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Tabling at 22nd Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference; Station Hope 2017

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On Saturday, April 29th, we tabled on behalf of "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" at the 22nd Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference hosted by the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress (CHIP) which took place at the Spitzer Conference Center at Lorain Community College.

What the conference was trying to accomplish was best stated in a letter written by Mr. Tim Carrion, the President of CHIP, that appeared in the conference's information booklet. His letter read, in part, that "as a Latino community, we are facing difficult challenges and at the same time experiencing more opportunity than ever available before. Now, how do we effectively deal with the adversity and establish effective processes to continue to move forward...now, what do we do to leverage our growing population and the fact that we are the largest minority group in the country...now how do we capitalize on the increasing number of Latino entrepreneurs, professionals, and community leaders? We must put our perceived differences aside and attempt to understand how we can work to complement each other, share resources, and ultimately be more effective at meeting the needs of the community."

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Quite a few people stopped off at our table including:

***A woman who said that she believed that a good friend of hers had been taken advantage of by other immigration attorneys but he was finally helped after he employed Ms. Margaret W. Wong.

***Ms. Roxane J. King, CEO of "Certified Interpreters United" who has worked with our Ms. Elizabeth Cusma and really admires our office for the work that we do.

***Several administrators of the Lorain City Schools who are worried about a good number of the students that they work with and their families (they suspect that they may be undocumented) due to the present political climate. One person wondered if one of our attorneys could give a presentation for the educators about what could be done to help them.

***Ms. Patricia Gordon-Garza who is studying to be a social worker and is very interested in immigration policy. She was very pleased when we gave her a copy of Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way."

***A person who thanked us for helping her son-in-law from Mexico who recently experienced some issues pertaining to his status.

***Ms. Maria Agosto who was part of our group when we attended "Friends of Lincoln West" meetings.

***A retired teacher who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico many years ago and has been a permanent residence but would now like to explore the possibilities of becoming a U.S. citizen.

***Mr. Pablo Senquiz who is a genuinely nice guy. Mr. Senquiz helped us set up our table and visited with us. He is semi-retired now and loves spending time with his grandkids and working as a ticket taker at Cleveland Indians games.

Since the tabling area was right beside the ballroom where the morning program was conducted, we got to listen to several of the speakers. Of course, immigration policy figured prominently in what was said.

Dr. Nelson Soto, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Union Institute & University, lead an audience participation exercise to test our knowledge of what was issues pertaining to the foreign born. Dr. Soto asked a series of basic questions like "Do immigrants pay taxes?"; "Are immigrants more likely to commit crimes than the native-born?";  and "Are undocumented children allowed to attend public schools?" Most of us got all of the answers right and there was some discussion. Dr. Soto also touched on the controversial, new "Victims of Immigration Crime and Engagement" (VOICE) office created by the Trump administration "to acknowledge and serve the needs of crime victims and their families who have been impacted by crimes committed by removable criminal aliens" according to a slide that was displayed.

VOICE was also talked about by Mr. David Leopold, the respected immigration attorney, when he gave the keynote speech for the conference. Mr. Leopold went into concise detail as he compared the Trump administration's immigration policy to that of the Obama administration. He reviewed the executive orders and talked at justifiable length about the new deportation strategy and and other matters like sanctuary cities. Mr. Leopold shared with us that he is particularly sensitive about immigration/refugee situations since his own father was a refugee from Germany during World War II; thus it really troubled him to see groups of people be demonized by the President. He spoke with conviction when he said that we live in the greatest country in the world and we need to keep it that way.

Along these lines, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown addressed the conference via a short video in which he stated his belief that we are living in a "difficult and scary time" and affirmed that he would continue to challenge President Trump, who he contended is very hostile to to "people of color and immigrants", especially on issues involving families being torn apart by deportation proceedings.

After the opening speeches and presentations there were workshops about such subjects as attending college and the costs, healthy eating, buying a home, and youth leadership. We were able to sit in on parts of a really fun one involving "expressive and creative dance" taught by Mr. Tony Fresh who has worked with the CAVS and traveled all over the world and another one dealing with human trafficking taught by Ms. Anita Kinser, the founder of "UnChained Love" which is an organization in Cleveland that "serves women who have been sexually exploited or trafficked".

Along the way, lunch was served. We were concerned that there might not be any non-meat option for us but Ms. Cieria Ramon, a member of the Coalition, assured us that there would be vegetarian lasagna which turned out to be so good we had to stop ourselves from eating too much of it. Ms. Ramon smiled and said, "we thought of you!"

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Our second event for Saturday was a stopoff at "Station Hope 2017" presented by the Cleveland Public Theatre, and other Northeast Ohio groups/entities, St. John's Episcopal Church on Church Avenue in Ohio City and the streets nearby.

As its website indicated, "Station Hope is a jubilant community event that celebrates Cleveland's social justice history and explores contemporary struggles for freedom and equity. Engage with over 250 artists as they envision, interrogate and seek out hope on the ground's of Cleveland's first authenticated Underground Railroad site, St. John's Episcopal Church. Audiences explore the historic properties while viewing works of theatre, music, storytelling and dance inspired by the most important issues of our time."

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We were quite tired when we arrived but we were buoyed when we encountered so many of our friends there like Mr. Pierre Bejjani, Mr. Joe Meissner, Ms. Gia Hoa Ryan, Mr. Danny Kelly who we saw the previous night at Councilperson Polensek's fundraiser, Ms. Mari Galindo-DaSilva, Ms. Meryl Johnson, and Mr. Graham Veysey and his brother, Quinn, who we met a few days earlier at "Taste Latino". Plus, the whole enterprise seemed to possess an ambiance of terrific energy and purpose that it was tough, if not impossible to feel fatigued. We are so glad that "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" was one of the many sponsors.

Due to another commitment, we could only stay for a short while but our time there was golden. We watched a short play put on by the Bodwin Theatre about Mr. Richard and Mrs. Mildred Loving (of Loving vs. Virginia fame), had some soup, and checked out the other performances that were taking place.

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We also listened to the opening ceremonies in which Mr. Raymond Bobgan, Executive Artistic Director of the Cleveland Public Theatre, and Mr. Kerry McCormack, Ward 3 Councilperson, both spoke well but the person who stole that part of the evening was Ms. Joan Southgate of "Restore Cleveland Hope, Inc." who genuinely spoke from her heart about the importance of diversity and inclusion using her family as an example; she gave a moving testimony about how proud that she was to belong to a family that was multiracial and had LGBTQ and transgender members as well. For us, to hear a person of mature years like Ms. Southgate be so open-minded and so open to change was nothing short of inspiring.

As Mr. Bobgan wrote, in part, in his letter in the "Station Hope" program notes we certainly are living in tumultuous times and thus "we live in fear of the next headline, the next outrage, the next cut of the thousands of cuts that threaten our happiness, liberty and life. So there is no place for hope that is meant to pacify. There is no value in wishing for a random windfall. This station was once the place to regroup, recuperate, nourish. It was the place to prepare for the final lap of a long journey-the crossing of water. Just as it was then, it could be for us now. This is what the artists of Station Hope teach us-listen beyond the words, the movements and music. We face ourselves and each other so that hope may be our fuel as we walk, and walk, and walk, true to our guiding star."

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC