PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

June 19, 2014

A time to celebrate freedom

Juneteenth parade draws crowd to downtown PA

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — By Sherry Koonce

The News staff writer

Led by the Memorial High School ROTC Color Guard, this year’s 33rd Juneteenth Parade in downtown Port Arthur was a day to celebrate freedom and to remember a time when there was none.

The annual parade, organized by the African American Cultural Society, featured motorcyclists, dance teams, beauty queens, floats, young football players and marching bands, just to name few.

Though the day was celebratory, those in attendance acknowledged the day had a serious side.

“You have to know your history, especially the young people. They need to know,” Ona Walker, 59, of Port Arthur, said.

Walker was part of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Port Arthur Chapter, a group that regularly participates in the parade.

This year, she said, more people participated than in year’s past.

Drake Husband, 39, of Port Arthur and president of the Hard Riders Motorcycle Club, Beaumont Chapter, led a group of cycle enthusiasts down the Stillwell Blvd. parade route.

“Anytime we can come out and celebrate this historic day, it is good day,” he said.

Celebrating Juneteenth is a good way to keep youth educated about the hardships African-American’s endured during the slavery era, he said.

Rickayla Ambers, 18, of Beaumont participated in the parade as a Juneteenth Pageant contestant.

Slavery was not something she hears about much these days, but was something she heard her great-great-grandparents talk about.

One of her ancestors, she said, had been a house slave. Her great-great-grandfather talked about picking cotton.

“He’d tell us, ‘Y’all’s generation has it good,’” Ambers said.

Juneteenth is a reminder that African-Americans did not always enjoy the freedoms they do today, Miss Juneteenth Allison Delk, 17, said.

“It is a day to enjoy our freedom and to be able to enjoy our lives another day. It is also a day for us to open our eyes and realize we truly are blessed,” Delk said.

Juneteenth celebrations all over the nation Thursday marked the 150th anniversary of the date when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law prior to the Civil War’s conclusion.

Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and 19, 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves nearly two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862.

E-mail: skoonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews