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The Black Dog: Why We Don't Care; 2017 Asian Heritage Celebration

We talked about what we heard and learned at the Global Cleveland Summit with Mr. Bill McGraw, the Chairperson of the "Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation" at our next event which was a City Club luncheon featuring Dr. Vikram Patel, Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Mr. McGraw was genuinely interested in what we had to say and told us to give his best to Ms. Margaret W. Wong.

The title of Dr. Patel's presentation was "The Black Dog: Why We Don't Care" which dealt with mental illness and his studies and efforts(as well as those of others) from 1990 to present times to increasing awareness about mental health issues and get its treatment recognized by the United Nations as a "sustainable development goal" which finally happened in the last few years. Part of the problem is that there are just not enough trained mental health professionals available to treat people not just in our society here in the U.S. but throughout the world so Dr. Patel talked about efforts (some of them quite successful) to train lay health workers/counselors/visitors to act as intermediaries.

Above all, he emphasized that "the moral imperative for mental health in an era of sustainable development" was to "leave no one behind through self-care and task-sharing to front line community providers working in collaboration with primary care and mental health professionals."

We talked with Dr. Patel for a moment after his presentation and found him to be, in spite of his great prominence, a very humble man indeed. We asked him about the disorientation that an immigrant might go through after coming to a new land with a different language and culture. We agreed that it shouldn't be classified as a form of depression but as a condition very much in need of attention perhaps best solved through counseling and interaction with other immigrants who have been through the same experience.

In addition, we told Dr. Patel that we believed that part of the reason that governments/organization may be reluctant to spend monies to combat mental illness is because there sometimes is a prevailing feeling, incorrect as it may be, that rarely do people have actual disorders and that a person suffering from depression/trauma could pull himself/herself together if he/she really wanted to, and Dr. Patel agreed that unfortunately this reasoning is out there.

Before the program started, we were addressed for a moment by Ms. Anita Cook, Executive Director of the "Westside Catholic Center" which was one the sponsors for this day's program. Ms. Cook said that the Center assists thousands of people each year many of whom have struggled with mental illness so she was anxious to hear what Dr. Patel had to say.

Dr. Patel's presentation, itself, was introduced by Mr. R. Jeffrey Pollock, Trustee of the "Woodruff Foundation" which also was a program sponsor. He said that we were all very fortunate that Dr. Patel did not heed his mother's instructions to be a neurosurgeon instead of a psychiatrist because he has done so much meaningful work in his chosen field.

During lunch we sat with Dr. Anand Bhat, MD, MSc who told us that his wife, Dr. Mythili Bhat had helped arrange for Dr. Patel to speak at the City Club. He also told us that when his wife immigrated here from India, Mr. Francis Fungsang from "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" helped her to obtain her green card.

Our last event for the day was the 2017 Asian Heritage Celebration which took place in the evening at Cleveland City Hall and, needless to say, our good friend Ms. Chia-Min Chen, Asian Liaison of the Community Relations Board at Cleveland City Hall, was instrumental in making the event happen.

After rushing around all day, it was genuinely relaxing to kick back, eat good Asian food (in our case stir fried string beans with white rice), and visit with old friends while making new acquaintances. We liked talking to Mr. Kevin Berry, an ESL instructor at CSU, about the work that he does and it was good to re-connect with Mr. Le Nguyen who retired in 2012 as the Asian Liaison to Cleveland City Hall (the job that Ms. Chen now holds) after 30 years of service.

At dinner, we shared a table with Ms. Janet H. Cho, Business Reporter for the "Plain Dealer" who we have talked to on several occasions at the City Club; Rev. Grady Stevenson, Interim Director of the Community Relations Board; our friends Mr. Joseph Meissner and Ms. Gia Hoa Ryan;  Ms. Nicole Carter, Emergency Medical Services Cleveland; Mr. Keun Ryo, a teacher of Taekwondo and former martial arts champion; and Commander Thomas McCartney of the Third District, Cleveland Police Dept., which is where the offices of "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" is located.

The short program started with Ms. Maria Pelez, a patrol officer with the Cleveland Police Dept., doing a beautiful rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and Mayor Frank Jackson addressing us for a few minutes.

Mayor Jackson noted that he was at the Global Cleveland Summit earlier in the day and said Cleveland is a great city because innovative people from many different countries and ethnic groups settled here and brought with them a strong work ethic as well as a desire to creative a strong community. The mayor went on to say that there were many people present from the public safety sector (police, fire, emergency medical services) so he urged the young people to talk to them about their jobs and possibly consider a career in that sector in order to ensure that their culture be represented.

Then Ms. Chen talked for a moment and said that even though she organized the event it was not about her; it was about the members of the community. Like Mayor Jackson, Ms. Chen encouraged the people to talk to the public safety people because community members should not be afraid to ask for help and these people were there to help them.

Then the evening closed with Ms. Chen and her good friend, Ms. Rose Karam reading "Did You Know?" facts about the Asian community of the United States.

Among the things that we learned was:

"The Naturalization Act of 1790 made Asians ineligible for citizenship, limited to whites only. It took a Chinese-American cook, Wong Kim Ark, who was born in San Francisco in 1873, and had been denied re-entry to the United States after a trip abroad, under the Exclusion Act of 1844 to challenge the government's refusal to recognize his citizenship. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor. The majority of the Supreme Court judges concluded that a person born in the United States who is subject to the jurisdiction therefore acquires AUTOMATIC CITIZENSHIP. Thus, we all owe Wong, a Chinese cook, our birther rights as Americans."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC