Latin Dance Gala; Hungarian Wild Game Dinner; Circle of Peace rally; 2017 Annual Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Dinner; Literary Cleveland at Cleveland State University
On the weekend of March 18th and 19th, we attend five events which were all very different but very alike in that they brought people together.
Our first event for the weekend was the Latin Dance Gala for the benefit of the InterReligious Taskforce on Central America (IRTF) which took place at "Viva Dance Studios" at Asia Town Center on Saturday evening, March 18th.
There were no official program notes for this event because Mr. Brian Stefan-Szittai, Co-Coordinator of the IRTF, correctly reasoned that the production of them for a casual gathering would be a sad waste of paper. Instead, the names of the sponsors which included "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" were posted on signs on display at different places throughout the Studios as well as intermittently projected on a big screen for all to see.
While we were there we enjoyed some excellent Latin American cuisine like pupusas which are thick corn tortillas stuffed with retried beans. We also took a Salsa dance lesson from Ms. Crystal Bedford, Director of the "Dance Konnection" which has teams in Cleveland and Columbus, who patiently took us through the steps. Before too long most of the people on the dance floor got the hang of it and were doing quite well.
Earlier, we watched Ms. Patricia Bussard, an accomplished dancer, take a twirl on the floor so we sat down and visited with her for a few minutes. We soon learned that Ms. Margaret W. Wong had helped her with some paperwork when she immigrated to the United States from Venezuela years ago. Ms. Bussard is part of a dance group called "Chakai Manta" which performs numbers from such countries as Venezuela, Columbia, and Peru.
"Chakai Manta" will be performing at the "Las Dos Fronteras" restaurant on Fulton Road in Cleveland on Mother's Day so Ms. Bussard invited us to come and join the party and, if our schedule permits, we certainly plan to be there.
Aside from dancing and food, we were really attracted to the items at the fair trade table so we bought caffeine free organic peppermint herbal tea and organic "very dark" chocolate bar both produced by the "Equal Exchange" cooperative of small farmers.
For a friend of ours, we also bought a small pink, green, purple and black ladybug handcrafted by the Nahua Indigenous families in Guerrero located in Southern Mexico. Our friend had originally intended to give it to her niece for her birthday but, because it was so cute, changed her mind and decided to keep it for herself and we don't blame her.
The next day was Sunday and our first event for the day was the Hungarian Wild Game Dinner served at St. Emeric Church on West 22nd Street near the West Side Market.
We were fortunate enough to be assigned a table full of kindly people who were very understanding about us not eating meat and made sure that we had enough bean soup, rice with vegetables, and salad to fill us up. We did sample some venison, though, and found it to be a lot softer than other meats we have eaten over the years before we became vegetarians.
Before we sat down, Ms. Ildiko Peller, who coordinated the affair, told us that this dinner used to be a tradition with St. Emeric Church before it closed in 2009 and now that it has been re-opened, they are seeking to re-establish the tradition.
We said "hello" to Father Andrew Mezei as well as several people that we knew like Mr. Walt Mahovlich who performs with the group "Harmonia-Music from the Heart of Europe."
We also thanked the people who were primarily responsible for preparing the fine meal who were our old friend Mr. John Megyimori and his wife, Marika, and Ms. Marika Zsula.
Present at the meal were the two hunters who provided the church with the venison being eaten at this time who modestly requested that we not mention their names. They told us that they have a friend who owns property near the city of Chillicote in Ross County and lets them hunt there. They went on to say that obtaining the meat who more of an "adventure" instead of a "chore" and gave great credit to Mr. and Mrs. Megyimori and their cooking crew for making this day a fine success.
The term "fine success" could also be used to describe the "Circle of Peace" rally that we attended in front of "Masjid Bilal" on Euclid Avenue which is the first Masjid built in the United States by African American Muslims.
The purpose of the rally was to bring people of different faiths together to speak out in favor of all peoples working together to solve our problems in a time of great political division and strife. The rally started by all of us joining together to say the "Pledge of Allegiance".
Afterwards, Mr. Tariq Ziyad, from "Masjid Bilal", said that he had trouble when it can to saying the word "indivisible" because the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and its outcomedivided the country, if not the world. Mr. Ziyad went on to say that "we're here because we are tired of being divided."
Then Imam Shafeeq Sabir, also from "Masjid Bilal", spoke for a minute and made the wise observation that even though the weather outside was quite cold (around 36 degrees) "we can deal with the chill because being together warms us up."
Then the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Minister of Outreach from the "Heights Christian Church" took charge of the program and explained that there would be many speakers at this program who came from all over the city with the goal of helping us to realize our potential if we act as one people. Thus each speaker should try to limit himself/herself to 2-3 minutes. Once again, Rev. Dr. Campbell reminded us that we were gathered here as people of all faiths who have come together to express their commonly held belief that the United States can be the "free and generous nation" that God intended us to be composed of people of great diversity drawn together."
