CiaoAmerica! congratulates Italian American Mary Crisalli Sansone, on receiving the 2010 Haywood Burns Award for her decades of extraordinary devotion to civil rights and social justice. The award is sponsored by the Committee on Civil Rights of the New York State Bar Associationas is given annually to an individual whose contributions to New York reflect Dean W. Haywood Burns' commitment to the struggle for equality and justice, while sharing Burns' unique passion as an advocate for civil rights and for empowering the powerless. "Since she began organizing strikes in the garment industry at the age of 14, Mary Sansone has been an effective civil rights leader for 80 years, with her unmatched ability to inspire others and to build bridges of tolerance among diverse groups of people," said Committee Chair Fernando A. Bohorquez, Jr. of New York.
In 1964 Sansone founded the Congress of Italian American Organizations Inc.(CIAO) which is committed to promoting racial harmony and strengthening human rights, and in 1988 she founded the Community Understanding for Racial Ethnic Equality Inc. (CURE). Sansone was one of a handful of Italian-American leaders who refused to join Joe Colombo’s Italian American Civil rights League.
In 1976, the fifteenth anniversary of the assassination of Sacco and Venzetti, Sansone was responsible for organizing a group of people of all colors and creeds to urge Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts to review the case. This effort resulted in a Proclamation issued in March 1977 which said that "The trial and execution of Sacco and Venzetti should serve and remind all civilized people of the constant need to guard against our susceptibility to prejudice, our intolerance of unorthodox ideas, and failure to defend."
In 1977, Sansone conducted a demographic study that exposed the still significant poverty in the Italian-American community, bringing national attention to the plight of these working poor.