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Meet the Five Grand Opening Sponsors of the New Black History Museum

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By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Bank of America, Kaiser Permanente, Prudential Financial Inc., Target and Toyota have each provided $2 million in sponsorships to support the grand opening and inaugural events for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Each company is a founding donor of the museum and their sponsorship not only includes support for the grand opening, but officials said it would also provide assistance for other needs that the museum may encounter.

“These corporations have been longstanding, essential partners in the campaign to build this museum,” Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the museum, said in a statement. “Now, their support as sponsors will enable the museum to host a public celebration that reflects the historic significance of this event: the opening of the first national museum dedicated to the African American experience.”

Bank of America’s $2 million sponsorship is far from the company’s only gift to the museum. Previously, the bank announced the donation of historic images from its corporate art collection to the museum that featured 61 black-and-white photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe that also includes Daufuskie Island, a unique national landmark off the South Carolina coast inhabited by a community whose distinctive language and culture is strongly influenced by its African heritage.

In addition to the portfolio of images, Bank of America contributed $1 million to the museum’s capital campaign after making a $1 million grant during the early stages of the museum’s establishment.

The original gift supported construction and the museum’s “Save Our African American Treasures,” a traveling program that teaches people to identify and care for the historically significant items they own, according to a press release.

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture will bring to life an essential part of America’s heritage,” said Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America. “We’re proud to contribute to that heritage so that others can experience the inspiration of this culture.”

Moynihan, who also serves as a member of the museum’s council, said that the bank is committed to creating awareness and support for the museum and is not only proud to help preserve and honor African-American history and culture, but is also proud to be a founding member and grand opening sponsor.

Angie Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Minneapolis-based Target, said the company is proud to have supported the museum since its inception and through the grand opening.

“We are a founding donor of the museum and we’re thrilled to be a grand opening sponsor of the museum,” Thompson said. “In addition, Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive officer, serves on the advisory board of the museum and we’ve participated in the museum’s advisory council since 2010.”

Thompson continued: “At Target, inclusivity is one of our core beliefs and we are committed to helping foster diversity among our teams and communities. As part of this commitment, we are honored to support the mission of the museum to tell the story of African-American history and culture, as a lens for understanding what it means to be American.”

Since 1946, Target – which serves guests at 1,797 stores and online at Target.com – has given 5 percent of its profits to communities, which today equals more than $4 million each week, officials said. The company has also provided early support for the museum’s capital campaign in the amount of $5 million.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the museum said that the five grand opening sponsors have been longstanding, essential partners in the campaign to build the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the museum said that the five grand opening sponsors have been longstanding, essential partners in the campaign to build the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

Prudential Financial, a financial services leader with operations in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America, also has committed $2 million and is among the grand opening sponsors of the museum. The company, which boasts a diverse workforce with employees who are committed to helping individual and institutional customers grow and protect their wealth through a variety of products and services, also donated $1 million in support of the museum’s capital campaign.

“Prudential has focused its commitment to the museum around being a founding donor and one of five corporate sponsors during the grand opening weekend,” said Alicia R. Alston, vice president for global communications for Prudential. “As part of Prudential’s support, the company will have sole naming rights to the museum’s The Hub ‘Power of Place’ exhibition which explores the idea of place and region as a crucial component of the African-American community.”

As part of its partnership with the museum, Prudential will continue important dialogue through the “Clement Alexander Price Lecture Series,” which will run through Dec. 2018 and highlight Price’s appreciation of African-American history, culture and art and his commitment to the museum and love of people of his hometown, Alston said.

“Prudential has continued to seek opportunities to address the challenges facing the African-American community,” she said. “Since 2011, Prudential has published three editions of the African American Financial Experience report, which takes an in-depth look at the challenges facing this community when it comes to achieving financial security.”

Noted as one of the country’s leading health-care providers and not-for-profit health plans, Kaiser Permanente also counts among the five grand opening sponsors. Officials said the company, which also donated $5 million to the museum’s capital campaign, is committed to providing high-quality, affordable health-care services and to improving the health of its 10 million members and the communities it serves.

Toyota, a top automaker has built more than 30 million cars and trucks in North America over the past 50 years and the company operates 14 manufacturing plants and employs more than 44,000 workers on the continent. Toyota has provided $1 million to the museum’s capital campaign and the company’s $2 million grand opening sponsorship recognizes the corporation’s and the museum’s parallel commitments to education and conservation.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture officially opens on Sept. 24 with President Barack Obama and other dignitaries scheduled to be on hand to dedicate the museum at an outdoor ceremony at 9 a.m.

