The theme for City of Cleveland 2019 Black History Month is: “Cleveland: Building a Sense of Community.” At noon on Friday, February 1st, there was a luncheon at the Rotunda of City Hall to kick off the month.
We are proud to say that Margaret W. Wong and Associates, LLC was one of the sponsors for this annual event. Thus, we got to attend and share a table with such good folks as Mr. Brian Kimball, Commissioner of Environment for the Cleveland Department of Public Health; Ms. Katie Montgomery, Director of Government Relations at Tri-C; and Ms. Melissa Taylor, Director of Marketing and Communications for Cleveland Public Power.
The program was conducted by Ms. Shelley M. Shockley, Manager of Marketing for Cleveland Public Power along with Ms. Sonya Shakir, Program Coordinator at Burton, Bell, and Carr Development. Ms. Shockley said that now was the time both to honor those who came before us in the journey for social justice and support those who are now continuing in their footsteps. In this spirit, in his opening prayer, the Reverend Shelton Coleman said that we must honor those who paved the way by opening doors for all of us.
The program continued with Welcoming Remarks by Mr. Grady L. Stevenson, Director of Cleveland Community Relations Board (from himself and on behalf of Mayor Frank Jackson who was unable to attend) and Cleveland City Council President Kevin J. Kelley. Mr. Stevenson asked that we remember the great accomplishments that have been made that some never thought could happen. Council President Kelley spoke of the need to build a plan to move forward so that no talents would be wasted. Let us say that the uplifting spirit of the day was captured beautifully by Mr. Kennedy Jones, Retired Sergeant of the Cleveland Police Department, who sang several songs like Go Down Moses and Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Dr. Mark Joseph, the Leona Bevis and Marguerite Haynam Associate Professor of Community Development at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Science at CWRU, gave the keynote speech. Dr. Joseph praised Mayor Jackson’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative and asked us to be aware of the resilience and vigilance displayed by African-Americans over the years and the importance of honoring this legacy. Unfortunately, at this time, he believed that this legacy is not being appreciated as it should be by most people, including those of color. Therefore, Dr. Joseph contended that the theme of Black History Month, which is to build a sense of community, is indeed appropriate because a community cannot exist unless all talents and resources are fully utilized. This will not happen unless people of all races and cultures develop shared values and learn to value each other. We at Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC firmly share this belief as we are a multicultural team dedicated to helping people from all over the world remain in the United States.
In order to do this, Dr. Joseph maintained that all of us must “think” about the assumptions that we make about people before we get to know them and “act” by acknowledging each other despite our apparent differences; along these lines a simple “good morning” can mean a lot to an alienated, fearful person and help break down walls that keep us from moving forward.
It was then time to honor several people who moving us forward and these honorees were Mr. Howard Bradley, the owner of Bradley Construction Company (who unfortunately was not present); Ms. Ariane Kirkpatrick, Owner and President of the AKA Construction Team; and Ms. Carla Moody, Owner of Moody Environmental and Consulting. We were particularly touched by the short speech given by Ms. Kirkpatrick who, as a builder, readily admitted that “brick and mortar” were important, but not as important as building relationships. She concluded by saying let’s continue to be resilient so we can persevere.