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News | July 14, 2016
3 minute read

One Book, One Firm: The Arrival

Maps. A handmade backpack. A kind smile. The stories came flooding out as attorneys and staff of Warner Norcross gathered for a special luncheon to discuss The Arrival. Every year, Diversity Partner Rodney Martin selects a work for the firm’s One Book, One Firm reading to create a dialogue on diversity and inclusiveness.

The graphic novel by Shaun Tan tells the story of immigration, which was brought to life by four panelists who spoke of Pakistan, Vietnam, Ethiopia and the immigrant journey.

Dr. Simin Beg emigrated from Pakistan and is now a hospice and palliative care doctor for Spectrum Health. One image that resonated with Dr. Beg was of a young girl helping another girl find directions on a map. Dr. Beg shared how the map her parents gave her was extremely valuable in navigating a foreign land. She went on to say the immigrants should help and provide advice on how to overcome obstacles when possible to new families entering the United States. Dr. Beg also stressed understanding the importance between an immigrant and a refugee.

Bill Blacquiere, President and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, brought an interesting perspective to the table as he leads an organization that helps resettle refugees in the United States. The sense of hope and positivity prevalent in the novel was inspiring to him and to a group of Bethany staff and refugees who read the book with him. When refugee families look back on their experience, Bill says, they often remember the people who helped them succeed in their journey.

Alice Kennedy came to the United States from Vietnam when she was 5-years-old with nothing but the clothes on her back and a small handmade backpack. Alice explained that too often the public is quick to place people into big buckets to describe them. For instance, in the mid-70s, she recalled that it was commonplace to refer to Vietnamese immigrants and refugees as “The Boat People.” However, as she said, “I came in a plane.”

Nardos Osterhardt, nursing director at Blodgett Hospital, fled from Ethiopia when she was 5-years-old. Since then, she has vacillated between both cultures, which she explores in her one-women show “Halfrican.” Nardos spoke to understanding that immigrants and refugees have a history. Regardless of their current position, they may have had a professional background or a full and rich life in their home country.

At the end of the discussion, the panelists gave their advice for creating an inclusive environment. Collectively, it could be summed into: make everyone feel welcome. Create a dialogue with new employees to understand each other’s backgrounds, don’t be afraid to ask questions and get out of your comfort zone.

At the end of the day, it’s truly stories that connect us all.  

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