Taraji P. Henson has launched The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at encouraging African-Americans to talk about mental health in the community.
The Foundation is named after Henson’s son who suffered from mental health issues after the murder of his father in 2003. He died two years later. The actress’ father also dealt with mental health issues following his time serving in the Vietnam War.
“My dad fought in The Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support,” said Henson in a press statement. “I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are black.”
In an interview with “Variety,” the actress discussed hesitation in the black community to seek help.
“…we don’t talk about [mental health] in our community; it’s taboo, it’s looked upon as a weakness or we’re demonized for expressing rage for traumas we’ve been through,” Henson told Variety. “I have a lot of white friends and that’s what got me going. They say, ‘You don’t talk to anybody? Girl, I’m going to see my shrink every Thursday at 3 o’clock.’ So I was like why don’t we do that in our community?”
For one of the organization’s first projects, Henson hosted a fundraising event selling her personal dresses, shoes and purses. The money will be used to put art in inner-city schools’ bathrooms. Henson said this project was chosen because school bathrooms can be the setting of bullying, fights and other negative moments and they wanted to “flip it.”