The public is invited to gather on the Washington Monument grounds across the street from the museum to witness the ceremony on Jumbotrons. They’ll also be able to take in a three-day festival.

Congressional legislation signed by President George W. Bush in 2003 established the NMAAHC, the 19th Smithsonian museum.

Groundbreaking occurred in 2012 and the museum occupies a prime location in the nation’s capital on the National Mall at the corner of Constitution Avenue at 14th Street, a short distance from the Washington Monument.

The nearly 400,000-square-foot museum will be the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American experience.

“African-American history did not stop with President Barack Obama’s election, and so we won’t stop either,” Bunch said in a televised interview this week. “There will be plenty for us to talk about in the future, and we’re looking forward to helping Americans understand the contributions of African-Americans to the rich tapestry of our culture.

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NAACP Calls for the House of Representatives to Begin Impeachment Proceedings

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The NAACP’s vote comes one day before former special counsel Robert Mueller is set to testify before Congress, which many Democrats hope will help strengthen the argument for impeachment among the legislators that fall outside of the 87 House members currently on record as expressing support for an impeachment inquiry.

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Photo: NAACP
Photo: NAACP

By Lauren Poteat, NNPA Newswire Washington Correspondent

During its 110th National Convention at the Cobo Center in Downtown Detroit, the NAACP — the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization — hosted delegates from all over the country. In keeping with the convention’s theme, “When We Fight, We Win,” the NAACP national delegation voted on a resolution to initiate Articles of Impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who has remained unwavering in his opposition to the president and his administration’s policies, gave the following remarks to the delegates shortly after the vote was cast.

“The pattern of Trump’s misconduct is unmistakable and has proven time and time again that he is unfit to serve as the president of this country,” said Johnson.

“From his attempts to curtail the scope of Robert Mueller’s investigation, to calling out minority congresswomen and telling them to go back to their countries, to caging immigrant children without food or water, to his numerous attempts to avert the Supreme Court’s decision to not add in the citizenship question to the 2020 Census, this president has led one of the most racist and xenophobic administrations since the Jim Crow era.”

“Trump needs to know that he is not above the law and the crimes that he has committed, and he must be prosecuted. We will make sure that the NAACP is at the forefront of pushing Congress to proceed with the impeachment process,” Johnson continued.

Tonight’s vote was the organization’s latest effort to encourage members of Congress to pursue impeachment against the president. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) energized the delegates, delivering remarks similar to those that launched his efforts on the floor of the House of Representatives, where he has put forth several impeachment measures.

Carmel Henry, a millennial voting delegate from the District of Columbia, believes that even if the vote won’t have any legislative ramifications, the resolution represents a step in the right direction.

“I support the resolution passed by the organization during its 110th convention because it represents a closer step in addressing the injustices in America, particularly as it pertains to minorities and persons of color,” Henry said.

The NAACP’s vote comes one day before former special counsel Robert Mueller is set to testify before Congress, which many Democrats hope will help strengthen the argument for impeachment among the legislators whose views differ from the 87 House members currently on record as expressing support for an impeachment inquiry.

While addressing attendees during Monday’s events, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), one of the four freshman congresswomen who President Trump offensively told to “go home,” a statement many believe to based solely on her ethnic background — Talib was born in Detroit — repeated her call for his impeachment, saying “I’m not going nowhere. Not until I impeach this president.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who also spoke at the convention Monday, did not mention Trump during her speech.

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Reparations Must Include the Costs of Predatory Lending

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Although in some respects racial equality has improved in the intervening years,” states the report, “in other respects today’s Black citizens remain sharply disadvantaged in the criminal justice system, as well as in neighborhood resources, employment, and education, in ways that seem barely distinguishable from those of 1968.”

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In terms of lost household wealth, nationally foreclosures took $23,150. But for families of color, the household loss was nearly double — $40,297. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
In terms of lost household wealth, nationally foreclosures took $23,150. But for families of color, the household loss was nearly double — $40,297. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

New university studies track high costs of discriminatory housing

By Charlene Crowell, Communications Deputy Director with the Center for Responsible Lending

In recent years, the spate of homicides linked to questionable uses of deadly weapons and/or force, have prompted many activist organizations to call for racial reparations. From Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida, to Michael Brown’s in Missouri, Eric Garner’s in New York and many other deaths — a chorus of calls for reparations has mounted, even attracting interest among presidential candidates.

