By Amy SpoonerJanuary 13, 2016
Shermin Kruse, '02, an activist, lawyer, and Huffington Post columnist, and the best-selling author of Butterfly Stitching, will deliver the Law School's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day address on Monday, January 18.
Kruse and her family fled Iran when she was 11. Although none of them spoke English upon arrival, she went on to graduate cum laude from Michigan Law and become an equity partner at Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP in Chicago. She cofounded the nonprofit Pasfarda Arts and Culture Exchange in 2007 to promote cultural understanding between the United States and Iran through the arts.
The arts always have been important to Kruse. Upholding the traditional Persian love of poetry, she began writing poems as a child, and also paints. Her debut novel, Butterfly Stitching (Water Bird Press), which is based on true stories of relatives and friends in Iran, was published in 2014. Through Pasfarda she has given Americans a glimpse of ordinary Iranians—from promoting a film about Iran's underground music scene to exhibiting the work of a Tehrani graffiti artist. "It's hard to discuss Iran without talking politics," Kruse told Law Quadrangle magazine in 2015. "Even with our work, the conversation turns to why rap music is an underground movement, why the graffiti artist would be executed if his identity were known. But we're trying to connect people in ways that are intriguing on an everyday, human level."
Kruse also is passionate about international human rights law, grounded in her own experience as an immigrant. She has volunteered extensively on behalf of the homeless and underserved communities in Chicago, has done volunteer work in India, and maintains a full pro bono docket that includes representation of asylum workers and indigent artists. In 2014, she spent a week on the Turkey-Syria border with the Karam Foundation, aiding refugees. Kruse helped evaluate workshops that taught entrepreneurial skills to Syrian teenagers who faced minimal educational or professional prospects. Topics included how the teens can use their smartphones and computer access in the camps to learn Turkish and receive vocational training for a wide range of entrepreneurial endeavors. She wrote a six-part series on her experience in Turkey for the Huffington Post.
Kruse has said that her childhood struggles and volunteer work help keep life in perspective. And although being one of Barack Ferrazzano's youngest minority partners while raising a young family might seem to be enough, Kruse disagrees. "When faced with huge global dilemmas, we all feel powerless. But the truth is, we are powerful; we can change the world. If I really believe that, then I have to live it."
Kruse will examine the sociological, psychological, and scientific reasons why the population at large may react more strongly to the death of Cecil the Lion than the ongoing killings of unarmed African Americans, or for that matter, the hundreds of thousands of murdered Syrians. This talk will explore how we can empower ourselves and each other to act not only as agents of change but as sources of light, using mindfulness, willpower, advocacy, and diplomacy. The talk is on January 18, 2016, at 4 p.m. in 1225 South Hall.
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