Actress Taraji P. Henson has continually used her platform as an avenue to spread awareness about the importance of mental health and she’s taking her efforts further with the creation of a new initiative. According to People, the Washington, D.C. native has launched a program to help Black students who are facing mental health struggles that stem from racism.
The project—dubbed the Unspoken Curriculum—is a six-week program for youth that is being led by her nonprofit The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. The initiative was created to cultivate safe spaces where students can have candid discussions about their experiences surrounding racial bias in school. They will have the opportunity to connect with therapists and other mental health advocates.
Henson says while working as a substitute teacher she witnessed firsthand how socio-economic barriers had a detrimental effect on the mental health of Black youth. “I taught a special education class, but all of the students were Black boys who had all of their mental and physical capabilities. These children came from traumatic home situations, and the school labeled them ‘special ed,’” she said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “We’re in a state of emergency right now. But it takes us to change it… we can’t hide the ugly, you’ve got to deal with the good and the bad if we want to see change.” Henson’s nonprofit teamed up with the public relations firm Edelman for the development of the Unspoken Curriculum project. The program kicked off on May 17 and will run through June 21.
Programs like the one being led by Henson are needed. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Offices of Minority Health, in 2019 suicide was the second leading cause of death for African Americans between the ages of 15 and 24.
Since launching the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, Henson has led several impactful mental health-focused initiatives. She hosted a summit dubbed the “Can We Talk?” conference that served as a forum to develop strategies to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in the Black community. Henson also led an effort to provide free mental health services for the Black community amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
More Ish? People Are Torn Over Kenya Barris’ Possible ‘brown-ish’ Spinoff
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The new report that there could yet be another “ish”-inspired spinoff of Kenya Barris‘ media empire that began with “Black-ish” was met in part with virtual groans on social media. Deadine.com reported that ABC was flirting with the idea of launching a series named “brown-ish” that would center on a LatinX family and star Eva Longoria.
The complaints seemed to be split between lamenting over the “ish” franchise wearing thin and the fact that it might star Longoria, whose representation in the LatinX community has been scrutinized in the past.
If ABC moved forward with “brown-ish,” it would be the fifth iteration of Barris’ “ish” franchise of TV shows, including “Black-ish,” “Mixed-ish,” Grown-ish” and “Old-ish,” the latter being still in the development stages.
Deadline reported that Barris and Longoria have “been bouncing around ideas” for the new show. However, Craig Erwich, the President of ABC Entertainment and Hulu Originals, told Deadline that “brown-ish” hasn’t progressed beyond the infancy of its ideation.
“Brown-ish is still a concept that is in development, we haven’t rolled out the firm plans around that yet,” Erwich said, adding that there are also “no current plans” for “old-ish” to be a pilot.
Still, Erwich left the door open for Barris to create more “ish” spinoffs in the future.
“There are so many different iterations that we are open to,” Erwich said, “it’s really up to Kenya who is the master and the captain of the franchise.”
That last part seemed to resonate with people who expressed “ish” fatigue from Barris and his production company. The possibility prompted the flooding social media timelines with farcical memes mocking ideas for “ish” spinoffs.
Beyond that, the news of the possible show revived criticism of colorism on Barris’ part for frequently showcasing families that are bereft of dark-skinned people. In Longoria’s case, critics pointed out on social media that she is of 70% European ancestry, a heritage that typically excludes naturally brown skin. (There is also the mini-controversy to contend with from November when Longoria claimed “Latinas were the real heroines” of the 2020 election, rankling Black women, who were widely credited for securing a White House win for Democrats.)
The colorism criticism has been around Barris for years. Madame Noire pointed out in 2019 that Barris’ “shows look like they were cast using the paper bag test.”
And it’s not just Barris’ “ish” shows, either. His show on Netflix, “#BlackAF,” features a light-skinned family, for instance, and sparked the same kind of criticism seen around the idea of “brown-ish.”
Of course, to ABC — and likely to Barris — green is the only color that matters. A new show means more money, exposure and Hollywood prestige for both. Aside from “mixed-ish” being canceled after two seasons, the other “ish” shows are still airing. The Emmy-nominated “Black-ish” is gearing up for its eighth and final season.
Regardless of all of the above, two truths remain: Barris is a cash cow and, as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Those truths, however, clashed with social media commentary about the looming possibility of “brown-ish” and all of the cultural implications that would come along with it. Scroll down to keep reading for some of the, er, more colorful examples.
This content was originally published here.