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Out & About in Cleveland

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Darts, Chorus, and CAMEO

On Wednesday, August 13th, we volunteered with Gay Games 9, this time at the Darts Competition at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland. Also volunteering were Lt. Stephen W. Kall and Sgt. Sean M. Baker from Federal Reserve Law Enforcement who were here because the Federal Reserve encourages those who work there to be involved in the community and we appreciated the opportunity to work with these fine people from law enforcement. While we were at the Darts Competition we spoke to Mr. Phil Horne who traveled to Cleveland from Sydney, Australia to take part in Gay Games 9. Mr. Horne is a Civil Engineering Lecturer at the University of Sydney as well as a real gay games veteran having participated in four gay games since 2002 when they were held in Sydney. Mr. Horne really liked our opening ceremonies, in fact except for the one staged in Sydney it is the best he has taken part in because it was "inclusive" and "family oriented" and he just loved the musical performance of Alex Newell.

When we spoke to Mr. Horne he was just getting ready to leave to visit the Women's Aviation Museum for the second time since arriving in Cleveland. He also loves to visit our theatre district. So far, his only problem with Gay Games 9 was Festival Village because he is a "very conversational person" and thought the music there was too loud. Above all, Mr. Horne like the people of Cleveland. He makes use of our public transit and was taken back by the number of people who reached out and wanted to talk to him instead of the other way around. He expected the people of Cleveland to be more "parochial" but instead they have been "very accepting and tolerant."

Also at the Darts Competition was Mr. Niki Samardzija who is a very upbeat man at his first gay games who was born in the United States and resides in Chicago where he owns two bars but he just loves it that he is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Croatia where he lived for 5 years because he sees the benefits and drawbacks of both countries. Mr. Samardzija was having a great time when we spoke with him and didn't mind it at all that he was eliminated early on in his first contest of the day because he knows that other contests will be taking place throughout the day which will offer more opportunities for him. We certainly wished him luck because he is the type of person who makes us feel good to be around.

Next we were scheduled to help out at the Chorus rehearsal taking place at the State Theatre but there wasn't that much to do there so we watched the North Coast Men's Chorus practice some songs (they sing with such beauty) and then headed back to the Convention Center to see how our friends in the Columbian volley ball team were doing. As it turned out, they won a bronze medal and we were happy for them.

The Brazilian volley ball team won a silver medal and we got to visit with one of its players, Mr. Eduardo Sanchez who loves being part of Gay Games 9 because they are "very organized" and "fun beyond all expectations." Mr. Sanchez went on to describe his experience here in Cleveland as "overwhelming" but in a positive way because he is enjoying himself at parties and the "great cultural events." He finds the people here in Cleveland to be "very friendly" and accepting of gay people unlike the current situation in Brazil. Mr. Sanchez works for the Brazilian equivalent of the IRS where he holds a responsible position.

After we spoke with Mr. Sanchez, we wandered over to another volley ball match and watched the very enthusiastic team from Guam win the contest. We spoke to Mr. James Servino who has lived in the United States for most of his life but has not lost touch with his roots in Guam and told us proudly that "when the sun rises in Guam" which is a United States territory "America's Day begins!" Mr. Servino referred to Cleveland as the "heartland of America" and walked us over to meet the rest of the 15 person volley ball team who were all pumped up and ready to play again in a few minutes. Nevertheless, they really welcomed the chance to meet us and posed for a photo with their flag. When we had to leave, they all called out good bye to us in unison.

The reason we had to leave was get ready to attend C.A.M.E.O.'s Candidates Night at the Holiday Inn in Independence. As we have said before about C.A.M.E.O. (Cleveland American Middle East Organization), part of its statement of purpose reads that it "is designed to articulate the political interest of more than 100,000 Northeastern Ohio residents of Middle Eastern Heritage, Arab Americans. C.A.M.E.O. has one central purpose, to appraise candidates running for Public Office, that will offer political support to those who are best prepared to respond to our concerns. C.A.M.E.O. accepts the diversity of religious and political philosophies and beliefs of its membership..."

