Jeremy Burton

Jeremy G. Burton is a graduate of the University at Buffalo, where first and foremost he earned an unofficial education in journalism, though the official result was a B.A. in English.

A 2007 Summer Fellow at Poynter, Burton has interned at the Buffalo News, the Jewish Week, and the Plainview Herald.

After his sophomore year as news editor of UB's thrice-weekly undergrad newspaper, he was chosen to lead the Spectrum as its editor in chief. As editor, he continued to personally cover some of the UB community's most urgent stories while both managing the daily ins and outs and teaching a class for new writers.

He is currently reporting up a storm for the Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa.


Personal Narrative – Jeremy Burton

Before I could think twice, the lie was out there, and I knew exactly why I told it.

I had been on the phone with my mom, rehashing the first weeks of journalism boot camp at the Poynter Institute, and we were talking about a story I wrote. It was called “Same God, different prayer book,” and it was about the challenge of fostering unity among Christian denominations.

My mom wanted to know what the story’s central character, a Presbyterian pastor named Bobby Musengwa, thought of the finished piece. Musengwa was a community leader who valued church unity but struggled to promote it, and I featured him prominently.

“I haven’t heard back from him yet,” I said.

What I failed to mention was that there was a good reason I hadn’t heard back. I never sent Musengwa the story.

Reporters have a few guidelines regarding sources. No. 1: No surprises. Although Musengwa and I spoke extensively, I never made clear how I planned to use his voice in the story. I never told him he was the central character. A modest man, he would have been surprised, I think, to find himself in the spotlight.

Tucking my tail between my legs, I knew that though the rest of the story was well done, I had nonetheless committed a journalistic sin. Sincerity? Transparency? They each appeared dimmer than usual in my rearview mirror, and now that the story was published, it was easier for me to avoid looking back.

Musengwa, however, wasn’t the only source I avoided. For three of my four stories this summer, I never followed up to see what the people in them thought.

Surprising Musengwa wasn’t my deepest worry.

Consider the sources I evaded. There was Musengwa, a black South African pastor. Then there were the teachers at Lakewood High School (all African-American) and their students (mostly working-class minorities). And then there was Bill Harris, a white 70-year-old fisherman who never got past the seventh grade.

Now, consider me. I’m a white, upper-middle class erudite Jew born into New York City suburbia. Where do I intersect with any of these people? I don’t. I’m the silent majority, the status quo. My life hasn’t had a single hardship. No twists. No turns. For 22 years, I feel like I’ve been on upper-crust cruise control.

So, how can I understand where Musengwa is coming from? How can I comprehend failing algebra at Lakewood High School? How can I know what it’s like to be Bill Harris? I can’t. And I don’t know if I trust myself to do their stories justice. Who am I to filter out what it means to be them?

Reporters have one hard-line rule regarding the work we do: Get it right. Without that pillar, there is no trust, no truth, no journalism. If I send “Same God, different prayer book” to Musengwa, I give him the ammunition to tell me where I got it wrong. Why arm critics? If I’m wrong, I almost don’t want to know.

Of course, evading criticism does me no good. The one source I did follow up with was Lynn Carol Henderson, a white middle-class Ivy League-educated artist who was raised Jewish in Baltimore. Henderson was interesting, but I didn’t learn nearly as much from her as I did from Musengwa and Harris.

And really, just because we’re both East Coast Jews, does that mean I can understand Henderson any better than I can a man who grew up in apartheid South Africa?

Journalism ceases to be vital the moment we’re not learning. By design, it’s a profession that tries to help us understand. That’s why getting it right matters. When we get it wrong, we alter understanding. We determine social reality, and that is a scary responsibility.

The allure of opening a newspaper or logging onto the Internet is the discovery of something you didn’t know before. But what we know is limited by what we understand, and what we understand is limited by what we know.

I can’t expect to fully understand the lives of everyone I meet as a reporter; there are too many differences to cross. But difference is a good thing. It keeps us curious.

At its heart, journalism doesn’t promise enlightenment. It promises increments of understanding. I’ve spent so much time on cruise control that when it kicks out on me, I flail in panic for the gas pedal as I decelerate. With no time to think, it’s a reaction of instinct. I can still hear myself saying I haven’t heard back from him yet.

All things considered, I wasn’t going to send Musengwa the story, but when an editor encouraged me to hand him a copy and ask what he thought, I knew it was the right thing to do.

I left Poynter reluctantly, cranking the radio on the drive over to Musengwa’s church. As I mulled the idea of coming clean, though, I realized how much I needed closure. I wanted to put that story in his hands.

