Yesterday the Vito Marcantonio Forum held the 60th anniversary of the of Congressman Vito Marcantonio’s death at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Friends, supporters and admirers of the passionate advocate joined family members to hear stories of his innovative ideals for New York City. Roberto Ragone performed a dramatic interpretation of Vito Marcantonio’s speeches while Troy Hodges performed Paul Robeson’s eulogy for Marcantonio. New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito spoke of Marcantonio’s lesser known, but critical advocacy for Puerto Rico’s independence. “Many people in Puerto Rico don’t know about his fight for the independence of Puerto Rican’s and how he was vilified for those views. I want New York to progress in the same way that Vito had imagined…New York is for everyone.” she said.
Vito Marcantonio was born in 1902 to Italian-American immigrants and grew up in East Harlem. First being elected as a Congressman under the Republican ticket in 1934, he later switched to the American Labor Party in 1937. Marcantonio’s district was also his home and he fought for reform important to the immigrants of Italian and Puerto Rican origin. Marcantonio defended Italian-Americans against discrimination during World War II and advocated for African American civil rights, especially in making lynching a federal crime. During his political career in the House of Representatives, he sponsored five bills calling for Puerto Rico’s independence. A staunch and vocal activist, Marcantonio was against both the Cold War and Korean War. He tragically died from a heart attack in 1954 at the age of 51.
Frank Marcantonio Jr. admitted that he did not know much about his relative when he was younger but realized that he was following Vito’s footsteps. “Civil rights, worker’s rights, women’s rights….the things I stood for are the same that Vito stood for. I’m proud to carry on the name of Marcantonio.” He continued, “Having everyone here to share in this event and remember the views Vito shared and the work he did, this is the best way to honor him.”