Panel to Discuss “The Arrival”

The ArrivalWarner Norcross & Judd’s One Book, One Firm program continues on Tuesday, July 21, with a panel discussion about this year’s OBOF selection, The Arrival, by Shaun Tan.  Earlier this summer, Nardos Osterhart performed her presentation, Hafrican, in which she told us her story of emigrating to Oklahoma City with her family from Ethiopia when she was five.  Nardos will join us once again as part of the panel on July 21.

Joining her on the panel will be:

  • Alice Kennedy –Alice is the founder and director of Diversity Theatre and works in talent recruitment for Gordon Food Services.  Alice was a presenter for our first One Book, One Firm selection in 2008 (Stealing Buddha’s Dinner).   Alice and her family were refugees who fled South Vietnam when it fell to the Viet Cong in 1975.
  • William Blacquiere – Bill is the President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services.  In partnership with local churches and community agencies, Bethany Christian Services welcomes refugee and immigrant families and helps them adjust to a new life in the United States.  Bethany offers a wide range of services to refugees, including refugee and immigrant foster care, resettlement services, and supportive trauma treatment plans for refugees and immigrants who are victims of torture.
  • Dr. Simin Naz Beg — Simin specializes in hospice and palliative medicine and is a member of the  Spectrum Health medical group where her work focuses on improving access to care for vulnerable populations.  Simin, originally from Pakistan, earned her medical degree from Nishtar Medical College and completed her graduate medical education at Michigan State University.

The Arrival is a story of one immigrant’s experience leaving his family and his home to find opportunity in a strange and wondrous place.  Along the way he is helped by other immigrants who share their stories.  The book is a graphic novel without any words. The author relies upon the pictures to tell the stories.

Here are two brief videos on Youtube that serve as a nice introduction to the book. The first is an abridged version of the story set to music. The second is a review of the book delivered in sign language with English subtitles. Author Shaun Tan came across this review and was struck by the parallel between the experiences of immigrants with the experiences of persons with disabilities.

The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre Presents “Caroline, or Change”

Warner Norcross & Judd is excited to be the Production Sponsor for the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s production of Caroline, or Change, a play by Tony Kushner.  The play is set in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1963 during the civil rights movement.  Caroline Thibodeaux is an African American, single mother of four who works as a maid for the Gellmans, a Jewish family headed by Stuart, whose wife recently died.  Stuart’s new wife, Rose, has recently come from New York to live with the family in the deep south.   Caroline, or Change explores how Caroline, Rose and their families adapt in a time of tumultuous change.  The play, which is all performed in song, was nominated for six Tony awards, including Best Musical.  In London, it won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

We are pleased that the Grand Rapids Urban League will be joining Warner Norcross as an Artistic Sponsor of the production.  The Urban League has a long record of service promoting civil rights and economic development.  The Grand Rapids Urban League has worked with the Civic Theatre to present some historical exhibits in the lobby for patrons to view before the show.

Each season Warner Norcross & Judd supports the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s efforts to bring to the stage productions that address issues of diversity and inclusion.  Past productions sponsored by Warner Norcross have included, among others, Avenue Q, Having Our Say, The Piano Lesson, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Twelve Angry Men.

Caroline, or Change opens on June 3 and runs through June 19. For more information, read this article in The Rapidian and take a look at these videos about some of the cast members. You can find more profiles of cast members by following this link to the Civic Theatre’s website for Caroline, or Change.

Lisa Butler, as Caroline:

Alex Sullivan, as Noah Gellman

Tarita Dooley, as Dottie

One Book, One Firm Presents “Halfrican,” by Nardos Osterhart

As part of its One Book, One Firm program, Warner NardosPoster_LyonSt_2Norcross is excited to host a presentation of Halfrican, by Nardos Osterhart. Nardos is nurse at Spectrum’s Blodgett Hospital.  Halfrican is a one-person show about the immigrant experience, culture shock, and fitting in.  Nardos and her family came to the United States from Ethiopia when she was just 5 years old.  Her family settled in Oklahoma City.  Ever since, she has been juggling two worlds.

