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Out & About in Cleveland

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Celtic Comedy Night at the East Side Irish American Club

On Saturday night we were in the mood for some fun so we headed over to the East Side Irish American Club (ESIA) located in Euclid which is just a couple of miles from where we live because they were hosting "Celtic Comedy Night" featuring Mr. Bill Boronkay, Mr. Jeff Blanchard, Mr. Mike Conley, and Mr. Mike Cheselka who are all very funny guys. We saw a lot of people that we knew over there like Ms. Colleen Frank (who found us a place at a table), Mr. Michael Gronick, Ms. Linda Burke (who asked if we planned to bowl with the ESIA again this year so we immediately signed up), and Ms. Linda Carney.

It was a very cold night with temperatures in the teens so we were surprised at the number of people who left their warm homes to come to the ESIA for this event. In fact, Mr. Gronick estimated that there were over 200 people there and most of them brought their own food to snack on so we ran out to the store and bought a bag of Sun Chips which we shared with the people at our table many of whom did not know each other so we went around and a couple of us wrote down the names of our table companions. For the record, we had a good time sharing our table with Tom, Barbara, Terry, Mary Ann, Jeanine, Peggy and Sue.

We noticed that the next table had popcorn so we bartered some of our Sun Chips for a couple of cups of popcorn. It turned out that the custodians of the popcorn were Ms. Jeannette Nemcek from PFLAG and her husband, Mr. Bob Nemcek who attends the Westshore Unitarian Universalist Church as we do.

As for the humor, nothing was sacred as the comedians harpooned the cold weather (the most frequent thing to be so scorned), toll plazas, the Horseshoe casino, AARP, McDonalds, parent-child relations, Taco Bell, and Dick Goddard.

We learned that Mr. Cheselka is a criminal defense attorney who just loves to be funny on occasion so we introduced ourselves to him and his eyes immediately lit up as he said that of course he had heard of Ms. Margaret W. Wong. "She does immigration!" he exclaimed.

Believe it or not the subject of immigration even entered (somewhat) into the comedy routines as Mr. Boronkay told a funny one about cats wandering in from other neighborhoods to steal his cat food and called it an "immigration issue". Even though he was technically incorrect, Mr. Blanchard was still quite humorous when he said that there are no illegal Canadian immigrants in Cleveland because would dissolve crossing Lake Erie due to the cold weather.

Granted, a lot of the humor was a bit wild to say the least but we still liked coming to the ESIA because it was great being with a group of people gathered together to have a good time on a cold night. We told Mr. Boronkay that it was like attending a "winter solstice celebration", which caused him to laugh as he said, "I like that. You are very upbeat."

On Sunday morning, January 11th, at the West Shore Unitarian Church in Rocky River, Reverend Kathleen Rolenz gave a very powerful sermon about violence against women in our society. She said that 2014 had been a "not good year for women" in light of the allegations against Bill Cosby, the capturing on camera of Raymond Rice striking his fiancé and dragging her by the hair, and the "Rolling Stone" story that was later retracted about sexual misconduct at the University of Virginia. Rev. Rolenz expressed concern about the too-often failure of people to believe women who contend that they are victims of sexual harassment and/or assault.

She talked about a film about human trafficking titled "The Girl Next Door" which had been shown at the church the previous evening which told the story of Ms. Theresa Flores who was a sex slave in Michigan for over two years. It was then time to receive the offering which was designated to go to the Renee Jones Empowerment Center: Project Red Cord, a human trafficking prevention program. Rev. Rolenz introduced Ms. Renee Jones who spoke for a moment about the goals for 2015 which included targeting the truck stops of Cleveland and Youngstown where a lot of young people are victimized. Ms. Jones will also continue to reach out to teens to inform them about the dangers of being preyed upon by operatives who want to draw them into the dangerous world of sexual slavery.

Rev. Rolenz said that she wanted to end her sermon by saying something positive so she talked about how Cuyahoga County has become a national leader in the fight against sexual assault thanks to the DNA testing of thousands of rape kits which have lead so far to 300 indictments and a 90% conviction rape. She credited both Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty for providing the money and the manpower to make this happen.

Then Mr. Bob Nemcek, who we had seen the previous evening at the East Side Irish American Club, got up and read an essay titled "Nonviolent Men: The New Silent Majority" by Rob Okun which called for more men to speak out against men who abuse women. Mr. Okun firmly believes that "it's way past time to put on the pads, guys. We've got to put our shoulders to the wheel of change if we're going to stop domestic and sexual violence. Are you ready to suit up for the big game? Except, of course, it ain't no game; the lives of our daughters and sisters, wives and mothers are on the line." His essay goes on to say that "Football players aren't born to beat their wives or children. No men are. But until and unless we replace the fist and the switch with patience and a hug as tools to raise our sons and grandsons, domestic violence in our homes and sexual assaults on campuses (and elsewhere) will be men's legacy. Brothers, it's the fourth quarter, the clock is ticking and there are no more time outs. What are we waiting for?"

Appropriately, the closing hymn of the service was the song, "Respect" by Otis Redding and the whole congregation stood up and clapped as we sang.

Afterwards, we spoke with Ms. Renee Jones who said to be sure to thank Margaret W. Wong and Associates for supporting their gala last year and promised to let us know about future happenings. We thanked her for the meaningful work that she does.

After we left church we went to the movies and saw a very exciting, socially relevant film called "Selma" about the ultimately successful effort of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his associates in the Southern Leadership Conference to get President Lyndon B. Johnson to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Much of "Selma" deals with the behind the scenes organizing of the march from Selma to Montgomery and the often brutal efforts of the white Southern establishment led by Governor George Wallace to stop it from taking place. The power of "Selma" comes from showing Dr. King and his followers, President Johnson, and even Governor Wallace, as very human people who sometimes doubt themselves and their tactics but feel they must move forward anyway for the betterment of the whole. Near the end of the film, President Johnson and Governor Wallace have a confrontation in which the point is made that "this is not a negro problem, this is not a southern problem, this is an American problem!"

The film is also very good in showing the horrendous pressures that all of this put on Dr. King's family headed by Ms. Coretta Scott King (wonderfully played by Carmen Ejogo). We were taken back when we learned that Mr. David Oyelowo who does an outstanding job playing Dr. King is actually a British actor (as are Mr. Tom Wilkinson who plays President Johnson and Mr. Tim Roth who plays Governor Wallace). He certainly had us convinced that he was genuinely from the South.

Credit must also go to the director Ms. Ava DuVernay and screenwriter Paul Webb for their work in creating a film that is both powerful and entertaining. From what we understand, "Selma" is for the most part accurate but some people are disputing the way the relationship between Dr. King and President Johnson is depicted herein. According to the film, President Johnson had to be pressured into initiating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because he already had his hands full with the war in Vietnam and the war on poverty. Some are saying that the President was actually more supportive than he is shown to be here.

A scene that especially moved us occurred near the film's beginning when a African-American woman (played by Ms. Oprah Winfrey who was also one of the film's producers) goes to the Selma courthouse to register to vote but is denied this right because a disrespectful clerk subjects her to an oral exam which is almost impossible to pass. We learn that, prior to the Voting Rights Act, Selma was over 50% African-American but only 2% were allowed to register. It made us think of recent struggles in Ohio over early voting to ensure that voter participation is the greatest it can be. After seeing "Selma", we hope that we, as well as the other people who see this film, will never take voting for granted again.

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