You may know Taraji P. Henson from her award-winning performances in Empire, Hidden Figures, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. What may be news is that Henson is deeply concerned about the perception of mental illness in black communities, as well as the lack of culturally competent, high-quality care available to this population. In 2018, she started a foundation to address these issues named after her late father: the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF).
“Silence for Black people must end. We want to provide a safe environment for African-Americans to discuss their concerns in a space where they will not be persecuted or misunderstood,” the foundation states.
BLHF aims to “support organizations who educate, celebrate and make visible the positive impact of mental health wellness.” Its specific emphasis on black mental health is somewhat unique in the philanthrosphere, and it could therefore lay down a new grantmaking path for other funders to follow.
“My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support. I stand in his absence, committed to offering support to African-Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they’re Black,” Henson said. The foundation plans to approach this goal with a three-pronged approach: by supporting mental health services for urban youth, backing re-entry programs for people leaving prison, and boosting cultural competency and black representation in the mental healthcare field.
The foundation points out black children, who are more likely to experience trauma, have increasing rates of suicide, ADHD and behavioral disorders. It aims to increase urban youth access to mental healthcare in schools that demonstrate the highest need, “based on research and data collected from working groups consisting of principals, counselors, teachers, social workers, parents and therapists.” In this work, they will be joining a league of physical and mental health funders who are also trying to reach traumatized children before they grow up into adults with myriad difficulties.
Read more on InsidePhilanthropy.com.