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International Relations Conversation at The Cleveland Public Auditorium

On Wednesday, March 1st, we attended an "International Relations Conversation" at the Cleveland Public Auditorium that had been organized by Global Cleveland with the participation of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and City Council President Kevin Kelley.

The program was introduced by Ms. Valerie J. McCall, Chief of Government and International Affairs for Mayor Jackson, who said that internationalism is "the fabric of our community" and that this meeting was called so that the participants could talk to each other about the international community here in Cleveland.

The first speaker was Mayor Jackson who said that even though the meeting meant a lot of him, personally, he hoped that it would mean even more to the different communities of Cleveland and wanted to establish an atmosphere wherein people could express their fears and anxieties; overall, his goal was to see what needed to take place in order for everyone in Cleveland to feel safe and comfortable living here. He noted that even though Cleveland is not a sanctuary city on paper, we behave like we our in terms of personality, character, and culture.

City Council President Kelley talked about the City of Cleveland's new "Language Access Plan" which ensures that those not proficient in English will still have "meaningful access" to city services. City Council President Kelley wanted it to be known that Cleveland is "open for business to any citizen" and wanted everyone to know that when he or she comes to City Hall, "it is your city."

Mr. Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland, was very happy that 130 people were there for this conversation. He realized that due to the heated rhetoric on the national scene, many foreign-born people may not feel comfortable living in the United States right now but Mr. Cimperman wanted everyone to know that in Cleveland, all are welcomed and that we are truly an "international city." Mr. Cimperman went on to talk about international students in Cleveland who represent about 90 different countries and bring with them a unique international perspective that should be listened to. Moreover, Mr. Cimperman stated facts that proved that immigrants are an economic asset to Cleveland and was proud that the Global Cleveland has sent representatives to all of the swearings-in of new citizens that have taken place since Spring, 2016; he let us know that at this time there are 10-15,000 people only one step away from becoming American citizens. To conclude, he reiterated that no matter what the federal government did in terms of building a wall across the U.S./Mexican border or creating a pathway to citizenship, "home is here" for all immigrants.

It was then time to hear the concerns of the people in the audience who wanted to express them. For example, our good friend Mr. Pierre Bejjani, President of CAMEO, read a statement in which he said that the American Middle Eastern/Arabic community is concerned because: "We are a multi-ethnic community, we have fears about being secure and safe under the current developments, our community will be singled out/stereotyped, and need reassurance from the Mayor, Police Dept., and elected officials that we will be safe."

Although he did not make any opening remarks, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams was siting on stage with Mayor Jackson, City Council President Kelley, and Mr. Cimperman. At this time, the Chief spoke up and assured Mr. Bejjani that his officers have never questioned a person's immigration status and will not do so in the future.

Other people asked intelligent questions including our colleague, Mr. George Koussa, and friends of ours like Mr. Joseph Meissner, Ms. Mari Galindo-Da Silva, Dr. Wael Khoury, and Ms. Julia Shearson. In addition, Dr. Mansoor Ahmed extended to Mayor Jackson an invitation to visit the Islamic Center of Cleveland on East 130th Street and Mr. Jesus Sanchez from the Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center, said that he very much appreciated what had been said and suggested that in order for everyone there to continue to learn from each other a network should be established devoted to helping others.

Near the end of the meeting, Mr. Cimperman let it be know that this had been the first of what he hoped would be many discussions and assured us that "we will have more."

And Mayor Jackson, a political veteran, said that if one relies on government to see what needs to be done and do it then one is going to fail. Thus it is imperative that the people hold government in check in order to make sure that it does what is necessary. In this instance, he suggested that the people must work together to make Cleveland a more welcoming place and in doing so make "Global Cleveland your arm."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC