Taraji P. Henson Appointed to President Joe Biden's HBCU Board of Advisors

The Oscar and Emmy-nominated actress studied musical theater at HBCU Howard University before graduating in 1995.

Taraji P. Henson is paying it forward. On Thursday, the former Empire star revealed that President Joe Biden appointed her to his HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Board of Advisors. 

The board is tasked with advancing the goal of the HBCU Initiative, which dates back to the Carter Administration and aims to increase the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education to their students and continue serving as engines of opportunity. The Howard University alum joins the 18 other members of the President's board of advisers, including NBA star Chris Paul, United Airlines president Brett Hart and the presidents of five HBCUs -- Alabama State University, Virginia State University, Norfolk State University in Virginia, Dillard University in New Orleans and Prairie View A&M University in Texas.

Henson -- who studied musical theater at Howard before graduating in 1995 -- shared the news on her Instagram page with a throwback photo of her wearing an alumni hat at a football game.

"I am excited to announce that President Biden has appointed me to serve on his HBCU Board of Advisors," she wrote alongside the photo. "Since taking office, the President and Vice President [Kamala] Harris have invested $5.8 Billion in HBCUs and I look forward to working with them to continue efforts to support these important institutions. ❤️"

The 51-year-old actress is well-known for using her time and resources to give back to her community. Last May, Henson announced the launch of The Unspoken Curriculum, a mental health campaign that provides a safe place for children to discuss mental health issues in the schools and aid them in combatting distress in classrooms from racial bias. The inspiration for the six-week program came to the actress from the devastating events of the past year -- ongoing instances of police brutality, the mounting number of racist attacks, and COVID-19's tragic impact on Black communities.

"We're in a state of emergency right now," Henson told People. "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 set up the program through her mental health non-profit, the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, which she started in 2018 after witnessing her father battle mental health issues after his tour of duty in the Vietnam War. She told People that she hopes The Unspoken Curriculum helps break the trend of racial bias affecting Black children well into their adult lives. 

"The more we talk about it, and the more we educate ourselves, the more we know how to do better," she said.

Along with her non-profit, The Color Purple star also leads a Facebook Watch series, Peace of Mind With Taraji, which kicked off its second season in October. The show highlights the struggles the Black community faces when it comes to mental health awareness and treatment, as well as the stigmas surrounding those who attempt to get help. 

In December 2020, Henson spoke to ET about why she feels this work is so important

"[We hear], 'Boy, get over it. Man up! Tough it out, strong Black woman.' These things have been passed down, so to even talk about mental health, how do you do that when you've never talked about it? When it's been taboo?" she explained to ET. "I mean, think about what we go through as Black people. Police brutality, microaggressions, not being paid equally ... it's a lot. It's a lot to unpack, and we felt like we needed some kind of programming that you didn't have to pay for and makes you feel safe."