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Actor Darrin Henson Pays it Forward with Fundraising Events

by Todd A. Smith

Seeing is Believing

          Anyone who has ever spent time around actor and choreographer Darrin Dewitt Henson (“Soul Food” television series) can easily see the parallels between him and legendary actor Paul Robeson.

          God blessed both giants with enormous entertainment talent, but entertaining the masses never proved enough for these legendary men.  They used the platform that entertainment gave them to educate the masses on the important issues that negatively affected their community.

          On July 27, Henson will join R&B songbird ZanYe to host a benefit that will raise funds for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American history in Detroit.  The Wright is the world’s largest museum dedicated to African American history.

          Henson has also joined forces with Dr. Maurice A. Lee, a pharmacist and philanthropist from Orangeburg, S.C., and other actors like Brian White to pay their blessings forward by hosting the ninth annual M.A. Lee Scholarship Fund Gala on Aug. 2.

          Although one event represents our past and the other event represents our future, those that benefit from these events can use the other’s reality to inspire them to reach higher heights than they every imagined.

          Young high school students applying for the scholarship who think they are facing too many obstacles in life to pursue higher education can look back at our forefathers who are honored at the museum in Detroit, and see a people who faced far greater challenges but still achieved greatness despite the roadblocks.

          According to the talented actor, we must know where we came from so that we can use that as motivation to write a better future to our story.

          “Don’t forget what happened,” said Henson about our turbulent history.  “Let’s not forget what happened.  But we don’t need to celebrate what happened by perpetuating it…Never forget where you came from.  Never forget what happened.  In order to find out what truly happened you must seek information.  So, I don’t think our work is done.  And our history, our present history, is still being written.”

          Lee has been adding to that history every year for the past nine years by awarding the annual M.A. Lee Scholarship.

          For him, greatness was always on his mind but role models were rarely in his sight since he grew up in a small town in South Carolina.

          His role model in the medical profession was the fictional character Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) from “The Cosby Show.”

          That example led him to becoming a successful pharmacist, philanthropist and a role model for the younger generation.

          Although Lee had his share of naysayers who said “The Cosby Show” was unrealistic and he could not succeed in the medical profession, he saw his destiny even if he did not see physical examples, and that fueled him to reach that destiny.

          “As children we begin to mimic or emulate what we see,” said Lee.  “And so it’s important that we show them positive images so they can identify with that particular person and maybe spark an interest or ignite something within them to say if that person can…do it, then I could do it as well.  And so it’s important that we as adults, especially men, go back because the streets are definitely winning our men over.  And so it’s very important that we show them other ways of becoming successful.

          The Wright Museum is that constant reminder of how rich and successful our history is and hopefully the catalyst that our children need to reach for the stars.

          If our children are aware that a man that was born a slave (John Adams Hyman) could become the first African American to represent North Carolina in the United States Congress in 1875, then they can realize they can become the first African American commissioner of the NBA, NFL, NHL or Major League Baseball.

          If they know that Jane Matilda Bolin became the first African American woman to serve as a judge in 1939 when she was appointed Judge of the Domestic Relations Court in New York City then they can become the first African American woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court.

          If our children learn the motivational history of our people, they can easily combine that motivation with the financial support of people like Lee and Henson to catapult their life and intellect to new levels.

          “If we don’t see ourselves as doctors, lawyers.  If we don’t see ourselves as politicians, if we don’t see ourselves as people who are creating social, economic change in this country then we (won’t) strive for it.  One of the first things that we need to do is see ourselves as we see other people.  We have the ability to do everything that other people are doing,” explained Henson.

          And we as a community have the ability to help in some form or fashion.

          Tickets can be purchased for The Wright fundraiser in Detroit online at www.zanyemusic.com or at the museum’s box office.  General admission is $25 and VIP tickets are only $50 with $35 of every VIP ticket benefitting The Wright.

          Tickets for the scholarship gala can be purchased at www.maleescholarship.org.  The gala will be held at 1481 Chestnut Street in Orangeburg, S.C. at 6 PM, with the red carpet segment beginning at 5 PM.

This article was published on Friday 15 August, 2014.
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