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The Cleveland Consent Decree: Tracking Progress; Day of The Dead Tradition; Dedication of Turkish Cultural Garden; Turkish Republic Day Celebration

On Friday, October 28th, we attended a City Club luncheon wherein the topic was "The Cleveland Consent Decree: Tracking Progress." The speaker was Mr. Matthew Barge who, as the program notes indicated, "is the federal court-appointed monitor overseeing a federal consent decree in Cleveland, leading a national team of experts and local community members." He is also a Partner and Executive Director of the Police Assessment Resource Center's New img_5695 York City office.

For background, we visited the website, and learned that "the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team is charged with overseeing implementation of the Consent Decree and helping the Court and City of Cleveland gauge whether the Decree's requirements are taking hold in practice-in the real world and across Cleveland's communities." It was also written that "the Monitoring Team as many roles-including arbiter, advisor, and facilitator."

Mr. Barge was introduced by Cleveland City Councilperson Matt Zone (Ward 15) who reviewed the circumstances that lead the Cleveland Consent Decree to be enacted in 2015 and Mr. Barge's impressive resume that we believe showed that he was well-qualified for the tasks assigned to him.

During his presentation, Mr. Barge said that the key to successful reforms was not to try to do everything all at once but to work slowly and efficiently towards the overall goal which is to establish effective policing that is consitutionally sound and safe for police officers. He readily acknowledged that there is an incredible amount of work to do and it is "urgent" that it be done but real change will not take place until one can get to the roots of the problem.img_5697

He went on to review developments in the areas of use of force, crisis intervention, and accountability and civilian oversight. Subjects that need and will be addressed soon include ways to improve the interaction between the police and the public. Mr. Barge said that he wants to establish channels to ensure that the independent voices of individuals as well as police officers (also as individuals) will be heard.

He expressed confidence that the Cleveland Police Department will ultimately be seen as a model of policing throughout the nation. He concluded by challenging all of us at this gathering to become involved in the reform process as much as possible.

img_5696 During the Q and A, we asked about efforts to address language barriers that are often common amongst those who have recently immigrated to the United States. He said that a lot of feedback on this issue has been received and steps are being taken to train the police officers to recognize that a person may not be responding to instructions because he/she might not understand them. He assured us that this subject will be addressed in more detail as implementation of the consent decree moves forward.

As we ate our lunch, we shared a table with Mr. Gordon Friedman who is an old friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and Mr. Bernie and Ms. Jill Moreno who we had seen the previous evening at the Celebration of Diversity at the Citizens Academy, Mahatma Gandhi Campus.

On this occasion, we were fortunate to meet several members of Mr. Barge's team who were Ms. Nonny Onyekweil, Program Manager of the Policing Project at the NYU School of Law; Mr. Hassan Aden, Founder of "The Aden Group" which does public safety consulting; and Captain Scott L. Sargent of the Los Angeles Police Dept.

The Community Partner sponsoring this City Club program was the ACLU so we complemented Mr. Mike Brickner, Senior Policy Director, and Ms. Jocelyn Rosnick, Assistant Policy Director, on an excellent email that their organization sent out a day or so prior about the fallacy of detaining immigrants in private prisons.

img_5763On Saturday, October 29th, we attended the annual "Dia de los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead" celebration put on by Artistas Latinos Unidos and the Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) at the CPT Parish Hall on Detroit Avenue.

This is very visually spectacular event and one that is tough to describe so we ask you to look over our photos which we hope will convey at least a portion of the wonderment/enchantment that we feel every year we attend.