Musengwa, however, wasn’t there. He was on vacation, and the peace of mind I suddenly wanted was denied.

So, I left Musengwa a note and my e-mail address. Again, I am waiting to hear back. Only this time, it’s the truth. Read more

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As his way of life fades, a fisherman endures

Bill Harris scans the water and palms the wheel of his boat as it rocks in the morning tide. He is looking for pompano, a fish that skips along the surface, and he steers toward a spot where he caught some last week.

The horizon tells Harris he’s in the right place, lined up with a house and two posts to his right and the leg of a bridge to his left. This is how Harris knows all his fishing spots. He doesn’t have a navigation system on board. After more than 50 years of fishing the bays around St. Petersburg, Fla., he has a thousand places memorized.

Harris scans again and waits.

“Those fish ain’t here,” he says.

He turns his boat to go catch bait instead — not as profitable as pompano, but these days it’s better than nothing.

Harris is 70. His boat is worth less than a used Buick station wagon and is about the same size. Fishermen like him remember Florida before air conditioning. Back then, they used bars of soap to measure reef depth and kerosene lanterns to light their homes. They could depend on hauls of trout and grouper daily.

Today, commercial fishing on the Suncoast generates millions of dollars, and Harris is struggling to pay rent. He is Old Florida, a vestige of an era before companies ruled the gulf, before the bays were playgrounds for tourists, before developers turned wilderness into condos.

To be sure, Harris had chances to cash in on Florida’s meteoric prosperity after World War II. He says he couldn’t imagine, though, fetching cocktails for retirees on charter boats.

He was in the Navy for a year but was discharged after an accident left him with head trauma. He was married for a year, too, and that life wasn’t meant for him, either. He has a daughter in California he speaks with infrequently. He hasn’t seen her in 10 years. “She’s like me,” he says.

Harris casts off five days a week from Maximo Marine, where he sells his catches at Castaway’s Fish House, a bait shop and small fish market. Some days he makes $100. Other days, nothing. Development changed the whole environment, he says. Overfishing and recent Red Tides have left their marks, too.

People tell Harris he has it made, but he is ambivalent about his paradise.

“It’s not as consistent like it was in the old days,” Harris says. “All of them, millionaires, out here playing. I’m out here trying to make a dollar.”

After netting a cooler full of bait, Harris steers around Shell Island. This cove holds good memories for Harris, who quit school in seventh grade to fish. Not far from here, he learned as a boy how to catch pinfish, and how to cast against the tide when fishing for trout.

He learned from long-gone local legends — Horace Roberts, Pappy Kelly, Claude McCall. That’s one problem with “hotshots” around St. Petersburg today, Harris says. All you hear is me, me, me, I did this, and I did that. No acknowledgment of who they learned it from.

Harris resents the sport fishermen crowding spots he’s cultivated for decades.

“There’s nothing sacred out here anymore,” he says.

Shell Island, now called Shell Key Preserve, isn’t the same, either. Seawalls built in the ’60s to protect new homes on the water changed the current and eroded the pristine island, Harris says. To restore the beachfront, the state lifted sand from the Gulf of Mexico, but the sand shifted into the grass flats, filling in an ecosystem where fish once thrived.

“They don’t understand,” Harris says. “They don’t have no education on it at all.”

These bays are Harris’ refuge. He used to fish the gulf with crews and bigger boats, but it’s futile now, he says, to fish next to long-liners that cast 5 miles of hooks in one fell swoop.

Mike Metz, owner of Castaway’s, says the government has choked fishermen like Harris by raising the cost of competition. Small-business anglers, Metz says, can’t afford mandated requirements like tracking systems worth thousands of dollars plus monthly service fees.

Over the years, regulations tightened, economic costs soared, and cheap imports flooded the industry, says Mark Nahon of Triangle Fisheries, a wholesale company in Madeira Beach. Harris’ breed of independent fisherman couldn’t keep up.

There is a hint of pride in Harris’ voice when he calls himself the last of the Mohicans.

When asked what makes a good fisherman, Harris says it has to be in your blood, an addiction. It’s experience and moxie rolled up with the grit to stick with it and fight through the tough times.

“A lot of guys have given up,” he says.

Harris, whose tanned skin bunches at his elbows, is covered in signs that he has not given up. On his feet and hands there are lesions where skin cancer struck. His fingernails are worn like seashells. His shirt reads, “Keep Florida Green. Plant a Developer.” Its front pocket sags.

Harris has had days worth giving up on. In the ’80s, a wave sank his boat Thumper, which was his father’s since 1939. When Harris was younger, he was shipwrecked in the gulf for days and served on a crew where the captain died at sea.

For much of his life, he has lived at the marinas where he worked, fishing till sundown, unloading his catch in Gulfport, carousing with friends at bars, waking up and doing it all over again on two hours of sleep.

Harris hasn’t had a driver’s license since ’67, so a friend drives him to the marina from a Lutheran residence where he lives in Pasadena. The rent is cheap, Harris says, though he still sometimes draws from his savings to pay it.

Harris’ sister in Indiana occasionally offers him money, but he declines. In his free time he earns a few extra dollars by placing stickers on lure boxes for a friend’s fishing supply business, an easy job he can do while watching the History Channel, John Wayne movies, and reruns of “That ’70s Show.”

In a state known for its retirees, Harris says he will be fishing until he dies, if only because he can’t afford to do otherwise.

It’s still late morning, and Harris has decided to call it a day. The pompano aren’t jumping, it’s the end of the week, and Harris is tired.

He revs his boat toward top speed, only to slow it down with a jolt. He says he forgot this inlet, lined with Spanish-style homes and personal docks, is now designated a “No Wake Zone.”

Harris may have a thousand fishing spots memorized, but it’s hard for him to remember how quickly things change. Read more

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The changing shape of high school’s second chances

Summer school. Those two words used to carry weight — the threat of spending vacation months in a stuffy classroom, the risk of being held back.

Today, there’s no such thing in St. Petersburg, Fla. Summer school — that mandatory last chance — has been replaced by “Extended Learning.”

Classes are voluntary. No one is forced to go. Teachers are on hand as resources but not instructors, while students work at their own pace.

Anjelica Jackson, 16, is spending four mornings a week this summer in a classroom at Lakewood High School, repeating ninth-grade algebra. She got an F in the class two years ago, and though she is entering her junior year, she still needs that freshman math credit to keep up her average and graduate.

“I want to go far,” said Jackson, who hopes to study music in college.

Extended Learning is one of an array of programs that now give students a chance to make up failed classes and earn enough credits for a diploma. Students can enroll in night school, in remedial courses during the school year or in a GED test program.

In Florida, budget cuts squeezed out traditional summer school nearly a decade ago. Previously, the state gave districts specific money for summer classes. Now, general remedial funds go directly to the schools, and there are no requirements for how to spend it.

The budget that funds Extended Learning pays for a variety of academic supplements to the school day. With less money and time, fewer teachers and classes, schools are expected to provide more options for struggling students.

Still, remedial curriculum doesn’t get the same attention as standardized testing or class-size reduction, said Kathy Fleeger, Pinellas assistant superintendent for secondary curriculum.

“When you only have so much money in your checkbook,” Fleeger said, “you have to determine your priorities.”

This summer at Lakewood High School, second chances only come in math and English. Chantella Moore, the Extended Learning coordinator, also wanted to offer science and Spanish, but there weren’t enough funds.

Moore has three teachers, three classes and about 90 students this summer. The program runs four days a week, for five weeks. Any student in the district can attend.

After the first week, all the slots were full. But not everyone sticks with it. English teacher Nikki Holcombe said by the end she would have 10 to 15 students, down from 25.

Aaron Reed, 15, just finished his freshman year at Dixie Hollins High School. He’s retaking Algebra 1B at Lakewood to replace an F.

Ninth grade was full of bad decisions, Reed said. Too much slacking off and talking during class, hanging with the wrong friends. At midyear, he realized he was failing.

“It scared me,” he said.

Reed and Jackson arrive every Monday through Thursday at 9 a.m. They spend three hours working independently through a semester’s worth of chapters and the tests that go with them. When they need help, they ask a teacher at a desk up front.

Eric Thurman taught summer school math in Pinellas County for 11 years. He remembers how there used to be teachers for each subject, since only a few schools were designated host sites. Classes looked the same in June as they did in November.  

Now, Thurman is that teacher at the front of room. Standing at the blackboard doesn’t make sense when his classroom has students taking two levels of algebra and geometry.

Some students tune out, popping in earphones while they work. Others tune in, talking with friends and text messaging on cell phones.

Occasionally, Tara Fowler, head of Lakewood’s math department, tells the room to quiet down or moves a disruptive teen to a desk in the corner. “You have to keep on these kids,” said Fowler, who is volunteering her time.

