Archive for April 2015

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.

Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox To Discuss Her Book “A Stronger Kinship” at Warner Norcross & Judd

Dr. Anna-Lisa CoxHistorian Dr. Anna-Lisa Grace Cox will be our guest at a luncheon on Friday, April 24 to discuss her book A Stronger Kinship. StongerKinshipIn the years following the Civil War, the nation struggled to redefine the relationship between European Americans and African Americans. After the Civil War, legislatures in Southern states passed “Black Codes” aimed at limiting the rights of African Americans. The era spawned the birth of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. The repression of former slaves, however, was not limited to the south. Northern states also had adopted laws limiting the civil rights of African Americans prior to the Civil War. Many of those laws remained on the books following the war. In 1867, for example, voters in Michigan turned down a proposed state constitution that would have allowed African Americans to vote. It was not until 1883 that Michigan repealed its ban on interracial marriages.

There was one community in Michigan, however, in which African Americans and white Americans lived together in a culture of respect and equality. The story of Covert, Michigan, as told by Dr. Cox in A Stronger Kinship, is a tale of how a small Midwestern town looked beyond race to create an inclusive community. African Americans attended the same schools and churches as whites. They belonged to the same social clubs, such as the Grange. African American farmers and business people thrived and became prominent employers of white workers in the community. They married whites. African Americans were elected by white voters to key positions such as the Highway Commissioner and Justice of the Peace.

How could this happen? What made this possible? These are some of the questions Dr. Cox will address when she speaks to our firm on Friday, April 24. Dr. Cox is a Non Resident Fellow at Harvard’s Hutchins Center where she is at work on a research project with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., on African American pioneers to the antebellum frontier. She also holds the position of Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where her research is underpinning a permanent exhibit.

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.