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Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce Coffee Contacts; Fundraiser for Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio; 14th Annual Nursi Chair Iftar Dinner; LGBT Civil Rights Historical Marker

On Thursday, June 1st, our first event was an Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce "Coffee Contacts" this time held in the Holden Building at Lake Erie College.

We were addressed for a few minutes by the college's president, Dr. Brian D. Posler who has held that position for exactly one year now, about promising prospects for the renowned liberal arts institution by way of its upcoming performing arts series, growing equestrian programs, and STEM initiatives. Privately, we spoke with Dr. Posler for a moment about international students and we were told that out of a student body of 800 there are perhaps 45-50 international scholars who major in a wide range of subjects but quite often are very involved athletically.


During the networking, we met Mr. Kip Marlow who is very involved with "Lakestart" a small business incubator which has several members who ultimately plan to expand internationally. We also talked to Ms. Chansy Sibura, a local entrepreneur who owns "Thai 999 Express" in Concord. Ms. Sibura told us that she immigrated to the United States from Laos about 35 years ago and was open to being interviewed for "I, Foreign Born."

After the program concluded, Ms. Leah A. Jackson, College Events Director, took a few of us chamber members on a short tour of the campus that she knows quite well since she both attended college there and was married in one of the buildings that she pointed out to us.


Our next outing didn't take place until 6pm that night when we stopped off at "Deagan's Kitchen and Bar" on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood to spend a few minutes at a fundraiser for Ohio State Rep. Nickie Antonio (District 13) who also serves as Minority Whip. This was especially important to us because Ms. Margaret W. Wong is a great admirer of Rep. Antonio and agreed to be one of the sponsors of this gathering.

Rep. Antonio welcomed us all (it was quite a crowd) and affectionately reminisced that a number of the attendees had consistently supported her in all of the electoral contests she had taken part in since she began her career years ago on the Lakewood City Council.

She went on to remind us that she is in her fourth term now and, due to term limits, will not be able to run again for the Ohio State Legislature. At this time, she is uncertain what she what path she will next travel but she promised to always uphold her core principles which included having respect for all human beings.

Among the people who we visited with while we were there was Judge Denise N. Rini from the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court who wanted to know about how we at "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" were dealing with the recent trends regarding immigration policy.

Thankfully, Cleveland City Councilperson Kerry McCormack was a guest at the fundraiser so we got to talk to him about an event that he and Rep. Antonio were going to attend at 7:30pm which was the unveiling of the first LGBT Civil Rights Historical Marker in the State of Ohio on West 29th Street between Detroit Avenue and Church Street.

As was written on "" (Facebook Event Page):


"This marker will forever commemorate the rich LGBTQ history at W. 29th and Detroit where the LGBT Community Center, then called the Lesbian-Gay Community Service Center, was located. It is also where, in 1989, the first Pride festival since the 1970's was held and where, the following year, Cleveland's very first Pride parade culminated. This historic street also saw a number of LGBT bars flourish and where, during the height of the AIDS crisis, the Living Room and ACT UP served as crucial support and platforms for civic action."

Councilperson McCormack told us a few more things including that the marker came about through efforts initiated by Mr. Alex Frondorf, a neighborhood resident.


We would have loved to have attended the unveiling but we were already scheduled to attend an Iftar Dinner in University Heights at that time.

Earlier in the day, we stopped by the marker's location hoping to snag a photo but the marker was covered in preparation for the evening's activities. Yet we were fortunate enough to encounter our friend Ms. Gail Palmer who promised to send us a photo of the marker when it was unveiled.

And, as you can see, she did indeed!


So we went to our last event for Thursday which was the 14th Annual Nursi Chair Iftar Dinner at John Carroll University which took place in the D.J. Lombardo Student Center.  The evening started with a few words by Dr. Zeki Saritoprak, Nursi Chair of Islamic Studies, who said that part of his mission was to promote interfaith dialogue and he considered this annual Iftar Dinner an excellent way to accomplish this.

