5K Run for Nepal and Stonewall Democrats in Cleveland, Ohio
On Saturday we had spoken to Dr. Hira Fotedar at the Indian Festival about the possibility of us taking part in the "Run for Nepal' event organized by SEWA International on Sunday, September 13th. At the time we were not sure that we would be able to, but when we awoke on Sunday we were feeling hardy so we decided to partake part this athletic activity in which 100% of the proceeds would be used to benefit the Nepal Earthquake victims so off we went to Weiss Field in Avon Lake.
We got there just in time to register for the Run/Walk, which began at 9am, and to listen to a couple of short opening speeches. Dr. Fotedar said that close to 200 people had registered which was really good. He then introduced Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka who he had always found to be very responsive. Dr. Fotedar also mentioned that Mayor Zilka had met his wife while they were both Peace Corps volunteers in Iran years ago. Mayor Zilka said that he really liked it that so many people drove all of the way from the east side of Cleveland to be there. He went on to say that it is a goal of a runner to achieve his/her personal best, but the people who were participating on this day had shown their own personal best by being there.
Originally we intended to only do the 1 mile walk, but then we talked to some people who said that they were walking, not running, the 5K, so we decided to rise to the occasion by walking the 5K, too. As it turned out, to take part in the 5K was a good decision on our part because we got our exercise in for the day and felt really refreshed, not tired, when we were done. Needless to say, it didn't hurt that the weather was neither too cold or too warm but just right for a walking event. When we arrived back at the starting point, Mr. Prashant Viji handed out various medals to those who had completed the 5K/1 walk. We were very surprised when our name was called to receive a medal for 2nd place for those aged 55-59 in the men's division. We honestly had forgotten what our final time was; we were just glad that we completed the walk.
As he was handing out the medals, Mr. Viji said that the those taking part in Run/Walk were aged 7 to 90 years old. He mentioned that he had vacationed in Nepal several years ago, and saw some beautiful buildings and architecture that were destroyed by the earthquake. Mr. Viji said that we cannot undo the tragedy but at least we could all work towards improving the quality of life for those who were directly affected by the tragedy.
Later in the day on Sunday we went to Market Garden Brewery on West 25th Street in Cleveland to attend the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats (CSD) Freedom Fund Reception which celebrated "15 years of working to educate, endorse, and elect pro equality democrats." We were very proud that Margaret W. Wong and Associates was a "host sponsor" of this event.
As CSD President Rob Rivera said, "we work to advance equality city by city and candidate by candidate" and he firmly believed that the laws and policies that the CSD advocated for were good for everyone in Ohio; not just the LGBT Community. This year the two award recipients were U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who received the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Freedom Award, and Mr. Steve Bennett, a very prominent local progressive/community activist, who received the CSD Leadership Award. An honor would also go to the special guest for the day who was Mr. Jim Obergefell who was the lead plaintiff in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case that went all the way to the Supreme Court and, in a decision announced last June 26th, held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples.
One could feel an emotional wave throughout the room as Mr. Obergefell talked about the history of the case. It started when he met his partner, Mr. John Arthur in 1992, and became a couple soon afterwards and settled in Cincinnati. Years later Mr. Arthur contracted ALS, and Mr. Obergefell was his constant caregiver. Around 2013, they decided they would like to marry, but could not do so in Ohio, so funds were raised to pay for a special flight to take the two of them and their loved ones to Maryland, where their marriage was performed at the airport. They returned to Cincinnati where a civil rights attorney informed them that, due to Ohio law, their marriage would not be recognized on Mr. Arthur's death certificate, which understandably outraged them. Thus began the long, legal process that eventually resulted in the June 26th decision. As was expected, Mr. Arthur did not live to see the final outcome.
When Mr. Obergefell completed his speech, he received a standing ovation and Mr. Rivera, a history teacher, said that his students were quite impressed that he was going to introduce a person that young people such as themselves would be studying someday.
When he received his award, Mr. Bennett, a retired Lakewood teacher himself, praised the diversity of Cleveland calling it "remarkable," and was thrilled about the number of grassroots groups here who work in all kinds of areas, but ultimately come together "to do the job!"
U.S. Senator Brown renewed his commitment to working for equality for all, but conceded that this particular "job" was not yet completed, and pledged to continue to work on behalf of anti-discrimination measures aimed at protecting the LGBT community. This obviously meant a lot to him, because he mentioned that his wife, Ms. Connie Schultz, and he were both on the steps of the local courthouse on June 26th when the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision was announced, and called the participation of Ms. Schultz and himself in the Gay Games 9 Opening Ceremonies the "best night of their professional lives."
We recalled something that Mr. Obergefell said about grassroots activism which was that it was "all about people sharing stories and fighting" for what they believed in. Those words perfectly sum of the Stonewall Democratic Club, and are the reason that we are so committed to be a part of it.