Nardos explains Halfrican as follows: “I think in some ways, Halfrican is a bit of an explanation to people. To Ethiopians that I don’t necessarily connect with because I don’t have all of my culture intact. And also an explanation to Americans of why I am the way I am. And it’s a little bit of permission to myself, because I’ve had to make changes and deviate from a cultural path and expectation that was sent in front for me.”

Halfrican is part memoir and part stand-up comedy act. (In 2013, Nardos won a competition to be named “The Funniest Person in Grand Rapids.”)  It promises to be a thought-provoking and entertaining presentation.

Warner Norcross Announces Its One Book, One Firm Selection for 2016

The ArrivalEach 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 The Arrival, by Shaun Tan.

The Arrival is unlike any other One Book, One Firm selection. It is a graphic novel without any words.  But, it is more than just a “picture book.” Through 128 pages of beautiful, wordless drawings, Tan evokes the immigrant experience.  The New York Times summarized the book, as follows:

“The Arrival” tells not an immigrant’s story, but the immigrant’s story. Its protagonist, a young father with vaguely Eurasian features, leaves his home to create a better life for his family in a distant land of opportunity. He struggles to find a job, a place to stay and a sense of meaning in his new existence. Along the way he befriends other, more established immigrants. He listens to their stories and benefits from their kindnesses. The young father reunites with his family as “The Arrival” draws to a close, and the distant land finally becomes home.

Shaun Tan is an artist and filmmaker from Australia.  In 2011, he won the Best Animated Short Film (“The Lost Thing”).  Tan describes himself as half-Chinese (his father was from China).  In an essay in which he describes the influences that led to his writing the book, Tan talks about his “recurring interest in notions of ‘belonging’, particularly the finding or losing of it.”  He writes:

Being a half-Chinese at a time a place when this was fairly unusual may have compounded this, as I was constantly being asked ‘where are you from?’ to which my response of ‘here’ only prompted a deeper inquiry, ‘where do your parents come from?’  At least this was far more positive attention than the occasional low-level racism I experienced as a child, and which I also noticed directed either overtly or surreptitiously at my Chinese father from time to time. Growing up I did have a vague sense of separateness, an unclear notion of identity or detachment from roots, on top of that traditionally contested concept of what it is to be ‘Australian’, or worse, ‘un-Australian’ (whatever that might mean).

There has been a lot of talk in this political year of building walls and meeting or failing to meet the needs of Syrian refugees.  With this year’s One Book, One Firm selection, we will step back from the political arguments and consider the immigrant experience and what it might teach us about inclusion in an organization like ours.

Each year we also create a list of other recommended reading that touches on diversity and inclusion and make them available in the firm’s libraries.  This year’s list includes four works of nonfiction and four novels.


Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  In a powerful series of essays written in the form of letters to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates engages in a frank discussion of race in America.  Between the World and Me won the 2015 National Book Award and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.  This is an important book that has been compared to the writings of James Baldwin.

My Beloved World, by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor’s autobiography tells the story of her journey, from her childhood in a Bronx housing project to taking a seat on the federal bench. Resolving as a young girl to become a lawyer, Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her high school class and summa cum laude from Princeton, before attending law school at Yale and beginning her legal career.  NPR’s Nina Totenberg said of this book, “This is a page-turner, beautifully written and novelistic in its tale of family, love and triumph. It hums with hope and exhilaration. This is a story of human triumph.”

‘Tis: A Memoir, by Frank McCourt.  Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes was a huge bestseller and received a Pulitzer Prize.  McCourt’s next book was ‘Tis a Memoir, the story of his coming to the United States as an impoverished immigrant and becoming an brilliant teacher.

