March “Victoria’s Stars” focuses on New York’s Italian-American organizations

The April episode of “Victoria’s Stars,” the cable TV program hosted by Victoria Schneps, the co-publisher of The Home Reporter and Brooklyn SpectatorDuring this episode, which will air on April 11 at 5 p.m., Schneps interviews three leaders of widely different New York City Italian-American organizations who share a passion for Italian culture and making a difference in their communities.

The episode begins with the operatic sounds of the late Italian tenor Enrico Caruso’s voice, playing from an old-fashioned turntable. Schneps chose Aldo Mancusi, the president of the Enrico Caruso Museum of America to share his story during the episode.

Mancusi told Schneps that his interest in Caruso developed early on. “My parents were both Italian immigrants,” Mancusi said. “My mother had some training in singing and my father was a musician. Of course, he loved Caruso, and I was subjected to all of this music at the time.”

Mancusi’s fascination with Caruso prompted him to found the museum, which features regular lectures about Caruso’s music, and concerts at which the tenor’s songs are performed. His goal is to reach Italian-Americans who want to stay connected to their culture, especially through music.

During the episode, Schneps also converses with Carrie Sackett, the executive director of Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy, a program that provides two residential campuses – known as towns – for children and teens who come to Italy to flee war, extreme poverty and sex trafficking, among other hardships.

Boys’ & Girls’ Towns of Italy was founded 70 years ago by Italian-Americans – and other Americans – who wanted to help solve the problem of post-war poverty and the increasing number of orphans in Italy. In both Boys’ and Girls’ Towns, the youth make decisions and settle disputes through an approach Sackett called self-government.

“The young people who have lived through the worst things a kid could live through – they run their own town,” said Sackett, who works at Boys & Girls Towns’ New York City office. “They elect each other. Anything that happens in the community gets deliberated on in assembly.”

Frank Naccarato, the president of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, is also spotlighted in this episode. The non-profit organization, founded 37 years ago, serves over 10,000 Brooklynites per year with its social services for immigrants, cultural and sports programs, and afterschool programs for pre-kindergarteners through fifth graders at I.S. 96 in Bensonhurst.

The federation is based at 7405 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, but Naccarato hopes to open a new Italian-American cultural center on 18th Avenue at Benson Avenue soon.

“We have though the years changed so many lives,” Naccarato told Schneps. “That’s what’s great about this city and this country – that we can all work together. Different races, different religions, but there’s only one race and that’s the human race. This mosaic that we have here in Brooklyn is something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world, and it’s worth nurturing and cultivating, because the future belongs to those who prepare for it.”

The show, produced by Gregori Romenski, will air on BCAT – Time Warner channel 79, Cablevision channel 68, RCN channel 83 and Verizon channel 43.

Romenski conceived the idea for “Victoria’s Stars” upon reading The Home Reporter and Brooklyn Spectator’s weekly Star of Brooklyn feature, which spotlights someone who is making a difference in the community.

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