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Hispanic Leadership Conference -- Causes that Matter

On Saturday, April 25th, we tabled for Margaret W. Wong and Associates at the 20th Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference at Lorain Community College hosted by the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress (CHIP). As was explained by Mr. Tim Carrion, the President of CHIP, this conference originated in 1995 through the efforts of the UAW Hispanic Council Members who were looking for a way in which the community and the UAW workers could be connected to the major issues confronting Hispanic/Latino communities across the country. In 2005 CHIP which took over the hosting duties although the UAW remained involved and many of its members were here on this day. All of the conferences, however, have been coordinated by Michael and Dina Ferrer. For 2015, the theme was "Connecting People with Causes that Matter" and there certainly was an impressive array of speakers in the morning who went on to conduct workshops in the afternoon. These speakers/workshop leaders included Dr. Nelson Soto, Provost and VP Academic Affairs, Union Institute and University (regarding Education); Dr. Raquel Ortiz Rodriguez, Professor and Author at Boricua College (regarding Establishing Identity and Documenting History); Dr. Toinette Parrilla, Director of Cleveland Public Health (regarding Disease Prevention/Latino Health); Ms. Lilleana Cavanaugh, Executive Director, Ohio Commission on Hispanic Affairs (regarding Latina Empowerment); Mr. Enrique Morones, Founder and Director of Border Angels (regarding Immigration); Dr. Celia Williamson, Director, Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute at Toledo University (regarding Human Trafficking); and Mr. Baldemar Velasquez, Founder and President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee aka FLOC (regarding Agricultural Worker Rights/Work Conditions).

Another person who figured prominently was Ms. Maria Dominguez, the noted community muralist, who organized a group of young artists to work on creating a mural depicting the conference in just a few hours. By the end of the day, not one but two beautiful murals were ready for exhibition.

We were told that about 500 people signed up for this conference and that there were at least one hundred (100) students there.To be sure, quite a few people stopped off at our table including Dr. Hilaire Tavenner who we had met several weeks earlier at Turkish Coffee Night in Lakewood. We talked to people who were interested in helping an elderly woman from Pakistan become a citizen and to establish permanent residency for a person who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. We sold two copies of Ms. Margaret W. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" to Mr. Francisco Hernandez, past president of the UAW Hispanic Council, and to Ms. Elsa Olalve. Both of them told us that they bought Ms. Wong's book because they were curious to learn more about immigration issues.

In the afternoon we attended the workshop of Mr. Velasquez, the Founder of FLOC. The subject of immigration came up in this presentation when he contended that most of the undocumented people from Mexico are attempting to come here due to a lack of employment in their country of origin due to the devastating impact of NAFTA on parts of the Mexican economy. To be sure, FLOC takes an interest in community issues as they relate to its members and currently has a lawsuit against the Border Patrol and the local police in Toledo for racial profiling which will be heard in June, 2015. FLOC also has established an police identification card for its membership that can be shown the local police should the carrier be pulled over for a vehicular violation. Moreover, the sheriff has agreed to recognize it. In addition, Mr. Velasquez and other FLOC representatives were instrumental in persuading U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur change her stand on DACA to one of support.

Another workshop that we sat in on was that of Mr. Enrique Morones who, in 1986, established the Border Angels which is "an all volunteer non-profit organization that advocates for human rights, humane immigration reform, and social justice with a special focus on issues related to the U.S./Mexican border." Mr. Morones had to leave early to catch a flight back to Southern California so that he can take part in a special event on Sunday, April 26th, in Friendship Park on the border of the United States and Mexico. The border fence cutting across the park will be opened for twenty (20) minutes so families can briefly reunite. This is only the second time that this has happened but the last time the fence was opened for only two (2) minutes. Border Angels sounds like a very worthwhile organization and we were pleased when Mr. Moronnes introduced the people who will be starting a chapter in Lorain.

On the cover of the conference booklet is the phrase, "celebrating the past while renewing our commitment to the future." We think that this event accomplished these two things quite well and to attend it and to table there was well worth our time.


On Saturday night we went to two events involving our friends at CAMEO starting with dinner at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christan Church in Tremont. It was announced at the last CAMEO meeting that an extra ticket was available so we decided to participate in the celebration of the saint day of St. George. Besides sharing a table with our CAMEO friends, Mr. Tony Abdulkarim and Mr. Fred Bourjaily, we also met Mr. Pierre Aboukhaled who knew Ms. Margaret W. Wong and told us that his brother once worked with her on a case. Another person that we met while we were there was Mr. Tony Nassif who hired Ms. Wong back in 1986. Shortly after 8pm Bishop Nicholas; the Very Reverend Father John Ojaimi, the church pastor; and Father/Deacon Yarid Sahley lead us in prayers and we then had an excellent dinner with plenty of vegetarian options.

After we ate, we decided to drive over to Brooklyn and stop off at St. Elias Church which was having its 110th birthday celebration. Dinner was almost over when we arrived but we got to congratulate Father Naim Khalil and sit down for a few minutes with our friends Mr. Abby Mina, Mr. Pierre Bejjani, Mr. Joe Charif,  and Mr. Sam Tanious all of them from CAMEO too. We left after a half hour when the dancing started because it had been a long day.

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