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City Club Youth Forum on Affirmative Action; Celebration of The Life of Judge Capers

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On Monday, September 25th, we attended a City Club Youth Forum Council program concerning Affirmative Action largely in the context of admission to universities. The format was that of a panel discussion in which the moderator was Youth Forum Council President TiOlu Oresanya and the panelists were Mr. Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director of the ACLU of Ohio; Dr. Maurice A. Sinnett, Vice President of University Engagement and Chief Diversity Officer at CSU; and Professor Jessica Kelley-Moore of the Department of Sociology at CWRU.

During lunch, we sat with our friend, Ms. Rebecca Morgan and discussed with her the City Club program that we both attended the previous week about diversifying America's parks. Also present was Ms. Victoria Wagner, Manager of the Interpreting and Translation Dept. for "Asian Services in Action" who expressed interest in this topic and was thus active during the Q and A.

In the course of the discussion, the panelists agreed that Affirmative Action at the university level was necessary in some form to ensure equal access to education, to ensure diversity in education for the betterment of all participants, and as a redress for past wrongs regarding systematic exclusion of people of color and other ethnic groups for a large part of U.S. history. They also agreed that affirmative action is only a small step in terms of creating educational opportunities; in fact, nothing will replace the necessity of reaching young people at an early age and providing the necessary resources and support to ensure them the kind of quality education so necessary to ensure a positive future.

To be sure, however, affirmative action is not a perfect system and much reform is in order. For one thing, "caps" or goals regarding maximum or minimum numbers of certain ethnic groups to be admitted to universities must be re-examined to avoid pitting one ethnicity against the other. Thanks to the excellent questioning of students from Solon High School, the issue of the high SAT score requirement for Asian Students was a focal point of conversation as well as the need to recognize the diverse aspects of the an ethnic group itself; one cannot expect a low income student who immigrated to the U.S. with his/her family to have the same academic prowess as a 3rd or 4th generation student whose family has lived in the U.S. for a long time and has prospered.

The students (as well as other questioners) and the panelists went back and forth over such questions as should race and gender be taken out of the equation and replaced with income status to determine who should be an Affirmative Action beneficiary or should race/gender/income status all be equal factors.

Of course, due to the recent court decisions and the attitudes projected by the Trump administration, the future of affirmative action in higher education is now in doubt but, despite its drawbacks, we believe that it shouldn't be quickly discarded particularly from what we learned by listening to thisreasonable, intelligent discussion between the three panelists who have worked with it, the adult questioners who sincerely wanted to understand the process, and the students whose lives it will undoubtedly affect to some degree.

We had met the Honorable Judge Muriel Capers a few years ago at her 100th birthday party that took place at Judson Manor where she lived for years. At the time, we were working for then-U.S. Congressperson Dennis J. Kucinich and had presented her with a written tribute from the Congressperson. She impressed us a being a straightforward but undeniably gracious and kind individual.

Ultimately, Judge Capers passed on July 18th of this year at the age of 104 (!) so in the evening of September 25th, we attended her memorial service (more aptly described as a celebration of life) which was held at Holy Trinity Baptist Church on East 131st Street in Cleveland.

This time we represented Ms. Margaret W. Wong (who so very much wanted to go but was out of town at this time) although we would have gone anyway because Judge Capers was and will always be a very iconic figure in Cleveland's history largely because without bitterness or self-pity she achieved so much as both a woman and as an African American during an era when the odds of her doing so were very much against it and by doing so she motivated those around her and even those who may have only heard of her to do their utmost to excel for the benefit of themselves, their friends and family, and the Cleveland community. 

In the course of the services, in which Pastor Chelton C. Flanagan acted as the Officiant, there were beautifulbut vibrant hymns; testimonials and prayers by religious leaders and family members; along with tributes by Mayor Frank G. Jackson of Cleveland and U.S. Congressperson Marcia L. Fudge.

During his eulogy, Dr. Larry Macon, Sr. of Mt. Zion of Oakwood Village, acknowledged that Judge Capers was not perfect but she lived a "perfected life" meaning that she lived a "mature life" and never complained and interpreted the injustices that could have held her back as challenges to be overcome.

As a person, she was tough but genteel with a sense of genuine humor and seemed to usually find the right balance in the area of helping people without enabling them.

On the last point, Judge Capers personally helped a lot of people such as Mr. Lee Tucker who sat next to us at the memorial accompanied by his wife, Ms. Jo Alice Tucker. Mr. Tucker told us that years ago Judge Capers advised him to seek employment with the U.S. Postal Service which he did and it was the start of a long career. He also met Jo Alice while he was working there and it was Judge Capers who performed their marriage ceremony.

At the end of the evening, we left the church feeling very upbeat, inspired and peaceful because by all accounts including our own, Judge Capers had lived a very wonderful life and had left us a wonderful path to follow.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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