(Let us interrupt here and write that after the speeches we sat down to enjoy an excellent meal which was shared by a very diverse group of people. We chatted with a lot of old friends and shared a table with Mr. Ahmet and Ms. Reyhan Erent who we believe that we have met before at the Turkish Cultural Center. Also at our table was Ms. Brittany Lute who asked us several timely questions about the ability of certain people to obtain asylum)

Then Ms. Sheila McGinn, Chairperson for the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, introduced the guest speaker who was Imam Abdullah Antepli, Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs and Adjunct Faculty of Islamic Studies at Duke University in North Carolina, whose topic was "Islam and Muslims in America in an Era of Rising Social Anxiety."

Among the things that Imam Antepli said in the course of his impassioned speech were:

***9/11 and its aftermath was quite a blow to the Muslim community of the United States (probably consisting of five to six million people) because they were unprepared as to how to handle the backlash to the terrible act that tremendously affected them. Polling has shown that post-9/11 the percentage of non-Islamic people in the United States who have a negative view towards Islam has risen to 57%. In fact Imam Antepli arrived in Cleveland a day later than planned due to the vandalizing of a mosque in North Carolina.

***He discussed the various phases of immigration of Muslims to the U.S. starting by pointing out that many of the slaves forcibly brought to the U.S. in the 1700's and 1800's were Muslims; the second wave took place between 1890 and 1924 when many came from the Middle East to escape the wars going on in that region; after 1965 when our immigration system was reformed to stop the discrimination against people of color. Thus many Muslims immigrated to the United States and successfully "integrated" into our society meaning that they were generally accepted and saw themselves as Americans first-unlike the situation in other countries such as Germany where they are considered to be outsiders and see themselves as that way to this day.

***We need to be very concerned about the rise of bigotry against Muslims in United States because if we marginalize them out of hatred and fear then the entire social fabric of the U.S., comparable to a mosaic of different faiths and cultures, is at risk. This is, however, not an unusual challenge; we've been through it before with other ethnic groups in our history.


***Muslims themselves must stop denying that groups like ISIS have nothing to do with the Islamic faith. All faiths have their extremists; for example the Crusades and the KKK could be considered the dark side of Christianity. Plus, when the media talks about "Muslim Terrorists" and the Muslim community say that terrorism has nothing to do with them it just enhances the confusion of those who know very little if anything at all about world religions.

***In order to understand what draws Muslims to extremism, one must be aware of the scars of history especially as it pertains to the Middle East. On this subject, many of the U.S.'s policies, even though they were well-intentioned may have backfired and helped create the problems. Thus, the saying that only a few people are guilty but all of us are responsible might be well-suited to this instance.

***We must unlearn what we have learned from the media which has largely presented a very stereotyped, negative view of Muslims that has often even affected their own self-esteem.

Nevertheless, Imam Antepli expressed optimism about the future because, as we stated earlier, we have dealt with discrimination in the past (i.e. racism and anti-Semitism) and ultimately triumphed.

After he was finished, Imam Antelpi was asked pertinent questions by our friends Mr. Jose Feliciano (the Hispanic Roundtable), Ms. Anita Gray (the Anti-Defamation League) and Mr. George Koussa (Margaret W. Wong and Associates). In the process of answering them, he challenged a lot of the myths about Shia vs. Sunni and immediately admitted that, even though several organizations have tried to do it, there still is no reliable system in place for accurately measuring the extent of hate crimes and bigoted acts against Muslims on the level of the Anti-Defamation League.

When our friend, Mr. Koussa asked him a question about what sources are available for self-education about the Islamic faith, Imam Antelpi contended that now is not the time for us to read but to get involved and get to know our Muslim neighbors and they, in turn, need to get to know us.

Along these lines, he left us with the thought that laziness and the desire to be inactive are, at this time, very dangerous to the standing of the Islamic community. Therefore, a lot more people of all faiths need to stop being apathetic and start being bridge builders!



Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC