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Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce Morning Buzz; 5th Annual State of the Great Lakes; Screening of Sembene; A Saturday at Gordon Square

Early on Friday, June 9th, we drove to Akron to take part in the monthly "Morning Buzz" program put on by the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Garden Inn on East Market Street. There were 16 new members there and we got to visit with most of them including a person whose son-in-law immigrated to the United States from Kenya and recently obtained his Green Card.

The speaker for the day was Mr. Evan Delahanty, Founder and CEO of "Peaceful Fruits" which is a "social good" startup that produces fruit snacks that are "naturally vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, paleo, gluten-free, and dairy-free" and packed with acai berries that are grown in the Amazon Rainforests. The snacks, themselves, are produced in Akron in partnership with two local nonprofits which are "Hattie Larham" and "Blick Center" which make use of the talents of people with special needs.

At this time, Mr. Delahanty spoke of his own experiences in the Amazon region when he served there as a Peace Corps volunteer, how "Peaceful Fruits" came to be founded along with its ups and downs, and how he appeared on "Shark Tank" to promote it.

When Mr. Delahanty's presentation ended, Mr. Timothy Dimoff, CEO/President of SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, Inc., said that it was an excellent example of what we all need to do to succeed which is to "learn lessons from our past in order to prepare for the future" especially when one considers that Mr. Delahanty made use of his Peace Corps experience to create a successful business that benefits both the Amazon and Akron.

After the "Morning Buzz" program wrapped up we returned to Cleveland in order to attend the City Club's 5th Annual "State of the Great Lakes" address this time given by Mr. Dan Egan, a reporter at the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" who has covered the Great Lakes for years and even wrote a titled "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes."

This program was sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) and the Great Lakes Brewing Company so both of the CEO's, Ms. Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells and Mr. Bill Boor, got to speak for a moment and both expressed the committment of their organizations as well as themselves personally to preserving and enhancing the Great Lakes.

On this day, Mr. Egan talked about various challenges confronting the Great Lakes and the regions surrounding them but took a somewhat optimistic tone as he contended that there are solutions although they might perhaps be difficult. Of course he discussed the damage caused by runoff into the Great Lake from farmlands and the Asian Carp (ongoing matters that must be reckoned with) but first and foremost, he maintained that the biggest challenge was dealing with biological invasions caused by "contaminated ballast water discharged by overseas ships sailing up the St. Lawrence Seaway. This is how dozens of non-native species have been dumped into the Lakes since the seaway opened for business in 1959, species like the deadly fish virus VHS, the voracious little fish predator called the round goby, the spiny waterflea and fishhook waterflea that foul fishing lines and strip away food from native zooplankton and, yes, the zebra and quagga mussels that are now implicated in the toxic algae outbreaks."

To be sure, in the course of his presentation Mr. Egan credited the shipping industry for taking significant steps to deal with this problem although he contended that more must be done.

Before lunch we enjoyed talking to Mr. Eric Sandy, Staff Writer from "Cleveland Scene" who has written about situations pertaining to immigration and met a young woman from Australia who is attending college in Cleveland while planning to stay here and be married.

We particularly enjoyed sharing a table with Miss Grace and Miss Annie Grove, two charming and environmentally-conscious young women who are the daughters of Mr. James Grove, Attorney with "Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper, LLC" who joined us a little later.

Earlier in the week we received an invitation from our good friend, Dr. Suzanne Ondrus of John Carroll University, to come to the University on Friday night to attend a screening of a 2015 documentary entitled "Sembene!" which dealt with "the father of African cinema, the revered Senegalese director, Ousmane Sembene" so we decided to go.

As our invite read, "Ousmane Sembene was committed to using cinema as a vehicle for social change, including taking cinema to the masses for dialogue and awareness. His work spans from 1963 to 2004 and won numerous awards including awards at Cannes and FESPACO. He began as a novelist and then turned to focus on cinema. Sembene died in 2007. His films address materialism, corruption, city gentrification, culture as a mechanism for social change, female genital mutilation, racism, colonialism, religion, and strong African women."

Even though we are film buffs, we previously didn't know that much about Mr. Sembene but from watching the documentary we learned a lot about his character and his commitments to social justice and the preservation of his African heritage and culture while at the same time moving forward on such issues as feminism/the rights of women.

Thus, the scenes showed from his 2004 film "Moolaade" about female genital mutilation really touched us. Subsequently, Dr. Ondrus shared with us a quote from Mr. Sembene which read, " the development of Africa will not happen without the effective participation of women. Our forefathers' image of women must be buried once and for all."

After the documentary, we were treated to a Q and A with Professor Gilbert Doho of CWRU who had met Mr. Sembene and was quite a scholar of his work. Also contributing a lot to the discussion was Dr. Babacar M'Baye, Associate Professor of English/Pan African Studies at KSU.

It was also neat to once again encounter Mr. Salomon Rodezno, Director at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at JCU, who we have met before an the annual "Day of the Dead" celebration put on by the Cleveland Public Theatre. We both love the celebration and look forward to once again attending this year because, due to our often rainy weather, the Fall season should be spookily beautiful and will definitely contribute to the Day of the Dead Avant-garde ambiance.


The next day was Saturday, June 10th, and we got to attend an event that was especially meaningful to advocates for the foreign born such as ourselves which was a Gordon Square Arts District program featuring a performance by members of Literary Cleveland of "Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives" which took place in front of the Near West Theatre on Detroit Avenue near West 65th Street.

The performance was introduced by Mr. Lee Chilcote, Executive Director of "Literary Cleveland" who described what we were about to see as "staged readings of immigration stories by local writers" done by Ms. Angela Winborn, Ms. Lora Workman, Mr. Marc Morwitz, and Mr. Peter Lawson Jones.

We found all of the stories to be quite captivating but we particularly liked one that concerned the often humiliating medical examinations that Ellis Island immigrants had to go through before they were given clearance into the U.S. and how an immigrant family, standing in line, was worried that one of their own may not be permitted to enter with them.


On a more upbeat note, we also liked a story about a man who immigrated to the United States from Hungary and opened a shoe store here in Cleveland. In the aftermath of a dangerous snow storm, he walked almost three miles to work through the snow-ladden, treacherous streets even though he thought he would have a slow day or two due to the fact that the entire city was virtually shutdown. As it turned out, since he was just about the only store open, he sold 90% of his entire winter inventory to utility/construction workers needing the proper footgear. Needless to say, we were happy that his commitment paid off and he made a pretty penny as well as surely enhancing his own self-confidence and his standing in our community.

And then there was one that was truly heart wrenching about a little girl who came to the United States from Puerto Rico and had to start school even though she knew practically no English and thus became the subject of a hazing by her fellow classmates. What made her day, though, was when the principal gave her an apple and shared with her the fact that he was frequently teased when he was younger due to a lisp. Of course, this act of kindness would always be remembered.

Accordingly, we very much agreed with Mr. Chilcote when he said that he believed that "these incredible pieces were unbelievably timely and as you hear the material you will understand why."



Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC