Archive for the ‘Recommended Reading’ Category.

Warner Norcross Announces Winners of MLK Essay Contest

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a major impact on the lives of many and his legacy still rings true today. This year, Warner Judd Norcross LLP asked sixth grade students in Grand Rapids to enter an essay contest to discuss the lasting impacts of his legacy. Now in its 12th year, the contest asks students to explore the work of Dr. King. Students wrote about the impact he had on equal rights in society, a conversation they would have with Dr. King or the impact of one of his many famous quotes has had on their lives. The competition is open to all sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools district.

This year the firm received 314 essay submissions from 10 different schools. 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.

This year’s winners are:

  • Tess Cepaitis, Riverside Middle School, Grand Prize
  • Myaja Dunning, Gerald R. Ford Academic Center, First Runner-Up
  • Carmen Perdomo, Southwest Community Center, Second Runner-Up

Each winning student will receive a a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  Additionally, 24 students from seven schools received honorable mention recognition. They each will receive a gift card to Schuler Books and Music. Every student who submitted an essay will receive a certificate of participation.Cepaitis and all winners are invited to attend the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Program held Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Fountain Street Church. All winners will be recognized by their peers and parents and listen to Cepaitis read her winning essay.

The grand prize winner and, if time permits, the two runners-up will be given an opportunity to read their essays at the GRPS Board of Education meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20. Warner Norcross Diversity Partner Rodney Martin will be in attendance at both programs to introduce the winners.

Here are the winning essays:

Grand Prize Winner

 Tess Cepaitis

Riverside Middle School

Ms. Holt’s Sixth Grade Class

“Silence”

 Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 This quote has had an impact on my life as well as on the lives of others. Kids in school struggle with this situation as well as adults in society where witnesses to crimes and other bad things stay silent out of fear. Most people would like to step up and do the right thing, but they are afraid. We need to get some guts and do what Dr. King suggested.

I remember a time when I stayed silent. It was a gloomy day when I was in the third grade. We had gone outside for recess, and the snow was covering the wood chips and play things. A quiet girl sat on the cold swings a couple of yards from me as I was making a snow angel. A boy ran over to the girl demanding that she give up her swing. She refused, quietly telling him there were lots of swings open. He pushed her off the swing into the snow. She stood up and her pants were soaked. The girl tried to wipe the slushy snow from her pants, I don’t know why, but I just went to the other side of the playground and kept making snow angels. After the lunch bell rang, I just walked back into the building and left her standing there all miserable and cold. The whole time I was thinking, You should have done something! You should have helped her! But I did nothing.

Ever since that day, the experience has haunted me. I still feel the same shame I did then when I remained quiet. Now I try to speak up for what is right and stop things like this at school, at the park, and everywhere I go. I now realize that I need to stop a bully’s tauntings right as they start instead of silently letting them happen. Every word we speak or don’t speak can make an impact. Dr. King tried to tell us that, and finally, I am listening.

 

1st Runner Up

Myaja Dunning

Gerald R. Ford Academic Center

Mr. Gleason’s Sixth Grade Class

 “The Quote I Like the Most”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This is my favorite quote from MLK because it really spoke to me. It told me that if a person says something mean to me, they are just bringing darkness. But if you say something back to them you are bringing more darkness. It’s like the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

This quote makes a positive difference in my life because I used to get called mean names all the time. I don’t let that bother me because I’m not going to hold a grudge or bring darkness into the problem. The only way you can bring light into the problem is if you bring light and positivity into the problem. This quote helps me make a positive difference in the lives of my family and friends by encouraging me to be positive as much as possible. There are times when I may disagree with someone close to me, but that does not mean I have to be negative or dark about the situation. Reflecting on this quote encourages me to think positively about the situation, even if it may not be in my favor. It’s important to think about, and to consider, other peoples’ points of view, as it shows that you embrace diversity of thought.

Negativity breeds negativity, which is why it’s so important to be a beacon of light, positivity, and love through all circumstances. People tend to feel and feed off of positive energy. If more people can change their attitudes toward more positive thoughts, the world would be on track to become a better place, just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned it.

In an effort to make the world a better place, we should aim to drive out hate by filtering in positivity and love. Dr. King said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” I think people can look up to this quote.

 

2nd Runner Up

Carmen Perdomo

Southwest Community Campus

Ms. Quinlan’s Sixth Grade Class

“Judge Yourself First”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a civil rights activist who believed in equal rights for all. He changed American History

I believe in equal rights. I believe that everyone deserves equality regardless of the color of their skin, the place they are from or the things they believe in. I know it is difficult for certain people to believe in equal rights, but I have a few things to say that just might make them change their minds.

It’s important for people to have equal rights regardless of race, color or beliefs because equality is freedom. Free of worry, free to travel and free to be whom you are when it comes to your beliefs. Being free is important; equal rights make you free.

It’s difficult for certain people to believe in equal rights. For example, some Americans believe if you aren’t from America you don’t have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Why does where we are born change the word ‘equal’ to ‘unequal’? I believe these people are wrong. The places we are or where we were in the past may define culture and traditions, but they don’t define our character. We all have hearts and care; that makes every single human being equal.

I would say the following to someone who doesn’t believe in equal rights: I think you may not believe in equal rights because of how the world is separated into different places. You may think all of the different places people come from means they are different. Like maybe you think they have different hearts, different ways to show kindness and different minds. It doesn’t. No matter our color, race or believes we are all the same. Human.

At the end of the day, regardless of race, color or beliefs, we all are the same. Nothing else but our character tells us who we are as people. If you’re going to judge, quietly judge yourself. Judging is a sign of lack of character. Be friendly, be nice, be peaceful, be willing, be someone who believes in equal rights.

I leave you to think about the following quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I look to the day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

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.”

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.

Panel Discusses Integration in America at Warner Norcross

As part of the firm’s eight annual One Book, One Firm program, Warner Norcross & Judd assembled a distinguished panel to discuss this year’s One Book, One Firm selection, Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange History of Integration in America, by Tanner Colby.  The panel included, civil rights attorney Stephen Drew, Father John Geaney, the Rector of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Grand Rapids, and Nancy Haynes, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.  Warner Norcross & Judd’s Diversity Partner, Rodney Martin, moderated the discussion.

Some of My Best Friends Are Black looks at efforts to integrate schools, neighborhoods, the workplace, and the church in the second half of the twentieth century.  All of the panelists agreed that the book provided fresh and surprising insights.

When asked to describe what we mean by “integration,” Nancy Haynes distinguished it from desegregation.  “Desegregation,” she said, “means removing the barriers.  True integration happens when you have meaningful, intentional interactions.” She went on, “integration to be successful has to be an intentional choice.”

Father Geaney agreed, noting “You have to respect peoples’ desire for faith and for community. You can’t force these issues.”

The panel discussed how efforts at integration, if handled without respect for all people and their cultures, are not likely to succeed.  Stephen Drew recounted how efforts to desegregate Grand Rapids by closing South High School and busing the students across town, took a heavy toll on the surrounding neighborhood.  Nancy Haynes, whose office is just a block from the old South High School, agreed that closing the school “ripped the heart out of the community.” If integration is not done correctly, she noted, “everything can be lost and it can take years and years and years to rebuild it.”

Father Geaney recounted his service to St. Augustine Church, an African American Church in South Memphis, Tennessee, and how the church was a vital part of African American culture.  “There is a larger argument about whether we should abandon one culture in order to integrate,” he said.  “Should we abandon all the beauty that comes from the African American culture and make it a polyglot? That would be a shame.”

Stephen Drew said it doesn’t matter whether people tend to worship among people like themselves, after all people have many different religious traditions.  “It is what happens afterwards and whether you take what you learn in church and apply it to treat everybody equally outside of church,” he said.

Father Geaney asked, “When was the last time somebody that we went to dinner with was black or Hispanic?  When was the last time that we went to a movie with some of our black friends?” He continued, “These are the moments when we become human. These are the things that we do that say these are our friends.  These are the people we want to live with. These are the people we want in our neighborhood. Seems to me that’s the level where you begin. And our society will be integrated faster if we could somehow get to that point of friendship with one another.”

As the program came to a close, Stephen Drew praised the book for identifying and explaining the systems that brought about segregation and reminded the audience that we also have to address those systems and policies, such as mass incarceration, that remain in place today that hold back the African American community and work against an integrated society.

In closing, Rodney Martin noted the obvious parallels between desegregation and integration, on the one hand, and diversity and inclusion, on the other.  “Like desegregation in Colby’s book,” Martin said, “today’s focus on diversity is too often only about ‘racial accounting,’ with insufficient regard for whether organizations and communities are actually inclusive.”  According to Martin, Colby’s thesis is that integration is more than moving people around to achieve a racial balance. Integration requires a conscious choice. Colby writes: “Integration doesn’t do anything. It is something that is done by people and only by mutual choice.”

“Like integration in our society,” Martin said, “inclusion in our schools, neighborhoods, churches, and in our law firm, is a matter of choice. It cannot be mandated by policies. Instead, it requires a deeply personal commitment involving person-to-person relations.” Martin challenged those in the audience to choose to practice include, in order that we can achieve the full benefit of our diversity.

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.

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.