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53rd Annual Christmas Party Luncheon of the American Nationalities Movement; Parrandon Navideno 2017

On Saturday, December 16th, we went to the 53rd Annual Christmas Party Luncheon of the "American Nationalities Movement" (ANM) that took place at the "Holy Spirit Party Center" on West 54th Street in Parma. We are pleased to mention that "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" was a "Gold Program Sponsor" for this affair which was widely attended despite the cold and snow upon the ground.

We visited the website of the  "American Nationalties Movement" at at www.americannationalitiesmovement.org and learned that its goals include uniting all nationalities for a common understanding of our responsibilities as citizens of the United States; overcoming the differences of the past and and to create a unified image of all nationalities working for a common cause; and protecting our freedoms and to work for the freedom and self-determination for all the people of all captive nations of the world. It was also written that "despite all the efforts to liberate humanity there are still tyrants and dictators holding people in captivity. Thus, there is still work to do and the American Nationalities Movement reconfirms its dedication for Freedom for all people."

On this day the "Freedom Award" was awarded to two very worthy individuals who were Attorney General Mike DeWine, who generously took time off from his job and his Ohio gubernatorial campaign in order to be amongst us, and Mr. Basil Russo who; besides having a successful career as an attorney, a judge, and a Cleveland City Councilperson; is the National President of the Order of the "Italian Sons and Daughters of America" (ISDA).

During his acceptance speech, Attorney General DeWine praised the American Nationalities Movement for its work in terms of making our political leaders aware of the struggles of oppressed people living in totalitarian countries. He said that he was really made aware of its good works by former Ohio Governor George Voinovich when he, himself, served as the Lieutenant Governor. He went on to praise the achievements of immigrants who came from the aforementioned countries to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio and contributed to its greatness and its diversity. He emphasized how important it was that these immigrants pass their experiences and their heritage on to their children and grandchildren so they will never take freedom for granted.

Mr. Russo (who actually spoke before Attorney General DeWine) talked about his own heritage when he accepted his award. To be sure, he valued his Italian heritage which he said defined him as much as his religious faith and his U.S. citizenship. He noted that his grandparents both immigrated to the United States from Sicily and his grandmother had to make two unsuccessful trips by ship here before she was finally allowed to pass through Ellis Island on the third try. He praised his family for instilling within him the positive values of family, hard work and respect for authority. Likewise he was glad that he, himself, was able to make a significant contribution by his service to the ISDA because before his tenure the young people had been drifting away but through the use of social media many of them were returning to re-discover their heritage. Lastly, Mr. Russo cautioned us all about the dangers of succumbing to the extremism of the far left and the far right who seek to divide this country by pitting one group against the other.

As we ate our lunch, we shared a table with Mr. Robert Murphy, the owner and founder of "RA Murphy Company" in Wickliffe that is a successful roofing company that his been in business for 52 years. Mr. Murphy was there with his wife, Lauren, and told us about a recent book that he wrote about Cleveland. We were joined at our table by Mr. Terry Smith and his family. In the past Mr. Smith has recited speeches by President Ronald Reagan and Great Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill so on this day he recited the Bible verses quoted by Linus in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in which he tells Charile Brown of the meaning of Christmas which is, in our estimation, something we need to be reminded of.

 

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When we first arrived, we watched entertainers Mr. Mike Wojtila and Ms. Kelly Pease get set up to perform. We also visited with Mrs. Mary Lesko who has been involved with the "American Nationalities Movement" for many years going back to the 1980's with her late husband, John. Mrs. Lesko told us that she had immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia with her mother and two siblings back in 1947 which was when she first met John (who was in the process of immigrating here too) at a train station in Prague. Even though she was only twelve years old at the time, an attachment was immediately formed between them so, miraculously, they managed to stay in touch after they came to the U.S. and ultimately married. Mrs. Lesko said softly that John was "the best husband".

Our other event for Saturday was a stopoff at "Parrandon Navideno 2017" which took place at the  "Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center" on Bridge Avenue with the strong support of the Cleveland Clinic. We were invited there by Mr. Brett and Ms. Mariely Luengo who we had talked to the previous week when we attended the "Northeast Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce" event.

As we know an abundance of Puerto Rican families have recently been displaced by Hurricane Maria and some 250 of them (by the latest count) have re-settled in Northeast Ohio. Therefore, this particlular program was designed to have a special Puerto Rican flavor on behalf of the hurricane victims. Some 100 families were signed up to attend this night of gaiety which would feature food, music, caroling, and presents for the children.

There was a section in which community organizations could table so we talked to Ms. Christina Keegan and Ms. Elizabeth Sanchez from "Neighborhood Housing Services" about the special needs of these newcomers to Cleveland and the services that were available to help them.

Concerned people who were also there included Ms. Leticia Lopez and Ms. Madeline Corchado, the Director of President of the Board of "Julia de Burgos..."; Ms. Jenice Contreras, Executive Director of the "Northeast Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce"; Mr. Jose Feliciano who explained "Parrandon Navideno" to us; and Mr. Troy Beadling, the Principal at "Scranton Elementary School" which is attended by many Puerto Rican youngsters.

We also got to meet Miss Guiselle Carrasquilla who was named "Miss Puerto Rico Image 2017' in the Cleveland area. She told us that she was born here but her family is from Puerto Rico. Obviously, Miss Carrasquilla was very much aware of the recent tragedy and was there because she wanted to contribute.

Another contributor to his church and his community is our friend Mr. Ken Kovach so on Sunday, December 17th, we went to the 41st annual "Cleveland Landmark Christmas Concert" at St. Theodosious Cathedral on Starkweather Avenue in Tremont where Mr. Kovach has acted as the choir director for well over forty years. Also there at the concert were Mr. Kovach's friends Mr. Alassane Fall from "ICC-WIN" and Mr. Walt Mahovlich from the musical group, "Harmonia". In addition Mr. Ronald La Tar, who we have met at several events, walked over to tell us hello.

Upon being seated, the attendees were welcomed by Father Jacob Van Sickle who lead us in prayer. The first part of the concert was then performed which was a collection of hymns that focused on upholding the the Blessed Mother Mary. In between each hymn, Mr. Kovach talked for a minute about the importance and significance of the Blessed Mother to those of the Orthodox faith.

After the opening section, there were segments devoted to the singing of traditional Christmas carols and Carpatho-Russian carols. The concert then ended with everyone there taking part in renditions of such favorites as "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", "Joy to the World" and, of course, "Silent Night".

We later learned that Mr. Kovach had put this whole concert together in approximately six weeks. We talked about this with one of Mr. Kovach's old friends who said with a wink that it was indeed a wonder that "one little guy" could have accomplished so much with the choir over the years.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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