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Out & About in Cleveland

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Ancient Order of the Hibernians Father's Day Brunch

On Sunday, June 21st, our first event was the Ancient Order of the Hibernians Father's Day Brunch-A-Que at the East Side Irish American Club in Euclid. What we had was more lunch than brunch because we arrived at noon. We were told that almost 100 people attended this annual event but there were still quite a few people there and plenty of food. In fact, our veggie omelette was cooked for us by Mr. Francis McGarry, the club president. We shared a table with a very nice family named Pendergast. Mr. Pendergast told us that both his paternal and maternal ancestry immigrated to the United States during the potato famine in Ireland the 1840's. His paternal ancestry settled in Cleveland and remained here and his maternal ancestry initially settled in Minnesota but moved around.

When we told the Pendergasts that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, Mr. Pendergast's father-in-law recalled that while he was working at a company named Mar-Bal in the Auburn Township, years ago, Ms. Margaret W. Wong assisted one of the employees who immigrated to the United States from China.

When we said that we like Irish food the Mrs. Pendergast suggested that we try the Stone Mad Pub on West 65th Street. We are not sure that we have ever eaten there and plan to try it out now.

They also told us about the annual Irish Festival held in Dublin, Ohio in the first weekend of August. We looked it up and found out that it has been in existence for 27 years now and 100,000 people are expected to attend. We certainly plan to look into tabling there if not this year then next year for sure.

One of the things that we love about our job is that we get to go to events of totally different cultures sometimes on the same day. So on this day we went from the East Side Irish American Club to the 6th Annual Cleveland African Dance and Drum Festival at the Phillis Wheatley Association on Cedar Road. Workshops were being held there where participants could learn African dances on the bottom floor of the building and drumming on the upper floor.

We arrived too late for the start of the drumming class but we went upstairs anyway and watched Mr. Dame Gueye instruct seven students on the art of drumming. Let us say that after watching Mr. Gueye we sincerely believe that drumming could be regarded as an art; it sounded to us like he was the complete master of the beat and the rhythm. After the class was over we talked to him for a moment and learned that he has been playing since he was three years old and is now sixty-one. He is initially from Senegal but immigrated to the United States 23 years and plays all over and is planning trips to Haiti and to New York City. We gave Mr. Gueye our contact information because he plans to become a United States citizen soon.

On our way downstairs to watch the dancing, we stopped to have a conversation with Ms. Linda Thomas Jones who has been teaching the African arts to people in Cleveland for many years. In fact, many of the dancers and drummers that we were to see on this day learned their craft from her. On June 29th, Ms. Thomas Jones will be teaching a drumming class for those in confinement at the Justice Center. It is her ambition is to open an arts center where African dance, drums and theatre can be taught all in one location. She has found a good place for it at 80th and Union in the Slavic Village area and will be having a fundraiser to help refurbish the building in August and we told her that we would do our best to be there.

We wanted to find out more about the Djapo Cultural Arts Institute that was putting this program on so we talked for a minute with Ms. Obatiola Songofunmi who told us that it is all about keeping the African culture alive and passing it on to the children. Ms. Songofunmi has been involved in this since she was three years old and it is now her vocation. All types of mentoring programs are provided and they even organize trips to Africa so young people can gain a new appreciation of their ancestry.

We then watched newly trained students and their instructors perform a Dansa Dance to music performed by Djembe drums. As we were leaving, we asked Mr. Richard King, Executive Director of the Phillis Wheatley Association, what word or words he would use to describe the drumming and the dancing and the ones that he came up with were "intense" and "emotional" and we wholeheartedly agree.

Our last event for the day was at the Maltz Museum in Beachwood. Earlier last week we went to a program there about integration and baseball which was very worthwhile. The program for this evening also involved baseball and consisted of former Cleveland Indians players Mr. Carlos Baerga and Mr. Alvaro Espinoza discussing the impact that the "legendary" Mr. Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates had on sports, the world, and themselves. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Bob DiBiasio, Sr., Vice President of Public Affairs for the Cleveland Indians who we have heard speak at North Coast Chamber of Commerce luncheons.

We encountered Mr. Jeffrey Allen, Education and Public Programs Director of the Maltz Museum, in the parking lot where he told us that due to the large number of RSVP's (124!) for this event it would be held rent next door at the Tifereth Israel Temple in the sanctuary. During our walk over we met Mr. Ernie Brass from the Painesville Chamber of Commerce who was there with his friend Mr. Ron Berger from the Latino Initiative who told us to be sure to keep him on the invite list for the holiday party of Margaret W. Wong and Associates. We assured him that we would.

We found a seat in the first row of the sanctuary right next to Ms. Patria McElroy who turned out to have gone to the Ohio Asian American Health Conference yesterday just as we did. Ms. McElroy and her husband are avid Cleveland Indian fans and were really looking forward to this event. Before it began, we talked for a moment and learned that Ms. McElroy is very involved in Filipino nursing organizations (she is herself a nurse) and has provided assistance to Bhutanese refugees. She admires Ms. Margaret W. Wong and told us that Ms. Wong helped her brother immigrate to the United States from the Philippines years ago.

Even though it probably is not necessary we wanted to give a brief synopsis of Mr. Roberto Clemente and we found an appropriate one in the Wikipedia encyclopedia which says that Mr. Clemente was a Major League Baseball right fielder who played eighteen seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1972. He was an All-Star for twelve seasons, a National League Most Valuable Player for one season, an NL batting champion for four seasons and a Gold Glove winner for twelve season. He was Puerto Rican and was the first Latin American and Caribbean player to win a World Series as a starter, to receive a NL MVP award and to receive a World Series MVP award. He was heavily involved in charity work and was killed in a plane crash on December 31, 1972 while delivering humanitarian aid to Nicaragua right after the earthquake. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973 thus becoming the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined.

Of course Mr. DiBiasio, Mr. Baerga, and Mr. Espinoza all agreed (as did all of the attendees at this event) that Mr. Clemente was a both a great ballplayer and a great humanitarian who gave his life to help others. He was only thirty-eight when he was killed and eighteen of those years were spent as a professional ball player.

Both Mr. Baerga (from Puerto Rico) and Mr. Espinoza (from Venezuela) were quite young when Mr. Clemente was killed but they each told a very similar story of how their fathers encouraged them to see this man as a role model because he overcame racial and cultural barriers to truly realize his potential as an athlete through hard work and determination as well as caring so much about others. Mr. Espinoza said that to all of Latin America Mr. Clemente was a hero.

The three of them then talked about how hard it was for people of color who were ball players back in the pre-civil rights era. Mr. DiBiasio said that not this prejudice affected all aspects of a player's life including where he lived and how he was treated. Yet he was still expected to be great on the field and "hit that curve ball." As Mr. Baerga said, in order to succeed in that environment a player had to have passion, a good attitude, and, perhaps most of all, believe in himself.

Someone from the audience mentioned that in 1965 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Puerto Rico its government didn't want anything to do with the renowned civil rights leader so Mr. Clemente stepped forward and greeted Dr. King when he arrived and took him on a tour of the island.

Nevertheless, Mr. Baerga and Mr. Espinoza both praised the Cleveland Indians for their commitment to diversity. They recalled in 1995 when the team won the world series there were ten Latinos on the team including the two of them and they wouldn't trade it for anything.