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Out & About in Cleveland

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Cleveland International Film Festival and Liberia Fundraiser

From the City Club we went to Trinity Church on Bagley Road in Middleburg Heights to attend a fundraiser to on behalf of Liberia and the efforts to combat Ebola. We had a pleasant surprise when we encountered Ms. Joan Curran Darkortey, Co-founder of the Liberia Economic Development Initiative, who we have talked to several times before at various functions involving this very issue. Ms. Darkortey introduced us to Ms. Ruth Shipley who, along with her daughter Ms. Beth Shipley, was coordinating this event. Ms. Darkortey told Ms. Shipley that Ms. Margaret W. Wong has been a generous contributor to the Liberian community. Ms. Shipley explained to us that this fundraiser was put together by about 25 home schooled young people ages 13 to 18 who are involved in a group called "Missions in Action" which was visited by Ms. Elizabeth Brown, a native Liberian, who shared her experiences with them about how Ebola has brought about the pain and destruction of many lives.

So impressed were they by Ms. Brown that the young people decided to do this fundraiser and put the whole thing together themselves. To be sure there was plenty of food (mostly rice dishes including an especially good one made with apples), a silent auction, music, and a reader's theatre presentation about the Ebola crisis largely based on Ms. Nancy Sheppard's book "In Harm's Way". Ms. Sheppard was a missionary in Liberia who worked in a Ebola ward in a hospital. Regrettably we could only stay for an hour but we got to watch a run through/rehearsal of the impressive reader's theatre production.

We talked to a few more people and sampled the various rice dishes and were off to our last event for the day.

And the last event for the day was a screening of a documentary titled "Limited Partnership" at the Cleveland Film Festival at Tower City. For a few minutes it didn't look like we were going to make it on time because downtown Cleveland was very crowded due to a Cav's game which limited the amount of available parking but we lucked out and found a good spot.

From there we ran to Tower City, claimed our ticket and got in line with only about 5 minutes to spare but it was all worth it because "Limited Partnership" turned out to be a very moving experience because it was a story about genuine love. Filmmaker Thomas Miller employed archival footage combined with interviews that he shot himself over a 13 year period to tell the true story of Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan who met and fell in love in 1971 during a visit by Mr. Sullivan, an Australian citizen, to the United States. Naturally they wanted to remain together so they married in 1975 in Boulder County, Colorado where the County Clerk, Ms. Clela Rorex, issued marriage licenses to gay couples. They then applied to the INS for Mr. Sullivan to be granted permanent residency as a citizen's spouse but their petition was denied and a nasty letter was issued saying that they had "failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."

This set the tone for the almost 40 years as Mr. Adams and Mr. Sullivan struggled to stay together. In the early 1980's Mr. Sullivan was forced to leave the United States but Mr. Adams went with him and they tried to live in Europe for a year. According to the film, Australia would not except Mr. Adams as a permanent resident either so they were people without a country.

Finally, they snuck back into the United States and kept a low profile so Mr. Sullivan would not be captured and forcibly deported. When the movement for gay marriage became prominent, though, the two of them appeared at rallies together. The film ended on a sad note because Mr. Adams passed away in December, 2012. In April, 2014 Mr. Sullivan filed a motion with the Los Angeles office of the USCIS to reopen and reconsider his late husband's petition for a marriage based green card for him.

During the screening we sat with our friends, Ms. Kate Kennedy and Ms. Karen Slaven. We were very glad to be able to meet Mr. Miller, the filmmaker, who conducted a short Q and A after the film.

Also attending the screening as part of the Cleveland Film Festival community engagement program where representatives from the Cleveland and Toledo Chapters of Equality Ohio who were proud to announce that the Toledo chapter now has liaisons in the police and fire department as well as the mayor's office.

Of course in the back of all of our minds is the pending U.S. Supreme Court decision that will make all of the states recognize gay marriage and anticipation on this matter is increasingly high.

 

 

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