I love Black people and everything about us. I love our passion for family, life, religion and having a good time – all the time. In 2020, as we approach Juneteenth (celebrating the emancipation of black people from slavery), this date is more poignant than ever. Young, old, white and black around the globe have been on the front lines protesting for the reproductive rights of women and the basic civil rights of all black lives.
When Channing Godfrey Peoples enjoyed the fruits of her labor earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, I’m pretty sure she had no idea Miss Juneteenth would land with a completely different resonance at THIS time in history.
“Ain’t no American Dream for Black Folks,” is a sentiment felt all too well these days and for Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie), a once promising young beauty queen, her American dream correlates more like a raisin in the sun of a dream deferred.
With her directorial debut, Peoples gives us the hardcore realities and homage to women that grow up and get stuck in small towns all across America. Those former beauty queens who were expected to “do great things” only to remain defined by their economic hardship and fear. A fear so paralyzing it stops one from believing and dreaming in a future away from home. Most importantly it makes them cease to believe in themselves. With this film, audience are given a mosquito viewpoint from three generations of Black women who all have dreams, but very different ideologies on how to make them come true.
Nicole Beharie blazes the screen as Turquoise making her strong and resilient with a quiet fire in her belly desiring more for herself and Kai (Alexis Chikaeze). Beharie commands every moment no matter who she’s sharing it with and carries the reigns of this film masterfully, delicately and elegantly as only someone of her caliber could. Alexis Chikaeze (Kai) shines brightest when in scenes with Beharie and when she finally gets to perform the iconic “Phenomenal Woman” in the pageant. However, the scene stealer of the film is Lori Hayes (Charlotte), whose performance is so layered and complex often times you think you are watching numerous actresses inhabiting one role.
Miss Juneteenth is right on time and allows black women to be our authentic complicated, loving, warm, and no holds barred selves. We will not suffer fools gladly, but will be there in the most tender of moments to cheer each other on and lift each other up even when we don’t feel like it. As you continue through your weekend of virtual Juneteenth celebrations, make this screening a priority for yourself, your daughters, your sons, nieces, nephews, cousins, Aunts, Uncles, friends, peers and constituents. Celebrate with pride that this moment in history shall be victorious and not a footnote in American history as we and it have been for the last 400 years.