We were thus inspired to want to learn more about this annual occurrence so we found a website titled "" that offered some interesting "Day of the Dead" facts:

" Dia de los Muertos is a holiday for remembering and honoring those who have passed. It is a festive, joyous time of celebration. Day of the Dead is Mexico's most important holiday which means they invest a lot of time and money into celebrating Dia de los Muertos, more so than any other holiday... Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout img_5761Mexico. Many other countries around the world celebrate similar (or hybrid) versions of Day of the Dead as well, by having special days for honoring the dead...Day of the Dead has also taken hold in areas with a high Mexican immigrant population, particularly in California, Texas, Arizona and other parts of the United States. Day of the Dead is celebrated in both public and private spaces. It is most often celebrated in homes and in graveyards. In homes, people create altars to honor their deceased loved ones. In some places it is common to allow guests to enter the house to view the altar. In graveyards, families clean the graves of their loved ones, which they then decorate with flowers, photos, candles, foods and drinks. People stay up all night in the graveyards socializing and telling funny stories about their dead ancestors. Musicians are hired to stroll through the graveyard, playing the favorite songs of the dead."

As the brochure that we were given stated about the Cleveland celebration, "with the Day of the Dead tradition in mind, the featured artists from the Northeast Ohio community have come together to share their artistic visions of an 'ofrenda' (Altar). Each ofrenda reflects the artist's personal beliefs and interpretation of a traditional offering in honor of his or her departed loved ones."

When we arrived we talked to Ms. Christina Jackson, Mr. Hector Castellanos, and Ms. Tammy Currier who work very hard to make this happening so special each year. They introduced us to Mr. Luis Ituarte, who came all the way from Tijuana to install the main altar.

We stayed for a while to watch the Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center Dancers perform and had a good conversation with Ms. Joyce Brabner, the widow of famed cartoonist Mr. Harvey Pekar, who we had met years ago when we presented her with a special tribute from former U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich after Mr. Pekar's passing.

Earlier in the day on Saturday, we had gone to the Cleveland Cultural Gardens to attend the long-awaited dedication img_5710 of Phase One of the Turkish Cultural Garden.

Mr. Mehmet Gencer, who has long been involved in this project, spoke for a few minutes and told us that Dr. Mine Kurtay was the one who first put the idea out to have a Turkish Garden because the Cleveland Cultural Gardens were a very "unique" place and the Turkish community should be there.

About 40-50 people turned attended this event and we were soon made img_5713aware that there was a push to have this dedication take place on October 29th because on this day 93 years ago the Turkish Republic was founded. Beautiful red banners and likenesses of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the first President of modern Turkey) adorned the site of the Garden.

Ms. Sheila Crawford, President of the Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation, welcomed the Turkish community into the Cleveland Cultural Garden family and talked about how she took a recent trip to Turkey and left there with a great appreciation of its culture and history.img_5725

Then Mr. Gencer and his daughter, Ms. Ayla Gencer who is the President of the Turkish American Society of Northeast Ohio (TASNO), thanked everyone involved in the planning and creation of the Turkish Garden. It meant a lot to everyone to finally be a part of the Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation because it stands for diversity and "peace through mutual understanding."

That night we went to Cibreo Cleveland on Euclid Avenue for a celebration of Turkish Republic Day where we met many of the people who were also at the dedication of the Turkish Garden earlier.

We shared a table with Mr. Oz Baykal and his wife, Elena, and were pleased to meet several people who had img_5770 immigrated to the United States from Turkey and had come to this party to get to know the local Turkish community and make new friends.

Ms. Ayla Gencer, the President of TASNO, looked lovely in a beautiful red dress and had worked very hard to put this multi-generational event together; to be sure, it was a success,img_5768 Ms. Gencer told us that at least 60 people turned out and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were no long speeches although Mr. Mehmet Gencer re-capped the events earlier in the day and sang a lovely Turkish melody for all us.

We asked Ms. Gencer what her father's official title was regarding TASNO and the planning of the Garden. Ms. Gencer just laughed and said he was "super dad" and from what we have observed of Mr. Gencer interacting with his wife Christine; his daughter, Ayla; and his two sons, Kaan and Beark (a third is attending college in Columbus and couldn't be there) we are quite comfortable with that designation.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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