28th Annual Egyptian Festival at St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church; 23rd Annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Gala

On Friday, August 25th, we saw Ms. Cindy David at the RAISE Summit and later in the day at the 28th Annual Egyptian Festival at St. Mark Coptic IMG_4049Orthodox Church on Pleasant Valley Road in Seven Hills. We were tabling there on behalf of Margaret W. Wong and Associates when Ms. David stopped by for dinner and to see what the vendors had to offer. We both agreed that going to the RAISE Summit was very worthwhile.

At the Egyptian festival our table was located between those of Ms. Kathy J. Kerezy who was selling jewelry and Ms. Mary Hana who was selling handcrafted items. Nearby was Mr. Samir Ghabbour who had volunteered to help his church by selling religiously themed artifacts.

This was our third year tabling there so Father Mikhail greeted us heartily and his daughter, Ms. Sherrie Miday, who is running for judge on the Court of Common Pleas in Cuyahoga County, gave us a hug. In fact, several parishioners stopped by to say that they remembered seeing us there before in other years and were glad we were back. One IMG_4045man named Mahouz said that we would always be welcomed at this annual gathering.

Among the people who stopped by to talk to us were:

***A person who took our contact information because he has a friend who is visiting from Egypt and would like to remain here in the United States.

***Mr. Tony Abdulkarim, Mr. Sam Tanious, Mr. Abby Mina (our friends from CAMEO) and Reverend Naim Khalil from St. Elias Church who all said that they were looking forward to seeing us next week when we table at the Lebanese festival at St. Elias.

***A man who told us that he listened to Ms. Margaret W. Wong when she spook at Rockwell Automation a few months ago. He said that he thought she was “a very dynamic personality.” Before he left, he obtained a copy of “The Immigrant’s Way” for his son who is now a second year law student.

***Dr. Estafanus asked us to be sure to convey his appreciation to Ms. IMG_4069Margaret W. Wong for helping several people who he worked with at the Cleveland Clinic solve their immigration problems.

***A man named Tom stopped by to tell us that he once was part of our cleaning crew when he was involved with Recovery Resources.

***A man who immigrated to the United States from Egypt in 1968 said that his own status was fine but “a whole new generation needs our help now.” Likewise, a man whose grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy said that he really appreciated the work that Ms. Margaret W. Wong does.  He also said that it was very unfortunate that many people forget that their own ancestors were immigrants at one time.

We left the Egyptian Festival early on Saturday, August 28th, in order that we could attend the 23rd Annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Gala held at the new Hilton Cleveland Downtown on Lakeside Avenue East.

As the program notes stated, the HRC “is our nation’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning or queer community. Since 1980, HRC has provided a platform to increase the visibility of vulnerable, underprivileged LGBTQ communities in America. From organizing IMG_4074 grassroots campaigns to lobbying Congress for support of pro-LGBTQ legislation, HRC leads the fight for workplace equality, protection from Housing discrimination, and transgender-inclusive health care coverage. Through education and advocacy, HRC continues to build bridge of understanding and tolerance across our great nation and right here at home in Cleveland, Ohio.”

In fact, its theme for this year was “We are Cleveland!” meaning that the HRC is a vital part of our community.

We arrived just before 5pm and visited with Ms. Zory Sotomayor from Dollar Bank while we waited to be checked in which we soon were by none other than our friend, Mr.Robin Bauer.

We didn’t bid on any of the items on display for auction but we had a good time checking all of them out and visiting with people that we knew or were open to knowing us. One such person was Ms. Junko Schimizu, an international student who is working with Asian Services in Action and was also at the RAISE Summit on the previous day.IMG_4076

At dinner we shared a table with Ms. Kristen Jones along with her sister and her uncle all of whom were very socially concerned. Also at our table was Mr. Jim Freedman, a retired attorney who now devotes a great deal of his time constructively helping animals.

During the program, we were entertained by  Ms. Dana Goldberg, a comedienne who made some side-splitting but pertinent observations and listened to an urgent speech by Ms. Mary Beth Maxwell, founding executive director of American Rights at Work and a senior advisor in President Obama’s U.S. Dept. of Labor, in which she encouraged us all to get out there and work hard to defeat Mr. Donald Trump and elect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as our next President.

Another speech that moved us was that of Ms. Tina Madison White who spoke of the personal torment that she underwent before she was able to come to terms with her gender identity and how frightened and outraged she was by the current movement to roll back that progress that the LGBTQ have worked so hard to achieve.

Much deserved awards werepresented to Cleveland City Councilperson Phyllis Cleveland and the Cleveland City Council (Equality Award), Mr. Conrad Ricamora (Visibility Award) who was introduced as the most prominent openly gay Asian-American actor working at this time, Ms. Stacy Kenney, Hospital Chaplain at the Cleveland VA (Torch Award), Ms. Kristi Andrasik, Program Officer at the Cleveland Foundation (Choice Award), and Rockwell Automation (Corporate Equality Award).

We found Ms. Andrasik especially affecting because she while she acknowledged the need for the HRC to build IMG_4073“financial capital” to carry on its work, the need to build “social capital” by uniting with other groups, and undergoing a mutual learning experience, was just as important in these very politically volatile times.

At the beginning of the evening, we spent a few minutes visiting with Mr. Duck Rhee, the President of the Case Men’s Glee Club who would later perform for us. Mr. Rhee told us that it was a very important night for the glee club because they wanted to really sing something of significance that touched IMG_4081upon the purpose of the evening which was, from his viewpoint, not being afraid to stand out and be one’s self in the face of adversity. Since classes hadn’t started yet only half of the members of the Glee Club were available to perform at the HRC Gala but those who were present managed to put things together in one week’s time even if it meant having to undergo “a crazy rehearsal schedule.”

We believe that the Glee Club’s hard work really paid off because their selection which included the lyrics, “stand in the light and be seen as we are”, was quite appropriate and they sang it with genuine feeling.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC