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.

Nonfiction

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.”

Fiction

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

A Letter to Dr. King

Twanyea Smith, the winner of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reads his Grand Prize winning essay at the Community Celebration to honor Dr. King on January 18, 2016.  To read Twanyea’s essay and those of the other students honored in the competition, click here. Twanyea is a student in Ms. Emily Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School. (Be patient. The video takes a while to load.)

The essay contest, which is in its 11th year, is open to all sixth-graders at Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Winners are selected by the attorneys and staff of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.

Winners of the 11th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has announced the results of its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest.  The contest, which is in its 11th year, is open to all sixth-graders at Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Students are 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 297 entries from students at 10 schools.

The winners of this year’s contest are:

  • Twanyea Smith, Riverside Middle School, Grand Prize
  • Dayshawn Fields, Riverside Middle School, 1st Runner Up
  • Niko Hinzmann, Center for Economicology, 2nd Runner Up (tie)
  • Kanyia Brown, Riverside Middle School, 2nd Runner Up (tie)

Each of the winners receives a certificate of deposit and a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  Additionally, 20 students from 5 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 from across the State of Michigan. The essays we judged 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 Celebration program at 6 p.m. on January 18, 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 the students who received honorable mention at the Board’s meeting on Monday, February 2, 2016.

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

 Grand Prize Winner

Twanyea Smith

Ms. Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School

“A Letter to Dr. King”

Dear Dr. King,

Most of the seven billion people on the earth still miss you. Even though you are in a better place, I know you would be willing to help us out like you did in the 1960s. I have to give you credit because even though the world is not a perfect place to be in, you put a giant footstep toward equality in the world. People should keep remembering what you did for our country. You always knew that the most dangerous condition for people is ignorance. Many people have forgotten this, so of course there are some groups of people going against what you stood for.

Now, my question for you is: Would you do it all over again? I can take a pretty good guess that you would. Your answer would be yes because you care for all of the people on this earth today. What I don’t know is what you would advise us to do about Isis and the terrorist people killing innocent ones. What about people who think that only one kind of life matters? Do you think your non-violent approach would work in 2015-16? Many of us are trying it, but nothing positive is happening. People keep getting killed every day.

Dr. King, I’m not trying to ruin your non-violent dream, but in 2015, it is not working out so well. Back then did you have so many people with anger management issues? We do. Some people with anger issues today didn’t learn your non-violence. They will hit back, shoot back, do anything to get revenge. I need some advice to help our world. Getting advice from you is like getting advice from Stephen Curry on shooting a basketball.

Well, Dr. King, I guess I’d better close now. I sure appreciate you taking the time to read my letter in heaven. So Dr. King, I will think of you when I am in a heated situation. I will ask myself what you would do or say. Hopefully I can see you in person in heaven one day.

 

1st Runner Up

Dayshawn Fields

Ms. Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School

“Betrayal and Beyond”

            Do you stick up for those in need? A powerful statement by Dr. Martin Luther King says it all, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” If you have a friend, and somewhere down the road that friend needs your help but you don’t offer it, what would Dr. King have to say to you?

There is a main reason that this statement has so much impact on my life. My dad hasn’t been in my life permanently, and I haven’t seen him in a long time. I text him, but he doesn’t reply. While he hasn’t betrayed me physically where I don’t see him at all, he has not been available when it would possible for him to be. He has betrayed his son, a thing Dr. King would not be very fond of. I still love my dad, that’s a thing Dr. King would be exceptionally proud of.

From my experiences, and my studies of the wonderful Dr. King, I feel that someday I will be able to have a positive impact on my family by being the best father I can be. I don’t ever want it said of me that my children suffered the silence of betrayal. I don’t want my children to have their father not there when they are going through the difficult or stressful times. Kids need their dads when they first enter preschool, or when they make their first sports team. Event things like relationships can use advice from a father. Then there’s the start of high school and college with no father figure around for support and love. I don’t want any of those negative possibilities.

Dr. King would be very proud of those looking out for others, and he would be very thankful to those putting others in front of themselves. He would also be very appreciative of those who defend America. These include all the military groups, SWAT teams, our local policies officers, and of course, the mighty firefighters. They do their jobs, just like Dr. King did. He spent his life defending America from itself.

