Thursday, September 13, 2012

Second Wave: Hear Here Puts Compassion in Print

Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media

Hear Here puts compassion in print in Kalamazoo

How do you get people who don't agree to start listening and talking to one another? The answer for Anne Hensley and Melanie Crow was to start a local magazine to foster compassion that they call Hear Here. Zinta Aistars talks with them about the publication launched this summer.
Melanie Crow, Anne Hensley, Peter Brakeman of Hear Here (Photo by Erik Holladay)
Anne Hensley and Melanie Crow sit across the table from each other, two editors for a new Kalamazoo magazine, Hear Here. They are fishing for a common memory, but not finding it. "Funny thing," says Hensley, "but neither one of us remembers ever meeting. We just … converged."

Crow shrugs. "We both have husbands involved in music and teaching, must have been through them."

No matter. They met. Sometime, somewhere. The mesh of friendship was a natural and soon inclined toward the literary.

Both were originally drawn to Kalamazoo by academic pursuits. Crow earned her PhD in English from Western Michigan University and now teaches writing and literature at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and WMU.

"And I came to school here and hated it." Hensley bursts out laughing. "But I loved Kalamazoo."

Another fateful meeting took place, bringing a third party into the mix. (Hang on, we are getting to the new magazine here as the three converge.) Hensley, not loving the academic life, worked instead in food service, managing the servers in several restaurants. A regular at one of those restaurants was Peter Brakeman, owner of a design firm called Brakeman.

"Peter and I became fast friends," Hensley says, "and when he invited me to come work for him at Brakeman, I went. I started as a customer liaison, and I had never even used a computer before. I was fearful of them!" Hensley grins. "But I got over that fear like gangbusters."

Eleven years later, Hensley still works for Brakeman, much of her work on computers. But it took a bout of hard anger and a stranger and a funeral for the convergence of these three to turn into an innovative new magazine.

"Yes, I was at a funeral, at the wake after the funeral, and a stranger started talking to me about health care," Hensley recalls. "He said something like, 'tell me what you think about our president.' Only he didn't want to listen to my answer. We weren't listening to each other. We were just lobbing insults across the fence. I drove home that day very angry and frustrated. On that two-hour drive, I kept thinking that there must be a better way to communicate. When we are both yelling at each other, nothing is accomplished."

Out of that moment of frustration, Hensley started to think ...


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