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International Community Council-Worldwide Cultural Network Multicultural Holiday Celebration

On Wednesday, December 17th, we attended the 5th Annual International Community Council-Worldwide Cultural Network (ICC-WIN) Multicultural Holiday Celebration at the Global Center for Health Innovation at the Cleveland Convention Center. This event was sponsored by Margaret W. Wong and Associates and Mr. Ken Kovach, the President of ICC-WIN, said that Ms. Wong was "a long-standing partner" and that she was "just magnificent" and "we love you, Margaret!" The other sponsors were Global Cleveland, UBS, and the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The celebration consisted of great ethnic food, cultural performances, an international fashion show, a silent auction, salsa dancing and just plain dancing. As DJ Kris Koch said at the beginning of the evening, "you are going to go all the way around the world tonight, and you won't need a passport!"

Indeed, Mr. Kovach pointed out that "Northeast Ohio is home to 120 diverse, multicultural, ethnic groups."

Mr. Ed Romero from the City of Cleveland, who was representing Mayor Frank Jackson, took it a step further when he said that "Cleveland is not a melting pot but a beautiful tapestry."

All of this was illustrated by a project created by Mr. Dan and Ms. Debbie Hanson of Clevelandpeople.com involving a large world map on which the attendees could place a small sticker on the country that they or their ancestors originated from. By the end of the evening the map will filled with stickers spread out all over it.

As far as the background of the organization goes, the literature tells us that the International Community Council was founded in 1993 as a project of the Greater Cleveland Roundtable and the Worldwide Intercultural Network was founded in 2011 by the grass-roots leaders of the Northeast Ohio's international community. Earlier in 2014, the two organizations merged and established the goals of "identifying the international population in the region and building a network of contacts; creating opportunities for understanding, appreciation, and partnership building of people of different national, cultural, faith backgrounds, and racial diversity; raising public awareness of the presence and values of internationals in the region; incorporating internationals into the fabric of mainstream civic leadership; articulating strengths of international communities for regional economic development; and strengthen internal organization and cooperation with communities.

Mr. Pierre Bejjani, Treasurer of ICC-WIN, introduced all of the Board Members. Mr. Bejjani said the Board was "the most interesting group you've ever seen" because it consisted of people from many ethnic groups. Mr. Bejjani told us that they became a family because, even though an outsider might think that they were so different, they were actually very much alike.

We really liked the cultural performances which consisted of Indian Classical Dancers, Brazilian Samba performers, drummers from Guinea, and Irish Dancers.

At the conclusion of the program Mr. Asim Datta and Ms. Nada Martinovic introduced the International Fashion Show consisting of models representing 25 different countries. Margaret W. Wong and Associates helped to locate a Palestinian person who agreed to appear in the show. Likewise the Jordanian model was a person visiting the United States from Jordan who was asked to take part. When Mr. Martin Zeinway, President of the Liberian Association of Cleveland, and his wife appeared as the representatives from Liberia, it was noted that this country was facing tough times due to the Ebola epidemic.

All of us had an unexpected treat when Mrs. Shirien Taych, a young poet, asked to read her poem titled "United People" to all of us. It beautifully captured the spirit of people of different backgrounds working together for the common good.

We asked several people how many people were in attendance and the general consensus was that it was approximately 250 to 300 so the evening was a fine success. Mr. Mehmet Gencer, one of the emcees, said that tonight's gathering was "a small sample of Cleveland but a big crowd."

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