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2016 annual meeting of the Cleveland Tenants Organization (CTO); Let's Talk About Islam; Business After Hours and Happy Dog Takes on the World

On Tuesday, March 1st, our first event was the 2016 annual meeting of the Cleveland Tenants Organization (CTO) that was held at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland.

The Cleveland Tenants Organization was established in 1975 and its mission statement says that it "educates tenants and landlords, empowers the community, and advocates for affordable, fair and quality rental housing." And its vision is for "a community that protects the rights of all tenants and promotes affordable, safe, healthy, fair and stable living conditions."

Prior to the start of the meeting we spoke to Ms. Angela Shuckahosee, the Executive Director, who told us that one of the ways that the CTO assists immigrants/refugees is by working with US Together, Cleveland Catholic Charities, and the International Services Center. Along these lines, we talked with Ms. Pamela E. Ashby, Field Office Director of HUD, about how her organization conducts outreach to the Asian community regarding fair housing issues.

During the program, which was very well attended, Ms. Shuckahosee reviewed the great successes 2015 which included the 40th anniversary celebration (which we attended) and the annual golf outing (which we did not).  She also mentioned how great it was having the late Congressman Lou Stokes attend the anniversary celebration because he was such an "amazing person" who spent his career advocating for causes like public housing and the needs of tenants.

Ms. Shuckahosee devoted a large part of her presentation to explaining CTO's new website which was launched on that very day. Among the items included there are legal information for both landlords and tenants; a calendar and an event tab; a FAQ; a policy and advocacy page; information about emergency housing and rental assistance; and a news tab. What we really liked about this very comprehensive website was that the users were given the option of reviewing the information in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Ukrainian, Somali, and Swahili.

IMG_8475It was then time to introduce the person who would be the 2016 Inductee into the CTO Hall of Fame who was Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman who will soon be resigning to take over the helm at Global Cleveland. In a statement issued earlier it was written that "from the moment he joined Cleveland City Council, Joe Cimperman has been a steadfast advocate for the poor, the underprivileged, and the disenfranchised. This is manifested through his support for homelessness prevention, the preservation of affordable housing, and advocating for the rights of all tenants, and he has supported CTO from the beginning. We enthusiastically honor him for all he has done to make Cleveland prosper while balancing the needs of all residents, most recently with 'The Dream Neighborhood' project."

A letter from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown was read in which the Senator noted the great energy displayed by Councilman Cimperman when he worked for the things he believed in.

Citations and testimonials for Councilman Cimperman were presented/given by Ohio State Rep. Kent Smith as well as Cleveland City Council members Kevin Kelley, Anthony Brancatelli, and Brian Cummins.

In accepting his honor, Councilman Cimperman praised Ms. Shuckahosee for taking the leadership of Global Cleveland to a "fantastic level" and said that she was an "incredible leader." He believed that his advocacy was based on his own experiences as a child because his family had always wanted to own a home but never could afford to. "People without money," he said, "do have value and our hearts."

After leaving Trinity Cathedral, we travelled to Tri-C West for a program in the student center in which Iman Foua'ad Saeed from the Islamic Center of Cleveland spoke about Islam to about 75 people gathered in the North Galleria.

Iman Saaed contended that Islam, just like Judaism and Christianity, is in fact a powerful force for good, IMG_8496despite the current political controversy, but he  said that we should not regard Islam as a religion of "peace" but one of "mercy" which was appropriate because if there is "no mercy there is no peace regardless of belief."

He said that those who "butcher" people like those in ISIS do not represent Islam but are using it as a facade. "We cannot stop them from calling themselves Muslims," he said, "but we can say that they arenot a part of us."

During the Q and A, Iman Saeed brought up the point that certainly not all Christians are members of the KKK (although it professes to be Christian) any more than all Muslims are a part of ISIS.

A question that he answered concerned whether or not women in Islam were oppressed. He was joined by Ms. Shirien Muntaser (who introduced the program) who said, "I am a Muslim woman and proud to be so and am not oppressed."

Other questions asked included why some women wear the hajib and others do not and why do Muslims pray five times a day.

When asked about Mr. Donald Trump, Iman Saeed said that, in his opinion, Mr. Trump was harmful to IMG_8498America as a whole because he is contributing to a hateful atmosphere not only concerning Muslims but Hispanics too when he calls for a wall to be built between the U.S. and Mexico. Iman Saeed urged us not to forget that we were all descended from immigrants to the United States.

As angry as he obviously was about Mr. Trump, Iman Saeed was calm as he said that when difficulties are placed before those in any religion and those difficulties can be dealt with constructively, "the more God loves you."

This program was sponsored by the Student Peace Alliance and the International Club. Of course, our good friend Dr. Susan Lohwater was involved.