We may also add that is a completely nonpartisan organization and candidates of all philosophies are welcome to address the club and seek their endorsement which generally are awarded to both democrats and republicans. The way the process works is that on this particular evening, the candidates made their presentations and a three person panel will review them and make their recommendations to the C.A.M.E.O. Board. Then on September 20th, the club as a whole will meet and learn who is recommended but will ultimately decide for themselves who will be endorsed. In short, they will certainly take the recommendations into consideration but whoever gets the endorsement is the membership's decision to make.

The key organizer of tonight's event was Mr. Paul W. Marnecheck, one of the C.A.M.E.O. officers and a North Royalton City Councilman. All would agree that Mr. Marnecheck did a wonderful job distributing questionnaires out to all of the federal, state, and local candidates running in the Cleveland area and arranging for 3 minute time slots for the approximately 52 candidates who sought the C.A.M.E.O. endorsement. As it turned out, over 40 candidates actually appeared or sent a representative so we were able to leave by 9pm after only three hours.

As far as what the candidates actually said, quite a few of them (both republicans and democrats) upheld the importance of diversity and several of them had things to say that were particularly relevant regarding immigration and/or civil rights issues including

***Mr. Kent Smith, democratic candidate for Ohio House 8th District, used to be a Euclid School Board member and recalled helping a young woman who had been expelled from her initial high school for wearing a Muslim head scharf. Mr. Smith helped make it possible for her to enroll in a post-secondary program in the Euclid where she excelled.

***Mr. Michael Wager, democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in Ohio's 14th District said that we have a "crisis on the southern border" and the United States needs a "smart immigration policy."

***Mr. David Macko, libertarian candidate for U.S. Congress in Ohio's 14th District passed out literature which said that he wants "to stop the immigration invasion. Put troops on the border; enact Operation Wetback II and put a temporary moratorium on immigration."

***Ohio State Senator Michael Skindell, a democrat representing District 23, spoke for himself and for Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio, a democrat representing District 13, and said that after 911 they called for sensitivity training for local law enforcement who were dealing with youth of Arab descent and called for measures to ensure the protection of Arab Americans.

***Ms. Sherrie Miday, candidate for Common Pleas Court Judge, reminded everyone that she is the daughter of Egyptian immigrants and, if elected, will be the first Egyptian American to hold office in this country.

In addition, there were two foreign born candidates who spoke at this event.

The first one was Mr. Sikiru Kafaru who is the republican candidate for Ohio State Senate from District 42. Mr. Kafaru immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 1981 when he was 24 years old and joined the U.S. Army in 1984 where he served for 29 years, either on active duty or in the reserves, as a heavy duty mechanic; he was a captain when he retired. In 1990, Mr. Kafaru became a United States citizen and he also worked for the City of Cleveland for many years. When we told Mr. Kafaru that we worked for Ms. Margaret W. Wong, he lit up said that not only did he know Ms. Wong, during the 1980's he referred many people to her. One of the issues that he is stressing in his campaign is education because he comes from Nigeria where "there wasn't much of it" so he is very aware of its value.

The second foreign born candidate was Ms. Maria Anderson who is the republican candidate for Ohio House District from District 13. Ms. Anderson immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1989 when she was 13 years old and could hardly speak English; she was tremendously helped in this area by a bilingual program at Lincoln West. Ms. Anderson went on to receive degrees from both CSU and CWRU School of Law and to own a small business and is also stressing the value of education in her campaign.

For us, it was a great evening because we got to hear from a lot of well-meaning committed people. A combination of what we saw and heard on this night along with our experiences assisting with Gay Games 9 made us think of what Armond Budish, democratic candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive, said at C.A.M.E.O. which was that "diversity is helpful in government...we need diversity throughout government...we need to make sure that we are a welcoming community for everyone."

Out & Aboutimwong