The diligent students are often seniors who are running out of time. Underclassmen slack off and drop out, Holcombe said, because few realize the gravity of falling behind.

In Pinellas public schools, more than 50 percent of students fail to graduate on time from high school, according to a national study sponsored by the Gates Foundation in 2006. For students in Extended Learning, five weeks of plowing through math and English packets could determine which side of that divide they land on.

Jackson, the Lakewood junior who bombed freshman algebra, shrugs at the decision to enroll in Extended Learning.

She wants to graduate. She wants to attend college.  

Back in ninth grade, she couldn’t focus. Writing music was her passion, not math. With time and encouragement, she honed a work ethic. In Extended Learning, she likes progressing at her own pace. “I don’t have to wait on no one else,” she said.

Between assignments, Jackson jots down rap lyrics in a composition notebook. She records them at home. Some of her best creative thinking is done in class. But for now, math problems get priority. Read more

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Same God, different prayer book

Pastor Bobby Musengwa knows what churches can accomplish when united. He remembers apartheid South Africa, where Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians and Anglicans unified to defy segregationist law.

When apartheid ended in Musengwa’s home country, churches were a catalyst for equality.

But Musengwa, co-pastor at Maximo Presbyterian in St. Petersburg, Fla., also remembers that churches were part of the origins of the brutal segregation, denying worship and communion to blacks during the 1800s, laying the groundwork for the supremacist government of the 1900s.

“The church is guilty of both building a monster and killing it,” Musengwa says.

Last month, Musengwa was elected president of the St. Petersburg Ministerial Association, the city’s oldest such group, a cross-section of religious leaders who meet monthly. Turnout is small. For now, the association’s events and outreach are limited. But Musengwa believes that together, St. Petersburg’s churches can be more than the sum of their parts. First he needs commitment from his fellow pastors.

And that, he says, can be hard to come by.

It’s not that churches don’t value unity. Many do. Few agree what it should look like.

“Churches are more faithful in their mission when they are together,” Musengwa says, singling out the issues of homelessness and affordable housing in St. Petersburg.

Pastor Tracy Hunter, of Lakewood United Methodist, says churches often find unity in crisis. But without clarity of purpose, “We struggle to organize and relate to each other,” she says.

Without a mission, Musengwa says, churches cease to be a community resource. “It becomes a social club.”

Pinellas Point, where Musengwa preaches, is one of St. Petersburg’s largest and diverse neighborhoods. It has both low-income apartments and million-dollar homes. There are more than 15 congregations representing 12 Christian denominations. The number of white and black residents is nearly equal, according to U.S. Census data. This, in a city that had race riots as recently as 1996.

With all of St. Petersburg’s racial history, Pinellas Point made integration work, says Jon Wilson, a St. Petersburg Times reporter who has written about the city’s history.

Interdenominational collaboration in the neighborhood, however, is a mixed bag with little consistency. Some years, there are joint services at major holidays. Other events are rare. Some churches work together on certain programs. Others are nearly isolated. Even Musengwa doesn’t know the names of all his fellow pastors.

Even though most Christians share a basic belief system, many denominations dispute the salvation claims of others. Pastor Mark Kreemer, of St. Andrew Lutheran, says a child in his church was recently told at another local church that she is going to hell.

The incident serves as a reminder of how far Christians have to go, Kreemer says.

Meanwhile, the ministerial association, which includes three Jewish rabbis and a Muslim imam, struggles to remain relevant.

Founded in 1950s, the association was once at the forefront of St. Petersburg’s civil rights struggle, says Doug Harrell, chaplain at Bayfront Medical Center, where the group meets.

Now, dialogue is more important than action, Harrell says. Out of 60 members, there are about 15 regulars. A recent association program to provide tutors to public school students drew eight clergy.

“We all have our own fiefdoms, you know,” says Musengwa, 41, who arrived in Florida in 2005 by way of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Big Bend, Wis. “We’re all too busy focusing in our own enclaves.”

The challenges in front of Musengwa are cultural, theological and logistical.

David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, says although the message is often similar, differences in music or language can be jarring.

Sam Migliorisi, a 30-year congregant of Blessed Trinity Catholic, says Christ is Christ regardless of denomination, but some evangelical services aren’t as solemn as the Masses he’s used to.

“If I had to jump up and shout and yell, I’d feel out of place,” he says.

Migliorisi would certainly feel awkward at Bethesda Haitian Baptist, where on any given Sunday in the chapel of Lakewood United Methodist, congregants raise hands and pump fists, kneeling and affirming the preacher’s explosive French praises.

