2020 / 103 minutes / USA
Written & Directed by: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Turquoise Jones is a single mom who holds down a household, a rebellious teenager, and pretty much everything that goes down at Wayman’s BBQ & Lounge. Turquoise is also a bona fide beauty queen—she was once crowned Miss Juneteenth, a title commemorating the day slaves in Texas were freed –two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Life didn’t turn out as beautifully as the title promised, but Turquoise, determined to right her wrongs, is cultivating her daughter, Kai, to become Miss Juneteenth, even if Kai wants something else.
As a girl growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, I marvelled at the annual MISS JUNETEENTH winner gliding across the stage with hope on her face. I was fascinated by pageant glamour before I understood the historical significance of the pageant and its purpose of instilling pride and self-worth in the ladies who were crowned its winner. Its contestants were young, hopeful African-American women vying for a full college scholarship. Juneteenth is a holiday that recognizes when slaves in Texas were freed two long years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 abolished slavery in America. That day was June 19th, 1865 -what we know as “Juneteenth”. Throughout the country and especially in Texas, communities celebrate Juneteenth with parades, activities and the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant, a real-life example of African-American excellence, beauty and impending womanhood.
Miss Juneteenth is the culmination of my life experiences, heritage and culture. I was inspired by my own childhood being raised by a single mother and watching her quest to navigate her own life while raising children. As a recent mother myself, I’m navigating many of the same issues that Turquoise faces -wanting the best for your child while being able to provide for her and maintaining your own hopes and dreams.
MISS JUNETEENTH is a character-driven story rooted in the resilience of the human spirit. It is a story about Turquoise navigating life, love and loss and will allow an audience to experience her transformation, relationships and cultural legacy and history. In my work, I often explore the effects of the legacy of slavery in America and its impact on the continued struggle for racial equality. In MISS JUNETEENTH, I seek to convey Turquoise’s journey to find the courage to no longer live in the past, but in the future that she can build for herself. The backdrop of this story is the salt of the earth people that I grew up with in Fort Worth, Texas. The world is timeless. The people are working class and tight-knit. They work during the week and party for the weekend. They take pride in their country flair and cowboy culture. I want MISS JUNETEENTH to contribute to more diverse representations of African-American women on screen. Through exploring issues unique to black women and our identity and culture, my hope is the film will be a universal story about the resilience of the human condition.