Houston Matters

The Bigger Picture: ‘Miss Juneteeth’ Takes A Warm Look At Mothers, Daughters, And Small-Town Celebrations

Director and Fort Worth native Channing Godfrey Peoples talks about her new film.

Alexis Chikaeze stars as “Kai” in Miss Juneteenth.

Last week, we celebrated Juneteenth, a celebratory day that originated in Texas but that more and more people are learning about across the country.

However, for many Black communities in the south, Juneteenth is an intrinsic part of their culture and history. And, as shown in the new film Miss Juneteenth, it even serves as the backdrop for scholarship pageants in Texas that help young Black women get a college education.

The movie is written and directed by Fort Worth native Channing Godfrey Peoples and is set in the same kind of community she grew up in. It follows the story of Turquoise Jones, a former Miss Juneteenth pageant winner and now single mother of 15-year-old Kai. Turquoise wants Kai to follow in her footsteps and win that year’s pageant, but Kai isn’t quite so enthusiastic about it.

In this edition of The Bigger Picture, the monthly Houston Matters segment on the world of TV and film, producer Joshua Zinn delves into social and cultural issues that show up in the film with Houston Chronicle entertainment writer Cary Darling.

“It’s a very sweet film — a very sort of low-key film,” Darling said. “Maybe some people watching it expect something very dramatic or violent to happen. And that doesn’t really happen. But it’s just a sweet sort of family story about mother-daughter bonding, which you don’t see a lot in terms of African-American stories.”

Then, Zinn talks with Godfrey Peoples about portraying the type of close-knit community she’s familiar with and how the heritage of Black history informs her storytelling.

Just as the history of the Fourth of July can sometimes be overwhelmed by the festivities of barbecues and fireworks, Godfrey Peoples said it wasn’t until she was an adult that she truly appreciated the meaning of Juneteenth, which many have referred to as the other Independence Day.

“I just have so many fond memories,” Peoples said. “As a kid, there was less emphasis for me on the history of what Juneteeth was and what it meant. You know? It really was about just this celebration in a way and the coming together of the community that I looked forward to every year. And, as an adult, the meaning changed so much for me because the discovery of what it actually meant.”

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