We got to visit with Ms. Rania Assily, who teaches World Civics classes at Tri-C, and was at the Red IMG_8494 Carpet for Refugees dinner that we and Dr. Lohwater attended on Saturday, February 27th. Ms. Assily remembered interviewing Ms. Margaret W. Wong several years ago as part of a project. We had met Mr. Tyler Olson, Manager of Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies, before and it is always good to see him.

As for Ms. Shirien Muntaser, she is the co-President of the Student Peace Alliance and on the Board of Parks and Recreation at Olmsted Falls. When she introduced Iman Saeed, she read a poem that she composed and urged all of us to first respect ourselves in order to achieve the respect of others. She then asked for all human beings to commit to building a diverse community.

Later, in the early evening, we stopped off for an hour at a "Business After Hours" networking session put on by the North Coast Chamber of Commerce/Power of More at the Burntwood Tavern in Crocker Park.

It was our third event at a Burntwood Tavern location within a year's time. Last August, we were at the Burntwood Tavern in Lyndhurst for the ribbon-cutting and in the middle of February we attended did a networking night at the Solon location. All three times, we encountered Ms. Jen Leonard, Marketing and Events Manager who consistently remembered us.

On this occasion in Crocker, we had several conversations with people who included:

***Ms. Karen E. Dickerson, Campus Director at the Tri-C Westshore Campus who knows Ms. Margaret W. Wong for her work assisting international students.IMG_8500

***Ms. T.L. Champion, who we know from a couple of chambers. She is in the process of reading Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way."

***A person who works for a local faucet manufacturer. We suggested to him/her that something be devised that would provide for the easy dripping of water so that those of us Northeast Ohio can keep the water circulating so our pipes don't freeze in winter. If such a thing were to be created, we would stand in line to buy it.

***Ohio State Rep. Nan Baker who would like to be the next State Senator from District 24 but first must win a very competitive primary.

***Mr. Jackie Ma who organizes dances in Parma and Brooklyn for those 35 and up. He estimates that 70% of those attending come as singles and 30% as part of a couple.

***A person who owns a nursery/landscaping company who is willing to given an immigrant a chance providing they are willing to work hard.

Soon we were off to our last event which was the monthly "Happy Dog Takes on the World" at the Happy Dog on Detroit Avenue.

IMG_8503Tonight the subject was Ms. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany who was named person of the year by "Time Magazine".

As usual, the format was that of a panel discussion in which Mr. Tony Ganzer, WCPN host/producer, acted as moderator. The panelists were Dr. Kenneth F. Ledford, Ph.D., Chair of the Dept. of History at CWRU and Dr. Chistoph von Marschall, Ph.D., Chief Diplomatic Correspondent with "Der Tagesspiegel."

The discussion started off focusing on Chancellor Merkel and how she is perceived as a leader in Germany, in Europe, and the world as whole but soon it gravitated over to an analysis of the rise of a right-wing populism in Germany (comparable to what is happening in other European countries and the United States) and what effect it might have in the elections in a couple of weeks.

Most of all, Germany's "challenge of mass migration" was discussed. It was indicated that some people may have initially thought that the migration might provide Germany with the workers it so badly needed because the birth rate is not as high as it should be and the population is growing older and shrinking. Then studies were released that only 10%-15% of the migrants have the skills that are needed in Germany at this time. Plus, the atmosphere in Germany can become tense because many of the refugees/migrants do not like each other, perhaps due to religious differences, and are having a difficult time adjusting to the German culture and working with each other.

Sixty percent of the German citizens say that the refugee/migrant situation is "out of control" but ninety percent of the respondents say that they still are open to accepting refugees if it can be proven that there lives are in danger. Chancellor Merkel is trying to show leadership on this issue and is urging the other European Union countries to accept their share of refugees/migrants but this is not happening. If the Syrian War were to end then most of the refugees living in Germany as well as other countries, would return home but neither speaker could see the war ending anytime soon.

In answer to what could be done now, Dr. von Marschall suggested that, for now, Germany must go against its history and accept no more refugees/migrants at this time. As for those who are now there, they can eventually be integrated into German society and peace can be maintained. He also suggested that refugee/migrants be allowed to go their own way in Germany which is what they would like to do also. He noted that a large fraction of those who are supposed to reside at an assigned location don't ever show up there anyway.

Dr. Ledford believed that the opportunity was present for a housing boom in Germany that would provide homes and jobs for many.

We sat with people that we knew from the Cleveland Council on World Affairs' (CCWA) events at the Union Club who were Mr. Bob Cutler (whose wife used to work for Ms. Margaret W. Wong) and Ms. Barbara Hawkins.

One of the sponsors for the night was the Cleveland Eric M. Warburg Chapter of the American Council on Germany. Its represent, Mr. Adrian Rausche spoke for a moment and said that the American Council on Germany has been around since 1952 but only started the Cleveland Chapter last year. He said that its purpose was to help develop dialogue between the United States and Germany and give its political and business leaders a chance to get to know each other better. Plus, as Mr. Rausche said, it is good to learn what is happening in Europe from people who are actually from there.

Written by:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.