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Out & About in Cleveland

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The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration; Dr Moser Talks about CYO; Lorain County Chamber of Commerce Golf Outing Dinner

The first part of the day on Thursday, June 8th, was spent at two events in which the history of civil rights in the United States figured prominently.

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First, we went to Waetjen Auditorium at CSU where we heard a talk by the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Ms. Isabel Wilkerson about her highly acclaimed book, "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" which received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award among other prizes in 2011.

This program was part of CSU's "Arts and Humanities Alive!" (AHA!) festival and, prior to the presentation, we got to say hello to Ms. Katie Shames, Festival Chief and Operating Officer/Artistic Director, as well as Mr. John Frohnmayer, the Festival's Resident Curator and former Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts between 1989-1992.

When the program itself begin, Ms. Wilkerson was introduced by Dr. Ronald Berkman, President of CSU, and Mr. Ronald B. Richard, President and CEO of the "Cleveland Foundation" both of whom had dinner with her the previous evening. Mr. Richard said that he found Ms. Wilkerson to be "brilliant and down to earth" and he couldn't admire her more. He went on to say that her book says a lot about race relations in the U.S. and he believed that the discussion must continue.

During her presentation, Ms. Wilkerson said that the her book which delved into the experiences of African Americans migrating from the Southern States to the Northern ones from World War I to the 1970's really wasn't about migration as it was much as it was about freedom and the extent that people will go to achieve it.

We liked the way that she compared the African American experience to that of immigrants/refugees who fled their countries of origin to escape repression and to seek a better life. She talked extensively about oppression in the "Jim Crow South" and offered such examples as African Americans and white being unable to play checkers together in public or to be sworn in on the same Bible in courtrooms. If such norms were not obeyed, then the consequences could be dire; in fact a lynching occurred every four days. The real tragedy of this "caste system" to people of all races and ethnic groups was that so much talent, which could have benefited all people, was very sadly unrealized.

The opportunity to move on came during World War I because workers were needed to work in the munitions factories due to the fact that many U.S. born men were needed as soldiers and immigrant men (particularly those from Europe) were regarded with suspicion. As a result the exodus of started of what would ultimately be six million people moving to another geographical area of the United States. 

At another point in her speech, Ms. Wilkerson brought up the immigrant/refugee experience again when she recounted how difficult it used to before young people just about to travel to a new land to say goodbye to family and friends knowing that they may never see them again due to the fact that communication/travel networks were not as sophisticated as they are now. Accordingly, the African American migration was quite similar and Ms. Wilkerson firmly believe that we owe these newcomers (whether from other countries or from the South) a tremendous debt for having the courage to do what that they did and, in a very pertinent message for these times, we can honor it by trying to avoid turning on each other as we often do.

She effectively closed by offering a quote by Mr. Richard Wright, the famed author of such works as "Native Son", who migrated from Mississippi to Chicago when he was nineteen years old. The quote read:

"I was leaving the South to fling myself into the unknown...I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns and, perhaps, to bloom."

After we left Waetjen Auditorium, we rapidly walked over to the City Club at Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street for the monthly luncheon of the First Friday Club whose guest speaker was Dr. Dobie Moser, the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) for the Diocese of Cleveland.

We told him about Ms. Wilkerson's presentation and he offered some keen insights of his own about how the African Americans who migrated from the South faced a lot of prejudice in the Northern cities too even though it was far from the caste system they left behind. The ironic thing was that even though many white people "walked" away from their parishes when the African Americans started attending, they left them some pretty fine houses of worship and good parish schools to now call their own. 

 

On this day, Dr. Moser talked about the history of the CYO which was founded in Chicago in 1930 by Auxiliary Bishop Sheil who believed that society must take responsibility for juvenile delinquency and is responsible for the moral and spiritual well-being of all children and young people and that the Catholic Church should provide recreational opportunities of promote spiritual and democratic principles. Soon chapters sprang up throughout the United States and parishes became locales of athletic activities.

Bishop Shiel was very ahead of his time when he insisted that all children in the vicinity of a parish be allowed to take part in its CYO happenings regardless of their religious faith, economic status, ethnicity, race, or gender. Along these lines, he firmly maintained that African Americans are "our brothers and sisters and not intruders."

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Locally, the Cleveland chapter was launched in 1937 and it has been a very positive 80 year relationship with our community. As for today, Dr. Moser said that it is very important that the parishes refrain from competing with each other in terms of what sports programs they have to offer; instead they should work together in order to build Christian discipleship.

At this time, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Roger Gries effectively weighed in and told of how a certain local parish wasn't too good at winning championships lately but, more importantly, it won quite a few "sportsmanship" awards.

We agree with Bishop Gries; sportsmanship prevails.

Later on Thursday, we headed over to Sweetbriar Golf Club in Avon Lake in order to have dinner with those who participated in the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce Golf Outing.

We visited with several of the 129 golfers and the consistent message that we got from them was:

***I had a good time.

***I played "all right."

***The weather was great!

To show friendliness and support the chamber, we bought some raffles tickets from Mr. Jesse Latten from "Home Depot" and Ms. Kristine Burnside from the "Arthritis Foundation" and, since we had still another event to go to, gave them to Ms. Michelle Williamson from "Fidelity National Title Co." and extended to her our best wishes.

We said "hello" to Sheriff Phil Stammitti of Lorain County and had a good time chatting with a person who was once worked in government just as we did when we worked for former U.S. Congressperson Dennis J. Kucinich.

We spent some time talking to Mr. Martin DeVries (who we have seen at quite a few chamber affairs) who recently moved over to "First Federal Lakewood" and loves it there as well as to his boss, Mr. Kurt A. Raicevich who expressed interest in what "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" does as immigration attorneys.

Another person who thought highly of our work was a man who owns a staffing agency and would love to assist refuges because he really admires them for what they have gone through in order to come to the United States and respects their strong work ethic. The only problem is that most of them seem to live in the Cleveland area and lack the transportation to work in Lorain. We suggested that he call "US Together" to explore possibilities.

Our last event of the day was a real fun one that involved going to the East Side Irish American Club on Lakeshore Blvd. in Euclid to attend a performance of the band, "Town Pants" which, by the immediate admission of its membership, specializes in "Irish Drinking Music."

Nevertheless, "Town Pants" is quite popular having been around for 20 years in some capacity and performed in 531 cities in 15 countries. We especially enjoyed a selection titled "The Unlikely Redemption of Oliver Reed" who, according to "Town Pants", was a "great actor but even better drinker" who made absolutely no apology for his inebriation right up to the time he died during the shooting of the film "Gladiator".

We met the five band members who were Mr. David Keogh, Mr. Duane Keogh, Mr. Jeff Tripoli, Mr. Andrew Paratore, and Ms. Johanna Soderlund Chastek several of whom come from Vancouver.

We talked to them a bit extensively about this and learned that they are part of the "P2 Work Visa" program which allows them to work in the U.S. for a year and each year for the past 12 years they have re-applied for it despite several drawbacks which include the need to apply three months in advance which means they must have 15 months worth of bookings all ready to list; plus the paperwork is always quite cumbersome.

Overall, it was their observation that the "P2 Work Visa" process was designed more for a big touring company of a "Miss Saigon" kind of show instead for a relatively small, five person band. But, if they did not go the P2 route, "Town Pants" would have to pay a hefty amount to come to the U.S. on a show-by-show basis.

And, so far, the Trump administration has not touched the P2 program so ....

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC