May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and for her part, Taraji P. Henson has been working to connect Black Americans with the mental health resources they need, including a new campaign called The Unspoken Curriculum, intended to help Black students combat racial bias in the classroom.

“We’re in a state of emergency right now,” Henson tells People magazine.  “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.”

The six-week program, which kicked off on Monday and runs through June 21, includes “discussions with mental health experts and virtual hangout spaces moderated by therapists and educators, where students can speak openly about mental health and their experiences in school,” according to the entertainment magazine.  Henson helped design the curriculum through her mental health non-profit, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, with support from public relations firm Edelman.

Henson worked as a substitute teacher before making her film debut in 2001’s Baby Boy, where she witnessed racial bias against Black students firsthand.

“These children came from traumatic home situations, and the school labeled them ‘special ed,"” she recalls. “[They] were only in the 4th grade and they would grab my hand and say, ‘Ms. Henson!  Ms. Henson!  There was a shootout nearby last night, look at the bullet holes in the wall,’ and laugh,” she continues.  “That’s trauma — that’s not something to celebrate or normalize.”

Henson, who says the racial bias she encountered in her education negatively impacted her as an adult, hopes The Unspoken Curriculum helps break this harmful trend.

“The more we talk about it, and the more we educate ourselves,” she says.  “The more we know how to do better.”

 

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