Taraji and her BFF Tracie Jade Jenkins, who also acts as executive director, are launching the The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation on September 22. The organization seeks to eradicate the stigma around mental health issues in the African-American community and is in honor of Taraji’s late father.
Taraji P. Henson, actress and founder: “My dad was a Vietnam vet and I watched him struggle with PTSD, and I watched the black men in my community and in my family struggle with depression. Everytime you see someone get gunned down in the news, black on black crime — these are things that we don’t get to work out because therapy is taboo in our community. For me, when it hit close to home is when my son was having issues — his father was murdered when he was about 9 years old — and him becoming a young man with no dad around and having questions, and needing someone to talk it out with. So it became a challenge when it came time to look for a psychiatrist, somewhere he could feel safe, someone that looked like him, someone he could tell his secrets to. It became a problem. It was like looking for a unicorn. We don’t have black kids growing up who say, ‘I want to be a psychiatrist.’ People are walking around hurt and depressed and they don’t know why. So we are creating a dialogue, making it safe for people to talk about mental-health issues.”
Tracie Jade Jenkins, executive director: “I am living with anxiety and depression and it runs in my family. I watched my mother suffer with it, I have suffered with it and now my daughter. We didn’t go to the therapist. There was no one to ever reach out to, so we handled it internally. And I think if earlier on my mom knew there was somewhere she could go we may have been able to break the cycle. Part of our mission statement is: break the silence to break the cycle. It’s timely for us right now to start this particular dialogue and foundation. I know America in general is dealing with mental-health issues in a major way right now, but African- Americans have been dealing with it for hundreds of years under the weight of racism and prejudices and systemic oppression. We don’t have the resources, so we will create them.”