Taraji P. Henson Plans to Bring Mental Health Resources to HBCUs

Taraji P. Henson is a proud Howard University alum. She’s spoken at her alma mater on numerous occasions and the school recently announced the renowned actress will deliver the 2022 commencement speech for graduates in May.

via: The Grio

Next month, the Biden White House’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will be sworn in. The 20-person board currently includes HBCU presidents and alumni, executives, an HBCU student, NBA All-Star Chris Paul — and award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson.

TheGrio caught up exclusively with Henson while the soon-to-be sworn-in board member was in Atlanta, Georgia, filming the adaptation of The Color Purple. The 51-year-old Washington, D.C. native and graduate of Howard University is playing the role of Shug Avery.

Henson said it is an “honor“ to have been asked to sit on the prestigious board and that she takes her latest role seriously as she understands more than most the value and needs of HBCUs. Henson, who became pregnant with her son during her junior year at Howard, graduated from the university in 1995 with a degree in theatre arts.

“I think because they see that I am a product of an HBCU and my activism in the community, I guess that combination seemed like someone who would want to be on the board, and I am HBCU from the heart,” said the actress who has starred in films like Baby Boy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Hustle and Flow and the popular series Empire.

Henson’s activism will be prominent in her work on the White House Board of Advisors on HBCUs, she told theGrio. “I want to bring the student voices to the table…I’m there as their liaison,” she said.

Henson referenced last year’s campus protests at her alma mater, where students boycotted class and demanded better living conditions in dormitories, among other campus grievances. “The upkeep was horrible,” Henson said.

Eventually, the protests ended, and the university reached an agreement with student activists and their legal representation.

The student protesters also called for a vote of no confidence for Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, who announced last week that he will retire and leave office in 2024.

In a statement provided to theGrio, President Frederick expressed support for Henson’s appointment. “As an alumna of Howard University, her intimate knowledge of the HBCU experience will allow her to bring a unique and relevant perspective to the advisory board at an important time in our nation’s history,” he said.

Henson said it’s important for her to use her celebrity and role on the board to do more for HBCUs than simply “retweet” posts on Instagram. “I’m in a position now where I can tap on the shoulders,” she said. She noted that the Biden-Harris administration has already provided $5.8 billion to HBCUs since January 2021 in grant funding and federal investments from the American Rescue Plan and more.

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