PHOTO STORY: Niles celebrates Juneteenth with its second annual festival – Leader Publications

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NILES — Members of the community gathered in Plym Park on Sunday for an afternoon of friendship, fun and education.

Dozens of people from Niles and beyond attended the second annual Juneteenth We Know Better Project festival.

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans. On June 19, 1865, word of liberation reached Galveston, Texas, officially ending slavery in the state. Celebrations of the holiday date back to 1866 in some parts of the country and grew in popularity throughout the 20th century. On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden named Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The event featured a series of speakers covering topics ranging from mental health and financial literacy to gun violence, the art of song and dance, and more.

Speakers included Beverly Woodson, President of Helping Our People Evolve, Niles High School Culture Club, Myles Busby, Niles High School Boys Basketball Coach and Youth Advocate, Monique Beck, Financial Literacy Educator, Jethrow Kyles of Niles Community Schools, KC Johnson, Founder of We-ECHO Youth Services. and the founder of Tattoo The World, Tiara Williams.

Musical acts included Martinez Stephens, Pressure, Pride, Kiah Renee and more.

In addition to the lineup, several vendors – most of which were black-owned businesses – participated in the festival. Yadia Underwood, CEO of Yaya’s Lip and Lash, enjoyed being part of the experience.
“It exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I am black and Hispanic; I know about slavery and stuff like that but I’m learning more about Juneteenth and what it means to us. It’s just amazing. I’m really at a loss for words.

Underwood created Yaya’s Lip and Lash when she was a junior at Niles High School to promote mental health and self-esteem through beauty treatments and cosmetics.

“Growing up, I had a hard time loving who I was and the body I was in,” she said. “My father passed away in 2015 and growing up I kept asking myself what was my purpose in life? What did I want to do? I have always loved helping others. So I wanted to start a cosmetics business…. Our slogan is ‘There is no discrimination when it comes to beauty’. A lot of people discriminate based on your appearance, skin color or your state of mind, but here we accept anything and everything. We love who loves us.

Two years later, Underwood has grown her business and attends events like the Juneteenth Festival to grow her clientele.

“I started out selling eyelashes in my grandmother’s basement,” she said. “I learned how to market, how to behave and how to finance. I created a Facebook page and I have my own website. I also have a community page called ‘YLL Community’. It’s for small businesses, people who want to go shopping, or just people who need advice.

For Underwood, participating in the Juneteenth festival goes beyond selling. As she aims to take her business to new heights, she also hopes to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“I don’t care about the money,” she says. “I could leave here without a dollar and I wouldn’t care as long as I did what I could to start my business and meet new people. … I love hearing people’s stories and stuff like that. I spoke to a few kids I went to school with. They’re still in school and they’ve all talked about how they want to start a small business. I told them there would be obstacles that would come up, but you have to give it to God and give it to yourself to keep going every day.

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