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Taraji Penda Henson: Oxon Hill to the Hollywood Hills

Despite being located minutes away from some of Washington, D.C.’s worst neighborhoods, Oxon Hill has some very unique features.  There’s a nursing home and cultural center operated for the city’s Filipino population.  Then there’s the fact that Hollywood’s most powerful actress was raised in the city which is much different than Hollywood.  Empire’s head diva in charge…but you can just call her Cookie.

Taraji Penda Henson grew up in Washington, D.C. in 1970 inevitably making her a child of Rayful Edmund’s Washington, D.C.  The former Washington, D.C. aka The Murder Capital of the United States because of the drug violence that dominated the crack era.

Taraji Penda Henson
Taraji Penda Henson

‘Taraji Penda’ is Swahili for Hope Love, two words that can be used to describe Cookie’s journey in a rather unique way: Surviving Washington, D.C.’s 1980’s crack epidemic proves that ‘No matter how dark the moment, hope and love are always possible.

where is taraji henson from
Where Is Taraji Henson From?

 The question has become much more common with the rise of Cookie Lyon: “Where is Taraji Henson from?” “D.C.” might be an adequate answer for some but the two-letters do not do a sufficient job of describing the D.C. that molded Cookie Lyon.  The D.C. that took the life of Taraji P. Henson’s son’s father William Johnson.  The D.C. that earned the nickname The Murder Capital of the United States.

Rayful Edmund III was the D.C. drug lord who brought cocaine to the DMV.  Taraji P. Henson’s house was located on Livingston Road in Southeast D.C., just 15 minutes and less than 10 miles away from 5th and L St., Northeast, where Edmond hustled PCP and pot.  Thanks to D.C.’s notorious hustlers, Henson had a front row seat of the crack epidemic.

Taraji P. Henson’s parents divorced when she was a toddler and she was raised by her mother in the infamous Southeast D.C.  In 1996 Taraji P. Henson’s family persuaded her to move to Hollywood to pursue her acting dreams.

Henson’s mother eventually moved across the Maryland line and Taraji attended high school in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Henson may been been out of D.C. but the effects of Edmond’s wrath had also impacted Prince George’s County where Taraji lived.  In 1989 Prince George’s County’s homicide rate reached 127 which was lower than D.C.’s yet shockingly high by Prince George’s County standards.

Boris Henson, Taraji P. Henson's Father
Boris Henson, Taraji P. Henson’s Father

Taraji P. Henson’s parents played a major role in her life helping her survive Washington, D.C. Her mother worked hard in a distribution center to provide for little Taraji as a single-parent.  Henson’s father gave her $700 so she was able to move to L.A. to accomplish her goal of becoming an actress.  Taraji P. Henson’s family contributed greatly to the actresses success and helped her overcome Washington D.C.’s most dangerous era. 
Taraji Penda Henson

If you ever hear anyone ask: “Where is Taraji Henson from?” describe the way in which little Taraji survived the mean of Washington, D.C.  Although D.C. has changed since the 80’s there are still reminders from the past: Taraji P. Henson’s son’s father William Johnson was knifed to death in an apartment in Washington, D.C. in 2003. 

Taraji P. Henson’s house located in Glendale, CA is a major upgrade compared to the Southeast apartment she once lived in.  Last month Henson leased out her Glendale starter home for $3700 per month.  We are guessing that the D.C. born Empire mega-star upgraded mansion better suitable for Cookie Lyon’s post-prison lifestyle.

Taraji Penda Henson is a living example of Patricia Briggs’ quote: “People will do amazing things to ensure their survival.”

By Jason John

Jason John is based in Maryland and covers Empire BBK’s News and Entertainment. He was previously a producer for the mobile site, helping to present Empire BBK’s news report to readers. More