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02/02 - Commission for Social Justice® Takes Aim at Promotion of "Sopranos" Negative Italian-American Images as Art

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

Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2001 - The Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ) has urged the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City to reconsider the content of an upcoming museum program that includes showing the first two seasons of HBO's controversial and defamatory interpretation of Italian Americans, "The Sopranos," scheduled for Feb. 3-12.

The CSJ, along with the National Italian American Foundation, has contacted the MoMA to explore the possibility of the organizations' involvement in the program, hoping to offer their perspective on ethnic stereotyping and the damage it causes. The CSJ has often spoken out against the HBO series since it first aired in 1999, because of the false, negative portrayals of Italian Americans the show promotes.

"We feel that if this museum program which presents negative images of Italian Americans as art is going to continue, we, who are often subject to the social backlash from such programs, should be able to present our view," said CSJ President John Dabbene.

With the program just one day away, the CSJ has not received a response from the MoMA.

"We are simply asking for balance here," Dabbene said. "As a nonprofit educational institution, the museum should be striving to educate on the complexity of this issue instead of focusing on only one aspect, that of the show's producer who sees nothing wrong with the images he is promoting. That is why we want to be included in the program.

"With respect for the First Amendment and the rights of all Americans to create and honor artistic achievement, we do not feel the degradation of Italian Americans is art. Pinin Farina's design model Cisitalia ‘202' GT Car, Umberto Boccioni's sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, Federico Fellini's film La Dolce Vita- that is art. These examples are just a few on the long list of positive artistic achievements concerning Italians and Italian Americans. ‘The Sopranos' just does not fit there."

The CSJ has been fighting negative stereotyping of Italian Americans for decades. Instrumental in its fight is a U.S. Department of Justice study which found that a very small percentage of Italian Americans were associated with organized crime. Yet a 1991 national survey sponsored by the CSJ and conducted by Princeton-based Response Analysis Corporation found that 74% of all Americans believe that most Italian Americans are in some way associated with organized crime.

The Commission for Social Justice® is the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the largest grassroots organization of Italian-American men and women in the United States. The CSJ works to ensure equal concern, treatment, respect, freedom, and opportunity for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or age.

The CSJ is particularly dedicated to eradicating negative portrayals of Italian Americans and replacing them with positive, affirming images. For more information write to CSJ, 219 E St., NE, Washington, DC 20002, email csj@osia.org, and visit the CSJ on the Internet at http://www.osia.org/public/commission.htm