Announcing the 2015 One Book, One Firm Selection

Some of my best friendsEach year in our One Book, One Firm program at Warner Norcross & Judd, we select a book relating to diversity and inclusion and encourage everyone in the firm to read and discuss it. This year’s One Book, One Firm selection is Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange History of Integration in America, by Tanner Colby.   Nominated for the 2013 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, this book examines integration in the United States during the second half of the 20th Century.  In four sections of the book, Tanner Colby looks at integration of schools, integration of neighborhoods, integration in the workplace, and integration in the church.

As Colby admits in the introduction of his book, he was no expert on race.  His previous two books were biographies of John Belushi and Chris Farley. Worried that he had pigeonholed himself into writing books about “dead, fat comedians,” Colby begin thinking of another topic he could address.  Following the nomination of Barack Obama in 2008, Colby had an epiphany: “I didn’t actually know any Black people.  I mean, I’ve met them, have been acquainted with a few in passing, here and there.  I know of Black people, you could say. But none of my friends were black.”  Upon further reflection, Colby proposed to his editor that he write a book on racial integration in America. “Sure, I had no idea what I was doing,” he writes,  “but to be a white person writing a book about race, ignorance was the only qualification I would need.”

Colby appears to have approached the topic with few preconceptions.  His book is, at once, both entertaining and thought provoking.  To discuss school integration, he returns to his hometown in Georgia to learn about how busing worked.  The section on neighborhoods recounts the history of government sanctioned redlining and blockbusting with a focus on a neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. For integration in the business world, Colby focuses on the advertising industry, where he worked before starting his career as a writer.  And, for the section on religion, Colby tells the story of the Catholic church’s effort over more than 20 years to bring together two Catholic parishes in Louisiana – one white, one black – that were right next door to one another (they shared a parking lot and for a time a priest).

Described by The Wilson Quarterly as “a refreshingly honest and textured story that has much to contribute to conversations about race in America,” Some of My Best Friends Are Black should provide us much to talk about.

Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox To Discuss Her Book “A Stronger Kinship” at Warner Norcross & Judd

Dr. Anna-Lisa CoxHistorian Dr. Anna-Lisa Grace Cox will be our guest at a luncheon on Friday, April 24 to discuss her book A Stronger Kinship. StongerKinshipIn the years following the Civil War, the nation struggled to redefine the relationship between European Americans and African Americans. After the Civil War, legislatures in Southern states passed “Black Codes” aimed at limiting the rights of African Americans. The era spawned the birth of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. The repression of former slaves, however, was not limited to the south. Northern states also had adopted laws limiting the civil rights of African Americans prior to the Civil War. Many of those laws remained on the books following the war. In 1867, for example, voters in Michigan turned down a proposed state constitution that would have allowed African Americans to vote. It was not until 1883 that Michigan repealed its ban on interracial marriages.

There was one community in Michigan, however, in which African Americans and white Americans lived together in a culture of respect and equality. The story of Covert, Michigan, as told by Dr. Cox in A Stronger Kinship, is a tale of how a small Midwestern town looked beyond race to create an inclusive community. African Americans attended the same schools and churches as whites. They belonged to the same social clubs, such as the Grange. African American farmers and business people thrived and became prominent employers of white workers in the community. They married whites. African Americans were elected by white voters to key positions such as the Highway Commissioner and Justice of the Peace.

How could this happen? What made this possible? These are some of the questions Dr. Cox will address when she speaks to our firm on Friday, April 24. Dr. Cox is a Non Resident Fellow at Harvard’s Hutchins Center where she is at work on a research project with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., on African American pioneers to the antebellum frontier. She also holds the position of Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where her research is underpinning a permanent exhibit.

Warner Norcross & Judd Issues Ninth Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report

WNJ-DIAR-2014-web-photoWarner Norcross & Judd has issued its ninth annual report on diversity and inclusion at the firm. The 2014 Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report describes the firm’s initiatives  to become a more diverse and inclusive organization. The report begins with a letter from the firm’s Managing Partner, Doug Wagner, who discusses the progress the firm has made in the past year, as well as some of the setbacks the firm has encountered.  The report also includes profiles of some of the firm diverse professionals who have taken leadership roles in the firm, an article about the firm’s LSAT scholarship program, and an article about the firm’s efforts to reduce the potential for unconscious bias in associate evaluations.  To see a copy of the report, click here.  Copies of the firm’s previous annual reports may be found on the firm’s website by clicking here.


MLK Essay Contest Winners Recognized at the GRPS Board of Education Meeting

The winners of Warner Norcross & Judd’s 10th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest were recognized at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education of the Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Diversity Partner Rodney Martin introduced the three contest winners, who each had the opportunity to read their essays to the Board.  In addition, Mr. Martin introduced each of the 22 honorable mention students to the Board.  Vice President Slade invited each of the students to come forward to shake hands with members of the Board.

The 2015 winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.  (From left to right) Second Runner Up Demarus Jackson (Riverside Middle School), First Runner Up Tanya Floyd (Riverside Middle School), and Grand Prize Winner Bodie Bickford (The Center for Economicology)

The 2015 winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest. (From left to right) Second Runner Up Demarus Jackson (Riverside Middle School), First Runner Up Tanya Floyd (Riverside Middle School), and Grand Prize Winner Bodie Bickford (The Center for Economicology)

The winners and honorable mention recipients in this year's Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

The winners and honorable mention recipients in this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP announced the results of its 10th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest.  The contest, which was open to all sixth-graders at Grand Rapids Public Schools, asked the students to prepare an essay focused on how Dr. King’s legacy of peace and justice applies to the world in which they live.  This year’s competition included a record 327 entries from students at 10 schools.

The winners were:

  • Bodie Bickford, Center for Economicology, grand prize
  • Tanya Floyd, Riverside Middle School, first runner-up
  • Demarus Jackson, Riverside Middle School, second runner-up

Each winning student will receive a certificate of deposit and a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  Additionally, 22 students from five schools received honorable mention recognition. They each will receive a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.

The essays were judged by more than 50 Warner Norcross attorneys and staff according to Michigan Education Assessment Program guidelines for narrative writing.  The essays were evaluated for ideas, organization, style and conventions.

The grand prize winner has been invited to read his essay at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Community Peace Program at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 19 following the Community Peace March and again at the Annual Celebration program at 6 p.m.  Both events will be held at the Grand Rapids Community College Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse.  In addition, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education will recognize all of the winners and 22 other students  who received honorable mention at the Board’s meeting on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

Congratulations to all of the students and teachers who participated in this year’s essay contest.  The winning essays appear below:

Grand Prize Winner

Bodie Bickford

Ms. Reed’s Sixth Grade Class at the Center for Economicology


             Heroes and role models use their gifts to help make the world a better place. They put the needs of others in front of their own needs and look for ways to help others. Heroes are courageous and brave. They do not run away from danger but instead they run towards it if they think someone is in need. Heroes are kind and nice and they never make people feel bad about needing help. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great example of someone who is both a hero and a role model. He used his gifts to make the world a more fair and just place for all people and he was brave because he knew that not everyone agreed with his ideas and that he could die. My parents are not as famous as Dr. King but they are heroes and role models for my brothers and me.

             There are many different kinds of heroes in this world. Some heroes risk their lives to help others like soldiers, firefighters and policemen. They have to run into burning buildings or chase after terrorists and criminals with weapons to make the world a safer place. Others are heroes because they provide things to others that make the world a better place even if they could make more money doing something else. Teachers, scientists and doctors are this kind of hero. Other people can be heroes in the moment. These are people who see something bad happening and they make a quick decision to do what they can to help. An example of this would be that if someone saw a person getting their purse stolen and they decide to chase after them to catch them or get the purse back just because it is the right thing to do. Another example of this is if someone is getting bullied at school and instead of ignoring it, the person tries to stop it or goes to get a teacher.

             My Mom and Dad are a different kind of hero. They are what I call “everyday heroes.” They do not look like super heroes and they do not fight crime. My parents do what they can each day to help the lives of those around them better. They do this for me and my brothers but they also do it for my friends, our neighbors and people they don’t even know.

My parents are selfless. They spend all of their time coaching and running my brothers and me to our practices and games. They help out at school with baking, field trips and meetings. They teach Sunday school, do laundry and mow the lawn. They help me focus on my homework and they check my math. My parents always encourage me to do my best and they never give up on me even when I let myself down by not trying my hardest. If I let goals score in soccer that they know I could stop, they just talk through what I could do better and then they help me focus on the next chance I have to do my best. They do this with school too.

