Last month, actress/mental health activist Taraji P. Henson expanded her mission to change the perception of mental illness in the Black community—and encourage those who suffer anxiety and mental health trauma— with the launch of its latest initiative, The Unspoken Curriculum.
The six-week program, designed to shape how Black youth view themselves, addresses racial bias in the classroom and other negative experiences that become part of those life experiences that weren’t part of the lesson plan, but have handicapped Black children.
“There’s implicit bias in the education system that clearly disadvantages Black students,” Henson posted of the program that is part of Boris L. Henson Foundation, which she established in 2018 in the name of her late father.
“The systemic bias they experience in schools (including cultural insensitivity, disproportionally harsh punishment, lowered teacher expectations, diminished resources) has the cumulative effect of reducing their enthusiasm, academic motivation, and overall mental health.
According to the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Black students make up 16% of enrolled students, but account for 27% of identified suspects to law enforcement; 31% of arrests and 48% of one or more school suspensions.
Henson says she’s still affected by things that were done to her and biases that happened to her when she was in school. She believes the Unspoken Curriculum will advocate for meaningful change in the classroom by rethinking and reforming the lessons Black students learn in school and inspiring youth to feel confident and empowered to talk about their personal experiences publicly in the classroom and privately with mental health experts, while also seeking additional support when they need it.
“We’re in a state of emergency right now,” says Henson of the program inspired by the pandemic’s impact on Black communities coupled with racial injustice protests following the killing of George Floyd and other high profile incidents of police abuse.
For more information about The Unspoken Curriculum or to get a copy of The Unspoken Curriculum Disscussion Guide, visit https://borislhensonfoundation.org/unspoken.