And members of Bethesda Haitian would feel misplaced at Migliorisi’s sanctuary, where quiet congregants watch the monsignor speak the prayers and raise a goblet of wine. At Lakewood United Church of Christ, where Pastor Kim Wells’ style says art teacher more than minister, the pianist plays tunes like “It’s a Wonderful World.”

Despite efforts at integration, Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour of American life. Even in Pinellas Point, only a handful of churches are racially diverse. Most are not.

“We need roots to our identity,” Roozen says, “and that’s grounded often in religion.”

Then there is the theology.

Wesley Paul, son of a pastor at the Haitian Baptist church, says though all Christians serve one God, he once attended Catholic Mass and couldn’t get over the feeling that praying to Mary and the saints was wrong.

“I didn’t stay in there for long,” Paul says.

Reflecting on our own beliefs can be problematic, Roozen says. So, many modern ecumenical groups push social missions instead.

“There’s not a lot of energy to iron out or make sense of theological differences or worship differences that divide us,” he says.

Interdenominational unity is only getting harder, not easier, Roozen says. Globalization increases exposure, but actually further entrenches people in their own beliefs. When faced with ambiguity, he says, people seek out the familiar.

With all his lessons from South Africa, Musengwa realizes he often undermines his own mission.

Like many pastors, he runs out of time at the end of the week, between services, meetings, family, and a litany of other responsibilities to his own congregation.

His concrete plans for the association are still embryonic. And when asked for an example of church unity yielding positive results in the time since he has come to the United States, Musengwa struggles.

He can’t think of any.

“Pathetic,” he says.

Read more

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An artful impact: article

Lynn Carol Henderson talks with her hands. When she speaks about her art, they weave and circle in front of her. When she tells stories, her fingers spread wide, raising the curtain on a world of myth and magic.

Her favorite tale is that of Inanna, a goddess reborn after journeying into the Sumerian underworld. There, Inanna meets her dark sister and is condemned to die. But friends rescue her, and her identity is restored.

When Henderson tells the story, her cadence pulses. She is in her home art studio, Enigma, a cluttered dome hidden in a scrabble of palmettos and pines on Fourth Street South in Pinellas Point, Fla. She lives for these little moments.

For Henderson, Inanna’s story resonates. It is a story about change, about facing the darkness and knowing our journeys will not be made alone.

At 57, Henderson is an artist with a passion for myth, ritual and magic, and she grounds it in daily action. She teaches the subjects at Eckerd College. She leads nature rituals and collaborates in an art therapy program for survivors of sexual abuse. She tells stories professionally to women’s groups and at arts festivals.
 
These are the ways you change hearts and minds, says Henderson. “Through art, story, consciousness and being connected.”

~

Little Lynn Carol liked to listen. It required no physical exertion, important to a 6-year-old stricken with scarlet fever, measles and mumps.

From her sickbed, she first heard of Pandora and Pygmalion, Beowulf and Robin Hood.

“My grandmother, bless her heart, Teresa, she read me ‘Bullfinch’s Mythology’ from start to end,” Henderson said. “I was fascinated by all the different stories, and I was a storyteller from that moment.”

Henderson’s Jewish upbringing in Baltimore encouraged creativity and curiosity. Her father, a lawyer, took sculpture classes and read Kierkegaard. Often, he came home with open arms and a small treasure, a beautiful stone or an iridescent paper clip, a piece of candy some days.

“He brought me little pieces of magic and wonder every day, and we would talk about them,” she said. “It was that he thought of me, and he listened.”

But there was also a time to speak. By 1968, Henderson was marching in protest of the Vietnam War and drawing political cartoons. After her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, Henderson traveled by herself to Mississippi. By day, she talked about the civil rights movement with anyone she could find. By night, she stayed in a house of chicken pluckers.  

“I wanted to see for myself,” she said.

Henderson graduated with a degree in art and studied in Italy for a year before returning to graduate school in St. Louis. It was then that her convictions about pacifism and feminism started to crystallize, and she channeled those themes into her artwork. Leading feminists like Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, women who worked to change the culture, inspired her.

The belief was that a few dedicated people of integrity could change the world, she said, quoting Margaret Mead. “In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

~

It’s so difficult, Shirley Reiner says, to articulate how it felt, dancing and singing around the fire pit in Henderson’s back yard, celebrating the solstice. It was liberating. It was relaxing. But there was something more.

