Taraji P. Henson is venturing into the mental health space.
In honor of her father, the Empire actress launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation to help erase the shame about mental health in African-American communities.
Through the foundation, scholarships will be provided to African-American students who major in mental health. It will also offer mental health services to kids in urban school “and combat recidivism within the prison system, according to its website.
“I named the organization after my father because of his complete and unconditional love for me; his unabashed, unashamed ability to tell the truth, even if it hurt; and his strength to push through his own battles with mental health issues,” Henson told PEOPLE.
Henson’s father, Boris Lawrence Henson, suffered from mental health issues following his time in the Vietnam War, according to the Foundation.
“My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support,” she said in her 2016 memoir Around the Way Girl. “I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are black.”
Henson’s father died in 2006 from liver cancer.
The organization will work together with school districts to provide therapists, social workers and counselors to Black children.
“BLHF is breaking the silence by speaking out and encouraging others to share their challenges with mental illness and get the help they need,” Tracie Jenkins, executive director for the foundation, told PEOPLE. “African-Americans have regarded such communication as a sign of weakness and our vision is to change that perception.”
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Teddy is a multimedia journalist who serves as the culture and political writer for EBONY. His work has appeared in NBC's Owned and Operated stations, as well as DNAInfo, which covered local neighborhood news in New York City. He received his Masters in Journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY in 2017.