‘Dreams Deferred’ – Hank
‘Blinded by Rainbows’
Henry, who also goes by “Hank” or “Popsicle” a name affectionately given to him in his childhood, has traveled all over this country and sometimes out ushered by his sweet tenor voice and his charisma. He started singing for his family as a young fellow. “My sisters didn’t like my singing and they showed it too but my mother would always say I had a nice voice.” Hank was later drafted into the US Army in the ‘50s serving in the Korean War where he continued his singing for his fellow soldiers and his reputation followed him across 2 military camps. It was then that he knew he had something. After the Army, he joined several quartets including The Sunbeams and Colonairs before landing a role onto Charlie Fuqua’s The Inkspots— a popular African-American quartet in the ‘50s.
For years, he sung in quartets and as a solo artist but his elusive dream at the time was to sing on Broadway. “Broadway is like the cherry on top; the whip-cream on the top. You made it. That opens up everything for you.” He tried out for The Wiz, was called back several times but didn’t get the role. “I did the one thing that I tell all my friends not to do which was to not to get a chip on your shoulder. So, I gave up on it. I started something else because I had a family. Well, I’ve chased my rainbow long enough. I got busy doing what I ended up doing with my painting business.”
If asked today if he has any deferred dreams, he will quickly tell you no. In part, it’s due to his outlook on life now and maybe the wisdom of age. He thinks holding too tight to long past dreams at his age only has a negative impact. So he chooses to choose positivity. Even when asked what line of Hughes’ poem he can relate to, he immediately says “Syrupy Sweet. Syrupy Sweet. Oh I’d made up [my mind] before when I heard it. Oh Yeah. Why am I going to gravitate towards something that’s negative?” Though, he does have new dreams including staying healthy, living to be 105 and helping his family and his church where you can now find him singing on Sundays.
Hank interviewed on November 23, 2016
‘Loving the Dirty Parts’
Hank turned what could have easily been a derailment with giving up singing professionally into something positive with a new passion, his painting business Williamson and Sons. “I loved painting. People would say, ‘the dirty parts?’ The dirty part you can always clean up. It was the beauty part that I dwell on and my producing that beauty is what made me like painting. House painting, just common painting was very fruitful for me for as long as it lasted.” In this image, Hank pulls out and dusts off his old painting company uniform in one of the rare times that you’ll find him not spiffily dressed. Even far past retirement, he still mixes it up occasionally in the dirty parts when his services are needed to help out.
He calls himself a realist and candidly talks about his journey ahead. “In 7 years, I’ll be 91. Everything has to count now.” There have been mistakes made along the way and he’s chosen to spend this time reconnecting with his family, mending some of those mistakes and doing what he absolutely wants to do. “We can’t change how things have been or what they are. You only keep moving. You don’t dwell. Now, if you feel like dwelling, you’ll dwell by yourself. Good Luck.”
It’s hard not get engulfed in his nearly 84 years of stories or be impacted by his positive outlook on this amazing life that he’s had and have yet to have. He knows he’s seen a lot, withstood the pressure to overcome many obstacles and it’s been one hell of a ride for him. When asked if he has peace given it all, Hank answers how only he can. “When you fight yourself, you have problems. I don’t have any problems. Tomorrow, you’re going to see me in something else nice. Tomorrow, I’ll get in a jumpsuit with a turtleneck and I’ll put a little hat with it.”
Hank interviewed on November 23, 2016