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SAC celebrates 43 years of community commitment

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

The Spanish American Committee hosted its annual fundraiser, Noche de Gala Tropical!, on November 20, 2009, hosting 600 guests at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.

Rose Rodríguez-Bardwell recognizing outgoing Councilman Joe Santiago for his contributions to the Cleveland Hispanic Community.

“People expect an event every year now,” said SAC Board President, Efrain Colón.  Funds, raised through silent auction and ticket sales, benefit SAC, the largest and oldest community-based Latino organization in Ohio.

“We will break even tonight,” Colón said, adding the frail economy is exacerbating issues like foreclosures and unemployment, increasing the demand in services provided by SAC.

For over 43 years, SAC has offered programs and services consistent with the consumer demands, focusing in five core program areas:  Family Support, Early Childhood Enrichment, Employment and Training, Pre to Post Homeownership, and Educational Training. The Committee is a United Way community partner agency, an affiliate member of the National Council of La Raza, and a HUD Certified Housing Counseling Site. 

It serves over 7,500 clients a year, and, Colón said, the Committee is looking forward to securing a larger facility to house itself, to meet its growing demand, especially in combating unemployment.

During the VIP reception, SAC recognized Judge Keila Cosme, the first Latina appointed by Governor Ted Strickland to fill the vacant seat on Ohio’s 6th District Court of Appeals (Northwest Ohio). Cosme said she is humbled by the appointment, and grateful for the struggles of many before her, who paved the way for her to become judge.

Cosme is a 1990 graduate of Boston University and a 1994 graduate of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Cosme come to the United States at 17 years of age and overcame significant language barriers, and worked her way to becoming a judge. “I have been a very private person, but I am ready to give that up to give something back,” she said.  Cosme said Gov. Strickland broke the mold by appointing her and the qualification and diversity that she brings to the justice system will be asset to the country’s vibrant democracy.

Judge Keila Cosme and Efrain Colón

Rose Rodríguez-Bardwell, SAC Executive Director, said Judge Cosme embodies hard work, education and commitment to justice and equality and her work will ensure success for the Latino community at local and national levels. “She exemplifies so much of what the Spanish American Committee is all about,” she said.

Speaker Dr. Tony Báez
Keynote speaker, Dr. Luis Antonio Báez, is the president and CEO of Council for the Spanish Speaking Inc. in Milwaukee, WI. He has been an activist for 40 years in major issues concerning Latinos in the United States: multicultural and bilingual education reform, immigration, health care, and civil rights. In his speech—Engaging in social change with people of Color—Báez emphasized personal responsibility in creating a humane and just society.

He said the youth must be empowered to value education, respect tradition, and be avid seekers of knowledge to be taken seriously as future leaders.  “We have to be learned people to improve community… they pay attention to use when we are knowledgeable,” he said.

Báez said immigration reform is necessary and needs to be accomplished in a humane way. The core of immigration is economic stability, he said, which makes the global economy vibrant and sustainable. He said the fear campaigns and certain initiatives introduced by the Obama administration to neutralize Republicans are inhumane and hurt families.

Sandra Velázquez, Mercedes Pagán, Natividad Pagán, and Dr. Tony Baez

He said it is unfair to punish organizations that hire undocumented workers and are keeping the economy afloat while those at Wall Street responsible for the economic meltdown maintain their salaries, and exuberant lifestyles.

Báez also stressed solutions need longevity as the issues will not be resolved overnight. “Communities of color need to work in solidarity,” he said, and for Cleveland’s leadership he advised looking at problems in a larger context. He said the demographics of ethnic communities are changing and with interracial marriages and economic development the clear brown, black and white divides are blurring.

He said communities of color need to find common ground around issues and translate that solidarity into firm action.

The Gala featured entertainment by Latin Grammy award-winning Dominican artist Milly Quezada and her orchestra.  “The community demanded her,” said Colón.  He added those unable to attend the gala “missed the best Latin party of the season.”

On the Internet: For more information on the SAO, visit: www.spanishamerican.org  
On Dr. Luis Antonio Báez, visit www.councilforthespanishspeakingmilw.org  
On Milly Quezada, visit www.millyquezada.net


Mr. and Mrs. Rick

Ward 6
Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell, Councilman Joe Santiago, and guest.

José Estremera, Jaci Torres, and Carlos Chinchilla





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