Bowling Green Human Relations Commission

East Side organization honored for neighborly efforts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The group honored Monday evening for promoting diversity in Bowling Green was compared to picadors – who stab the 2,000-pound bull in the neck to weaken him before the bullfighter goes in the ring. “We pick, we prod, we poke,” said Rose Hess, head of the East Side Residential Neighborhood Group. The organization was given the Honor Roll Award from the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission. Commission chairperson Rev. Mary Jane Saunders explained how the East Side group got its start and how it has grown. On a summer night back in 2007, a group of eight neighbors gathered to discuss issues involving rental properties and owner-occupied housing on the east side of Bowling Green. A decade later, the group has grown to more than 100 members gathering under the name of the East Side Residential Neighborhood Group, Saunders said. The group’s mission statement states the commitment to: Enhancing residential neighborhoods. Encouraging property maintenance in the pursuit of safe housing for all. Promoting beautification of properties and a strong and diverse community. The comparison to picadors seemed fitting when Mayor Dick Edwards praised the group’s efforts, especially those of Hess. “You’re not afraid to do some of the heavy lifting. You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, or get in the faces of people like me,” Edwards said to Hess. Hess admitted to poking and prodding. “We do get in people’s faces,” she said. “We know that not everybody loves us.” Hess said the East Siders never intended to be a neighborhood association. But the group has found its niche in welcoming students to the neighborhood by visiting about 500 houses every August. The members deliver food baskets to new homeowners. They defend their neighborhood by meeting with landlords, the police chief and the BGSU student affairs leaders. The group’s presence in a university town has been important, since market forces are not always favorable or helpful to student renters, to families, to non-student renters, and others. In the past decade, the East Side group has developed goals which include: To foster good relationships between permanent residents and non-permanent residents. To encourage property maintenance by all home owners. To encourage closer supervision by landlords of their property. To work closely with the city on over-occupancy and nuisance issues. To continue [a] strong liaison with the Office of the Dean of Students at BGSU. The East Side’s pro-active and welcoming gestures towards BGSU students provide information on rights and responsibilities, Saunders said. Educational outreach in 2017 took the form of participation in the Court Street Connects Festival, presentations to community groups, hand-distributed flyers in neighborhoods, and involvement in the development of the Community Action Plan. Members monitor the exterior of properties for compliance with city code, and they’ve been able to make procedural changes, get repairs done, and encourage cooperative behavior among residents. A key aspect of the East Side group’s work on rental properties is intervention on poorly maintained properties where safety has become an issue, Saunders said. In keeping with the goals of the Human Relations Commission, the East Side Residential Neighborhood Group advocates for safe housing for all people in the community. “We are pleased to recognize this dedicated group by presenting them with this Honor Roll award,” Saunders…


Cinco de Mayo is a loud & proud celebration of Mexican heritage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Gloria Pizana and her family didn’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo when they grew up in Pemberville. Their celebrations of the Mexican heritage were private – birthdays, holidays, all had their own Latin twist. Now Pizana, as a member of Bowling Green’s Human Relations Commission, organizes the Cinco de Mayo celebration which was held Sunday. As she spoke the sound of Mexican music echoed through the corridors of the Woodland Mall. “I never had this,” she said. “Having grown up in Northwest Ohio you think you’re the only one. You have a few cousins. No one ever talks about your culture, who you are. You’re isolated, and the history books never mention it.” That’s why she feels it’s so important that Bowling Green has held this celebration for 24 years. It started, Pizana said, when then Mayor Wes Hoffman approached Marsha Oliveraz about what the city could do to recognize Latino culture. The result was the Cinco de Mayo celebration. That’s a bit ironic because, as Pizana notes, the holiday that celebrates the Mexican repulsion of a French invasion in 1862, isn’t really celebrated much in Mexico. Still this became a time for area Hispanics to celebrate their roots and culture. That’s important, Pizana said. “I say it’s the most important history. To know who your ancestors are is to know who you are today because of what they went through. It’s showing respect and appreciation for your ancestors. You need to take pride in who you are. The more you know about your family the more there’s that self-pride. That’s why we do this. I want my grandchildren to know, I want everyone to know.” Everyone should celebrate their ethnic heritage, and she’d like to see Bowling Green host powwows and events to celebrate other ethnic groups. Her great-grandparents were from Mexico. Her parents traveled back and forth between Northwest Ohio and Texas to harvest crops for many years before settling here in 1954. The display tables included her family tree among those of several other families. That included the Estrada family. Jacob Estrada led the band that opened up the festivities with a variety of Mexican pop tunes. Pizana’s brother Juan Enriquez had organized the tables, about half of which were devoted to Latinos, including himself and his brothers, who had served in the military. He is on a mission to celebrate winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor of different ethnicities, those who don’t fit the John Wayne stereotype. That’s not meant as any disrespect to any Medal of Honor winner, but just broadening how people see the nation’s war heroes. People of all backgrounds sacrificed, he said. That includes Marcario Garcia, who is a cousin and the godfather of his brother Shon. Garcia, a native of Mexico who lived in Sugar Land, Texas, received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman for single-handedly neutralizing two German machine gun emplacements in 1944. Enriquez, though, is also interested in celebrating Native Americans who have won the Medal of Honor, and is excited that he has learned of a woman, Dr. Mary Walker, who was honored for her service during the Civil War. Enriquez said that the Battle of Puebla, the victory commemorated by Cinco de Mayo, has its connections to United States…