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Pride in the CLE Unites Community Like Never Before

As far as as we are concerned, the Pride in the CLE festival that took place on Public Square on Saturday, June 2, where we tabled on behalf of Margaret W. Wong and Associates LLC, was a great event for us (and hopefully for everyone else involved) from beginning to end.

First of all, Ms. Mallory McMaster was a terrific event director who kept us posted on the various developments through periodic emails during the several weeks preceding the event, which promised to be quite big because this was the first time that Cleveland Pride and Pride in the CLE, previously separate entities, joined forces to produce what Ms. Phyllis Harris, Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, termed "one unified event" instead of two separate events which, as we have observed, lacked the overall joy, intensity and togetherness that a single event provides.

As Ms. McMaster advised us to do, we got there early, around 10:00 am, to start setting up our table for the proceedings that officially started at noon. We were fortunate enough to find a parking spot in a lot for only $10 that was less than a block from our tabling space which just happened to be located right next to that of the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County, which was staffed by Ms. Beth A. Zietlow-DeJesus, a neat person whom we have encountered at other events. She warmly welcomed us.

Assisting Ms. Zietlow-DeJesus throughout the day was Mr. Jeff Davis, a comedian who will be taking part in the Stand Up Together Ohio fundraiser for the ADAMHS Board and Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation in July, 2018. Mr. Davis saw that we had several boxes to unload so he graciously lent us a wagon to accomplish the task.

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After setting up, we decided we needed a cup of coffee so we walked over to Robek's where we chatted with the servers while our coffee was being brewed. As it turned out, all three of the people working there at that time were very concerned about matters pertaining to immigration so we gave them copies of Ms. Wong's book, The Immigrant's Way.

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To be sure, along with pens, letter openers, and tangerines, we gave away quite a few copies of The Immigrant's Way in the course of the day to such people as a nurse who works at a downtown clinic that treats a lot of Hispanic people; a teacher from North Carolina who promised to share the contents with her students; and a legal assistant whose grandmother immigrated to the United States from what was then Czechoslovakia and managed to raise three children by herself despite the fact that her grasp of the English language was limited.

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Along the way, we talked to several people who had close friends from such divergent countries as Paraguay and Algeria who wanted to immigrate to the United States and eventually become citizens. We even met a man who said that Ms. Wong helped some of his colleagues who immigrated to the U.S. from Greece and Arabia.

Since the crowd happily proved to be enormous (estimates were that it was in the thousands), we mostly stayed by our table, so we missed the parade, the musical performances, and the socially concerned speakers.

Friends of ours stopped by to say hello to us, though, like Judge Denise Rini of the Juvenile Division of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas; Ms. Sarah Allbrooks from the Diversity Center; Dr. Lisa Nielson from the Flora Mather Center for Women; and Mr. Brian Stefan-Szittai and Mr. Wilbur Argueta from the Interreligious Task Force on Central America, so we never lacked for someone to visit with and thus never felt lonely.

The next day we talked to Reverend Denis Letourneau Paul at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Kirtland, who attended the Pride in the CLE festival, about why Pride festivals are so important. Reverend Paul thought for a moment before he replied by saying that this year (due to the hostile political climate), it was especially important to come out as LGBTQ people as well as their allies and supporters to show how diverse we all are as well as to show, once again, that when one is oppressed, we are all oppressed. Moreover, it is a chance to join with siblings of color, people in poverty, and disabled citizens among others.

Reverend Paul went on to talk about how it has been his observation that the LGBTQ community was composed of many subgroups, so intersectionality was often lacking, but he was very happy to see them come together the previous day as a unified whole. "We were there in all of our fullness," said the Reverend, "and we were not afraid to be ourselves and to see others as they are."

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC

Aimee Jannsohn