Taraji P. Henson Explains Why We Must "Be Careful" About Terms Like "Black Girl Magic"

Photo credit: NBC - Getty Images
From Marie Claire
As part of Marie Claire's virtual Power On Summit, actress Taraji P. Henson sat down for a live chat with Marie Claire's editor-in-chief Sally Holmes.
During the discussion, which was broadcast live to around 200 guests only by invitation at the annual conference, Henson addressed the stigma of mental health and other issues that disproportionately affect the black community.
Speaking of terms like "strong black woman" and "black girl magic," Henson said, "You have to be careful with this term because it dehumanizes our pain."
In the nearly two decades since her breakout in Baby Boy, Taraji P. Henson has not only built an impressive career, but also an incredible platform. Now the 50-year-old actress uses this platform to give back to underrepresented communities and to talk about important topics.
On Thursday, Henson chaired Marie Claire's Power On Summit. The annual network conference went virtual this year for obvious reasons, and Henson joined the call via video chat from home to discuss some of the issues that have weighed on them lately. When asked about the scars black women face and what needs to be done to combat them, Henson openly commented on the problematic side of terms intended to empower black women - specifically, "strong black woman" and "Black Girl Magic".
"I understand the term or the meaning behind 'strong black woman' or 'black girl magic'. I understand - it is to lift us up. But you have to be careful with this term because it dehumanizes our pain," she explained . "You know we're not fairies. I can't get over the pain or the loss of my son to the law, and nothing is done about it. I have to be calm and forgiving and nice and, you know, that's not fair too." Me. I'm human and I'm hurt. And I think those terms are the reason black women die or give birth in the emergency room because we are known to be strong. "Well, she can handle this pain. ' You know, you don't understand how other people take this term and maybe take it out of context. Or maybe they say, "Oh, they're really strong. They don't need that much help, you know. "You know, so you have to be careful with such terms. And that's how I talk about it. That's what I do."
Henson also touched on a number of other important topics during her conversation with Marie Claire editor-in-chief Sally Holmes.
On her role in tackling the mental health stigma in the black community:
"I could sit up here all day and say, 'I have a therapist and it works for me,' but you know folks, especially in the black community, we have trust issues when it comes to the medical industry. And especially when it comes to therapy because we have been told to stay strong [we have been told] "If you have mental illness it is a weakness," so this is not something we in our community accept for It was very important to me to give a face. And I feel like our community really trusts me. As an artist, they trust me in my work, you know I don't sell a lot of things. So I think there is one some level of trust when it comes to me in the church and I felt like I share my story and struggles, and putting a face to it would help other people talk about it and make people feel n, "wow, I'm not alone. '"
At the start of her Mental Health Foundation:
"It was very important to me because before COVID I was trying to find a therapist for myself and my son and it was difficult. It was difficult to find therapists who were culturally competent. It's not that they are doesn't exist. But putting them together and finding them is pretty daunting. I just felt my mind was being dragged like this was the problem. Then I started talking to my best friend who is [now] the manager of mine Foundation is, and they have suffered from anxiety since childhood. And so I thought this is a problem in our community because it is taboo. We don't talk about it so our kids don't even know that this is an area they could go inside.
And I said we have to do something about it. And so we started the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, named in honor of my father who was a Vietnam vet. When you return from the war, of course, you will face some problems. I really couldn't help my dad that much while he was still alive and I think this is a great way to help him through a foundation in his namesake. "
On her upcoming Facebook watch show, Peace of Mind with Taraji:
"I want to get rid of the myth that celebrities don't suffer. So I want to bring in some of my coworkers so we can talk about issues they may be dealing with in the industry because that's tough. Being an artist is so vulnerable. When we expose our art to the world, that's the bareest feeling because it's vulnerability. You sit there to be criticized and taken apart by the world. I'm sure this creates uncertainties ... So I want to Celebrities and ordinary, everyday people get married so they can see that they are not alone, and talk about problems and give them tools that will guide them in the direction to get help This is a show that will help people. It's going to be a show where we end up having a safe place where people can talk to each other and compare so that they can talk and not feel alone. "
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