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Cleveland Welcomes All; Cleveland Women's March; Kent Interfaith Alliance for Reconciliation and Justice Rally; 258th Robert Burns Anniversary Dinner

Earlier in the week we had picked up a flyer advertising an event at St. Colman Church on Friday night titled "Cleveland Welcomes All" that was billed as "an alternative to the Inauguration Ceremony" put on by the church and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH).

Further down on the paper it was written, "we want to show those living in Cleveland both documented and undocumented immigrants as well as refugees that our community will continue to support people no matter their place of birth. We want to host a dinner to show our support for ALL those living in Cleveland and pledge that we will keep everyone safe. We believe that immigrants and refugees are under threat after the horrible rhetoric during the campaign. Most Clevelanders reject this hate and fear and want to break bread with those who find themselves in the USA. After all, we all all in this together, and very few of us can claim our ancestors are native to this land." 

A very good dinner composed of salad, mashed potatoes and chicken (although we didn't eat the latter-we traded our piece in for more salad and potatoes) was served and we shared a table and had a good visit with Mr. Jose Mendiola from the Lorain Ohio Immigrant Rights Association (LOIRA) about what to expect regarding immigration policy from the Trump administration.

We also said hello to Father Bob Reidy, from La Sagrada Familia, and Father Bob Wenz who both knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong and wanted us to give their best to her upon learning about the death of her mother.

Brief speeches were given by Mr. Brian Davis, Executive Director of NEOCH, and Ms. Eileen Kelly, St. Colman's Outreach Director, in which it was said that it was good to break bread with friends and it didn't matter where they were born because blood flows through the veins of all humans.

We went to bed early on Friday night so we could get up early to attend the Women's March in Cleveland that started with a rally in Public Square at 10am. We were amazed to see so many women and men of all ages there and the estimated total of participants told to to us was 5,000 people.

We believed that it was very important that we be there because, as several speakers and many signs proclaimed, "women's rights are human rights" so we slowly wiggled our way to the front of the speaking section so we could clearly hear what was said although the sound system, in this case, was quite good.

Over the past week, we had seen Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio on several occasions so she knew that Ms. Wong mother had passed and that the funeral was on Saturday at the same time as this occurrence. Otherwise Ms. Wong, who had been invited to speak, would have been there. Thus, when it was Ohio State Rep. Antonio's time to speak, she allotted a moment to talking about immigrants and refugees and how they should be welcomed here. We are very appreciative of Ohio State Rep. Antonio for talking about this in Ms. Wong's absence.

Also bringing up the subject of immigration was Ms. Julia Shearson, Executive Director of the Cleveland Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) who spoke of how President Trump had taken advantage of the American public's fear of terrorism to cast a very negative light on Muslims during his campaign and how we must be constantly vigilant of attempts to increase scrutiny of mosques and efforts to keep Muslims from entering the United States.

other dynamic speakers included U.S. Congresspersons Marcia Fudge and Marcy Kaptur, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, and Ms. Kathy Wray Colemen, editor of "Cleveland Urban News."

No doubt the stars of the day were CWRU Physics graduate students, Ms. Laura Johnson and Ms. Claudia Pasmatsiou who organized the march on behalf of those who couldn't travel to Washington, D.C. to take part in the march concurrently taking place there. Both Ms. Johnson and Ms. Pasmatsiou were very pleased with the outpouring of support that they received for this endeavor because when they begin the planning process they expected that less that 100 people would show up. Ms. Johnson spoke for a moment about how women need to be encouraged to choose careers in the various fields of science because, at this time, it is mostly dominated by men. She went on to say that she was angered by President Trump during the campaign when he said that Hillary Clinton did not look "presidential" because the same thing happened to her when, in the course of her studies, she was told that she did not look like a physicist. We agree with Ms. Johnson that these statements were very exclusionary and sexist.

During her speech, U.S. Congresswoman Kaptur mentioned that it was only fitting that Ms. Pasmatsiou be an organizer because she came to us from Greece which is the "home of democracy." She went on to say that "these two young women lift hearts and show great strength."

And Ohio State Rep. Antonio congratulated both of them "who made this happen." She noted that this was "their first organizing attempt" and predicted that Ms. Johnson and Ms. Pasmatsiou would have a "long history ahead of them" and that "the world of physics would never be the same."

On the "United We Dream" website, we learned that the Kent Interfaith Alliance for Reconciliation and Justice would be conducting a rally later Saturday afternoon on the steps of the Portage County Courthouse in Kent so off we went.

We got to meet Mr. Russell A. Buckbee, an elder with the First Christian Church of Kent, who played a big part in the rally being organized and had sent us an email saying, in part, that they declared "in no uncertain terms that we will stand in the way of criminalization, mass deportation and hatred. We stand for bringing together all of America, and for just action for all."