My parents never walk away from someone who is in need. At school when my Mom helps out on a field trip, she will give away her own lunch if someone forgets theirs even though she is a vegetarian. On a field trip to Rockford Dam my Mom took off her own long underwear and socks for a kid whose waders leaked so they would not be cold even though my Mom is always cold. My Dad always volunteers to coach or keep the book in baseball even though he would probably rather relax and watch the game. If someone on the team is sad about striking out or dropping a fly ball, my Dad will scoot over by them and cheer them up.

Being an everyday hero may not seem like much to you but it sure makes a big impact on me and I think on other people too. My parents make me want to be the very best person that I can be. When I get frustrated about my club feet and feel sorry for myself, I reflect back on how important it is to give my very best without excuses and just get up and try my hardest. I know that my parents won’t be upset if I don’t win as long as I tried my best. When I get mad at my parents for making me do much extra work I reflect on how my parents never do anything so so. This goes for everything from homemade brownies to cleaning the garage. It makes me want to give my best effort too.

When I am scared about failing at something like a test or a game I think about how courageous my parents are in facing whatever challenges come their way and I know if I give my best, they will be proud of me. That means I did not fail. When I get nervous about having more casts and surgeries on my feet I think about how brave my parents are and I remember how much they love me and how they work so hard to get me the best care in the world and then I just know I can face it.

When I watch my parents work so hard every day to the best people they can be, I know it is how I want to be. I see the impact they have on me, my brothers and everyone around us and I want to use my life to have impact like that. I want to be brave enough to the best son, brother, friend, soccer player, student, basketball player, neighbor, baseball player, athlete and one day husband, father and employee that I can be. I want to be just like my parents, my “every day heroes.”


1st Runner Up Winner

 Tanya Floyd

Ms. Holt’s Sixth Grade Class at Riverside Middle School


             We all have a dream no matter where we live or who we are. Everybody DREAMS! Some people have selfish dreams like to win millions of dollars in the lottery, or to become a princess or a prince. But my dream isn’t like that; it is selfless like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s! In his “I Have a Dream” speech I read some sentiments that are like mine. For example Dr. King said, “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” Like Dr. King, I dream of ending unfair things, too, like teasing, bullying, discrimination, beheadings and hangings.

             Maybe to accomplish Dr. King’s and my dreams we will need to pull some more heroes out of our world. To me, a hero is a person who wants to help just to be nice or that cares for no reason. A hero doesn’t have to have the ability to fly or have super strength to save the day; they just need to follow their hearts and have sophistication in them. The people I think that are heroes to me are the women and men who work at the Kids’ Food Basket. They are my role models because they help the kids that don’t get to go home and have a snack or eat large meals that other people get to eat. The women and men working there are my roles models because they give their own time and lots of money to help kids who can’t even have a small snack after school. I think it is very sweet that they would do something wonderful like that.

The people that are working at Kids’ Food Basket help me want to become a better person by showing me that I can help end hunger and help people who need assistance. My mother has even volunteered at the Kids’ Food Basket. In my opinion, when I heard that there are kids in this world that don’t have any food to eat and dirty water, I thought, “Hey why aren’t we all getting involved?” I plan to go down to their offices and ask how hold you have to be to work there. If I do get to help, then I will take my time to make food bags for people. We need to figure out ways to help all people live better lives. Our Constitution says that everybody has the right to go after their own happiness. We all should make that happen. I think the men and women at Kids’ Food Basket have the same characteristics as Dr. King did. Like the care and love they put into their actions, I want to have the same ones too.

If Dr. King was still alive, he would be proud of the great accomplishments that organizations like Kids’ Food Basket have done for these kids to help meet their needs. I plan to try to make the world a better place by going to school and going to college at Michigan State University. My dream was always to become a doctor or some kind of nurse to help people. I really hope my dream comes true.

I really hope that more and more people can help the kids and adults who need it when they can. Like Dr. King said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward;” so do that and don’t give up. Don’t be the selfish dreamers, instead, work to feed the hungry. I’m going to try to make that my motto. When I work to accomplish a dream, I will do it in honor of Dr. King, not just for me. I will try my best to make a success in this world like King wanted us to. What can you do to accomplish your dream?


