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Out & About in Cleveland

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Tabling at Convencion Hispana '16; Tabling at The 25th Annual Polish Festival

On Saturday, October 8th, we tabled on behalf of Margaret W. Wong and Associates at "Convencion Hispana '16" at Max Hayes High School on West 65th Street in Cleveland.

img_5140 As its Facebook page described it, "Convencion Hispana is a one-day event sponsored by the Hispanic Roundtable but it is also a three-year process of community empowerment and agenda setting."

During the day there were special presentations and various workshop concerning such matters as early care and education, college accessibility and financial support,  health care in the Hispanic community, community development, civic engagement, and immigration.

Inside of the program booklet , there was a letter from Mr. Jose C. Feliciano, Chair of the Hispanic Roundtable, and Ms. Magda Gomez, President of Hispanic Roundtable Community Programs, which read in part, " One of our core values is our determination to give flesh to the two fundamental promises of America: freedom and equality. Freedom at its core, and its essence, is the concept of dignity. Moreover, the notion of equality of opportunity has been one of the driving forces in making America the envy of the world, if not of history. These noble notions are the driving force in all of our work...Our desire to serve and empower community is another one of our core values. We seek to do that and secure our future through self-help and collaboration. To be sure, the old adage is as true today as when it was initially said: if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day; but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Through Convencion Hispana we have strengthened our partnerships with the residents, communities, and principal institutions in our entire State of Ohio. These partnerships will serve to empower, if not transform, the Hispanic/Latino community."

Unfortunately, we were not able to attend the "Public Officials Discussion" in which Mr. Feliciano moderated a discussion between Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson but we were able to attend the workshop on Immigration which featured a panel composed of Mr. David Leopold, noted Immigration Attorney in Shaker Heights; Father Robert Reidy, Pastor of La Sagrada Familia Catholic Church; Ms. Camile Gill, Managing Attorney of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland's Migration and Refugee img_5142Services; and Mr. Jesus Gutierrez, Community Affairs Coordinator at the Consulate of Mexico in Detroit.

The discussion was chaired by Ms. Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America's Voice, the national immigration organization headquartered in Washington, DC. It's theme was "What will Happen After the Election, Irrespective of Who Wins?"

In the course of the discussion:

****Ms. Gill urged everyone to go to the campaign websites of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump and compare their plans for immigration reform. Among her reasons for preferring the plan of Secretary Clinton were that she wants to end the 3 and 10 year bans and she wants to extend ACA health care coverage to all immigrant families who are currently not covered. When the discussion turned to those attempting to escape the recurring violence in Central America, she explained the rules for granting asylum. She also indicated that there is a desperate shortage of attorneys and other resources for immigrants dealing with the Immigration Courts.img_5131

****Mr. Leopold eloquently explained why immigration reform is so badly needed at this time and why the 2013 immigration reform bill, which he termed not perfect but good, failed to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives even though the U.S. Senate passed it. He unquestionably favored Secretary Clinton's plans for reform and reviewed the challenges before her in terms of getting them passed should Secretary Clinton become the next U.S. President. He emphasized that polls indicated the U.S. public is in favor of such reforms that would be of great economic benefit to us all.

****Father Reidy had the experience of working in El Salvador for 11 years and had spent a week at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. He believed that one tool for progress would be to expose people to the "face of immigration" meaning those actually involved with it. He recalled a very successful program that he coordinated wherein he brought some young people struggling to be allowed to remain in the United States to Aurora High School and how moved the Aurora students were by the their testimonies.

****Mr. Gutierrez keenly listened to what was being said and at the end of the discussion said that he was not authorized to advocate on behalf of the Mexican government but it was those in the room (both panelists and audience participants) who must effect change.

All told, over 70 organizations tabled at Convencion Hispana. Our booth was directly across from that of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses staffed by Mr. Roberto Gonzalez, its President. We agreed to get together sometime soon to discuss possibly working together. Among those who stopped by our booth were Mr. David Schafer, Director of Development of the Maltz Museum, who was there with his father, Mr. Irwin Schafer. Ms. Penny Jeffrey, from the League of Women Voters, told us that her organization really appreciates the support that Ms. Margaret W. Wong img_5153has given it and our friend Mr. Andrew Kohn was busy registering voters.

