According to the Associated Press, hip hop artist and philanthropist Chance the Rapper has announced he’s donating $1 million to help improve mental health services in Chicago.
Chance, a Chicago native, made the announcement Thursday during a summit for his nonprofit organization SocialWorks, saying those involved “want to change the way that mental health resources are being accessed.”
Academy Award and Emmy Award-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson launched The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) in honor of her late father in order to help eradicate the stigma around mental health issues in the African-American community and provide support for and bring awareness to mental health issues that plague this community.
“I named the organization after my father because of his complete and unconditional love for me; his unabashed, unashamed ability to tell the truth, even if it hurt; and his strength to push through his own battles with mental health issues,” said Henson. “My dad fought in the Vietnam War for our country, returned broken, and received little to no physical and emotional support. I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are Black.”
To celebrate the foundation’s launch, the star will host a special fundraising event in Beverly Hills, CA on Saturday, September 22. Taraji’s Boutique of Hope will introduce BLHF to the world and will raise funds to support one of the foundation’s pillar goals of advocating for and providing resources to increase mental health support in urban schools. With partnering school districts, BLHF will help to provide more culturally competent mental health therapists, social workers, and counselors to African-American children in need.
“BLHF is breaking the silence by speaking out and encouraging others to share their challenges with mental illness and get the help they need,” said BLHF Executive Director Tracie Jenkins. “African-Americans have regarded such communication as a sign of weakness and our vision is to change that perception.”
BLHF will partner with other nonprofit organizations who offer programs that educate, celebrate, and make visible the positive impact of mental health wellness. Through these partnerships, the foundation will ensure cultural competency in caring for African Americans who struggle with mental illness by providing scholarships to African-American students who seek a career in the mental health field; offer mental health services and programs to young people in urban schools; and combat recidivism within the prison system.
The City of New York is aiming to push conversations surrounding mental health in the Black community forward. First lady Chirlane McCrayannounced the launch of a new program to help African American men cope with mental health issues, the Manhattan Times reported.
The initiative, dubbed Brothers Thrive, is a part of a larger effort launched by the city called ThriveNYC, the news outlet writes. McCray’s own experiences growing up inspired her to create Brothers Thrive. She witnessed her own father battle with depression during her childhood. “As a child, I didn’t understand why, even on Christmas Day, there just wasn’t much joy in our home,” she said. “My family story is a common one. We are all touched by mental illness and addiction, each and every one of us.”
The initiative will extend support and services to Black men battling mental health issues and will also provide free Mental Health First Aid training for Black men. The program aims to directly address the stigma around seeking help. A group of organizations that includes the 100 Black Men, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., have partnered with the city on this initiative.
“People often feel more comfortable talking about these topics when they’re among people who look like them, people who they feel some kinship or affinity with,” said McCray. “It’s just easier to relax and know that their words will have meaning and validity and credibility.” Brothers Thrive is aiming to train 3,000 New Yorkers in Mental Health First Aid over the next year.
Many programs have been created to address mental health issues in the Black community. Last year, Nikki Webber Allen created a non-profit called I Live For as an avenue to break the cultural barrier surrounding mental illness.
New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray said the network fits into the administration’s larger, ThriveNYC project to boost mental health across the city.
“Everyone will face hardship. That is a part of life,” McCray said. “By acting early to help our youngest New Yorkers understand and manage their emotions, we can better equip them to handle stress, prevent or lessen the severity of future mental health challenges, and set them up for success. It is easier to grow a healthy child than to mend a broken adult.”
Under the program, staffers at nearly 400 pre-kindergarten and day care sites will get added training and classroom materials to support kids’ mental health.
Staffers at the pre-K and day care sites will also be able to refer kids to the seven Mental Health Network clinics, where those kids will have priority for services.
More than 3,000 kids and their families are expected to take part at first in the project that eventually aims to give mental health services to any of the city’s 100,000 universal pre-K students and city day care users who might need them.
The locations of the clinics are still to be determined, but there will be two in Bronx, two in Brooklyn and one each in the other three boroughs. The city schools have also invested $47 million in programs to improve school climate and boost students’ mental health under the de Blasio administration.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said pre-K staffers will be better equipped to help students build strong foundations for success in school and life thanks to the training they will receive under the Mental Health Network. “Teachers and school administrators play an important role in nurturing a child’s social and emotional growth,” Fariña said.
This morning at the White House, President Barack Obama announced the series of Executive Actions he plans to enact to increase gun safety, reduce gun violence, and help those subject to or afflicted by gun violence. Obama deemed his actions necessary given the lack of action from Congress, even in the face of popular support for such measures as expanding background checks for gun purchases.
“Maybe we can’t save everybody, but we can save some,” Obama said in a speech in the East Room of the White House, where he was joined by survivors and families of the victims of gun violence.
Obama wiped away tears as he recalled the children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Conn., shooting rampage. He noted that tragedy didn’t translate into congressional action, even for measures that enjoy lopsided support among the American public. Legislation to expand background checks was blocked in 2013.
“The gun lobby may be able to hold Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage,” he said.
A central feature of his actions are steps to expand the definition of who is a gun dealer, as those in the business of selling guns are currently required to perform background checks before making a sale. A big push among groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has been to close loopholes on sales of guns on the Internet and at gun shows. Although the executive action would not fall short of preventing all sales of guns without background checks, Obama said that it would expand the number of people and entities who will fall under existing law. He also unveiled measures to improve the background check system.
He also talked of the need to boost research on gun violence and gun safety, and to boost funding for mental health.
Though many detractors, lobbyists and Republican politicians decried Obama’s initiatives, Obama said that his moves are “not a plot to take away” guns and that background checks are not “some slippery slope to gun confiscation.” He didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, but his reference was to some of his rhetoric.
Instead, Obama compared his actions to efforts to boost safety in cars and even toys. “We know that there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people,” he said.
Some of his proposals — like a $500 million investment in mental health services and budget items for 200 new ATF agents — still require congressional support.
Obama will participate on Thursday in a town hall on gun violence. You can watch his impassioned, detailed speech in full below:
article by Ted Johnson via Variety.com; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson