Darrin Henson visits DHS

Feeding the Soul
Posted on 04/28/2022
Darrin Henson speaks with DHS students

“Whatever you are looking for is also looking for you,” actor Darrin Dewitt Henson told juniors and seniors assembled in the DeSoto High School auditorium on Monday, April 25, 2022.

Henson shared several scenarios of desiring things in life, such as career aspirations, change or help; reinforcing that those same goals or values are in-turn seeking those who seek them.

Known by older generations for his portrayal of Lem Van Adams in the early 2000s Showtime hit series Soul Food, the younger crowd wasn’t quite familiar when asked how many of them recognized his face. Henson quickly connected with them by reminding them of his role as Grant in the movie Stomp the Yard.

A group of young men in the crowd shouted the movie’s fictional fraternity, Mu Gamma Xi, wolf pack chant in unison, to which Henson encouraged the audience to give applause to what he confirmed as the creation of “synergy.”

“I came in here to be truthful,” Henson said, as he touched on several themes that teens face, ranging from fear of not graduating high school to trust issues with others.

After querying the audience and seeing many hands raised for those wanting to graduate high school, Henson asked, “How many people are willing to give up before they graduate?”

One student admittedly connected with this thought, and was called forward by Henson.

The one-on-one, yet inclusive, conversation Henson had with this student who shared she “might not graduate” provided others with opportunities to self-reflect on individual fears.

“So our fear is stopping us from moving forward so we don’t see failure before it happens,” Henson told the student and the audience.

His time with the student ended with him affirmatively saying, “It’s gonna happen.”

Both group and individual breakthrough moments existed throughout Henson’s chat.

The Music Television (MTV) Video Music Award-winning choreographer brought another student up front whose moves he noticed among the crowd.

“He’s been on his phone, looks up and puts his head back down when something is said that resonates with him,” Henson said, referencing the student whom he also said, “has seen some stuff” that he “could sense in his eyes.”

Henson asked, “Do you trust me?”

The student answered, “Yes.”

Henson exclaimed, “He says that he trusts me and doesn’t even know me!”

A full-group reflection moment from Henson came next.

“Do y’all have a lot of people you can trust in your lives right now?”

Many in the crowd emphatically answered, “No!”

“These young men and women today, they’re really smart and they know who they can and can't trust,” Henson shared during a post-event interview. “To hear them say that they trust me shows the connectivity, the adhesive feeling, the synergy, the honesty between us is very, very real; and that’s what’s important to me because there’s so much I think that we’re dealing with that’s fake in life now that they’re able to communicate once they feel safe.”

As Henson concluded his talk, he asked if there was anyone who got nothing out of all that he had said. One student responded favorably, and yet again, was called forward.

Henson started by sharing with the audience that this particular student “likes being seen,” later adding, “He likes to be heard, to contribute, connectivity, certainty, variety, loves connection with his people, loves to grow.”

The student stood in agreement with Henson, not denying his quick assessment.

“All of us have the same six human needs,” Henson said, stating this student’s “need to be loved is his strongest.”

Henson shared that while in close proximity and clarifying understanding, the student told him, “I innerstand.”

“He got the most out of anyone in here,” Henson said. “When you innerstand, it’s inside of you and no one can take it away from you.”

From the start of the assembly and throughout, Henson reiterated that he was not present to “impress” but to “impress upon.” He also reminded students of their role in educating others.

“Each one, teach one, we can reach one,” Henson often repeated. “But in order to be a teacher, you have to be a student.”

The longtime actor, choreographer, dancer, director and producer is often seen throughout the Dallas area. He shared that his visit specifically in DeSoto is the result of initial talks with City of DeSoto Mayor Rachel Proctor, with the objective of working with young adults in the area and communications within the community. The DeSoto High School visit was the premiere event.

“Hopefully it will be a longstanding relationship where I can offer people an opportunity to be more of themselves through their own desires of growth and how they see themselves in the world,” Henson said.

There were moments of laughter and, at times, quietness as students reflected on the seriousness of various topics Henson discussed. He extended prayer that a seed was planted to form strong roots, and encouraged students to see themselves as nurturers.

“I pray that your tree is strong, that its fruit that you produce, other people can eat off of in your life; you, yourself, your family, people who feed you.”

Henson was in Dallas working on a project with famed actress and former Soul Food castmate Irma P. Hall. His visit was coordinated by dear friend and DeSoto High School staff member Bettye Williams.

The vision of DeSoto ISD is to inspire curiosity and consciousness, develop character, build courage and nurture compassion. Students enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes participated in the discussion that promoted understanding of their place in the world and potential to grow into productive citizens in their community and beyond.