There’s a new pageant in town: Miss Juneteenth Minnesota crowns five new queens

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A new pageant made history Saturday in Minnesota.

The first Miss Juneteenth Minnesota State Pageant took place at Hamline University in St. Paul. It was founded by Angel Jones, whose daughter DaMaris represented Minnesota at the third annual National Miss Juneteenth Pageant in 2022 in Galveston, Texas.

Jones founded the local Miss Juneteenth nonprofit with the mission to create a platform that will provide Black women with educational, networking and career opportunities. One of the main objectives of the Miss Juneteenth Minnesota Pageant is to help women of color rediscover their history and heritage by educating them about the purpose of Juneteenth by exposing their gifts and talents in a pageant setting, Jones said.

Saturday’s pageant kicked off with the Rev. William Pierce from Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis opening with a prayer. Then, Monique Blakey took the stage and led everyone in the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The pageant consisted of five divisions: Little Miss Juneteenth, ages 6 to 9; Junior Miss Juneteenth, ages 10 to 13; Teen Miss Juneteenth, ages 14 to 18; Miss Juneteenth, ages 19 to 24; and Ms. Juneteenth, ages 25 to 30.

Twenty-one contestants graced the stage as they were not judged by beauty but on talents, professionalism, stage presence and confidence.

The first category showcased physical fitness. Each contestant strutted down the stage, demonstrating the significance of fitness in their life.

Then contestants showed off a personal talent. Talents included dancing, singing, artwork, reciting poetry and public speaking.

Last was the evening gown competition, followed by a short question-and-answer round.

Between categories, different people showed off their talents to celebrate and recognize Juneteenth and Black culture.

Joe Davis, a local poet, recited an original poem titled “It’s Our Time.” Monica Fountain, a writer and educator, spoke on rediscovering culture and redefining freedom. Step with Soul, a nonprofit that “empowers the youth through the art of stepping,” performed multiple routines for the audience.

Nearing the end of the pageant, one contestant was crowned from each division by 2022 Miss Juneteenth DaMaris Marjett Jones.

“In these past few weeks, watching them grow and learn new things about themselves, I feel very excited to see what they get to do in the future,” Jones said.

Here are the winners of the Miss Juneteenth Minnesota State Pageant:

The winners smile to the crowd at the end of the Miss Juneteenth Minnesota 2024 pageant. From left: Miss Juneteenth 2022 DaMaris Marjett Jones, Little Miss Juneteenth Ceray’na Alexander, Junior Miss Juneteenth Lamaria Swain, Teen Miss Juneteenth Kamira Nelson, Miss Juneteenth Breona Maynard and Ms. Juneteenth Khadijah Lamah. (Devanie Andre / Pioneer Press)

Little Miss Juneteenth Ceray’na Alexander: She showed her talent by dancing to “This is Me” by Keala Settle and when she grows up, she wants to be an actor.

Junior Miss Juneteenth Lamaria Swain: Her favorite subject in school is English and she has a natural talent for dancing.

Teen Miss Juneteenth Kamira Nelson: What she’s going to take away from this competition is “feeling more comfortable in her Black skin and Black hair.” She showed off her singing and rapping skills and next year she plans on enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

Miss Juneteenth Breona Maynard: She has a talent for painting and, to her, a good role model is someone who is caring and loving at all times regardless of the circumstances.

Ms. Juneteenth Khadijah Lamah: She’s a second-grade teacher and gave a speech with the memorable words, “Black women, stand up and take space.” In her opinion, the most challenging issue for younger generations is low academic rates. She also hopes to see more Black and brown teachers in schools.

“I worked really hard, and so did all the other women. It just feels amazing to see your hard work come to fruition,” Lamah said.

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