“You feel like you’re able to go with her on this path she’s always leading you into,” said Reiner, a longtime friend. Leslie Bouwman, another participant in the nature rites, said being in that group of women she found “parts of her creative self that you didn’t know existed.”

“Some people think they’re anti-Christian or of the devil or witchcraft or magic,” said Sharon Wadsworth, who started full-moon rituals with Henderson 20 years ago in Pass-a-Grille.

“Those things get mixed up, when it’s really about spirituality.”

Today, Henderson tells stories at events throughout St. Petersburg, in the tradition of the shaman. She’s a regular at the Circus McGurkis festival and last week performed for Girls Inc., a national nonprofit.

An adjunct professor of magic, myth and ritual in art at Eckerd, she has lived in south St. Petersburg with her husband, George, a marine biologist for the state, since 1975. Their son, Carl, is in medical school for osteopathy in New Jersey.

Outside Henderson’s home, wind chimes sway next to an herb garden of rosemary and mugwort. Two lean cats patrol around a pond and past a low brick wall anchored down by vines.

In both her house and studio next to it, shelves and walls are filled with artifacts, dolls and curios from travels across India and Nicaragua.

Along the way, Henderson found herself moving away from the Judaism of her family and defining her own spiritual frame. Her brand of sacred activism combines a Quaker faith with the pagan Divine Feminine. It’s all about reclaiming voice, she said. Telling goddess myths connects both the speaker and the listeners to an ancient history of sharing narratives and forging community.

“It’s a sisterhood thing,” said Brandi Hawthorne, a neighbor who visits Henderson often. “It’s a closeness.”

~

Henderson doesn’t need to be in a classroom to teach. She carries lessons everywhere.
When neighbors and friends drop by for coffee, it’s a learning experience. Carolyn Mayberry shakes her head, recalling a visit to Henderson’s home across the street.
   
“I don’t know anything about politics or glasswork,” Mayberry said. “But I left there feeling like I knew who was in office and how to make a stained-glass window.”
   
“I sure wouldn’t want to be without her,” said Hawthorne, Mayberry’s mother-in -aw.
   
Longtime Eckerd colleague Betsy Lester calls Henderson “the original hippie,” always of her own vision.

For the college students she guides and whose work she critiques at Eckerd, Henderson goes out of her way to make a difference, Lester said, once even trekking to Sarasota every week for a student who couldn’t bring her project to campus.

Sometimes, though, it takes time for Henderson’s style to seep in. Talking with her can be like stepping into her studio, where there is so much to see, you don’t know where to start looking.

“She puts the subconscious into words,” said Jack Viskil, who graduated from Eckerd last month and had Henderson advise his senior art thesis. “And at the beginning, I was like, ‘What planet is she living on?’ “

After meeting with Henderson one-on-one and re-reading how she dissected his papers, Viskil said he found clarity and appreciation.

“She forced me to step outside the box,” he said. “She really challenged me.”

~

Karlana Morgan stepped onto Henderson’s driveway and looked down at the white labyrinth painted on the pavement. Walk the path, Henderson told her.  
   
Together, the two women meandered their way to the labyrinth’s center, where the artist guided Morgan to focus and find calm, to call on a helping spirit. “What are we ready to let go of?” Henderson asked. What unhappiness, what guilt, was no longer part of who they each were?
   
When Morgan, a rape victim who was also abused as a child, was ready to let go, she was ready to paint. Family Service Centers, a local nonprofit that helps victims of assault and abuse, had teamed her with Henderson for a program called artHEALS 2006, an alternative therapy outlet and fundraiser.

Morgan said the first time she worked with Henderson, she was still in a shell, depressed and experiencing post-traumatic stress. Collaborating with Henderson helped her emerge from the haze. Most important to Morgan, Henderson inspired trust, and the two women worked together a second time this spring for artHEALS 2007.
   
“The most empowering thing she has given me is the strength and power of womanhood,” Morgan said.
   
They met weekly and traded phone calls, seeking spiritual focus in the middle of the labyrinth, considering images and colors that resonated with Morgan’s healing.
   
“I had the last say, and that did so much for my confidence,” Morgan said.
   
Morgan said she looks at the artwork she composed with Henderson, a triptych and a painting, and she can see a transformation. Today, Morgan works for Family Service Centers, orchestrating events and fundraisers for the organization that connected her with Henderson.
   
“These women manage to survive with such grace and dignity and abilities,” Henderson said, “that you’re just uplifted by the possibilities of the human spirit from what they were handed and what they made out of it.” Read more

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