While no amount of money could ever compensate for the loss of Black lives to violent deaths, a growing body of research is delving into the underlying causes for high poverty, low academic performance and — lost wealth. Public policy institutes as well as university-based research from the University of California at Berkeley and Duke University are connecting America’s racial wealth gap to remaining discriminatory policies and predatory lending.

This unfortunate combination has plagued Black America over multiple decades. And a large part of that financial exploitation is due to more than 70 years of documented discriminatory housing.

The Road Not Taken: Housing and Criminal Justice 50 Years After the Kerner Commission Report, returns to the findings of the now-famous report commissioned by President Lyndon Johnson. In the summer of 1967, over 150 race-related riots occurred. After reviewing the 1968 report’s recommendations and comparing them to how few were ever enacted, the Haas Institute tracks the consequences of recommendations that were either ignored, diluted, or in a few cases pursued. Published by Berkeley’s Haas Institute for Fair and Inclusive Communities, it weaves connections between education, housing, criminal justice – or the lack thereof.

“Although in some respects racial equality has improved in the intervening years,” states the report, “in other respects today’s Black citizens remain sharply disadvantaged in the criminal justice system, as well as in neighborhood resources, employment, and education, in ways that seem barely distinguishable from those of 1968.”

In 1968, the Kerner Commission report found that in cities where riots occurred, nearly 40% of non-white residents lived in housing that was substandard, sometimes without full plumbing. Further, because Black families were not allowed to live wherever they could afford, financial exploitation occurred whether families were renting or buying a home.

As many banks and insurance companies redlined Black neighborhoods, access to federally-insured mortgages were extremely limited. At the same time, few banks loaned mortgages to Blacks either. This lack of access to credit created a ripe market for investors to sell or rent properties to Black families, usually in need of multiple needed repairs. Even so, the costs of these homes came at highly inflated prices.

In nearly all instances, home sales purchased “on contract” came with high down payments and higher interest rates than those in the general market. The result for many of these families was an eventual inability to make both the repairs and the high monthly cost of the contract. One late or missed payment led to evictions that again further drained dollars from consumers due to a lack of home equity. For the absentee owner, however, the property was free to sell again, as another round of predatory lending. As the exploitive costs continued, the only difference in a subsequent sale would be a home in even worse physical condition.

The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago: New Findings on the Lasting Toll of Predatory Housing Contracts, also published this May, substantiates recent calls for reparations, as it focuses on predatory housing contracts in Illinois’ largest city. Published by Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, this report analyzed over 50,000 documents of contract home sales on the Windy City’s South and West Sides and found disturbing costs of discriminatory housing in one of the nation’s largest cities, as well as one of the largest Black population centers in the nation. Among its key findings:

  • During the 1950s and 1960s, 75-95% of Black families bought homes on contract;
  • These families paid an average contract price that was 84% more than the homes were worth;
  • Consumers purchasing these homes paid an additional $587 each month above the home’s fair market value;
  • Lost Black Chicago wealth, due to this predatory lending ranged between $3.2-$4 billion.

“The curse of contract sales still reverberates through Chicago’s Black neighborhoods (and their urban counterparts nationwide,” states the Duke report, “and helps explain the vast wealth divide between Blacks and Whites.”

Now fast forward to the additional $2.2 trillion of lost wealth associated with the spillover costs from the foreclosure crisis of 2007-2012. During these years, 12.5 million homes went into foreclosure. Black consumers were often targeted for high-cost, unsustainable mortgages even when they qualified for cheaper ones. With mortgage characteristics like prepayment penalties and low teaser interest rates that later ballooned to frequent and eventually unaffordable adjustable interest rates, a second and even worse housing financial exploitation occurred.

A 2013 policy brief by the Center for Responsible Lending, found that consumers of color – mostly Black and Latinx – lost half of that figure, $1.1 trillion in home equity during the foreclosure crisis. These monies include households who managed to keep their homes but lost value due to nearby foreclosures. Households who lost their homes to foreclosures also suffered from plummeting credit scores that made future credit more costly. And families who managed to hold on to their homes lost equity and became upside down on their mortgages – owing more than the property is worth. Both types of experiences were widespread in neighborhoods of color.

In terms of lost household wealth, nationally foreclosures took $23,150. But for families of color, the household loss was nearly double — $40,297.

CRL’s policy brief also states. “We do not include in our estimate the total loss in home equity that has resulted from the crisis (estimated at $7 trillion), the negative impact on local governments (in the form of lost tax revenue and increased costs of managing vacant and abandoned properties) or the non-financial spillover costs, such as increased crime, reduced school performance and neighborhood blight.”

