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Varnum Celebrates Black History Month

February 15, 2021

Varnum is proud to celebrate Black History Month with a variety of community-oriented and educational initiatives in furtherance of our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Throughout February, firm members will have opportunities to engage, educate and support efforts focused on driving change in both our communities and the legal profession.

"Opportunities to create awareness and celebrate minority communities have a role in healing the social diseases of racial, social and economic injustice," said partner Luis Avila, Chair of the firm's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. "We are pleased to present a variety of programming to our internal audience as well as offer support to community organizations in their Black History Month recognitions."

Highlights of Varnum's Black History Month initiatives include:

  • Varnum is once again a sponsor of the Grand Rapids Symphony's Celebration of Soul: Soul of the City Gala, to be held virtually on Feb. 27. The event benefits the symphony's Mosaic Scholarship Program, one of 18 Gateway to Music education and access programs, providing African American and Latinx students with private lessons from a professional GRS musician, as well as supplies such as instrument rental and free season tickets to Symphony performances.
  • Varnum is also a sponsor of WGVU's Diversity and Inclusion programming during Black History Month. Featured programs include "American Experience: Voice of Freedom" about singer Marian Anderson on Feb. 15; "Finding My Roots: Write My Name in the Book of Life" featuring musician Pharrell Williams and filmmaker Kasi Lemmons on Feb. 16; and "Independent Lens: Mr. Soul" and "Kindred Spirits: Artists Hilda Wilkinson Brown and Lilian Thomas Burwell," on Feb. 22
  • The firm is also promoting a book discussion Q&A with Richard Rothstein, author of "The Color of Law," to be held Wednesday Feb. 24 as part of the American Bar Association's Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law. Subtitled 'A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,' the book provides insight on how segregation in America is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state and federal level. The book was recently featured by Varnum's Diversity Book Club, with three facilitated discussions held virtually. The book club began in 2020 as a way of keeping connected on diversity issues, especially during COVID as other networking and social events are limited. The firm's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee provides support by providing books or reimbursing their cost and materials and moderators for facilitated discussions.
  • As part of Varnum's commitment to provide meaningful diversity, equity and inclusion educational and training opportunities, the firm is hosting a presentation on Structural Racism 101: Basic Training for the Legal Profession. The presentation, offered internally on two separate dates to Varnum staff and attorneys, is being conducted by Wayne State University Law School Professor and Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, Dr. Peter Hammer. The presentation will define and distinguish the many forms of racism that we confront: express racism, structural racism, spatial racism and forms of implicit bias. It will also give people a framework to better understand the dynamics of structural racism as an evolving dialectic between belief systems and institutions that have mutated in form from slavery, to Jim Crow segregation, to the forms of spatial-structural racism that often define our state.
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