Taraji P. Henson arrives at the fourth annual Celebration of Black Cinema & Television at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

By AFRO Staff

Actress Taraji P. Henson is continuing her goal to boost mental health among Black women.

Building upon their inaugural success at Alabama State University, Henson’s nonprofit, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is expanding its partnership with kate spade new york to establish their “She Care Wellness Pods” at Hampton University this fall. The aim of the joint partnership is to provide 25,000 Black women on HBCU college campuses with frontline mental healthcare.

“When we first had the idea to create the Boris L. Henson Foundation Self-Care Wellness Pods, I knew we had to start with women, and specifically women on HBCU campuses,” said Henson.

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, founded by actress Taraji P. Henson, and kate spade new york is bringing their first-of-its-kind “She Care Wellness Pods” to Hampton State University this fall. (Photo courtesy of Business Wire)

The Oscar-nominated actress attended Howard University, a premier HBCU located in Washington, D.C., and bore a child while matriculating there. She graduated in 1995 – her baby boy in her arms – with a degree in theater arts.

“I can remember through my own experiences with stress and anxiety, not having the adequate support to deal with my issues or the education to name what I was experiencing,” she recalled of her experience.

“Black women, from a very young age, are taught to be strong and dismiss their own suffering, tending to the needs of family and community often at the expense of their own well-being. The She Care Wellness pods seek to change this narrative.”

Henson founded her foundation in 2018 with an eye toward eradicating the stigma around mental health in the Black community and increasing access to culturally competent therapy and other mental health services, particularly to Black women.

“Black women, from a very young age, are taught to be strong and dismiss their own suffering, tending to the needs of family and community often at the expense of their own well-being. The She Care Wellness pods seek to change this narrative,” said BLHF Executive Director Tracie Jade in a statement.

Through their unique program, BLHF and kate spade new york will work with vetted professionals within the Hampton University community in Virginia to bring access to mental health facilities and resources directly to Black women on campus, beginning Nov. 2. That includes installing “She Care Wellness Pods” – physical structures that offer a range of services, including:

  • Free mental health therapy sessions for female students experiencing an exacerbation of stress, anxiety and hopelessness.
  • Hangout spaces that allow students to connect with peers or avoid isolation and grief during the school year and vacation periods.
  • Unique programming, including yoga, meditation, art and drama therapy, African dance, nutrition and more, all provided by certified practitioners.
  • Workshops that offer resources and tools for those who suffer with anxiety, sleep deprivation and insomnia.
  • Quiet spaces for silence, rest and respite to reset from daily stressors.

“At kate spade new york, we believe that mental health is foundational to women’s empowerment, and recognize that it has long been under-acknowledged, underfunded, and stigmatized. We are committed to increasing accessibility of mental health resources to women and girls around the globe through our social impact work and trusted partners in this space,” said kate spade new york CEO and Brand President Liz Fraser. “We are proud to expand our partnership with Taraji, Tracie and The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. By offering space and resources dedicated to mental health, together we can create a positive difference for young women on HBCU campuses and in their communities.”

Kristie Norwood, director of Hampton’s Student Counseling Center, said the wellness pods will be a welcome addition to its toolbox for addressing the campus community’s mental health needs.

“One out of five adults are affected by mental health diagnoses and 39 percent of college students experience a significant mental health issue,” Norwood said. “It is our mission at the HU Student Counseling Center to help normalize therapy within the Black community, and to educate our students on the importance of self-care and mental health awareness. The Wellness Pods will be part of a multi-faceted approach to ensuring the health and wellness of our students.”

As part of the goal to create serene, beautiful environments that boost student wellness, the pods are decorated with a mural that reflects each campus’ unique identity and is designed by an artist chosen by the campus’ leadership team. The intention of the mural is to reflect the diversity of women and intersecting identities within the local study body.

“The piece I have created reflects the importance of watering yourself based upon what your body and mind need,” said Hampton University student and muralist T’Kiyah Reeves. “As women, we must prioritize our wellness. We must treat our minds with the same love, care, compassion and grace we would give to a tangible seedling to support its growth into something beautiful.”

For more information, visit https://borislhensonfoundation.org/.