Tartan Spotlight: Furaha Henry-Jones

(Source: Furaha Henry-Jones)

A loving mother and wife, a poet and artist, a deeply cherished member of the Sinclair community. For 26 years, Henry-Jones has not only inspired countless people but dedicated herself to promoting diversity and connection through her passion for art and education.

“When I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” she reminisces. Reflecting upon yesteryear, Henry-Jones recounts the absence of African Americans in prime, academic fields: “I never had a black person as a teacher in any classroom, K through 12 and most of my college years.”  Thereon, Henry-Jones has made it her mission to become “a role model for all people.” She attended Penn State and for a portion of her career, she taught high school until 2005 when she began to teach at Sinclair.

“I see poetry as a way of connecting with other human beings, understanding the world and making change in the world.”

It was also during high school that Henry-Jones came to her immense love of poetry. In fact, it was this very passion that led her to become a professor.

“It was so silly,” she giggles as she details her experience with a peculiar class, in which there were only three students, including herself. The Voice Instruction teacher had taken ill.

However, for the remainder of the year, the school did not provide a substitute teacher.

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“And so for a year, me and the other two students would go to the classroom, which was [an empty] music room, and we just came up with our own things to do,” said Henry-Jones. There, the trio would listen to musicals or even teach each other certain dances. Remarkably, one of Henry-Jones’s peers was a young poet who was a part of a “Governor’s School,” or a summer-study program for talented youth, and had introduced Henry-Jones to her works. She then encouraged Henry-Jones, who then had never wrote a poem, to write and publish her own.

Henry-Jones became more serious about poetry when she attended Sinclair’s Writing Workshop, an event that has taken place for more than 40 years.

“Some of my teachers, who are currently my colleagues, taught the workshop,” she said, confessing that these wonderful individuals had encouraged her to share her many talents with a larger community, albeit through writing groups or the many memorable ways she has channeled her passion for poetry to-date—from being a member of Dayton’s first national Slam Poetry team 20 years ago to a quintessential member of a Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Poetry Contest, of which Henry-Jones describes as an opportunity that encourages youth to “write and create art”.

It is through these experiences, in which she engages with the community, that she is “learning to be a leader, learning longevity, and learning to be more compassionate.” 

Indeed, poetry and the Sinclair community greatly influenced her decision to become a professor.

“The event was called the Black Women’s Think Tank,” Henry-Jones illustrates, alluding to a Sinclair-held event in which she performed her poetry. There, a member of the English department had approached Henry-Jones, inquiring if she would be interested in becoming a professor. Thus, Henry-Jones achieved her masters in English and since, she continues to inspire. 

Henry-Jones cites her children, of whom she notes radiate with compassion and brilliance, and the poet Lucielle Clifton as sources of inspiration.

Taylor Pendleton

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