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Arts, Culture and Celebration of Indian Independence

  On Saturday, January 23rd, we stopped off at the Pilgrim Congregational Church on 14th Street in Tremont to learn about the Tremont Community Mural Project that we had first heard about in "Scene" Magazine.IMG_7316

The project will be guided by local artist Ms. Angelica Pozo who has created some beautiful artworks like the "Word Wall" near 116th Street in Buckeye, the "Rhythm of the Rainbow" at University Hospital in Cleveland, and "Parents of Social Work" at Stillman Hall at Ohio State University.  Ms. Pozo told us that this project is being funded by the Ohio Arts Council and Neighborhood Connections.

The mural will be created for the retaining wall near the gazebo in Lincoln Park in Tremont. It will consist of large ceramic tiles depicting life in Tremont surrounded by smaller tiles containing colorful designs. Ms. Pozo hopes to enlist 8 to 12 illustrators to work on the larger panels but everyone who "works, worships, learns, and plays" in Tremont is invited to work of the smaller tiles and be a part of this project. There will be several public sessions in February where these can and will be worked on.

Later, we read on Facebook that she was very pleased with the results of Saturday meeting because 36 people attended and 22 of them indicated that they wanted to be involved in this effort.

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We love Cleveland murals so we have written about them at least twice before in "Out and About" and we will try to follow the progress of this one. Readers may find out more at TremontAir.

As Wikipedia told us, "Republic Day honors the date on which the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950 replacing the Government of India Act (1935) as the governing document of India. The Constitution was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 of January 1950 with a democratic government system, completing the country's transition towards becoming an independent republic."

So on Saturday evening we went to the Holiday Inn on Rockside Road in Independence to take part in the Celebration of 67th Republic Day of India home hosted by FICA (Federation of India Community Associations of Northeast Ohio). We are proud to say that Margaret W. Wong and Associates was one of the sponsors of this event whose theme for this year was "Solidarity in Diversity."

When we arrived we were shown into the room next to the banquet hall for socializing and appetizers. As we have often found, it is difficult to stop eating the appetizers but one has to in order so that one can still eat dinner about an hour and a half later. We satat the same table for a few minutes with Mr. IMG_7321Thomas Kate of Refugee Response and his family. We visited with Ms. Sneha Kaushik who immigrated to the United States about five years ago. Ms. Kaushik remembers how thrilling it was to watch the India Republic Day festivities on television when she was a child back in the early to mid 1990's. We also talked for a moment with Lt. Col. Om Julka who was in India when a lot of historical events took place; in fact, he recalled meeting Mahatma Gandhi in 1939.

Soon we were called in for the evening program which was presided over by Ms. Sangita Bafna who served as the Master/Mistress of Ceremonies. Ms. Bafna said that under the FICA umbrella are different organizations which reflect its proud diversity.

During the course of the program, Ms. Mona Alag, President of Project Seva, and Mr. Sanjay Garg, Chairman of Shiksa Daan, talked about the purposes and goals of their organizations and the progress toward achieving them an Mr. Sudarshan Sathe spoke of the establishment of the Mahatma Gandhi Campus at a Breakthrough School located in Cleveland.

IMG_7343There were quite a few colorful presentations meant to inform and raise cultural awareness as well as to entertain including the performance of the "Story of Bharat" by large puppets (manipulated by skillful operators) from the Cleveland Museum of Art and musical and/or dance numbers by Ms. Ratipriya Suresh, Ms. Swetha Ravi, Mr. Bharat Kumar, Prena Khemka and Band, and the Anga Kala Kathak Academy.

Dr. Chitranjan Jain; Chair, FICA Board of Trustees; gave an address in which he spoke of how India is the world's largest democracy with the world's largest middle class and how proud we all should be that its transition to a democracy was so peaceful.IMG_7350

Ms. Sujata Lakhe Barnard, President of the FICA Executive Board, said that she wished that she was able to talk to everyone present personally because she was so glad to see us all there. She then expressed her joy that Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman would soon be taking over as the President of Global Cleveland and hoped that FICA would work "hand in hand" with it.

Councilman Cimperman, himself, gave the keynote in which he said that on this occasion we are not celebrating a constitution as much as we were celebrating the freedom that all human beings strive for and, along these lines, believed that India had few equals. He grew emotional as he said that the spirit of India should be within us all. He shared how his young daughter always likes him to drive slowly along the stretch of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens that contains the Mahatma Gandhi statue because she loved it and what it represented.IMG_7348

Our good friend Mr. Asim Datta was the recipient of FICA's Annual Award for "Building Bridges in the Indian Community and the Community as a Whole" but, unfortunately, Mr. Datta was not able to be there to receive it. According, his award was accepted by Ms. Mona Alag who praised Mr. Datta for his sincerity, honesty, integrity, and dedication.

A special award for resiliency was presented to Ms. Swapna Khadilkar and Mr. Anjama Subramanian, two CSU students from India who were badly injured in a terrible car accident shortly after they first came here. They persevered, however, and went through a painful process of recovery. Thankfully, they have now returned to their studies and are doingIMG_7356 well.

Perhaps the true meaning of this event was captured by Ms. Bafna who did an expert job managing the program. Ms. Bafna said that sameness could be defined as the coming together through common purpose and bringing along the uniqueness that each individual has to offer. Moreover, the respect for diversity is part of what must happen in order to have peace. Ms. Bafna believed that the United States is a wonderful country that was indeed a melting pot and even though "we all may have come on a different ship but we are all in the same boat."

We slept in late on Sunday, January 24th, because (just as we anticipated) we had too much delicious Indian the night before; we had a sizable dinner and it was just too tough to say "no" to the great appetizers. Plus, we met and said hello to so many people at the FICA banquet that we needed time to relax.

But by the afternoon we were ready for more so off we went to the Maltz Museum in Beachwood to attend a program about immigration given by Mr. Sean Martin, the Assistant Curator for Jewish History at the Western Reserve Historical Society. Mr. Martin said that he wanted to show how Jewish immigrants were able to become part of the American mainstream while still maintaining their own IMG_7379culture and identity.

He focused his presentation on the Cleveland area which Germans and Jews started to inhabit in significant numbers in the late 1830's. In answer to a question he confirmed that not everyone came through Ellis Island; it was just one point of entry and many people landed in Charleston, South Carolina before they journeyed to Cleveland.

Mr. Martin invited us to accompany him through the exhibition titled "The Jewish Experience in Northeast Ohio-An American Story" which took us through the happenings of the early years in the early years starting with the 1830's, through the turn of the century into the 1900's, the rise of anti-semitism, the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel, and modern times.

Mr. Martin showed us the Alsbacher Document written in 1839 by Mr. Lazarus Kohn, a teacher in  Unsleben, Bavaria who cautioned his friends who were immigrating to America "never to forget their Jewish heritage even amid the "tempting freedom" of America.

Mr. Martin escorted us through the exhibit and pointed out ways that the Jewish people managed to maintain their identify such as through newspapers like the "Hebrew Observer" established in 1889 and the "Jewish Review" established in 1893. Another way was through the Hebrew Schools established to educate the young people and, certainly, the various houses of worship which cause one to think about the diversity within the Jewish community itself.

But what impressed us the most were the many charitable institutions founded by the Jewish people of Cleveland like the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1875 which evolved into the Jewish Family Service Association. As an entry on the wall said, "the core moral values of the Jewish tradition are charity, acts of compassion, and efforts to repair the world-are put into practice locally through a network of organizations that for more than a century have provided and aid to all in need regardless of religious affiliation."

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