SEATTLE, Washington — In December 2018, Taraji P. Henson took her second trip to South Africa for her press tour. Highlights from her visit were shared on her Instagram page with videos of interviews, meet and greets and cultural performances. On these visits, Taraji P. Henson shows support in South Africa by addressing important social issues, supporting South African entrepreneurs and spreading awareness of the plight of everyday people in African countries.
Talking About Mental Health
To start the trip, Henson received local press and fans at a conference hosted by Fox Africa Studios. One major topic she addressed was the concern for the stigmas surrounding mental health. In 2018, she established the Boris Lawerence Henson Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to open the conversation of mental health wellness in the African American community.
Named in honor of her father, who suffered from the traumatic experience of serving in the Vietnman war, this organization is fighting to reduce the prison relapse rate and provide mental health support for urban schools by increasing the number of African American therapists. Her concern for the Black community is that there is a lack of therapists who are culturally competent to work with troubled African-Americans. She continues to address how this can lead to a misdiagnosis.
Showing Support for South African Entrepreneurs
Taraji also reunited with Anele Mdoda for an interview at 947 Studios in Johannesburg. Her hair was styled in Fulani braids and she wore Legacy Collection earrings. Charmaine Taylor, a South African entrepreneur, gifted Taraji the African earrings, emblematic of justice and equality. Taylor’s collection is upcycled art shaped from the Robben Island Prison fence, which once enclosed freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela.
During the interview, Mdoda praises Taraji P. Henson’s success in the movie, Hidden Figures. Taraji reflects on the value of sisterhood the movie touches on. The comradery between women in history is a reminder of the power that lifting one another up has in advancing humanity. In a similar way, Taraji P. Henson shows support in South Africa through her press tour. She is intentional in speaking her ideas to the African community in order to encourage their culture.
Bringing Awareness to South African Causes
Henson’s desire to immerse herself in the culture of her ancestral continent was her way of showing her ties to common people. The celebrity even managed to pick up the Gwara Gwara, a popular African dance. In her interview with Fox Africa in Sandton, she emphasized that the believability of her roles on the screen is only accomplished when she stays rooted in reality. She doesn’t want her audience to only see her as this big celebrity. Her intention is to reveal that even the wealthiest people struggle. It is this relatability that makes the actress so appealing to a broad audience in the U.S. and Africa.
Taraji carries this onto the red carpet at the 2019 Golden Globes. She shared with ENews the charitable contributions she makes in Alicia Keys’ Keep a Child Alive Foundation. Her position on the board is treated with importance. She states, “Whenever I say I’m going to sit on the board, I just don’t sit.” Her role is active. The Keep a Child Alive Foundation works to end AIDS for children and families by providing healthcare and housing.
HIV is the number one cause of death for adolescents in Africa. Of those living with HIV, 70 percent are in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, women are five times more likely to have HIV than men. The organization goes beyond clinical care by providing nutrition through food security so that people have the energy to fight HIV. Yoga, music and dance programs also give therapeutic and social benefits to children.
Social Media to Spread Awareness
Henson recounted her visit to the town of Soweto where young women and children welcome her presence with a dance. Most of the children are orphans as a result of their parents dying from aids, and some are survivors of rape. Henson reflects on this in her media post, stating that, though it is a heartbreaking fact, their spirits are not broken. She also continues to thank Momma Carol who is caring for those beautiful babies.
As an ambassador of the Keep a Child Alive Foundation and through interviews on and off the red carpet, Taraji P. Henson uses her media presence to spread awareness about her advocacy for psychosocial support in Africa and in African American communities in the U.S. Whether it be through something as simple as dance or something as complex as creating the dialogue for fighting the stigma of mental health issues, Taraji P. Henson shows support in South Africa.