Dr. Pujana said the mission was to increasing visibility of the Latino communities’cultural, ethnic diversity and awareness of the services available through local non-profit organizations. It was a rare opportunity for all sectors to collaborate and strengthen relationships for a unified city in action.
Sharing the spotlight with the legendary group were 42 local artists, music groups, performers and non-profit organizations displaying colorful array of talent, enthusiasm, and passion within Cleveland.
Before the concert, guests enjoyed cultural and contemporary dances, art displays, and received information regarding various non-profit organizations that provide special services to Latino and minority communities.
Rick A. Kemm and Blanca Figueroa of the May Dugan Center were among many of the non-profit organizations spreading the word about their services. The Center provides educational assistance with GEDs, English-as-a-second-language courses, unemployment assistance, food and clothing. Kemm said on average the Center delivers 70,000 meals annually within the community.
Emerging artists like Marco Ivan Grgurevic, lead singer and composer for Grupo Son Gitano welcomed the opportunity to share his passion for salsa music and said he was humbled to be in the presence of legends. Grgurevic formed the group two years ago, but has been composing songs in Spanish since he was 14 years old. He said finding the right members was a challenge but the seven members bring their eclectic expertise and backgrounds for a unique sound.
“We are not trying to conform,” he said, adding their music is Latin fusion rather than traditional salsa. Son Gitano has performed at local festivals including Wade Oval Wednesday’s series. “My goal was to make one person tap their foot to our music,” said Grgurevic. Their recently released CD features 6 original songs and was recorded by the only Latino-owned recording company in Cleveland, Whoville Recording.
Antonio Barrios, president of the Lorain Arts Council, expressed his gratitude to organizer Will Sánchez for the opportunity to display and share the art rendered by artists from Lorain. He said as schools struggle with budgets for the arts, the Council is trying to bridge the gap and provide opportunities to youth and adults to express their selves.
The council offers classes that range from photography, painting, to zentangle. “Artists truly are an economic engine,” said Barrios, adding that the deflated economy makes every sale important for struggling artists.
US Congresswoman Marcia Fudge presented event chairs and organizers with special congressional recognitions and applauded their efforts. Awards and proclamations were also presented by representatives of US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Mayor Frank Jackson, and Cleveland City Council.