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Cleveland Conversation with Mr. Anand Giridharadas

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 On Saturday, March 25th, our first event took us to the auditorium of the Louis Stokes wing of the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library where we attended a "Cleveland Conversation" with Mr. Anand Giridharadas, "New York Times" columnist and author of the book, "The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas."

 Mr. Giridharadas talked a little about how he is a first generation American (born in Shaker Heights to parents who immigrated here from India) and how he was motivated to return to the land of his parents in 2005 where he covered India for the "New York Times" and the "International Herald Tribune" before returning to the United States in 2009. He joked that he was one of the original Cleveland "Indians" and we all laughed.

 He then talked about his book which documented the true story of Mr. Rais Bhuiyan, who immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh and was working in a convenience store in Texas on 9/21/2001 when he was shot by Mr. Mark Stroman, a racist trying to enact revenge for 9/11. A real achiever, Mr. Bhuiyan recovered and went on to make an excellent success of himself while Mr. Stroman who, in addition to Mr. Bhuiyan, shot and killed two other foreign-born people was sent to death row. Later Mr. Bhuiyan, himself a devout Muslim, did a pilgrimage to Mecca where he experienced a spiritual awakening and returned to the United States where he forgave Mr. Stroman and tried to prevent his execution. Ultimately, Mr. Stroman was executed but not before he and Mr. Bhuiyan reconciled and the latter resolved to do what he could to help Mr. Stroman's daughter.

 What really touched us about this story was that Mr. Bhuiyan, as successful as he was did not adopt the "I made it by myself so everyone else can too" attitude but came to realize that a lot of his success was due to being the product of a stable and prosperous family and the fact that people stepped forward to give him opportunities after he was gravely wounded. Plus, as an immigrant he had, and we have noticed this in many other cases, a particular zeal to succeed that many people born in this country do not have. A direct contrast to Mr. Bhuiyan, Mr. Stroman (although born in this country) came from a very unstable, dysfunctional background which contributed to the American dream eluding him and his resentment of foreign born people which exploded after 9/11.

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 It was Mr. Giridharadas' message that both sides need to work together and help each other and affect a healing of society which, as we know is very divided at this point in time. He suggested that people born here could step forward and help newcomers to this country like his mother who was confused when she visited a shopping mall for the first time. Also people who have immigrated here could share with our often disillusioned citizenry what they love about their adopted country and how they created (with the help of others) successful pathways for themselves.

 We were glad to see other people that we knew at this "Cleveland Conversation" like Ms. Jazmin Long from "Global Cleveland"; Ms. Mary Reynolds Powell, an author who served overseas as a nurse during the Vietnam war; and noted local attorney and activist Ms. Susan Brooks.

 During the Q and A, we asked Mr. Giridharadas about the role that immigration reform could play in our country's future and he agreed with us that it was a shame that the proposed immigration reform package in 2012-2013 didn't make it because it representing both sides coming together and compromising for the common good. Unfortunately, he said, it was scuttled by "extremists."

Nevertheless, Mr. Giridharadas expressed optimism about the future because our founding fathers designed a great system of government for us. "Just because plane has been hijacked doesn't mean it doesn't work," he said. Instead, "we must take our plane back."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC