Archive for June 2012

Winners of the 5th Annual Grand Race Road Rally

Nine teams competed in the 5th Annual Grand Race Road Rally on Saturday.  Organized by the Grand Rapids Public Museum for Warner Norcross & Judd, the Grand Rapids Road Rally sent teams racing around the Grand Rapids metropolitan area following clues that lead them to 7 different cultural locations. At each location, the teams had to complete a challenge to earn the clue to the next location.

The first team to finish this year was Team #1 from Fifth Third Bank, competing in the clients and friends division. Coming in first from Warner Norcross & Judd was the Team #8.  Following the Road Rally, the teams gathered at the museum for an awards ceremony, with winners receiving gift certificates from area merchants and loving cups turned on a lathe at the Public Museum.

Our thanks to Gina Bivins, Public Programs Manager at the Public Museum, and all of her staff and volunteers who made the 5th Annual Grand Race Road Rally another big success.

Here are photos from the even.  Click on a picture for a larger view. (Click twice for an even large image.)


Announcement of the 2012 One Book, One Firm Selection and Reading List

Each year in our One Book, One Firm program, 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 Spirit Catches You and Then You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and the Detroit Free Press “Best Book of the Year.”

The Spirit Catches You tells the story of a young Hmong girl, Lia, whose family immigrated to California from Laos.  When Lia begins to experience epileptic seizures her parents, who speak no English, seek medical help from a local hospital that is ill-equipped to understand the Hmong language or culture. Thus begins a clash of cultures between Lia’s parents, who viewed epilepsy in the traditional Hmong way as the ability of a person to enter the spirit world, and Lia’s western doctors, who treated epilepsy as a condition that required extensive medical intervention.

Carol Horn, writing in The Washington Post, described “The Spirit Catches You” as “[a]n intriguing, spirit-lifting, extraordinary exploration of two cultures in uneasy coexistence . . . A wonderful aspect of Fadiman’s book is her evenhanded, detailed presentation of these disparate cultures and divergent views–not with cool, dispassionate fairness but rather with a warm, involved interest . . . Fadiman’s book is superb, informal cultural anthropology–eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging.”

Fadiman does a masterful job of showing respect for both the cultural traditions and beliefs of the Hmong and the commitment of the doctors, nurses and social workers who worked to save Lia’s life.  The Spirit Catches You is regularly assigned to new medical school and nursing students around the country.  It will serve as an interesting book for us to share and discuss.

In addition to the One Book, One Firm selection, we have a suggested reading list of fiction and non-fiction books addressing diversity and inclusion.


“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Others Sons recounts the migration from World War I to the 1970s of six million African Americans out of the south to the north and west.  The book, which won the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award, tells the story through the lives of persons who made the journey.  Janet Maslin writing in the New York Times said: “The single greatest strength of The Warmth of Other Suns lies in its anecdotal examples of how the rules of segregation, whether spoken or unspoken, actually worked on a day-to-day basis.”  The book is an excellent follow up to last year’s One Book, One Firm selection, The Help.

“Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation,” by Eboo Patel

Acts of Faith is the autobiography of Eboo Patel, a second generation Muslim American whose family hails from India. Patel, who grew up in Illinois and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, tells the story of his journey through assimilation, anger and radical politics to his belief in religious pluralism.  Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) in 1998 to encourage college age students of all faiths (and no faith) to find common core values and apply them in service to others.

“The End of Diversity as We Know It,” by Martin N. Davidson

Martin Davidson is a professor at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.  In The End of Diversity As We Know It,” Davidson argues that traditional ways that businesses manage diversity won’t success.  Instead of focusing on diversity for diversity’s sake, Davidson outlines how businesses can leverage difference to become more innovative and effective.

“Dear White America: A Letter to A New Minority,” by Tim Wise

 A number of us saw Tim Wise speak at the recent summit of the Partners for Racism Free Community.  Wise is an outspoken activist against racism and white privilege, who lectures widely.  Dear White America is his most recent book.  In Dear White America, Wise writes to white Americans who are beginning to come to face the reality that they will in most of our lifetimes no longer constitute a majority of the population.  Wise is controversial and brash, funny and, whether you agree with him or not, thought-provoking.


 ‘Forgotten Country,’ by Catherine Chung

 Forgotten Country is the first novel by New York author Catherine Chung.  As described in the Boston Globe, “Catherine Chung’s lovely, elegiac novel is a portrait of a contemporary Korean-American family’s displacement and losses. The family’s sorrows are played out against the backdrop of political upheavals in their ancestral homeland and the painful process of assimilation they face early on in their adoptive country. The somberness of the narrative is leavened by the deftness of Chung’s storytelling and the nuanced precision with which she limns the pain and joy of familial relationships.”

“A Raisin in the Sun,” by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun is the classic play by Lorraine Hansberry about an African American family, the Youngers, that is moving from inner city Chicago to the all-white suburb of Clybourne Park.  The family is visited by the head of the Clybourne Park Neighborhood Association, who does his best to talk them out of the move, even going so far as offering to purchase their new house from them.    The decision whether to move proves to be a difficult choice for the family and the source of much drama. Named the Best Play of 1959 by the New York Drama Critic’s Circle, A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by an African American woman to appear on Broadway.  In addition to the book, we have added a video of the 1961 film version of the play starring Sidney Portier, Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett, Jr., among others.

“Clybourne Park,” by Bruce Norton

Clybourne Park is the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning play that is currently being held over on Broadway.  Clybourne Park is a play in two acts.  Act I takes place in the family of the white family who in 1959 agreed to sell their house to the Youngers in A Raisin in the Sun.  The act explores the animosities between the white family and other members of the neighborhood engendered by their decision to sell to a “colored” family.  Act II brings the story forward 50 years to 2009.  In 2009, Clybourne Park is now an African American community.  Act II takes place in the living room of the same house the Youngers bought in A Raisin in the Sun and explores the relationship between the white couple that is purchasing the house in order to gentrify the neighborhood and the African American couple who is selling it.   Clybourne Park is very edgy and uses language and sexual references that some may find offensive.

“Open City,” By Teju Cole

Open City is the first novel by writer, photographer and historian, Teju Cole, who was raised in Nigeria and came to the United States in 1992.  Open City is about a medical student from Nigeria who likes to wander the streets of New York City and collect the stoires of “a city of immigrants: Nigerians, Kenyans, Syrians, Lebanese, Malians, Haitians, Chinese and others who have come to escape the sorrows of their own history or to pursue their versions of the American dream.”