As reparation proposals are discussed and debated, the sum of these financial tolls should rightly be a key part. While the Kerner Commission recommendations remain viable even in 2019, it will take an enormous display of public will for them to be embraced and put into action.

“The Kerner Report was the ‘road not taken’, but the road is still there,” noted John A. Powell, the Hass Institute’s Director.

Charlene Crowell is the Communications Deputy Director with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at charlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

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Schumer: “Any Unnecessary Delays to Honor Harriet Tubman, Especially for Political Reasons, Are Improper and Unacceptable”

NNPA NEWSWIRE — More than three years ago, under President Obama, the Treasury Department announced the redesign of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman’s portrait would be released in 2020, but the Trump administration recently announced that the redesign would be delayed until 2028.

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Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sent a new letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury Inspector General formally requesting an investigation into the Trump Administration’s decision to delay release of the redesign of the twenty-dollar bill.

More than three years ago, under President Obama, the Treasury Department announced the redesign of the $20 note featuring Harriet Tubman’s portrait would be released in 2020, but the Trump administration recently announced that the redesign would be delayed until 2028.

Leader Schumer is demanding answers to the official explanation by the Trump Administration about why the bill’s release has been delayed. In the letter, Leader Schumer specifically requests that the Treasury Inspector General examine whether political considerations played a role in the decision to delay the release and why the Treasury Secretary suggested that it would take a decade or more to produce a new $20 bill.

The request seeks a review of the involvement of the interagency process related to the redesign—including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations did not taint the process to recognize Harriet Tubman’s heroic legacy.

Leader Schumer’s letter also comes after he successfully secured the establishment the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in Tubman’s hometown, Auburn, NY– which was formally established in January 2017. Schumer fought for years to make Tubman Park a reality. He authored, introduced, and passed legislation authorizing the park and lobbied federal officials to secure the establishment of the park.

Full text of Leader Schumer’s letter is below and a PDF is here

The Honorable Eric M. Thorson
Inspector General
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20220

Dear Inspector General Thorson:

I write to request that your office investigate the circumstances surrounding the Department of Treasury’s decision to delay redesign of the $20 note featuring the portrait of Harriet Tubman, including any involvement by the White House in this decision. More than three years ago, Secretary Jacob Lew announced that he had ordered the acceleration of redesigns of the $20, $10 and $5 notes, and that the “final concept design” of the $20 note, including Harriet Tubman’s portrait, would be released in 2020.

Shortly after the Trump Administration took office, however, all mentions of the Tubman $20 bill were deleted without explanation from the Treasury Department’s website. Then we learned, according to recent testimony by Secretary Steven Mnuchin that a decision had been made to delay the release of the new $20 note until the year 2028. The Treasury Department subsequently refused to confirm that Harriet Tubman’s image would ever appear on the new note – notwithstanding recent reports that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has already completed extensive planning work on the redesign effort.

We do not know the real reason for these decisions, but we do know that during his campaign, President Trump referred to efforts to replace President Jackson’s likeness on the front of the $20 note as “pure political correctness.” Secretary Mnuchin attempted to explain the delay as necessary to accommodate anti-counterfeiting measures, but it is simply not credible that with all the resources and expertise of the U.S. Treasury and Secret Service, a decade or more could be required to produce a new $20 bill. If the Empire State Building could be completed in 13 months almost 100 years ago, the 21st century Treasury Department ought to be able to get this job done in a reasonable period of time.

Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary American and New Yorker whose story deserves to be shared with current and future generations. She deserves to be honored for her bravery, compassion, and service to the United States. There is no reason to reverse the original decision to recognize her heroic legacy on the $20 note. Any unnecessary delays, especially for political reasons, in redesigning the $20 note in her honor are improper and unacceptable.

For these reasons, I ask that you conduct an investigation into decisions made at the Treasury since January of 2018 regarding the delay of the redesign of the $20 note. I also ask that you review the involvement of other participants in the interagency process related to the redesign – including the Secret Service, Federal Reserve, and the White House – to ensure that political considerations have not been allowed to infect the process for designing American currency.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

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IN MEMORIAM: Sterling Tucker, Civil Rights Leader and Activist Politician, Dies at 95

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

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Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: @councilofdc / Twitter)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Prominent American civil rights activist and Washington, D.C. politician Sterling Tucker passed away on July 14, in Washington, D.C. Tucker was the first chair of the District of Columbia City Council and ran for mayor in 1978. He was defeated by Marion Barry by 1,500 votes.

