Juneteenth activities share the story in PA

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Juneteenth still a new story to some Texans

By Darragh Doiron

The News staff writer

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Just this week Andrea Jackson mentioned she was sewing for Juneteenth and a co-worker had not heard of the observation.

It gave Jackson, of Port Arthur, a chance to retell the story. Juneteenth is June 19, the day enslaved people in Galveston learned they could have had their freedom years earlier. On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to order the legal release of slaves with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which took place on Jan. 1, 1863, almost two and half years earlier.

“People are still in a learning mode,” Jackson said.

The seamstress has been unfurling yards of African-inspired prints and sewing scarves, kuffi hats and mats for Kwanzaa candle holders. Her creations will adorn residents observing Juneteenth activities in Port Arthur. They include:

• Juneteenth Display at Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 9th Ave., through Jun e30.

• “Kids & Culture,” Israel Chapel AME Church, 948 Texas Ave.  featuring speakers from Kenya,  continental breakfast and lunch, a slide show, and a guided tour of the Museum of Gulf Coast, 10 a.m. Thursday, June 17.

• Ms. Juneteenth Pageant, Israel Chapel AME Church, 6 p.m. Friday, 948 Texas Ave., 6 p.m. Friday.

• Juneteenth Program, Port Arthur City Hall, 444 4th Street, featuring Waddy Thibodeaux as Harriet Tubman and Historian Amefika Geuka, an expert in African-Centered Education. Lunch will be served. 10 a.m. Saturday.

• Reception, Museum of the Gulf Coast, 700 Procter St. 2-4 p.m. Saturday.

• Parade, starts at Savannah Ave. and continues to Austin and Proctor Streets, 6 p.m. Saturday.

• Heavenly Father’s Day, Procter Street Pavillion, 500 Procter St. A moment of prayer and reflection, 3 p.m. Sunday.

Gail Pellum is president of the African  American Cultural Society, which is helping organize Juneteenth events.

“It looks like it’s going to be bigger this year than it has been. It looks like we’re getting a lot more participation. People are just starting to realize it’s back,” Pellum said.

She credits the late Maurice Collins, a local civic leader, with educating her on the events surrounding Juneteenth. She recalls she was in her 20s or 30s.

“It changed my entire life. Once you start reading history and studying history, you become responsible and you have to find creative ways to pass it on,” she said. “You become obligated to the struggle.”

For more information on the events, contact Pellum at 332-9105.