This year, the Kentucky Derby exemplified Black excellence in all of its multifaceted glory. As more people become more cognizant of the ways in which Black people celebrate the Kentucky Derby, many organizations are striving to be more inclusive in their connections to the sport each year.

"Historically, African Americans have a rich history when it comes to the Kentucky Derby since its beginning. Unfortunately, that connection has changed over time and African Americans have not been included in the ways they should be nor have they been given an opportunity to shine. This is especially true in more recent times. The Trifecta’s presence is changing that and is at the forefront of shining that light back on us. But it is doing so in a very inclusive way to bring people from all backgrounds together with the goal of giving back to Louisville," said Eden Bridgeman Sklenar, EBONY's Chairwoman, Board Member and Program Director for The Trifecta.

Bridgeman Sklenar and her family's Bridgeman Charitable Group have hosted The Trifecta as an annual Derby-eve black-tie celebrity charity gala in Louisville, Kentucky for quite some time. Although the gala was not held this year, they manifested the spirit of the Derby through a variety of intimate events over the duration of the weekend, such as their House of Games event.

"The significance of The Trifecta is in its namesake as it really accomplishes three things. It gives a vessel for African Americans to be a part of The Derby again," shared Bridgeman Sklenar. "It does so in an inclusive way which leads to togetherness for everyone involved and most importantly it builds up the Louisville community but specifically a part of the community that is often overlooked."

The events, both hosted and sponsored by The Trifecta, supported a variety of charities—including Play Cousins, Grace James Academy of Excellence, 1+1=U, and St. George’s Scholar Institute—and successfully raised over $50K to support the necessary and respective work of these organizations.

The Trifecta House of Games was a kick-off event that brought together a plethora of luminaries such as Miss USA's Elle Smith to anticipate the joy and fun that was to come during the Derby.

In addition to The Trifecta House of Games event, Manna Capital Partners hosted a dinner. Attendees enjoyed a lavish spread while listening to performers such as En Vogue, Chris Tucker, Sherman Golden and Atkintunde Warnock.

Inside one of The Trifecta's various events during the Kentucky Derby. Image: courtesy of Erik Branch
En Vogue performed at Manna Capital Partners' dinner. Image: courtesy of Erik Branch

The Trifecta sponsored events, which also included the Esquire Derby Lounge and Avant Garden Derby Night Party, took place Thursday evening through the remainder of the weekend. "The Derby is truly unique from any other major sporting event. From the fashion and the hats to the opportunity for an 80-1 long shot to be the winner, or whether you’re watching from a private box or hanging in the infield, there is such a range of how people do Derby. No other event incorporates that line in the way that The Derby does," added Bridgeman Sklenar.

The Esquire Derby Lounge was an opportunity for Derby attendees to be entertained during the weekend. The 3rd Annual Derby Lounge boasted an "elevated lounge-club ambience" hosted in the luxurious Omni Hotel Lobby & Library Bar. The space presented an atmosphere of live racing, musicians and late night dance party.

The Avant Garden Derby Night Party closed out the Kentucky Derby Weekend. Personalities across the realms of arts, fashion, equine, and social society took delights in the evening bash's artful entertainment and fun activations.

Comedian Chris Tucker taking over the DJ booth at the House of Games event. Image: courtesy of Erik Branch.
Miss USA Elle Smith at the House of Games event. Image: courtesy of Erik Branch.