While I gave a negative example of the impact this statement has had on my life, it also has provided me a positive one. Dr. King’s words remind me how important it is to be there for others. It must have had the same effect on many other people, so for those of you who are always there, especially when you are needed the most, what would Dr. King have to say to you? I think he would say, “Well done!”

2nd Runner Up (tie)

Niko Hinzmann

Mrs. Phillips class at the Center for Economicology

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

 

You don’t have to look very far back in history to see that things were very different. People of color were strongly discriminated against, even after years of being enslaved. Some may find it hard to believe that a person would be treated so unfairly just because of the color of their skin. Sadly people were and sometimes still are.

Not only are people of color discriminated against though. Even something as simple as having a different believe from someone can get you treated in an unfair manner. It’s not fun to think about, but people even today discriminate unfairly. Everyone deserves equal rights in my eyes. If we want the world to live in peace and harmony we cannot be racist or closed-minded. Being open-minded is an important life skill that you will need to live a successful life.

Throughout your life you will need to work with people of different races that possess different believes. If you want to get things done, you have to be accepting and have open arms for equal rights. Some people have troubles with grasping this concept. Not everyone thinks that everyone should have equal rights. Lots of older people are still racist because of how and when they were raised. People tend to have the same morals and ways of raising their children as their parents. If you grew up in a racist and closed-minded household, you tend to think in that unfair way.

You don’t even have to be older to have these ways of thinking. Often times children grow up to be racist because their parents were racist. If all you hear while you’re growing up is negativity and racism, you grow up to be that way. No one is born racist; you are simply raised that way.

Equality and equal rights for everyone will take lots of time, but I do believe it’s possible. Many people in my neighborhood are racist and rude to those of whom have different beliefs from them. Instead of getting upset with them for their ways of thinking, feel bad that they aren’t accepting and won’t be able to experience great things in life because of how they view others who are different.

If you feel like you want to help others see how beautiful equality can be, don’t force it on them. Force can lead to violence, and like how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed, violence is not the answer. Don’t get mad if you can’t help the person, just hope that they will see how amazing equal rights can be.

You don’t even have to say anything; be a silent role model for those around you.

Even if you’re the only person you know who supports equal rights 100%, don’t ever change that part of yourself. Just because you’re standing alone doesn’t mean you have to change what you believe is right. You shouldn’t be embarrassed of supporting equality; be proud. Stand tall and support equal rights!

 

2nd Runner Up (tie)

Kanyia Brown

Ms. Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School

 “The Unseen Staircase”

            Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., what are we going to do with all this violence in our world? You once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” I need to keep this in mind when I look around at our world.

To me, your words mean believing in something that you’ve never actually seen before. Violence is killing our world; darkness and evil are eating up our lives. People are shooting at students in schools, bombing cities, and fighting each other. People are abusing their kids and some are raising them to hate anyone with skin colors that are different than theirs. I need to keep believing that there are solutions to these problems. I hope we have enough time an courage to figure out what they are.

My teacher says that we often live what we learn. Dr. King, sometimes you can’t change what’s already in someone’s head. Some people are taught to hate others that are different than they are, like a different race than theirs. We have too many people who use guns in the wrong ways or situations. But if you think about it, we need to have the power to protect ourselves too. But not in the wrong way. We have to defeat them with our power. That power is kindness.

Rose Parks and Dr. King both were always kind even when  they were fighting injustice. Rose Parks fought for her seat because she thought it was unfair for African-Americans to be required to sit in the back of public buses, but she wasn’t the unkind one.

Dr. King, you once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” I know it was dark back then, and it’s still dark now. We need the light you shed a long time ago to come back.

I’m just a 6th grader at Riverside Middle School. At my school, our behavior specialist, Mr. Smiley, just had a terrible thing happen in his life. His son recently died in a car crash and I feel for him. I know he wouldn’t want me to keep on feeling back; he would want me to focus on school. He’s always trying to keep us all focused and positive each day. I know these things happen in life; life is imperfect. Yet, even when you, Martin Luther King, was in a horrible situation, you tried to remember to see the whole picture even when it wasn’t done yet.

I hope I can hold on to my belief that faith in good things will carry me through all the rest of my life. I hope I can be like you and see the whole staircase and have trust with every step I take.