Mr. Buckbee's message went on to say that the gathering at the Courthouse would:

"1. Show united support for all of our elected officials to unify our country in waging 'liberty and justice for all.' 2. To call on them and ourselves to respect people while representing all irrespective of race, gender, religion, income or orientations. 3 To take action on policies to bring about this reconciliation and justice and reject policies which will us and/or promote some citizens over us."

And the spirit of the some 100 people who turned out for this action reflected what Mr. Buckbee wrote to us. We got to meet some neat people like Mayor Jerry T. Fiala of Kent, Mr. Frank Hairston of the Portage County NAACP, and Professor Maria Zaldivar from the Modern and Classical Languages Department at Kent State University (KSU) who volunteers a significant amount of her time to helping children who have immigrated to the United States from Hispanic countries. We also recognized and spoke with Professor David W. Odell-Scott, KSU's Religious Studies' coordinator who is a good friend of our friend, Mr. Murat Gurer from the Turkish Cultural Center.

While we were waiting for the rally to start, we expressed our concerns about President Trump's prospective immigration policies in a brief interview with Mr. Kabir Bhatia with WKSU.

One of the speakers at the rally was Reverend Renee Ruchotzke of the Unitarian Universalist Association who said that "we must build bridges in our community, we must share ideas and inspire each other, and we must not stop working until all have a place at the table."

Our last event for Saturday was the 258th Robert Burns Anniversary Dinner which was put on by the Scottish Heritage Association of Northeast Ohio (SHANO). Needless to say, we were quite rushed that day so we had just enough time after the Kent event to dash home and put on a sports coat, slacks and a tie and hurry over to the Croatian Lodge in Eastlake. We were delighted when we discovered that our colleague at Margaret W. Wong and Associates, Mr. Gordon Landefeld was also there with his wife, Elaine, and that they wore more appropriate attire.

We have been to this dinner at least once before and thus were known to Ms. Michelle Bozeman, one of the coordinators, who recognized us and walked over to say hello. We shared with her a funny, offbeat poem that Muhammad Ali (of all people) had written about Mr. Burns that was recited at a Burns dinner that we had attended last year in Stow.

We also got to meet Ms. Amy Kenneley who writes for "Cleveland Seniors" and is a good friend of our friends, Mr. Dan Hanson and Ms. Debbie Hanson.

When it was time to take our seats, we sat with Mr. George Trimble who asked us about our own heritage. When we told him that our father referred to himself as "Scotch Irish" Mr. Trimble told us that we were descended from "Ulster Scots" meaning that Ulster was an area of Ireland that had been colonized by the Scottish. We never knew that before.

Before dinner the national anthems of the United States, England, Scotland, and Canada were all sang by Mr. Michael Crawley who we had seen perform exactly one week earlier at the East Side Irish American Club where he was part of "Mary's Lane" an Irish American Folk Rock Band.

Other people who took part in the program were Ms. Dorothea J. Kingsbury (who we also knew) who acted as emcee; Chief David Leifer who gave some remarks; and Father Stephen C. Secaur who gave the Invocation.

Soon it was time to address and present the "haggis" a savory pudding containing lamb that was made famous throughout the world by a Robert Burns poem. For us, paying tribute to a plate of food (unless one was starving and the food was one's source of sustainability) was humorously bizarre and Mr. Kona Gant made the most of it and got a well-deserved round of laughter and cheers.

Perhaps the most poignant part of the evening was when the several people who were more than deserving (according to those we talked to) were inducted into the Scottish Hall of Fame whose purpose is "to publicly and permanently recognize those individuals or organizations which have had a major and significant impact in the Scottish community of Northeastern Ohio and beyond." Those so honored were the Lochaber Pipe Band (music); Ms. Diane Klann (dance); and William and Mary Beth Grant (Scottish Heritage). A special award was also given posthumously to William and Jean Cunningham who had done a lot for the Scottish community of Northeastern Ohio during their lifetimes including acting as chairpersons for the annual St. Andrew's Ball for years. The award that really interested us was the one given to Ms. Klann because several people at our table had studied dancing with her over the years. We introduced ourselves and learned that she has traveled the world to promote this fine art.

Speaking of dancing, the rest of the evening was devoted to it along with performances by several distinguished pipe bands. We were very impressed by the artistry but for us the most breathtaking moment of the evening came at the finale when the a lone piper stood in the window of an upstairs section of the banquet hall and played "Amazing Grace" via the bag pipes as he was silhouetted by makeshift fog/smoke and a red light. Our program notes told us that the lone piper "symbolizes the last post of the day for the Scottish Regiments. It has been a tradition for the Edinburgh Tattoo for the Lone Piper to play a Lament at the end of the performance for the Castles Ramparts...The red light signifies the struggles of our Scottish heritage."

It had been a long day for us and we cannot think of a more appropriate ending for it than this haunting melody performed in the manner in which it was. 


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.


Kwasi Bediako