We had met Ms. Janice Gonzalez from Cleveland Clinic Lutheran Hospital at other events so we gave her a copy of Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" when she stopped by to say hello.

At one point in the morning, we took a break from tabling/workshop and visited Ms. Yolanda Ramos who can be found at the MetroHealth Farm Stand two days a week. On this day, Ms. Ramos was serving a delicious peach/mango/kalicious smoothie that was a welcome refreshment indeed.

Around 2pm most of us gathered in the Max Hayes Gymnasium to listen to the keynote speaker who was famed actress/singer/dancer Ms. Rita Moreno. Ms. Magda Gomez proudly introduced Ms. Moreno saying that she was an "icon, role model, and an activist."

The format consisted of Mr. Feliciano asking the questions and Ms. Moreno taking it from there sometimes singing and dancing in the midst of memories. .

She described what it was like moving from Puerto Rico to New York City with her mother (who she said was an "amazing" woman who sometimes worked three or four jobs to support them) and the discrimination (both for race and for sex and eventually for age) that she often encountered even after she became a famous actress who won an Academy Award, a Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy among other prizes.

Among her more cherished memories was being in Washington DC when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech which she described as one of the most inspiring moments of her life.

She also talked about how she was so stunned when her name was called out as the winner of the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award back in 1962 for "West Side Story" that she could only say "I can't believe it!" when given the prize. She received a round of applause from all of us when she said that if she had it to do over again she would have said that "I accept on behalf of my people."

As the interview came to a close, she said that the advice that she gives to young people is "education, education, education" is the key to success. In fact, she tells budding artists/performers to learn a trade so that they can support themselves while they pursue their dreams.

Above all, Ms. Moreno said that it was important that no one victimize themselves by claiming, "I can't make it because I am black or because I am Latino." She indicated that enough people will already be stereotyping young ethnics; therefore, the best response to this is to work hard and rise above it.

Except for "Convencion Hispana 16" our only other event for the weekend was tabling at the 25th Annual Polish Festival at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Slavic Village where a lot of people walked by because we were located right next to the popcorn machine. We were there on Friday evening, Saturday in the late afternoon and the evening, and Sunday in the afternoon.

We loved that excellent sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies and the polka bands that played throughout the weekend. Among them were "Jimmy K and Ethnic Jazz"; "Box on the Band" and "Stephanie, America's Polish Sweetheart." We received a real treat on Sunday, however, when we were entertained by the "Raisin' Canes" who are a group of very talented people who operate from the Parma Senior Center and love performing for audiences.

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We want to express special thanks to Mr. Larry Bender who helped us register; Mr. Larry Krakowski, the coordinator of the festival, for calling out the score of the Indians gave on Friday night while we waited in line to buy dinner; and a guy named Mike who helped us hand our Margaret W. Wong and Associates banner behind us on the folded bleachers.

Among the people who stopped by our table to chat were:

****A man named Bill who attended South High in this area in the late 1930's-early 1940's. He recalled that there were a lot of Polish immigrant students there at the time and he and his classmates taught them English.

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****Another man named Joey took our information because he has a friend in Argentina who would like to immigrate to the United States.

****A man who immigrated to the United States from Yugoslavia back in the 1960's looked at Ms. Wong's picture on our banner for a moment and then looked at us and smiled and said, "she must do quite well!" before he moved on.

****While we were in the food line, we chatted with a couple who immigrated to the United States from Romania back in 2002. They like the changes they are seeing in Romania now though-it is only a question of time.img_5125

****Ms. Betty George who stopped by our table and talked about how she had been researching her family. This was her first time visiting St. Stanislaus Church  and she was here because she had discovered that her grandparents were married here years ago. She showed us a copy of the record and, sure enough, they were indeed married at St. Stanislaus on October 11, 1910. She visited with us for a moment and gave Ms. George a copy of "The Immigrant's Way."

By:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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