MILWAUKEE — In 2020, two young men made Milwaukee history as the first-ever Mr. Juneteenth and Mr. Juneteenth Jr. in the City of Milwaukee.
Nearly one year into their reign, TMJ4 News caught up with them about the year and what it means to carry the title.
After a historic year, 2021 marks the end of a great run for Mr. Juneteenth Day winner Reign Riley and Mr. Juneteenth Day Jr. winner Christian Wilder - each the first recipient of their respective title in Milwaukee Junteenth's 50-year run commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
"I feel like it's a day for freedom. It represents freedom. It represents that we're evolving,” Wilder said.
"I think it's really good they're allowing Black men to get the props for all the hard work that they do,” Riley added.
Despite being 10 and 17 years old, these two understand the importance of the celebration. To both, the title means a lot about representation.
"Really, if we're given the opportunity, we can achieve just as much as anybody else,” Riley said.
The 50th Juneteenth Day Parade marks one of the longest-standing Juneteenth celebrations in the nation. It’s returning after last year's parade was canceled due to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, some of their talents that earned them the title, like Reign's guitar skills or Christian's dancing, weren't put on display during the event itself.
During the pandemic, the boys spent their year working to inspire others to do more, learn more and see the good in each day - no matter how rough times can seem.
"It's kind of like a small victory in a sea of sadness. If that makes any sense at all. I think it makes you realize there are both sides to everything going on in the world,” Riley said.
They also work to teach the lesson that there's no age requirement when it comes to inspiring others.
“I believe anybody can be the best. If you're one year old or 100 years old, you can be whatever you want to be,” Wilder said.