Tucker was an active part of the Poor People’s Campaign and organized Solidarity Day, a 50,000 member protest in Washington D.C. on June 19, 1969. The Poor People’s Campaign was started by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), in 1968. It would be continued under the direction of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s chief lieutenant, after King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

The Poor People’s Campaign was focused on economic justice for poor people in America. Today that work is continued by Rev. William Barber II. Sterling Tucker worked alongside Reverend Abernathy and Coretta Scott King in what was the first formal activist effort to bring economic justice for African Americans.

Tucker served on the first District of Columbia City Council from 1969 to 1974, as home rule was established and served one term. He was also chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. During the early 80s he began a consulting firm called Sterling Tucker and Associates and in 1990 was chairman of the American Diabetes Association.

“He was fundamental to the leadership of the city,” former city council chairman Arrington Dixon told the Washington City Paper about Tucker. Dixon remembered Tucker as mild mannered but impactful. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Tucker to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sterling Tucker is survived by his two daughters, Michele Jeffery and Lauren Tucker; four grandchildren and many friends and colleagues.

His body laid in repose in the John A. Wilson Building, where the D.C. City Council meets in Washington and funeral services took place at the McQuire Funeral Home on Georgia Avenue NW. The Tucker family asked that donations be made in his name to the American Diabetes Association, P.O. Box 15829, Arlington VA 22215 and Trinity Episcopal Church Outreach Ministry to the Homeless, 7005 Piney Branch Road N.W., Washington DC 20012.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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PRESS ROOM: 100-year old legendary African-American debate coach awarded 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from NSDA

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

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The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The National Speech & Debate Association has honored Dr. Thomas Freeman’s 70-plus year legacy with the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award.

100-year old legendary African-American debate coach Dr. Thomas Freeman has been awarded the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Speech & Debate Association.

Freeman’s 70-plus year resume includes teaching Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his time at Morehouse, former U.S. Reps. Leland and Jordan, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, gospel superstar Yolanda Adams, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who sought out Freeman’s expertise to coach the cast of the Golden Globe-nominated film “The Great Debaters.”

Freeman was the Texas Southern University debate coach for six decades before his retirement in 2013. Freeman recently celebrated his 100th birthday on June 27, 2019.

“The National Speech & Debate Association is deeply honored to award Dr. Freeman with our 2019 lifetime achievement award,” said J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director of the National Speech & Debate Association. “Our members, board members, coaches, and students hold Dr. Freemen with such high esteem – he’s like a celebrity within our organization. Freeman is the epitome of who our members hope to become – someone who defies the odds and uses the power of words to propel change. His words of encouragement at our National Tournament in Dallas will always echo through our hearts.”

About the National Speech & Debate Association

The National Speech & Debate Association is the largest interscholastic speech and debate organization serving middle school, high school, and collegiate students in the United States. The Association provides competitive speech and debate activities, high-quality resources, comprehensive training, scholarship opportunities, and advanced recognition to more than 150,000 students and coaches every year. For 90 years, the National Speech & Debate Association has empowered nearly two million members to become engaged citizens, skilled professionals, and honorable leaders in our society. For more information, visit www.speechanddebate.org.  

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Empire Star Taraji Henson Speaks on Suicide and Mental Health on Capitol Hill

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)
Award-winning actress and Empire star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community. (Photo: YouTube)

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

“I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety. If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”

Award-winning actress and ‘Empire’ star Taraji P. Henson testified before members of Congress on mental health issues in the African American community.

The Congressional Black Caucus launched a task force on mental health issues in April of this year. They have held hearings on mental health and the increasing number of suicides among black youth. The CBC Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health is chaired by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The members of the task force are Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC), Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

“I’m here to appeal to you because this is a national crisis,” Henson said. Henson founded The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 to eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community with a specific emphasis on the suicide rate among Black youth.

“I really don’t know how to fix this problem, I just know that the suicide rate is rising,” she said. “I just know that ages of the children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger,” the actress added.

“It breaks my heart to know that 5-year-old children are contemplating life and death, I just…I’m sorry. That one is tough for me. So, I’m here to appeal to you, because this is a national crisis. When I hear of kids going into bathrooms, cutting themselves, you’re supposed to feel safe in school,” Henson told the members of Congress and those in the audience in a hearing room on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Every year, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, but a National Alliance on Mental Illness study discovered that black adults utilize mental health services at half the rate of white adults.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

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