2nd Runner Up Winner

Demarus Jackson

Ms. Holt’s Sixth Grade Class at Riverside Middle School


           My definition of a hero is someone who helps people. Dr. King fits this definition because he did help people by trying to stop segregation. My friend Brent is also a hero but in a different way. He helps me with homework and he helps me with many other things. We are different races, but I think Dr. King would like that. Wasn’t that his whole point right from the very beginning?

            I’ve known Brent ever since the first grade. He stepped into my life when I was 6. I was riding down a hilly street and found out I didn’t know how to use my brakes very well. As I cleared my head after crashing into a tree, I looked up and saw a kid standing there. He came up to me and said, “Hey, you ok?” I told him I thought so and that my wheel was messed up. Then I said, “Can you teach me how to ride a bike?” He said he could. He told me his name was Brent and he helped me get up.

The first two times he helped, I hit a couple of things, but on the 3rd time I learned how to ride a bike. That is how we became friends, and still are to this day. It was fun to have a new friend. I am glad that he is my best friend and we continue to help each other out. Heroes don’t need to wear a special outfit; they just need to be there when we crash.

Dr. King saved lots of people from being treated wrong with the words he used in his speeches. He said, “I Have a Dream…” which was helpful because it brought lots of people together. Even though we come from different backgrounds and look different, Brent and I get along. Dr. King would like him being my friend because he has taught me what the true meaning of hero is. Sometimes hero can be spelled F-r-i-e-n-d.

Warner Norcross Awards 2014 Minority Scholarships

For the 14th consecutive year, the law firm of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has awarded academic scholarships to assist minority students from Michigan complete their legal studies.

A competitive scholarship administered and awarded by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Warner Norcross scholarship program provides monetary assistance to students to help cover the educational costs associated with a law degree or paralegal studies. The 2014 recipients are:

• Ka’nea K. Brooks of Ypsilanti, Law School Scholarship
• Veronica A. Foster of Southfield, Paralegal/Legal Assistant Scholarship
Since it began awarding scholarships, Warner Norcross has awarded more than $155,000 to support programs that encourage minority students to pursue a career in the law. To date, the firm has award scholarships to more than 70 students.

The 2014 winners were chosen by a selection committee at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation based on essays that outlined personal goals and challenges that have drawn them into the field of law. Warner Norcross established the scholarship fund at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in 1998; the first scholarship was awarded in 2001.

Brooks, who received the law firm’s $5,000 Law School Scholarship, earned her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. Even as a first-generation college graduate, Brooks knew she would become an attorney, noting “As far back as I can remember, I was confident that I would become a lawyer.”

Brooks plans to attend Emory Law School, where she has received a merit scholarship to finance her legal education. She based her decision to attend Emory on a number of factors.

“The students and faculty are welcoming and engaging,” she explained. “The law school has several centers and clinics that will allow me to explore my interest in human rights, educational policy and juveniles.”

Foster received the law firm’s $2,000 Paralegal/Legal Assistant Scholarship. She plans to complete her degree at Oakland Community College and hopes to use her education to supplement her experiences as a legal secretary and law librarian. Her career goals include work in civil litigation and appeals.

“I hope to become an invaluable asset to my future employer,” Foster said. “The paralegal certificate from OCC will provide the foundational skills necessary for longevity and stability in the profession. The existence of the Warner Norcross & Judd Paralegal Assistant scholarship is encouraging because it … promotes minority participation in the profession. It is truly a catalyst to opportunity.”

In order to be considered for a scholarship, applicants must:

• Have a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher
• Be a Michigan resident accepted to or currently attending an accredited law school within the United States or a non-Michigan resident attending a Michigan law school (for the Law School Scholarship)
• Be a Michigan resident enrolled in an accredited college or university in Michigan (for the Paralegal Scholarship)
• Demonstrate financial need
• Submit a statement of goals and aspirations related to their legal studies
• Be a member of an ethnic or racial minority

In addition to its longstanding tuition scholarship program, Warner Norcross also annually awards scholarships to minority students in their junior or senior year of college to pay the costs of a study course for the Law School Admission Test. Information about these scholarship programs is available on the firm’s website at

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