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Out & About in Cleveland

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Mayor Mike Byrne Fundraiser; Screening of the Short Film: Know Human Trafficking

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On Thursday, May 11th, our first event was a fundraiser for Mayor Mike Byrne of Parma Heights which was held at the Cassidy Theatre just off Pearl Road.

We encountered Mayor Byrne in the parking lot and he was more than happy to pose for a photo along with veteran Parma Heights City Councilperson Robert Verdile who has served the community on the council for 26 years.

Mayor Byrne, himself, is running for a third term and, at the moment, there doesn't seem to be too much opposition. We have known him since he first ran for mayor in 2009 and consider him to be a very attentive, honest, and effective public servant. It was obvious that many other people feel the same way both in Parma Heights and outside of it. In fact, this fundraiser was attended by several other local mayors like Mr. Trevor Elkins of Newburgh Heights, Mr. Vic Collova of Garfield Heights, Mr. Michael Procuk of Brooklyn Heights, Mr. Tim DeGeeter of Parma, and Mr. Dean Depiero the former mayor of Parma.

We talked to Mayor Byrne for a moment about future municipal projects and he told us he was heavily engaged (along with the governments of Middleburg Heights and Strongsville) in making arrangements to have Pearl Road resurfaced.

During dinner we shared a table with Ms. Maggie Cappello, Mayor Byrne's daughter, and her husband Mr. Tom Cappello. Ms. Cappello told us that she had recently volunteered at one the "Boys and Girls Clubs" in the Cleveland area so we told her about talking to Mr. Robert Koonce and other Club officials at the West Side Democratic Club on Tuesday night. Later, we spoke to Ohio State Rep. Martin Sweeney (District 14) and Lakewood City Council President Sam O'Leary about the refugee forum that we had attended the previous evening in Lakewood.

We also made a new friend in Mr. Mike Muzic, a member of IBEW 38 who lives in Mentor but works generally in the Cleveland area so he was able to stop off here on his way home. We talked to him for a few minutes about the diversity and inclusivity of his union.

Before we left, we got to chat with Mr. Rick Haase who does Public Relations and Special Project for Mayor Byrne. He has worked as a journalist and told us that he had written several articles on Ms. Margaret W. Wong over the years.

The Byrne fundraiser started at 5pm and we left promptly at 6pm in order to get to attend a screening of a new short film entitled "Know Human Trafficking" hosted by the "Renee Jones Empowerment Center" at the Capitol Theatre near the corner of Detroit Avenue and West 65th Street in Cleveland.

We found the film to very effective because it dealt with such important issues as the recruitment and grooming of human trafficking victims; various trafficking scenarios; how a concerned citizen can recognize a victim and know what questions to ask. It contained testimonies of four victims as well re-enactments of violent treatment (staged with actors); and well-articulated commentary by Detective John Morgan of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department.

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Overall, we would term the film to be a hard-hitting human trafficking awareness primer and we told this to the filmmakers, Mr. Byron and Ms. Hollie Brubaker who told us that this is what they were aiming for; the goal was to get the necessary points across without overwhelming the viewer with too many details.

Prior to the film, we were addressed by Ms. Jean Heflich from "Fun(d) First Giving Circle Fund" a the Cleveland Foundation which provided funding for the film. We learned that over the past nine years "Fun(d)..." has given over $200,000.00 to 20 organizations for worthy projects.

After the film, our friend Ms. Renee Jones introduced quite a few other people involved in its making including Detective Morgan and several of the former trafficking victims who appeared in it.

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During the screening we sat next to two very fine concerned people, Ms. Sue Marasco with the "May Dugan Center" who assists victims of crime, and Mr. Mark H. Brandt who once did a study for Ms. Jones on how lucrative it is to be a pimp; Mr. Brandt told us that the amount of money that can be made is "sickening". We talked with them about the "T Visa" which, as stated in Wikipedia, allows "certain victims of human trafficking and immediate family members to remain and work in the United States."

Prior to the screening, we bought a copy of"Women of Strength" a new booklet put out by the "Renee Jones Empowerment Center"that contains poetry and attestations of human trafficking victims who have gotten their lives together. The person who sold it to us was Ms. Donna Angelotti who volunteers at the Center and is quite active in the socially concerned works of the "Holy Angels Church" in Chagrin Falls.

Another person that we met that evening was Mr. Xavier Walsh, a promising 11 year old who wrote the music for a song entitled "I Will Rise" that was sung over the closing credits of "Know Human Trafficking." Along with his father, young Mr. Walsh wrote the lyrics to the song too and performed it via the piano while Ms. Trina Jones, the daughter of Ms. Renee Jones, sang the words.

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC