In celebration of Italian Heritage Month, RMU recently hosted historian, educator, and author of Italian culture, Sam Patti.
Patti, the founder and operator of La Prima Espresso Company in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District, has spoken around the country on the intricacies of the Italian culture. His presentation, “Italian American studies from 3rd generation and beyond,” focuses on how younger Italian Americans view their heritage and the traditions that were brought here and passed down by earlier generations.
Patti noted how America is a nation of immigrants, and that immigration is just as relevant today as it was a century ago. “It’s a political ball that people are passing around,” he said. “Just look at what’s happening in Arizona.”
He said that early Italian immigrants, as well as those of other backgrounds, were influential in shaping the America that we know today. “Think about what it was like to be an immigrant in 1907… All they had was hope. But they also brought strength and opportunity with them.
“There is such a distance from the earlier generations to kids today,” said Patti. “I’m interested in how these young people want to stay connected with their heritage. The new Italian culture is in the hands of the young,” he added. “We have to listen to them about where they see it going.”
One of these young Italian Americans is Maria Satira, founder and president of RMU’s new Italian heritage club. Officially known as Voci Italiane, or “Italian Voices,” the new club will work to share the positive aspects of Italian heritage and serve as a resource for students of Italian decent and others who may be interested in Italian culture.
Satira, a junior from Murrysville, Pa., with a double major in journalism and television production, said that she hopes this new organization will encourage RMU’s students of Italian heritage to develop a stronger connection to their family history and help preserve Italian tradition.
“I decided to start the organization because I wanted to learn about my own culture through others' experiences and traditions. I have a very big, very Italian family, and I want to expand that to my own Italian family at RMU.
Voci Italiane already has many ideas in the works for the rest of the year, such as inviting speakers and poets, hosting a bocce tournament, volunteering at the Italian-American section of the Sen. John Heinz History Center, serving a spaghetti dinner at a homeless shelter, visiting the Strip District on an early Saturday morning, and bringing Italian lessons to the university.
“Italian culture is so fun and interesting to learn about,” said Satira “We have historical Italian groups and areas all over Pittsburgh, and I would love to be able to bring that atmosphere to RMU.”
Patti also touched how it’s actually easier for people to stay connected with their heritage today, thanks to technological advances like cell phones, the Internet, and valuable genealogy websites. “We haven’t abandoned our heritage,” he said, “we’ve just replugged into it.”
When asked why he thought it was important for young people to stay connected with their past, Patti shared a question of his own: “How do we know where we’re going if we don’t know where we came from?”
For more information, visit the RMU Multicultural Student Services page on Facebook.com.
Written by Valentine J. Brkich