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Commission for Social Justice® Steps Up Positive Images Program to Combat
"Sopranos" Degradation

Contact: Diane E. Crespy, (202) 547-2900 dcrespy@osia.org

Washington, D.C., July 28, 2000 - The Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), has increased its Positive Images Program, in the wake of the continuing offensive stereotyping and popularity of HBO's series "The Sopranos."

"That this television show could become so popular is a disgrace to those with even an inkling of Italian heritage," CSJ National President John Dabbene said in reaction to the series' demeaning and horrific portrayals of Italian Americans as foul-mouthed, vulgar, amoral thugs. "The best way to combat this now is to show the world all the positive, extraordinary things that people of Italian extraction have accomplished."

The Positive Images Program encompasses many programs, all aimed at wiping out negative stereotypes and defamation of Italian Americans by highlighting the positive contributions they have made to the world.

Included in the program are events, campaigns, and exhibits on Italian-American Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, Italian involvement in saving Jewish refugees during World War II, petitions to have U.S. Marine John Basilone placed on a U.S. postage stamp, and the internment of Italian Americans during World War II. Also, numerous materials including brochures and bookmarks are available on these topics, as well as the general achievements of Italians and Italian Americans, Italian women, and Italian heritage month, which is unofficially designated as October.

One of the CSJ's more prominent programs, "Una Storia Segreta" or "A Secret Story" is an exhibit that depicts the internment of Italian Americans, on American soil, during World War II. The exhibit contains photographs, memoirs, and artifacts detailing the internment in military camps, curfews, travel restrictions, seizing of personal property, and loss of jobs that more than 600,000 Italian Americans and Italian immigrants (labeled "enemy aliens") faced. The CSJ has sponsored this traveling exhibit for a number of years, and most recently in the State House Annex in Trenton, N.J. From the roots of this exhibit also came the congressional effort to pass a bill (H.R. 2442 in the House of Representatives and S. 1909 in the Senate) that would require the president, on behalf of the U.S. government, to acknowledge these injustices. Further, the Justice Department would be required to compile reports detailing the atrocities.

The CSJ plans to continue expanding its Positive Images Program with additional materials, exhibits, and events. More information will be available as the programs are initiated.

The Commission for Social Justice® works to ensure equal concern, treatment, respect, freedom, and opportunity for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, age, or sex. The CSJ is particularly concerned with eliminating false and discriminatory portrayals of Italian Americans and replacing them with true, positive, and affirming representations.

For more information on the CSJ and its Positive Images Program, to report defamation, to make a donation, or receive CSJ materials, please call 202/547-2900, fax 202-547-0121, email csj@osia.org, or write to: CSJ, 219 E St., NE, Washington, DC 20002. Also, visit the CSJ on the internet at www.osia.org/.