Year Award went to Dr. Donna Chirico, professor of Psychology at CUNY York College, as well as ILICA’s president for the past seven years:
“This has been an incredible experience […] When I was first asked-cajoled-told to be […] president of ILICA […] of course at the time it was quite a statement from Vincenzo Marra… the first woman […] At the time the commitment was for three years. So, seven years later, I’m very happy to accept this award [….] I really came to ILICA because of Anthony Tamburri, whose intellectual encouragement and friendship further provided an extraordinary opportunity to extend the bridge to Italy and begin what has been a remarkable adventure […] My gratitude […] to my many ILICA colleagues, is really beyond measure. It has been a meaningful and exciting ride and thank goodness life has better plans for us […] But of course it’s time for a new generation of leaders to step forward and take us into the future.”
At the conclusion of her acceptance speech, Dr. Chirico acknowledged the incoming president, Gianpiero Pagliaro, currently ILICA board member and Director of Programs. Mr. Marra introduced Mr. Pagliaro, right away underscoring that changes will be forthcoming, one of which will be to “start a discussion with NOIAW, hopefully, that we can collaborate with women.” Upon accepting his new position Gianpiero Pagliaro stated that he felt a sense of responsibility and a sense of excitement for contributing to the future of the organization.
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