Managing Bubbie, by Russel Lazega.  Bubbie is an aging, stubborn survivor of the Holocaust, who lives in Miami Beach.  In a touching and hilarious family memoir, Bubbie’s grandson, a Miami lawyer, tells the story of the family’s efforts to care for a strong-willed woman in her declining years. From the BlueInk Review: “Lazega brings Bubbie to life with humor and love through side-splitting comedic dialogue and a powerful historical narrative accompanied with letters illuminating Lea’s struggle raising a family in Hitler’s Europe. Her improbable, hair-raising escape from Poland via Belgium, France and Spain illustrates the resourcefulness, derring-do, and sheer chutzpah of a woman who delivered her family to safety.”


Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Americanah was the winner of the 2013 National Book Award.  The author’s website describes the book as follows: “Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.”

Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri.  Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Lowland” is a novel set in both India and the United States.  It tells the story of two brothers who grew up in Calcutta. One brother ventures to the United States to do scientific research.  He returns to India following the death of the other brother in the hopes of piecing together the shattered remnants of his family.  Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for her first collection of short stories, Interpreters of Maladies, which is available in the firm’s diversity library.

Dancing with Butterflies, by Reyna Grande.  Reyna Grande’s Dancing with Butterflies, is novel about the friendship of four women bound together by their Mexican roots and their love of Folklórico dance. Dancing with Butterflies uses the alternating voices of four very different women in a Los Angeles dance company called Alegría to weave a story of friendship and love.

Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See.  [From the Publisher] “In 1937 Shanghai—the Paris of Asia—twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree—until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth. To repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are—Shanghai girls.”

Warner Norcross & Judd Publishes its 10th Annual Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report

CaptureWarner Norcross & Judd has published its 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report.  The report, which the firm has been issuing for 10 years, highlights the firm’s efforts to become a more diverse and inclusive organization.  The 2015 report tells stories of mentorship in professional development, which the firm recognizes is
a key for all associates to succeed.  The report also features articles on the firm’s One Book, One Firm program, its Diversity Book Club, and the inclusive leadership workshop the firm conducted for in 2015.

You can read a copy of the 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report by following this link.  Copies of the reports from previous years are also available online by clicking here.

Essay Contest Winners Honored by the Grand Rapids School Board

Last evening, the Grand Rapids School Board honored the winners and honorable mention recipients in the 11th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., essay contest conducted by Warner Norcross & Judd LLP. Each of the winners read his or her essay to the School Board, and the honorable mention recipients were invited forward to receive their award. School Board President Dr. Tony Baker commented that the essays should be required reading for the insight the students shared. Below are some photos of the honored students in attendance last evening. To read the winning essay, click here. To see the Grand Prize winner, Twanyea Smith, read his essay at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Community Celebration, click here.

Three of the winners with their teach, Ms. Emily Holt, of Riverside Middle School.  The winners are (from left to right): Dayshawn Fields, 1st Runner Up; Kanyia Brown, 2nd Runner Up (tie); and, Twanyea Smith, Grand Prize Winner.  Not pictured: Niko Hinzmann, 2nd Runner Up (tie), from the Center for Economicology

Three of the winners with their teacher, Ms. Emily Holt, of Riverside Middle School. The winners are (from left to right): Dayshawn Fields, 1st Runner Up; Kanyia Brown, 2nd Runner Up (tie); and, Twanyea Smith, Grand Prize Winner. Not pictured: Niko Hinzmann, 2nd Runner Up (tie), from the Center for Economicology

Winners and honorable mention recipients in the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , Essay Contest

Winners and honorable mention recipients in the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , Essay Contest


Honorable mention recipients and their teachers from the Southwest Community Campus

Honorable mention recipients and their teachers from the Southwest Community Campus

Honorable mention recipients from the Center for Economicology

Honorable mention recipients from the Center for Economicology

Winners and honorable mention recipients from Riverside Middle School

Winners and honorable mention recipients from Riverside Middle School