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Annual Allies for Equality Gathering

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Thursday evening we went to the Music Box Supper Club in the Flats for the annual "Allies for Equality" gathering put on by Equality Ohio. First of all, it was a pleasure to get to meet Mr. Ed Tomba, Cleveland's Deputy Chief of Police, who was there to show his support for the work of the organization and its honoree of the evening, Mr. Joe Cimperman.

We spent some time talking to Ms. Gina A. Beredo from the Nordson Corporation whose husband, Mr. Cipriano Beredo is the Chairman of the Diversity Center Board of Directors. Of course all three of us were at the Diversity Center banquet the previous evening so we discussed and agreed that it had been a very meaningful evening.

After we mentioned to Professor Kim Fuller of the CSU School of Social Work that Dr. Ronald M. Berkman, President of CSU, had been honored at the Diversity Center event, Professor Fuller told us that she applauded Dr. Berkman's efforts to make CSU a place of greater diversity and inclusion and believed them to be quite successful. She then said that she would like to see an LGBT Center established on campus and believed it to be only a matter of time and funding.

The program began with Ms. Mary Zaller, outgoing Development Director, thanking everyone there for coming together that evening and acknowledging the many sponsors. 

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Then Ms. Alana Jochum, Executive Director of Equality Ohio, took charge of the proceedings and said that 2016 had been a "challenging but overall good year" and that she looked forward to moving into 2017 with "vigor." She thanked all of the elected officials who were present because without them the Equality Ohio mission which involves achieving "fair treatment and equality opportunity for all Ohioans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression" could not be advanced and the most vulnerable people could not be protected.

She was proud of the local achievements that recently occurred like gaining support in the fight against conversion therapy,  the passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance in Lakewood, and most of all the public accommodation ordinance in Cleveland which finally passed a week before the RNC.

Unfortunately the incoming Trump administration appears to be not-too-friendly towards progressive groups so Ms. Jochum contended that we must ally ourselves with others who are quite "marginalized" like immigrants and Muslims and "not give up without a fight."

It was then time for Ms. Jochum to present the "Cleveland Ally of the Year" award to Mr. Joe Cimperman, former Cleveland City Councilman and now President of Global Cleveland. Ms. Jochum said that it was an understatement to say that Mr. Cimperman went "above and beyond" almost anyone in terms of advocating for equality for all. Among the things that he championed were the domestic partnership registry, the public accommodations ordinance, marriage equality, and the 2009 Gay Games.

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Ms. Jochum then read a letter from Mr. Cimperman's wife, Ms. Nora Romanoff who expressed her support for his courageous efforts on behalf of others despite the fact that it meant that this meant that he couldn't be at home as much as he would like to be. The concluding paragraph of the letter read, "I remember when we heard that Equality Ohio was recognizing your work-I know how excited, overwhelmed and honored you are to be there. I hope Alana, Mary and the entire staff know to always ask you for time and help. I am so grateful to Equality Ohio for seeing in you what I see in you every day. Take a minute to marinate in this recognition and those amazing people surrounding you right now."

And Mr. Cimperman did just that and gave an excellent speech in which he noted our accomplishments like marriage equality and said that we must now prepare ourselves to fight for the work that needs to be done like establishing non-discriminatory policies in the areas of housing and employment throughout the state. He very appropriately concluded his remarks by saying, "we may fight in the cold but never alone. We are together so let's finish this job!!!"

 

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

 

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