By Zsana Hoskins,
Special to the AFRO
The Planet Word Museum in Washington, D.C. was transformed into a juke joint on Oct. 30 as the Boris L. Henson Foundation’s (BLHF) very first installment of a speakeasy-themed event aimed at promoting connection and eliminating the stigma around mental health issues.
The “Joy Joint,” gathered prominent people and community members alike, as they learned more about BLHF, a nonprofit founded by actress and D.C. native Taraji P. Henson. In addition to learning about the campaign to address mental health in the Black community, attendees were invited to dressed up in 1920s attire, mingle, listen to live jazz and enjoy food.
“Juke joints were born out of slavery. Now and here today we can celebrate with them, for them, by them,” said Tracie Jenkins, executive director of the Boris L. Henson Foundation, in her remarks during the reception.
Events DC and the Office of Film and Television also collaborated with BLHF on this project.
Hundreds of people explored the Planet Word Museum’s third and fourth floors with open bars, a photo booth, and a live painting.
“We always have to remember why we’re here. We’re here to spark joy. We’re here to provide opportunities for hope and pathways outside of pain. We’re here because mental health challenges are real and they’re impacting our community in a very great way,” said Dr. Kyaien Carter, the clinical director for BLHF, during the reception. “One out of four adults will live with a mental health diagnosis and the numbers are skyrocketing for our young people in our community. There are a number of barriers to access to care.”
This effort is just one part of the organization’s campaign. Throughout October, BLHF encouraged the community to participate in activities that would bring joy and promote wellness. According to their website, registered participants can calculate their activities with points and log them to win prizes. Data from their website shows that over three million points have been earned.
Janay Jacobs, an integrative wellness professional for BLHF, believes that free mental health resources are essential and attended in support of the cause.
“I was invited by Tracie
] to come and attend. I’m here today to support and to help raise funds for continued free mental health resources that the organization has to offer,” said Jacobs. “We would pay the integrative wellness professionals like myself whether clinical therapists or holistic providers in underrepresented areas. Mental health is crucial and needed now more than ever. Ultimately it’s about the joy.”
According to the foundation’s website, a significant amount has been raised towards their goal of $1 million dollars.
Aside from raising awareness about the cause, the event touched some people beyond just having a good time.
Arsha Jones, one attendee, said the event made her aware that there’s a community that can support her.
“I was invited by a friend to participate to get out of the house because, like many of us, we’ve been stuck in the house during the pandemic. My husband passed away right before the pandemic, and I took these last four years to really focus on my mental health. She
] thought this was a good opportunity for me to come spend some time with an organization that supports that,” said Jones.
BLHF doesn’t want the joy to end with this event. Zenzelé Cooper, the interim director of programs and partnership engagement for the organization, encouraged people to find joy in their daily lives.
“This initiative is so important because joy is everything. It’s who we are. If we’re not joyful, we can’t do any of the work we need to do—we can’t function as students, we can’t be good moms, we can’t be good employees if we’re not tapping into our own joy, and our own peace. Joy Joints is really reigniting that in our community,” Cooper said.
Those interested in joining the Joy Joint campaign or donating to the cause can visit www.charityfootprints.com/BLHFJOYJOINTS/eventdetails. To learn more about free mental health resources and the Boris L. Henson Foundation, visit www.borislhensonfoundation.org.