Maweja Henderson: Follow your inspiration

February 27, 2017


Jon McCoy
Zenith News

Maweja (“Mo-WAY-jaw”) Henderson is a lifelong adventurer and community builder who has lived and worked everywhere from Europe to Central America and the Middle East.  

“I have four siblings and we’re all two years apart. We had a very tight family, a typical blue-collar family. We were raised in a suburb of Chicago. My father worked at an electrical company. It was a type of upbringing that I don’t see much today. There was a lot of interaction. The neighborhood kids would play together all the time. We’d be playing outside and staying out late, but everything was safe because we were in a contained neighborhood where everyone knew everybody else...It’s been a challenge raising kids in a new culture of sorts. People tend to play on their computers more. They don’t go outside that much. There’s more fear.”


Photo by Jon McCoy

Maweja Henderson landed in Duluth by way of the rest of the world.

Henderson, his wife, and their two children have tried their hands at a wide range of experiences, including a wildlife sanctuary, a national park, and an organic farm in Pennsylvania. “After a while we realized [organic farming] was more of a lifestyle you had to be born into to thrive. It’s very challenging, very labor intensive, and you need a vast base of knowledge. Nonetheless, it was a good experience for us and the kids. After that, we were back in the city, in Hyde Park, as part of a Quaker community. We stayed there for two years doing some community building and peace and justice work.”

By way of Chicago, the family came to Loaves and Fishes in Duluth. “Some years ago, my wife read the famous book by Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness. She was very inspired by that book and by the ideas of Dorothy Day. At any rate, we looked at Catholic Worker communities all over the country and Duluth really stood out. It’s close enough to Chicago, so we can be relatively close to family.”

His degrees in criminal justice and history, as well as time spent teaching in Honduras and Turkey, have given Henderson some perspective on politics and what it means to live the good life. “I would argue the most political act is one of direct action—community building, helping the poor and the homeless, union organizing. The more I travel around in life, meeting with people on an individual basis and on a local level, I’ve realized you can’t categorize and compartmentalize people and judge them by labeling them. You can find common ground with people, even taking into consideration different values and ideologies, just by being aware of our shared, basic humanity.”

“At one point, some years ago in Turkey, we had a pretty conventional lifestyle. We both worked 9-to-5 jobs. We were acquiring some possessions and living quite comfortably. But gradually we realized we were measuring our lives in a very material, uninspiring way. We didn’t want to become stuck in a boring rut.

“So that was the beginning of the real adventure in our lives. It’s not very glamorous and there has been a lot of moving around, which hasn’t always been easy for the kids. You want a stable, happy life for your children, too. But at the same time, you want to try to inspire their imaginations and their worldviews.”


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