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Civil Rights, Gender and Race Today


We had to drive for a few miles from Lorain to Beachwood in snow flurry weather but, nevertheless, we made it over to the Maltz Museum in time to attend our last event for "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day" which was a panel discussion on "civil rights, gender and race today" featuring Ms. Margaret Mitchell of the YWCA; Ms. Peggy Zone Fisher of The Diversity Center; Ms. Jazmin Long of Global Cleveland; and Ms. Kayla Griffin of the NAACP.

It was moderated by Ms. Carla Tricarichi, a prominent attorney and a Deputy Director of the Ohio Lottery Commission. Introductory remarks were made by Mr. Brad Schlang, the chairperson of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland who said that his organization is committed to the creation of a just and pluralistic society and to follow in the Dr. King's footsteps by "Tikkun Olam" which is Hebrew for "repairing the world."

All of the panelists spoke with passion and conviction and were well-armed with facts that supported what they had to say. Initially, a Q and A was planned for the end of the program but such strong feelings were being stirred that questions were accepted along the way.

We would have to almost recount the event word-for-word for proper appreciation but some of the things that we found particularly thought-provoking were:

****On the subject of immigration (which was mentioned a couple of times during the discussion) it was recounted that the day after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election a young Muslim boy asked his dad if President Trump's election meant his family had to leave the U.S. His dad replied that they certainly would not because they would citizens and he and his son were born there.

****Activities like the Women's March are important but they should be seen as starting points to bring people together. Afterwards, organizing and education are imperative and they must continually take place. It is easy to slip into complacency which is not a good thing; we must stay focused. A good example of complacency was when a prominent civil rights champion (who was getting up in years) couldn't understand the need or purpose of "Black Lives Matter" so his granddaughter set him straight.

****As far as young people, it would be immeasurably helpful if they could be educated as to the background of their people and the struggles they had to undergo. Subsequently, "Birthright Israel" was praised and it was said that it would be great if a program could be started that would escort young black Americans to the African nations so they could learn about their heritage. In terms of social justice activism it the elders responsibility to impart their wisdom to the young people and, subsequently, it was their place "stand on the line and take some bruises" though we hope it doesn't come to that; at least not in the physical sense.

****In terms of people of different beliefs and cultures getting along, nothing can really beat them getting together and LISTENING to what the other party has to say and having empathy for where they are coming from. Dr. King certainly had these qualities; it was even said that if he were alive he could deal with President Trump from a place of "kindness". Thus, the role of religious faith in social justice activism has been downplayed as of late but it might be time to bring it to the forefront once more because most faiths stress the importance of the love over hate which is vital if we are to get anywhere because hate is a negative thing that just takes us down. Instead, in order for us to be involved in positive social action we must love ourselves as well as our communities.

****Speaking of Dr. King, he must be credited with being a strategist who knew when to move and when not to. For example, in March of 1965 if he had not directed the marchers to turn back to Selma instead of pushing on to Montgomery there would have been a violent confrontation which would have ultimately hurt what they were working for as well as causing many injuries. The same with Rosa Parks; as we wrote earlier, several other people had refused to move to the back of the bus before her but she was articulate and had the education and stamina to withstand the national pressure that would be placed upon her so she was chosen to be the civil rights test case. Good strategy prevailed and the importance of good strategy must be recognized.

****White people can mentor people of color and help them get into business or social gatherings that they otherwise would not be initially invited to. Once they are there, good manners must be observed but they must not be afraid to be themselves because this could prove to be invaluable in terms of breaking down both barriers and stereotypes.

One of the more provocative moment of the discussion took place when it was said that we should try to get away saying "immigrants built this country" because even though the role of immigrants in making the U.S. what it is today cannot be overlooked and must be noted, it was actually slaves who did the lion's share of the drudgery and they should not be counted as immigrants because they were forcibly brought here with absolutely no choice in the matter. This observation spurred some debate and we need to think about it some more.

We were glad to run into Mr. George Koussa, our colleague from "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" who was there with his dear friend, Dr. Elliott Zinner of Tri-C. Dr. Zinner impressed us as being a very kindly man and he and Mr. Koussa both asked pertinent questions.

In the end we are very grateful to Ms. Cathy Randall, the Maltz Museum's Volunteer and Visitor Services Coordinator, for taking our phone call when we called in the RSVP. Ms. Randall told us all of the seats for the auditorium were reserved but hinted that because of the weather, we just might get a seat which we did. We spoke to her for a few minutes after the program and she told us that even though a discussion like the one we attended might not only touch the tip of the iceberg, it is still very much worthwhile.

As for the discussion topic, Ms. Randall said that it had been her experience that "it is all about diversity and kindness."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC








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