By Paul Gable and John Bonsignor
October is officially designated as Italian American Heritage Month thanks to a bill passed in the SC General Assembly in March 2015.
The bill added Sec. 53-3-200 to the SC Code of Laws designating October of every year as Italian American Heritage month.
Sen. Ray Cleary chaperoned the bill through the SC Senate and former Rep. Nelson Hardwick performed the same duties in the SC House. It was signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley on March 27, 2015.
The bill recognizes the many vital contributions of Italian Americans to the state in the political, social and economic systems of South Carolina.
Horry County resident Fred Nesta was recognized as the catalyst behind the effort to pass the bill. A member of Grand Strand Lodge 2868 of the Order of Sons of Italy in America and a past national state deputy of the order.
“This legislation is to recognize the efforts of all Italians and Italian-Americans who sacrificed to give future generations a better life,” said Fred Nesta. “Over the past decade, a heightened interest in our roots has come about, where we came from, what we stand for, recognition of the contributions of Italians and Italian-Americans and their influence in the world…this drives us to seek and learn more about our roots and share in the joy of our heritage with our entire community.
Italian Americans today represent the 4th largest ethnic group in the US. They have been instrumental in all fields of endeavor. Many have won Nobel Prizes, including science Guglielmo Marcone, literature Salvatore Quasimodo, economics Franco Modigliani and medicine Camillo Golgi. The list goes on to over 226 recipients of the Nobel prizes.
There are the pioneers who played a major niche in the areas of finance Amadeo Pietro Giannini (Bank of America founder), education Monica Lozano, government Alfred Smith and John Pastore, baseball Joe DiMaggio, music Mario Lanza, law Antonin Scalia, and many others who have had a hand in the development of the US and World.
With the wonderful contributions, also came hardships such as poverty, prejudice, and discrimination. These hardships have always been overcome by the proud hard driving tenacity of Italian Americans and their willingness to stand up for themselves and those underserved, overlooked, and underprivileged citizens for the betterment of our State and County.
Nesta said members of local chapters of OSIA and other Italian clubs and organizations in South Carolina embody these interests and values which include giving back to the community through monetary donations and services and to share their Italian heritage through local and national Italian festivals and other endeavors.