The Coalition of Black Professionals and the “Anxiety is a Mutha” podcast are presenting a host of events to celebrate Black businesses and culture on Juneteenth weekend.
Juneteenth, or June 19, 1865, also known as Freedom Day, marks and commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States.
Marketith Cook, founder of the Coalition of Black Professionals and event planner, said he started brainstorming a Juneteenth event back in 2019, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the celebration was delayed. Cook said he is excited that the event can now come to fruition in 2021.
Working with Markeith Cook on the events are “Anxiety is a Mutha” founders, Laurie Davis and Nikita Seal. “Anxiety is a Mutha” is a mental health podcast that the ladies host. They said they are excited to join forces with Cook to organize these events, since they are El Dorado natives as well.
“There is not a lot of positivity that happens in El Dorado on this magnitude,” Seal said. “So to shine light on our local heroes and people that make great impact and have great influence in our community, I believe we need to shine light on those people and show El Dorado what we can do when we come together. I think this is going to be really great, and I can see it being an annual event.”
To showcase and celebrate Black local heroes, the trio are hosting a B.O.L.D Awards: Black Outstanding Leaders and Doers, on Friday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Village Outreach Facility at 1308 E. Hillsboro.
“I see the B.O.L.D Awards as something elegant, upscale, high class,” Seal said. “Also, for it to be Black owned and something where we are spotlighting are best teachers, hustlers and all of these things is super important. Something of this scale is what you typically see on TV, the BET Awards or The Grammys. So to put this on for local leaders and have people excited to vote for their favorite local hair stylist or barber and more is terrific.”
“Also, having an event like this allows us to reclaim aspects of our culture,” Cook said. “Nikita just said ‘favorite hustler,’ and for a lot of people that conjures up negative thoughts, but for a lot of us, it is equal to or means the same as a business person who is on their grind.”
Davis said there is a need for an event like this.
“There has been a lot of pain, and 2020 was a hard year for a lot of people,” Davis said. “We witnessed a lot of Black people being gunned down and killed. We witnessed a lot of Black on Black violence. People are hurting, struggling with poverty, losing their jobs and not having any positivity. So anything we can do to bring some positivity and shine a different light on our community… I will take that any day.”
On the actual Juneteenth day — Saturday, June 19 — the trio will be putting on the third annual South Arkansas Black Business Expo. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside Mellor Park Mall.
“Friday night you will be able to see local heroes and business leaders accept their awards, and the next morning, you can come and see those same people, plus a lot more, lined up with their booths and come support them financially,” Cook said. “You may even see some businesses you didn’t even know about. So Friday night is important and Saturday’s event is important, but when you put them together, we’re really going to have a great weekend and Juneteenth weekend is the perfect weekend to highlight all those things.”
Build the Bond of El Dorado is one of the top sponsors for the weekend, and the trio said they are still looking for sponsors. Those interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities should text the word ‘sponsor’ to 281-529-5382 to learn more. Vendors interested in a spot at the expo can contact that same number.
Ticket sales for the B.O.L.D Awards will start on May 12 and can be bought at anxietyisamutha.com
Note: This story has been updated to reflect an organizer's preferred name.