This belief was echoed by each one of the speakers in his/her own words and these speakers were Sister Rita Petruziello from the "Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph"; Rev. Roger Osgood, Minister at "Heights Christian Church"; Mr. Isam Zaiem, co-founder of the Council of Islamic Relations (CAIR); Rev. Dr. Stephen Rowan from "Bethany Baptist Church"; Bishop Eugene W. Ward, Jr. from "Greater Love Missionary Baptist Church"; Rabbi Allison Vann from "Suburban Temple"; Ms. Anita Gray from the "Anti-Defamation League"; Ms. Beth Thames from the Office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown; Ms. Stephanie Saniga from "The Focolares Movement"; and Ms. Kmananadivi Dasi Devi, a Hare Krishna minister.
For us, moments that really stood out were:
***Bishop Ward recalling the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty and then said that Liberty holds the torch of freedom and certain forces were now trying to extinguish it; therefore we must stand together.
***Rev. Dr. Rowan saying that we have trials and tribulations ahead of us but we must never stop hoping; particularly if we can put aside our narrow self-interests and do what is best for the common good.
***Rabbi Allison Vann reading a beautiful poem titled " Faith Reunion" by Mr. Alden Solovy. Afterwards we (and quite a few other people) asked where we could locate a copy. In order to do so just go to tobendlight.com
***Ms. Gray talking about the high number of bomb threats against Jewish Houses of Worship in the U.S. as well as certain provinces in Canada.
The rally concluded with Imam Shafeeq Sabir addressing us once more and saying that he appreciated all of us being there on this cold day and that he hoped that this rally would have the rippling effect comparable to a stone being thrown into a pond.
The rally only lasted an hour so we had some unexpected time on our hands so we decided to stop off at the 2017 Annual Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Dinner being held at the Global Center for Health Innovation. It's theme was aptly "All on the Line" which, for us, signified a call for unity.
We could only stay a short time but we still managed to talk to quite a few people who included:
***Mayor Chase Ritenauer of the city of Lorain who we talked to several weeks ago at his annual State of the City. Mayor Ritenauer said that he is looking into making Lorain an official "Welcoming City" for immigrants.
***Cleveland City Councilperson Tony Brancatelli who we told that his aide, Ms. Marcelina Sladewska, did a fine job when she represented him a few days earlier at the reception for the Polish Consul General in Slavic Village.
***Ohio State Rep. Kathleen Clyde who we have heard speak several times before and might be considering running for higher office in the near future.
***U.S. Congressperson Marcy Kaptur who graciously stopped and talked to us for a moment even though her aides were urging her to take her place inside the banquet hall because dinner was about to start.
***Dr. Patricia A. Blochowiak, a member of the Board of Education for East Cleveland City Schools, who wore an appropriate pin which read "Friend to Our Muslim Neighbors"
***Mr. Mike McIntyre from Plumbers Local 55 who asked how we were doing. We replied that we were "hanging tough" and he laughed and said that these days we've all got to!
Lastly, we went to the Student Center at CSU for a "Literary Cleveland" program titled "Crossing Borders" composed of five actors reading 14 "Immigrant Narratives" or stories/poems by local authors about the immigrant experience.
Before the program started, Ms. Susan Petrone, the current Board President of "Literary Cleveland" addressed the attendees for a moment and said that the narratives were the product of people who did not consider themselves writers before but, nevertheless, they did have stories to tell.
Among the subjects touched upon were young immigrant students being shunned by their classmates due to their accents; fleeing the repression of war-torn countries and undergoing hardship to travel to the U.S. where one could start life anew; first generation Americans growing up in a immigrant household where old traditions are observed who undergo culture shock when they visit the homes of their very modern U.S. friends whose families have been here for generations; and how the discovery of an old heirloom could motivate a person to trace his/her ancestry.
The evening closed very powerfully with a work titled "American Promise" about a young woman from a privileged family in India who makes the difficult choice to become a U.S. citizen and then having to recognize this country's dark side via the recent Executive Orders pertaining to immigration issued by the Trump administration.
The writers of the narratives were Ms. Elizabeth Figueroa, Mr. Jason Jaffery, Ms. Lisa Chiu, Ms. Melanie Rademaker, Ms. Nancy Sotka, Ms. Charlotte Morgan, Ms. Amy Breau, Mr./Ms. E.F. Schraeder, Mr. Lee Chilcote, Ms. Laurel Domanski-Diaz, Ms. Ann Klotz, Mr. Phil Metres Straightland, Ms. Lara Lillibridge, and Ms. Thrity Umrigar. The five actors who performed them were Ms. Peggy Sullivan, Ms. Tina Stump, Mr. Tim Keo, Ms. Rocky Encalada and Mr. Leilani Barrett. The director was Mr. Marc Moritz and the narratives enjoyed the occasional musical accompaniment rendered by Mr. Mike Bloom. All of the above made superb contributions.
And we were proud to see the name of "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" as one of the sponsors. The program was taped and when it is available we will send it to all of our fellow staffers because it was a very inspiring experience.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC