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71st Annual One World Day at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens

IMG_4137On Sunday, August 28th, we had a wonderful time tabling for Margaret W. Wong and Associates at the 71st Annual One World Day at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens which was also a celebration of the Gardens' 100th Anniversary. Let us note that this special One World Day was produced by our good friend, Mr. Johnny Wu and co-chaired by Dr. Richard Crepage and Ms. Svetlana Stolyarova, also close friends of ours, from the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation (CCGF) which was the official host. The presenters were Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Yvonne Conwell in partnership with University Circle, Inc.

We were very fortunate that the planners located our booth near the intersection of MLK Blvd. and St. Casimir Way because we were directly across the street from the KeyBank Centennial Main Stage (for which the groundbreaking would take place later on) where a lot of excellent performances took place such as those by the Murphy Irish Dancers and Michael Stanley and Friends. We also had easy access to our car which was parked up at the Wilson School just a few blocks away on Pulaski Avenue. Among the other organizations tabling in close proximity to us were OCA Greater Cleveland Chapter, the Ariel Center,, and Global Cleveland.


Our location also enabled us to leave our table alone on occasion to take walks, obtain good food, and see what was going on in the other Gardens. We loved eating India Food and Ms. Gia HoaRyan, from the Vietnamese Garden, was kind enough to make us a special vegetarian sandwich.

On our way to watch the "Parade of Flags" we encountered Dr. Hira Fotedar, the President of Project SEWA's Cleveland Chapter who was instrumental in arranging the Kailash Kher concert at the State Theatre that we attended about two weeks prior. Dr. Fotedar was very pleased to learn that we enjoyed the concert as much as we did. We also ran into Ms. Stacie Higgs from Sub Rosa Tea who we tabled next to at the Cinco De Mayo festival in June, 2015 at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds. She reminded us about the event being rained out.

Needless to say, the "Parade of Flags" was spectacular so we followed it over to the Main Stage where the ceremonies for the day took place that started with Ms. Sheila Crawford, President of the CCGF, justly likening the IMG_4122Cleveland Cultural Gardens to Central Park in New York City and correctly stating that there is no place like our Gardens anywhere else in the world. Ms. Crawford said that it was amazing that such an enterprise composed strictly of volunteers could last 100 years but our Gardens have done just that and their presence should be everlasting.

Mayor Frank Jackson presented a proclamation that read in part, "for the past 100 years the Cleveland Cultural Gardens have been showcasing the history, culture and heritage of several of Cleveland's diverse nationalities. This string of twenty-six gardens representing different nationalities with new gardens in the developmental stage are located along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the adjacent East Blvd.; and the Cultural Gardens are unique to Cleveland and each garden was developed in collaboration with ethnic representatives to memorialize and share with the world their own culture and history. As such, the Cultural Gardens are a great educational tool, as well as a great place to relax, enjoy nature in the midst of a city, walk, or ride a bike, see statues of significant personalities or depictions of far away lands..."IMG_4119

On every One World Day there is a naturalization ceremony in which people who have immigrated to the United States from other countries officially become U.S. citizens. On this day, 19 people took the U.S. citizenship oath initially coming here from such places as India, Bhutan,Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Korea, Ukraine, Burma, Croatia, Romania, Georgia, and Pakistan. Cleveland City Councilman Conwell urged these people to stay in Cleveland because "we want your intelligence, brains and beauty to help us grow and make us stronger."

IMG_4116As we know, Cleveland is a city built by immigrants thus Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Conwell said that the new U.S. citizens were "welcome to stay and raise their families in our world of color" referring to Cleveland's tremendous diversity. She went on to say that "we come together in our love for people."

Before the oath was administered, Mr. Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle, Inc., also talked about the history of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens for a moment and their significance to our city and our community. He went on to say that a time capsule would soon be planted and when it is opened in 25 years he hoped that there would be at least 50 Gardens in this vicinity.

Next, Mr. David M. Reynolds, Senior Vice President of KeyBank, Inc. spoke about how the Gardens represented peace through mutual understanding; Dr. Crepage introduced the dignitaries; and the Reverend Hilton Smith delivered a prayer in which he praised God for giving us the Gardens as a place where life could be celebrated and for "allowing diversity to stand" and"adversity to take a back seat."

It was then time for Ms. Crawford to conduct the groundbreaking ceremony for the Centennial Plaza that would soon be constructed on this very spot. She dedicated this development to ourselves, those who came before us, and those who would come here in the future. As the dignitaries took up their shovels, a band appropriately named "No Strangers Here" played a familiar song that included the words, "inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow" only this time with special lyrics pertaining to the Cleveland Cultural Gardens and One World Day.IMG_4156

Another prayer was given by Reverend Benjamin Gohlstin in whichhe expressed hope that the Plaza would represent "opportunity, diversity, cultural connectedness, and cooperation."

Afterwards, it was time for the Naturalization Ceremony in which the oath would be administered by United States District Court Judge Dan A. Polster. Among the things that Judge Polster said before he administered the oath was that he had once regarded the United States as a "melting pot" but now he thought of it as a savory "stew" that contained a lot of ingredients and you could taste every one of them referring to the need for all of us to maintain the cultures of our countries of origin but still coming together as part of a whole.

IMG_4146Before he swore in the new U.S. citizens, he asked if any one of them wanted to say a few words. One young man from Bhutan came forward and said a few words about how much becoming a U.S. citizen meant to him. He noted that he had lived in a refugee camp in Nepal before coming here. He said that he regarded the U.S. as the greatest country in the world and he looked forward to working with all of us to make it even greater.

Then Judge Polster administered the oath but not before he said that he regarded immigrants as the most courageous people on this planet because they often had to leave everything behind them to come to a place unfamiliar to them to start life anew. Moreover, he reminded us that there was a time not that long ago when 2 out of every 3 people in Cleveland was either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.

IMG_4145After the ceremony, we spent most of the rest of the day at our table. Several people came by who had questions about their immigration status or had friends who had such questions so we arranged for them to contact or be contacted by Margaret W. Wong and Associates.

Another person who stopped by was Mr. Ronald Riley who used to work with Ms. Margaret W. Wong at one time. He had never read "The Immigrant's Way" and we were glad to give him a copy.

At one time in the early evening, we feared a storm but it passed us by. At 7pm we folded up our equipment and headed home. It was a long but very fulfilling day.

We were glad that we invited one of our friends from the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce who had never been to a One World Day before, here to take part in it. When we asked our friend about her One World Day experience, she replied that she liked it a lot. In fact, she was so impressed that she said with a twinkle, "who's to say that you have to travel the world when you can come to One World Day and see all of the different cultures, countries, music, food, dances and et cetera."


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