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Kendrick Sampson shares his deep connection to Juneteenth in his new drama 'Miss Juneteenth'

Photographer: Justin Vaseur
Kendrick Sampson felt a deep connection to his latest film Miss Juneteenth, which follows the relationship between a former beauty queen and her headstrong daughter.

In the film, which stars Nicole Beharie and Alexis ChikaezeSampson plays Ronnie, a loving but financially unstable father whose bad decisions threaten to derail his girlfriend’s plans of having their daughter become Miss Juneteenth. Sampson tells ABC Audio that the film struck a familiar cord because it touched on something he experienced firsthand.

“I’m from Texas. So, it was really dope to read a script that talks about Juneteenth because a lot of people don’t know what Juneteenth is,” he says.

“And we celebrated that coming up because, to be frank: July 4th is [nothing] to us,” he continues. “We’re like, ‘What’s this holiday?’ My dad… taught us, ‘If we’re not celebrating our freedom, whose freedom we celebrating?'”

Sampson, like many who celebrate June 19th, says the date is significant for many reasons.

“Juneteenth celebrates the last slaves being freed or actually finding out they were free,” he explains. “They were “technically freed” more than two years prior… And Texas, and a lot of the south, and increasingly more and more of the country, celebrates Juneteenth as the real freedom.”

However, the social justice activist believes Juneteenth has become more of a “celebration” than a recognition of freedom, adding, “we know that they found other iterations of slavery for our people.”

“So, it’s a time of celebration,” he says. “It’s a time of not just barbecue, but like real seasoned food. That was always my favorite holiday growing up.”

“And they gave a little bit of education on that,” Sampson continues, referring to the film. “And then they have pageants around it, which is very specific to Texas culture.”

Juneteenth is now available On Demand.

By Candice Williams
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