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Hispanic Heritage Month at City Hall and Freedom Fund dinner at the Lake County NAACP

On Friday, October 17th, our first event was the annual Hispanic Heritage Month Closing Celebration in the Rotunda at Cleveland City Hall. Hispanic Heritage Month actually ran from September 15th through October 15th and on this day there was a very positive, upbeat quality to the the conclusion as those taking part, including ourselves, enjoyed good food, good speeches and good fellowship. Mr. Blaine Griffin, Director of the Community Relations Board, said that it was great being there because he encounters a lot of serious issues in his job so it was good to engage in something as much fun as this annual event and Councilman Brian Cummins said, “Let’s party!”

For us, the person who really stood out in the proceedings was Ms. Lucy Torres who is the Hispanic Liaison for Cleveland City Hall and chair of the planning committee for this event. Ms. Torres said it was good to see so many people who have supported the Hispanic community in Cleveland over the years together in one place and this was the 7th Hispanic Heritage month that she has taken part in.

Mayor Frank Jackson thanked the Hispanic community for all that they have done for Cleveland and said that they were an “integral part of our identity.” Councilman Matt Zone said that one of the things that he loved about Cleveland was its “beautiful, mosaic tapestries of nationalities.” He went on to urge those present to attend the upcoming Global Cleveland event on Tuesday night at Lutheran Hospital which will deal with the importance of attracting immigrants to Northeast Ohio and Mr. Griffin agreed with him.

Mr. Eric Gordon, CEO of Cleveland Metropolitan School District, said that we should celebrate the fact that the graduation rate of Hispanics has gone up 18% over the last three years and students from Lincoln-West put on a special dance performance. Awards were then presented to Hispanic Leaders and students who have made a significant contribution to the Hispanic Community in Cleveland. Mr. Lou Acosta of North Coast Minority Media helped to hand out the awards and said that he was glad to recognize those who are not often recognized and that by recognizing them now they might be inspired to go out and do even greater things.

The Hispanic Leaders that were honored were Mr. Gerardo Colon (who has been continuously active in many capacities over the years), Ms. Ingrid Angel (Director of El Barrio), Mr. Juan Molina Crespo (Executive Director of the Hispanic Alliance), Mr. Luis Gomez (again many capacities-including Hispanic Liaison for former U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich), Ms. Nancy Mercado (Senior Compliance Officer with the Small Business Enterprise Division of the Cuyahoga County Office of Procurement and Diversity), Ms. Yasin Cuevas (Ms. Ohio Latina Director/Founder of Project Model Institute/Program Coordinator of Esperanza, Inc.), Mr. Luis Cartagena (Strategic Planning Advisor with the MBDA Business Center-Cleveland), Mr. Victor Ruiz (Executive Director of Esperanza, Inc.), Ms. Ramonita Vargas (Executive Director of the Spanish American Committee), Ms. Diana Gueits (Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Cleveland Clinic Health System), Mr. Julio Cesi Castro (founder of Cesi’s Caribe Grocery among other accomplishments), Mr. Leticia Lopez (Director of the Julio de Burgos Cultural Arts Center), Ms. Jenice Contreras (Executive Director of Northeast Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce), and Ms. Veronica Isabel Dahlberg (Founder and Executive Director of HOLA, Ohio).

We enjoyed visiting with and seeing old friends like Dr. Maria Pujana and Ms. Mari Galindo-DaSilva. We were also proud that Margaret W. Wong and Associates was listed in the program as a sponsor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Ms. Lucy Torres also received a citation for her hard work and contributions to this annual event. Ms. Torres told everyone to continue to work hard “to continue in unity and strength so we can move forward and make positive things happen.”

On Friday night we attended the annual Freedom Fund dinner of the Lake County NAACP which was held at the Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe. Even though this event took place in and concerned Lake County we still met quite a few people who knew of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and our services including Mr. Terrell Dillard, President of Zaymat Distributors who acted as Master of Ceremonies; retired Ohio State Senator (among other offices) C.J. Prentiss who was there with her husband Mr. Michael Charney who is a candidate for State Board of Education District 7; Judge Colleen O’Toole of the 11th District Court of Appeals who worked very hard to put this event together; Mr. Dennis LoConti, candidate for Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge; Mr. Dan Troy, Lake County Supervisor; Pastor Gerald P. Mirbel of Miracle Revival Ministry Assemblies of God; and Judge Timothy P. Cannon of the 11th District Court of Appeals.

We shared a table with our old friend former State Rep. Kenny Yuko who is a candidate for the Ohio State Senate and his wife Pam; Ohio State Rep. John Rogers and his wife Rose; and Mr. Harold Warner who entertained everyone by playing the piano before dinner and his wife, Barbara. Mr. Warner did a beautiful job and we were happy when Mr. Dillard told him to stand up and take a bow and referred to him as “our piano man.”

We estimated that there were approximately 300 people there so it was quite a successful event. What’s more, the attendees were given the opportunity to join the Lake County NAACP for only $20 for one year so we signed up as did quite a few other people. Mr. Albert Jones, the President of the Lake County NAACP, said that this was the best sign-up that they ever had at a Freedom Fund dinner.

During the actual program the point that was most emphasized was the importance of education. Mr. Jones talked about how well his grandson is doing at Lakeland Community College and said that a lot more must be done to help educate our young people and that we all must take responsibility for this.

The main speaker for the evening was Dr. Michael T. Victor, President of Lake Erie College, who said that the three points that really needed to be stressed were education, philanthropy, and opportunity. He went on to talk about Booker T. Washington and his association with Mr. Julius Rosenwald, who owned a large share of Sears-Roebuck and established the Rosenwald Fund which helped to educate scores of African-American children in the southern states. Dr. Victor concluded by quoting President Abraham Lincoln who said that “education is the most important subject that we can be engaged in” and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who stressed the importance of “intelligence and education”

Last year Ms. Deborah Foley, President of the United Way of Lake County, was honored as Citizen of the Year but she was in the hospital and couldn’t be there to accept the award so this year she was given a few minutes to speak. With great conviction, she said that children may be a small percentage of our population but they are 100% of our future” and that the “voices of the NAACP should be loud and clear each day of the year.”

When it came time for the benediction, Pastor Mirbel said “go now and know that you are loved as a child of God and that you are a winner!”

We believe that Mr. Jones best captured the main purpose of the Lake County NAACP, at this point in time, in the President’s letter which appeared in the souvenir booklet which read in part that, “I believe that our children are our future. We must help them in any way that we can to achieve success in school and encourage them to pursue higher educational goals in order to become productive contributors in society. So we strive to find ways of helping our children achieve a quality education. I believe that it takes a village, home, church, school and the entire community working together. So we invite you to come, help and support activities that will help us reach this goal.”

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