September 16, 2017, Prescott-
Yesterday, the Divine called back two very different souls, whose influence on me was indirect, (I never met either man), but extraordinary. Harry Dean Stanton was a party animal, a singer and character actor, par excellence. Henry Barnwell was a man of the cloth, and a family man, as well as a community bulwark, par excellence.
Harry Dean was someone people saw in movies, for nearly six decades, and while many couldn’t remember his name, the man was ever familiar. He had a Festival, as well as an award, named in his honour, by the City of Lexington, Kentucky, near the town where he was born and raised. Harry Dean was the first winner of the Harry Dean Stanton Award, in October of last year.
He influenced me, by confirming that it is alright to have friends of even the youngest generation, and that it was not disrespectful to be a friend, but not a worshipper, of one’s elders. He pointed out that, while having a relationship with someone many years one’s junior was okay, it was even money as to how the romance would end. He learned this from direct experience. I’ve found his assessment to be absolutely on point, as well. Harry Dean’s party-heartiness is not something I chose to continue, past the age of thirty. It didn’t hurt him much, but I was not born to be a booze hound. Nonetheless, the cool cat ruled, over much of the Hollywood scene.
Henry Barnwell was a Bishop, a nonstop social activist, and a man committed to breaking the cycle of broken families, especially in the Black community of Phoenix. He was a child of broken marriage and made sure that he and his devoted wife did not follow suit. Their four children are lasting beneficiaries of their parents’ insistence on Family Night and regular dinners together.
Phoenix, and all Arizona, are the lasting beneficiaries of Bishop Barnwell’s constancy, in the matters closest to obtaining and maintaining a codified and de facto equality of all people. He met with the most reactionary public figures, on the same level as with those who agreed with him on civil rights matters. He would call people whom he wanted to bring together for the public good, and sometimes as early as 5 a.m. Few, if any, hung up on him. None were viewed, by Henry, as strangers.
His influence on me was to affirm that reaching out to those with whom one disagreed was the most correct and most natural thing that could happen, in a truly civilized society. He would never write anyone off, in perpetuity, and that remains my goal. He would also never write off a desired outcome. The work continued, despite a struggle with dementia, until Henry breathed his last.
I continue to strive to be as relaxed and nurturing around others as Harry Dean Dean; as caring and dedicated to helping others, as Reverend Mr. Henry Barnwell. May they both be victory-bound!