“All my life I’ve been bubbly and the life of the party. Things started to shift for me when Trayvon Martin—when that happened,” she said.
On his way back from the store, Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman in 2012, when he was 17 years old. Zimmerman was later acquitted of second degree murder and was not charged with a hate crime. Further twisting the knife, Zimmerman recently sued Martin’s family for $100 million.
Henson said the incident made her worry about her own son, Marcell Johnson.
“That’s when I noticed anxiety started kicking in,” she said. “They’re not going to [recognize] Taraji’s son out here on these streets. It’s me that is the star. He’s not.”
The “Empire” star went on to detail how Martin’s murder affected her entire family.
“My grandmother is 95 years old,” she said. “She worries about her children, her children’s children and her great-grandbabies because she knows that at any given moment you can be picked on or killed for the color of your skin.”
“[It’s] 2019, going on 2020, with even more microaggressions against us every day that we got to see on the news…and we’re supposed to be okay,” she continued. “It’s a lot.”
The actress has used her own struggles with anxiety and depression to become an advocate for mental health and reducing treatment stigma.
“I hope that one day we can all be free to talk about mental health and be okay with seeking help,” she said.
Last year, Henson founded The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation—named for her father— led by Executive Director Tracie Jade Jenkins. According to the nonprofit’s website, it seeks to “eradicate the stigma around mental health issues in the African-American community.”