Author Archives: Michelle Hiskey

About Michelle Hiskey

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer and writing coach based in Decatur, and her day job is senior editor on Emory University's development communications team. Michelle worked at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 22 years as a sports reporter, columnist and Sunday feature writer, and her stories of recovery and redemption bridge unexpected places and people across Atlanta. She lives in Decatur with her husband Ben Smith, also a journalist, and their two awesome daughters. She can be reached at

For Jerusalem children at Kids4Peace Atlanta, friendship trumps hostility

This month in Atlanta, a dozen Palestinian and Israeli middle school students challenged the roots of their animosity in the cradle of civil rights. They learned about making friends with those they’ve been taught to despise.

They came via Kids4Peace, an “education-for-peace initiative” that every summer brings a dozen Palestinian and Israeli children to Atlanta (other chapters operate in Massachusetts, Vermont, North Carolina and Texas). The main purpose of the program is to contribute to the cultivation of a new generation of adults who will be more willing to pursue nonviolent resolutions in a region where violence has been the first resort for thousands of years.
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Dripping mad from Atlanta weather’s ‘squeeze play’

This time of year is supposed to be sunny and dry enough for parades, picnics and fireworks. In June we had 9.5 inches of rain, the highest rainfall since 1996. The past 30 years, the average rainfall for June has been 3.95 inches. In a smallish ranch house with two teenaged daughters, a whiny dog and freelance deadlines, a couple of rainy days are doable. But after a month of rain, it’s the whining I can’t stand—especially the dog’s, and sometimes my own.

National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Gibbs said North Georgia has been sandwiched between high-pressure patterns in Arizona and Bermuda, resulting in an ongoing dousing of moisture from the Caribbean and the Yucatan. June was made wetter by delayed springtime storm systems that moved through the central U.S. and the Southeast. The outlook for the rest of the summer doesn’t look better, as hurricane season approaches.
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After assassination, Brown family seeks peace and truth amid more loss

Brandy Brown Rhodes and her siblings lost their police captain father to a dramatic execution-style hit in the driveway of his home in a southeastern suburb of Atlanta. They lost their mom more privately, when she died of a stroke. There have been other losses, too.

Last week, as a new police precinct next to South DeKalb Mall was dedicated to their dad—sheriff-elect Derwin Brown—Rhodes and her siblings talked about weathering a series of emotional hits, after the violent one that claimed their dad. Unlike most adult children who have lost a parent, the Brown children have spent a dozen years sorting out their dad’s legacy amid lingering questions about how he died, while processing the deaths of other family members.

“I think the hard part about it is coming to peace that both of my parents are gone and I have to look at this world differently now,” Rhodes, 34, said. Continue reading

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In Decatur, a peek into the mind of Temple Grandin

Autistic author and professor of animal science Temple Grandin, the hero of the eponymous Emmy award-winning HBO movie, wowed a recent crowd of more than 800 who packed into the pews, the balcony, the choir seats behind the pulpit and even snuck in guarded doors at First Baptist Church of Decatur.

They flocked to this famous face of high-functioning autism, drawn to her gift of describing and communicating her inner life and her willingness to advocate for those with learning disabilities. Appearing in customary western wear—a turquoise cowgirl shirt with floral yoke and cuffs and neck scarf tied bandanna style—Grandin spoke for more than 75 minutes, and resourcefulness was a big part of her message. Continue reading

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A bartender’s faith and the death of Robert Berry

How do you love a friend who won’t stop self-destructing? How do you offer hope? And how does witnessing that change you?

Ask Kimberly “Berly” Logan.

Her friendship with Robert Berry began a decade ago at Houston’s Peachtree, a restaurant bar where she served him bottles of Amstel Light and he always questioned God’s existence and asked, “Why?”

It ended last month in a hospice where she held the 55-year-old Berry’s jaundiced hand as he waited to die from liver failure and complications from diabetes. Berry, an eccentric, flamboyant writer who once wrote features for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, passed away May 24 at age 55. Continue reading

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Clothes swap helps Atlanta moms reinvent and bond on a budget

With her two-month-old baby strapped on, Brit St. Clair of Decatur was not in prime position for clothes shopping. Her body wasn’t back to where she wanted, and she didn’t want to spend a lot of money on an in-between wardrobe. On a rainy Sunday afternoon in late spring, she and 40 women enjoyed the girlfriend vibe as they reinvented their look for less by trying on each other's discarded clothes.

Given Take Boutique – a pop-up clothes swapping business – is the brainchild of energetic entrepreneur mom Adrienne Lewis Tankersley of East Atlanta. After she left her career to stay at home with her children, budgeting on a single income made her extra mindful of stretching a dollar.

“This is my first swap, and I’ve found pretty good stuff,” St. Clair said. “It’s an awkward transition between maternity and the size I was before. And I like the idea of recycling, that what everybody gives to the swap gets reused.”
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Krog Tunnel’s avant garde shows celebrate history, music and art

In Atlanta last Wednesday, an eclectic homage to the “Rite of Spring” ballet unfolded in the century-old Krog Street tunnel, best known as an elaborately graffiti’d passageway between Inman Park and Cabbagetown. Dance, jazz and movies projected onto the bright painted artwork celebrated Igor Stravinsky and his transformation of modern dance.

Billed as “Le Sacre du Krog,” the cacophonous performance was the latest incarnation of a monthly series of performances on the edge of DeKalb Avenue leading to Cabbagetown. Beginning next week, creators Brian Bannon and Bill Taft are scheduled to debut “Krog!,” a “best of” their Krog Street performances at Theatrical Outfit in the Atlanta Fringe Festival.

“It gives us a chance to present stories, photos and music from a year-and-a-half of Krog shows at a more comfortable theatre setting,” said Bannon. “With bathrooms and everything.”
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Mormons, African-Americans reconcile to seek family roots

Sarah Jackson of Duluth was among hundreds of African-Americans who attended Atlanta’s Family History Conference, which emphasized African-American research, held May 18 at the Atlanta History Center. The event represented an ongoing reconciliation between African-Americans and the Church of Latter Day Saints through a common ground valued by both: family research.

Throughout much of the church’s history, Mormons considered African-Americans inferior to whites. In the mid-19th century Mormon leader Brigham Young said black people were marked by the “Curse of Cain.” It wasn’t until 1978—the year after Jackson’s visit—that the church reversed bans on African-Americans taking part in temple ceremonies and black men entering the Mormon priesthood. Continue reading

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Cicadas to pervade eastern U.S., but not Atlanta

All that buzz about locusts descending soon is just that.

The Brood II cicada infestation is starting to emerge as billions of the creatures make their every-17-year appearance. What USA Today and others call “Swarmageddon” is reminiscent of the Biblical plague of locusts.

They aren’t coming here, the experts say, because Atlanta has cut down too many trees and laid down too many parking lots. Our city’s growth has further separated us from what some entomologists call an “amazing natural phenomenon.”

“We’re having a lot of cicada envy right now. A lot of people want to see them again, but here in Georgia, I’m afraid it’s not to going to happen,” said Nancy Hinkle, a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia. “At least not in the vast majority of the state.” Continue reading

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A brain injury, a bike and the Ryan Boyle comeback story

After Ryan Boyle, 9, got hit by a speeding pickup truck driver hit while riding a Big Wheel,  his brain was so severely injured that he wasn’t supposed to stand or talk or walk, much less ride a bike — his favorite thing. He had to re-learn how to breathe, swallow and eat.

On a recent evening, Boyle showed up at the Emory University Barnes & Noble bookstore recently to sign copies of his autobiography, “When the Lights Go Out: A Boy Given a Second Chance” (Westbow Press). Today he is a graduate of Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, a freshman at Berry College, a motivational speaker, cyclist and aspiring Paralympian.

His long struggle to climb back on a bicycle led him to the Shepherd Center and ultimately saved him. Continue reading

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