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Taraji P. Henson speaks with Denise Malloy, senior vice president of  Walmart In., in Cramton Auditorium.
Taraji P. Henson speaks with Denise Malloy, senior vice president of  Walmart In., in Cramton Auditorium.
Original photo by Faith Harper

Taraji P. Henson Returns to Howard: Inspiring Bison Entrepreneurs and Sharing Her Journey

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Howard chapter.
Taraji P. Henson speaks with Denise Malloy, senior vice president of  Walmart In., in Cramton Auditorium.
Original photo by Faith Harper

Howard University students lined up outside of Cramton Auditorium and wrapped around Locke Hall for the chance to see actress, entrepreneur and Howard alumna, Taraji P. Henson. Howard University partnered with Walmart and PNC Bank to host Bison Boss Events last Thursday highlighting Black entrepreneurship which included a fireside chat with special guests Henson and Denise Malloy, the Senior Vice President of Walmart.

Amplified with music flowing in from the DJ outside, Cramton’s foyer was decked out with TPH’s signature yellow that set the vibe for the carpets, tinted glass and drapes in a photo booth where guests could capture the moment. Students present at the event like Victoria Pearson, a junior media, journalism and film major from Columbia, Maryland, were excited and grateful for the opportunity to be in the presence of someone like Henson who is an example of an entrepreneur and incorporating her skills into other careers like acting.

However, celebrity alumni often face an indelicate balance as they can be perceived as overshadowing their alma maters while contributing the majority of their success to them.“Taraji has spoken about Howard publicly, but I feel like she never really gets in-depth,” Natalia Wilson, a senior honors political science major from South Florida, expressed. “So I’m hoping that she brings that Howard spirit and culture when she’s talking to us.”

Other audience members at this event who were also anxious about the spirit Henson would give off were met with her response to Malloy’s first question when she became teary-eyed after vocalizing, “Howard made me fearless.”

Henson went on to reminisce about her time at Howard: times when she did not receive a part in a play, times spent being scared and times when she leaned on her mentors and alumnae Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad for inspiration. She spoke on being your own strongest advocate and inspiring others who you might consider strangers because that re-emphasizes the impact rather than inspiring a family member.

As the evening came to a close and audience Q&A approached, she emphasized the importance of taking back control over ourselves. While acknowledging the realness of generational trauma, Henson believes it is time for to heal, quit overanalyzing what one’s impact will be and understand that imposter syndrome holds people back. “Realize that if you made it to the room that you belong there,” the 1995 alumna reassured and pointed to the audience.

Janejha Jones, a senior music business major from Atlanta, Georgia, pulled meaning from this and addressed the personal connection— that many in that room might have experienced as well— of not putting ideas into fruition because of fear. “Taraji brought up that choosing between faith and fear was the battle: whether you are going to have faith in what you are doing or if you are going to be fearful,” Jones said. “That really motivates me.”

In true Howard fashion, attendees were given tote bags with the words “We Write Our Own Story” on them and a few TPH products because, after all, haircare was self-care, according to Henson.

Faith Harper is a content writer for Howard University's Her Campus chapter, where she covers various topics including on-campus life, entertainment, culture, television, movies, and wellness. In addition to her role at Her Campus, Faith serves as the associate producer for the News Department at Spotlight Network at Howard University. In this capacity, she oversees team members within the news sector, guiding them in the process of identifying and crafting stories, managing pre and post-production tasks, and communicating necessary resources to the executive producer. Faith has also contributed as a writer for Cover2Cover Magazine, a publication affiliated with Howard University. She is presently a sophomore at Howard University, pursuing a major in Journalism. During her leisure time, Faith delights in revisiting classic movies and TV shows from the early 1990s and 2000s. Additionally, she enjoys baking new recipes with her friends and eating at her favorite pizza spot in her home city, Chicago, Leona’s. As a former Girl Scout, she takes pride in her dedication to inspiring young girls, emphasizing that the world offers boundless opportunities and wrongs for them to right.