Archive for the ‘Immigrants’ Category.

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.

Grand Rapids Public Museum Ethnic Heritage Festival

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Free admission, Irish, Pacific Island and Indian dance groups, multicultural drum group WaZoBia, food and beer from around the world — these are just a few reasons why the annual Ethnic Heritage Festival at the Grand Rapids Public Museum is so popular.  The festival is back for 2010, on February 6.  The Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Pictures from the Grand Race Road Rally 2009

For the second year, Warner Norcross & Judd competed in the Grand Race Road Rally, a program created for the firm by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.  On Saturday, June 13, teams raced across the city following clues and undertaking challenges (if you call eating Lithuanian desserts and Dutch chocolate a challenge), to learn more about the rich cultural diversity of our community.

For more information about the different locations in the Grand Race, click here

Stay tuned for the race video, coming soon.

• The 2009 Grand Race Road Rally

Team OjalaEight teams from Warner Norcross & Judd competed in the 2009 Grand Race Road Rally on Saturday, June 13.  This year Team Ojala – which included Carin and Kurt Ojala, Amy Carpenter, and Connie Kong – defended its crown.  The winners each received some wonderful gift certificates to area restaurants and a trophy that was turned on a lathe at the Public Museum

Modeled after the CBS television program The Amazing Race, the Grand Race Road Rally challenges teams to follow clues to find seven locations in Grand Rapids that highlight our community’s diverse ethnic communities.    

The Grand Race Road Rally is organized for Warner Norcross & Judd by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.  This year, three teams from Irwin Seating Company, including President and CEO Win Irwin, also participated in the Grand Race.

PassportThe race began at the Public Museum in downtown Grand Rapids, where volunteers registered the teams and Museum staffers Gina Bivins and Chris Carron provided last minute instructions. Passport Each participant in the race was given a passport that held the clues to the seven locations.  When given the word to start, the teams fanned out over the city following the clues to the race locations, which included:

St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.  Here members of the Lithuanian American Community challenged the teams to taste two scrumptious desserts and correctly name them.

Lithuanian CemeteryThe Richmond Park neighborhood.  Competitors had to find two of the four ethnic cemeteries that lie west of Richmond Park. Competitors discovered the Lithuanian Freedom Cemetery, Ahavis cemeterywhich was founded in 1918 by the Sons and Daughters of Lithuania (a group that is still active in Grand Rapids today) and the Ahavas Archim Cemetery, which was founded in 1916.  Nearby is the Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery, dedicated in 1916 by Lithuanian parishioners at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, and the Washington Park Memorial Gardens, where many of the Dutch and German Reformed faith are buried.  For more information about, and photos from, these cemeteries, click here.

St. John Chrysotom Russian Orthodox Church.  All of the competitors agreed that this was the most amazing St. John’slocation in the Race.   The church was founded in 1915 to minister to the Orthodox Byelorussians, Carpatho Russians, Galicians, Russians and Ukrainians who began arriving in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, Michigan, in the early 1900’s.  The original twenty families that founded the church purchased the building from the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Our visit was guided by Father Andrew Keith Lowe, who came from Australia to lead a church in Grand Rapids that is still under the direction of the Moscow Patriarchate (what a small world!).  Inside, the church is filled with beautiful artwork.  There are just two pews in the church.  Father Andrew explained that the congregation stands during religious services.  The two pews are for elderly members of the congregation only.  For more information about St. John Chrysotom Russian Orthodox Church and to see photos of the beautiful artwork inside the church, visit its website by clicking here.

The Cook Library Center.  Operated by Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, the Cook Library Center serves Roosevelt Park and surrounding neighborhoods that today are home to a sizable Hispanic population.  At the library, teams were challenged to do some sleuthing to identify the streets on which Philanthropist Peter Cook was raised and the immigrant group that once lived in the neighborhood.  Teams also had to identify the artist of the beautiful mural that hangs in the library.  For more information about the Cook Library Center, watch this video.

VanderVeens, on 28th Street.  For over 50 years, VanderVeens has sold Dutch products, including the wonderful chocolates and cookies they shared with race participants.  At VanderVeens, one member of each team had to don wooden shoes and do his or her own version of the Klompen Dance.

African Community CenterThe African Community Center of Michigan and Humanity for Africa, Inc.   The African Community Center supports and encourages new African refugees, individuals, and families to become self-sufficient by strengthening their ability to provide care for themselves and their families, and by advocating on behalf of refugees to enhance positive acculturation.  At the Community Center, Grand Racers had to locate a community garden and find vegetables that would be needed to prepare an African peanut potato stew.  You can learn more about the African Community Center at its website and in this video.

lynches2.jpgAt Lynch’s Lair, in Eastown, members of the Gaelic League in Grand Rapids challenged a member of each team to weave a Bridgid’s Cross.  The first Irish settled in Grand Rapids in 1835.  They came to build a canal around the rapids in the Grand River.  A division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians was established in Grand Rapids in 1883 and remains active today.   

More pictures and a video are yet to come.  Meanwhile, you can see a video and photos from the 2008 Grand Race by clicking here and here.

• Public Museum Publishes Field Guide to West Michigan Ethnic Groups

The most frequently asked question when we toured the Newcomers Exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum earlier this year was, “how can I get a copy of the exhibit’s guide to ethnic groups in West Michigan.”  At the time, the guide was not available for purchase.  That has changed today. As the flier below announces, beginning today, copies of the Ethnic Field Guide to West Michigan will be available for purchase in the Museum’s Curiosity Shop and on  The field guide was written by Christian G. Carron, Director of Research and Interpretation, and Veronica L. Kandl, Curator of History.

Over 50 separate ethnic groups who call West Michigan home are profiled in this field guide-style book.  Each group has two pages devoted to brief descriptions of the group’s country of origin, its homeland geography, its politics and map.  The guide also depicts the reasons groups leave their homeland and come to West Michigan, and their population size and settlement areas here.  The Ethnic Field Guide to West Michigan is a continuous reflection of the Newcomers exhibit.  Both explore, celebrate and question the multifaceted past and present of ethnicity and immigration in West Michigan. 

Warner Norcross & Judd is pleased to be one of the corporate sponsors of the Newcomers Exhibit.

Field Guide to West Michigan Ethnic Groups

• August 7 One Book, One Firm Celebration

One Book, One FirmPlease join us on August 7, from noon to 1:30 p.m. for a special luncheon presentation in our One Book, One Firm program.  The luncheon will feature Alice Kennedy in a performance of three scenes from her play Inside the Model Minority.  In addition, the luncheon will feature a belated celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, with special food, presentations and activities.

The presentation will be broadcast over the Internet to participants in each of our offices, who will also get to enjoy the special food and activities.  It is not necessary to have read the One Book, One Firm selection to participate in this event.  Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Alice KennedyMany of you will remember that Alice Kennedy was a panelist at our May 30 discussion of this year’s One Book, One Firm selection, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner.  Ms. Kennedy is the founder of Diversity Theatre in Grand Rapids.  Her family immigrated to the United States following the fall of Saigon.  She was recently profiled in The Grand Rapids Press.  (Click here to read the profile.) 

The scenes Ms. Kennedy will perform from Inside the Model Minority bring to life the issues some funny, some poignant faced by Asian immigrants to the United States.  Portraying a Korean child adopted by a white American family, Ms. Kennedy will take us along on a quest in search of her identity.  She will portray a young Chinese American male, whose family has been in this country since the mid-1800s, and who struggles with bigotry and the question of what it means to be American.  And as a recent immigrant from Asia, she will bring to life the challenge of learning a new language and new customs.  

Please mark your calendars today and RSVP to Robin Keith as soon as possible.  We need a solid estimate of participation by Monday, July 28 so all the arrangements can be made for this event.