, Port Arthur, Texas

June 18, 2013

Jazz saxaphonist Juneteenth parade grand marshal

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

Port Arthur — Port Arthur will celebrate Juneteenth with a host of activities Wednesday including a parade led by a Jazz saxophonist of Filipino-American descent.

Dean James will be the first non-African American to be grand marshal of Port Arthur’s Juneteenth Parade, now in its 32nd year, and once again sponsored by the African American Culture Society.

When asked to lead the annual parade, James said he never thought about his heritage. Rather, it was a longstanding relationship with the Golden Triangle, and, in particular Port Arthur, that prompted him to readily agree.

“I have a huge fan base in Port Arthur, and this is a second home to me,” James said. “This is my way of sharing with the community.”

The jazz saxophonist was born in San Francisco, and now lives in Houston. He’s performed at Port Arthur’s Zachary Breaux Festival for the past five years, and in the Beaumont Jazz and Blues Festival for six years.

After the parade,  at 7 p.m. James will have a meet and greet followed by a mini-concert at Port Arthur’s Barbara Jacquet Park on Gilham Circle.

Parade lineup begins at 5 p.m. at Procter Street and Stillwell Blvd. Anyone who would like to decorate their car or church van is welcome to be part of the parade.

The parade begins at 6 p.m., traveling down Stillwell to Barbara Jacket Park. Entertainment is under the basketball court.

Juneteenth organizer Gail Pellum said this year’s parade is expected to be bigger and better with honorary parade marshals Barbara Jacquet, Angel San Juan and Joyce Martin.

Miss Juneteenth Shemandra Dromley, 17, a senior at Memorial High School in Port Arthur; and Geraldine Hunt, honorary Miss Juneteenth, are participating in the parade as well as area drill teams, motorcycle clubs, and automobiles, just to name a few.

This year’s parade is special. It marks the 150th anniversary of the date when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law before the Civil War had concluded.

Pellum urges young people to attend Juneteenth festivities in hopes they will not forget their heritage.

“Schools and churches don’t embrace our history the way they should, so it is up to groups like the African American Cultural Society to do,” Pellum said.

Juneteenth, Pellum said, should be important to all races because the signing greatly changed the nation.

“It affected all races. The rights we have today, those are the rights my ancestors fought for,” Pellum said. “We must never forget.”

Though Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, the law was not be become effective until Jan. 1, 1863. Texas, as part of the Confederacy, was not quick to embrace the new law. In  fact, the state was resistant.

Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and 19, 1865 when Union General Gordon ranger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston to  take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves.