Established in 1905 as a mutual aid society for the early Italian immigrants, today OSIA has more than 600,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 700 chapters coast to coast, making it the leading service and advocacy organization for the nation's estimated 26 million people of Italian descent.
The organization's missions include encouraging the study of Italian language and culture in American schools and universities; preserving Italian American traditions, culture, history and heritage; and promoting closer cultural relations between the United States and Italy.
The Sons of Italy Foundation, established by OSIA, is a private, philanthropic institution that has contributed millions of dollars for scholarships, medical research, cultural preservation and disaster relief.
The Commission for Social Justice is the anti-defamation arm of OSIA
The History of OSIA
Nineteenth century America saw the rapid growth of mutual aid societies throughout the land. In the tradition of volunteering and cooperation, thousands of community organizations were formed. The mutual aid society was a source of great comfort for the immigrants because it provided a familiar setting in which a native language was spoken and old world customs practiced.
The Italian American societies were characterized by the provincial and village ties that were present in Italy. While many of the Italian immigrants had belonged to such organizations in their native land, there the focus was on providing sick and death benefits. However, in America these mutual aid societies had a greater focus on social interaction and were indispensable in assisting rural immigrants in adjusting to urban and industrial life. They were found in virtually every Italian community in America. Eventually, feelings of Italiania began to emerge as Italian American needs and interests transcended the traditional regional and paesi bonds. The development of this ethnic identity by Italians led to the formation of L'Ordine figli d'Italia in America, Order Sons of Italy in America.
Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro (1868-1932) developed the idea of uniting the Italians into one great organization which would enable them to become the authors of their own destinies. Dr. Sellaro was born in Polizza Generosa, Palermo, Sicily and came to the United States in 1897. Recognizing the need to unite the multitude of Italian mutual aid societies into a single federation, Dr. Sellaro and five other Italian immigrants founded The Supreme Lodge, Order Sons of Italy in America on June 22, 1905.
The Supreme Lodge
The Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) is an organizational structure of national, state, and local lodges. OSIA is a lodge system consisting of the Supreme Lodge, the Grand Lodge, and the Local Lodge with a volunteer form of work and a representative form of government. The Supreme Lodge office is located in Washington, D.C. and is governed by a Constitution and General Laws applicable to the Grand Lodges and all members of OSIA.
The officers are elected for a term of two years at the biennial national convention held in the odd numerical years. OSIA is the largest established representing Americans of Italian heritage, with 500,000 family members and 750 local chapters in 35 states. OSIA, through its two subsidiary entities, the Sons of Italy Foundation, and the Commission for Social Justice, works to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Americans of Italian decent. The Supreme Lodge is a tax-exempt entity under Section 501(c)(8) of the Internal Revenue Code, a fraternal organization.
The principles of OSIA are:
Liberty: We want freedom of assembly, of speech, of opportunity – and above all economic freedom. We want individual freedom of thought, of conscience, and of religion. Liberty is the most essential and precious prerogative.
Equality: We believe that all people were created equal without distinction as to race, color, creed, caste or class.
Fraternity: We affectionately offer a hand to all and keep alive the traditions of our ancestors.
The emblem of the Order is a Golden Lion in a field of white signifying strength.
The color of the Order is purple.
OSIA is organized within three levels:
The National Lodge sets goals and coordinates activities in 20 state chapters and 750 community based chapters.
The State Lodge informs all lodges of activities and goals of the National and State Lodge. Each state has its own State Lodge. The Local Lodges are based in various communities and carry through the various programs of National and State OSIA.
They work diligently to also support their own communities.
The flower of the Order is purple Aster.
The Creed of the Order Sons of Italy in America
We believe in the Government of the United States of America as the Government of the people, by the people, and for the people and promise to obey and uphold its Constitution and Laws.
We believe in Government by orderly process and reject any doctrine that tends to subvert constituted government and authority.
We Believe in filial affection and respect for the Land of our Forefathers whose heritage is our highest contribution to America's progress.
We believe in the brotherhood of man and promise to assist our fellow members, to care for the orphans, to extend our helping hand to the widows and to comfort all those in distress.
We believe in equal rights and duties for all; in equality of opportunity in the enjoyment of the benefits of human association extended to all without discrimination.
We believe in freedom of thought, conscience and education and stand for individual liberty in the performance of duties and in the exercise of rights under the Constitution and laws of our Country and State.
We believe in the future progress and expansion of the Order Sons of Italy in America as the beneficial agent of all Americans of Italian birth or descent for their recognition and welfare, and promise to contribute to the moral, intellectual and material progress of our fellow members, and to support the programs of the Order and all its activities for the welfare of our Country, our Order and the Community in which we live.