FIERI was founded in the early part of 1984 more as a concept than a formal organization. In fact the original concept was conceived very informally as two Italian-American College Club Presidents - John Calvelli, age 20 of Fordham University, Bronx NY and Gina Biancardi, age 19 of Lehman College, Bronx NY - met to discuss the possibility of organizing and sponsoring events together. As this idea developed, so did the prospect of taking it one step further. Certainly there was a tremendous need to unite young Italian-American students and professionals beyond the confines of a college campus and have a place to call their own.
Although other established organizations were already in existence, they all catered to an older age group. Nowhere to be found was there an organization for Italian-American youths between the ages of 18-39. Quickly, interest was generated from within the strongest Italian-American community of the Bronx-Belmont.
The youth organization was to be called BIACA (Belmont Italian American Cultural Association) spearheaded by John Calvelli as President. Meetings were held at a small club and BIACA's first dinner dance was held in the summer of 1984. Within months BIACA became a smashing success with an overwhelming demand developing from potential members throughout the metropolitan area.
Soon it was obvious that BIACA had to be renamed to include a broader membership base, not only from the Belmont community, but from all over New York, perhaps all over the United States. In the words of John Calvelli, the founding father, "Why shoot for the moon when you can shoot for the stars." But what would this more widespread organization be called?
As the founding members searched for a name, the 1983 Italian Song Festival, Sanremo Festival, named Tutto Cutugno's L'Italiano as the number one song. In this song the word Fiero(proud) is mentioned repeatedly with respect to the singer's pride in being Italian. Perfect. Not only was it directly to the point but it was a unique approach to naming an organization an organization rather than the often used anagrams. Thus, the new name became Fieri, "Proud" simply made plural signifying our collective pride in our heritage our culture, our roots.
The organization continued to grow beyond our wildest dreams. Requests came from people across the country for information. In fact, the second chapter was founded at American University in Washington D.C. by Lisa Guelli. This expansion was followed almost immediatly with the formation of the third chapter in Brooklyn, NY headed by Dante Naccarato. John Calvelli recognized a need to take this concept national and in 1989 FIERI became FIERI National, Inc., incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. Chapters have also developed in Manhattan, Washington D.C., Queens, North Jersey, South Jersey, Long Island and Staten Island. Although most of the chapters are concentrated in the Northeast region, our membership base consists of people from throughout the country.
Considering the fact that no other similar organization catering to the 18-39 age group was even in existence prior to 1984, we've come a long way! Certainly a void have been filled in the lives of many young Italio-Americans. But we understand that Rome wasn't built in a day and much work remains to spread our message across the United States.
As a founding member, I take great pride (sono Fiera) in still experiencing, 10 years later, the interest and enthusiasm in the faces of many exciting new members. I also applaud the consistency on behalf of the old-timers in their efforts to keep the Fieri fire burning.
Gina Biancardi, Founding Member
Fieri National Education Chairperson
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