By now you may have already seen that in the Saturday, July 9, edition of the New York Times, Helene Stapinski—best-selling author and freelance journalist—published an article about Dr. Joseph Sciorra, Director of Academic and Cultural Programs, and his quest to procure a headstone for longshoreman Pietro “Pete” Panto. Panto, an Italian American labor activist and foe of the Mafia-run dockworkers union in the 1930s, was murdered in 1939; his body was recovered two years later.
The appearance of such an article is significant for several reasons. First, we are now informed of an important part of our American and Italian American labor history that was not well-known before. Second, the research and subsequent fundraising for the tombstone are part and parcel of an intellectual activism that we all need to do more frequently. Third, given her ability to get things like this accomplished, hats off to Helene Stapinski for informing the public at large of the Panto saga.
Finally, numerous individuals whose names appear on the GoFundMe page donated various sums, often in memory of their dockworker ancestors. Specifically, we wish to thank the trustees of the Francesco and Mary Giambelli Foundation and members of the Italian Heritage and Cultural Committee of New York, who also pledged their financial support.
You can read more about Pete Panto and the effort to mark his grave in the Times article here.
Anthony Julian Tamburri
Dean and Distinguished Professor
The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute
Queens College, CUNY