VIDEO and PHOTOS — City begins Juneteenth celebration with flag raising ceremony

Published 1:45 pm Thursday, June 8, 2023

For Tianna Bruno, Juneteenth means more than honoring the past.

“It’s a time to celebrate emancipation and celebrate the transitioning from significant hardship to freedom, but also it’s a symbol of always being in that moment of trying to seek better,” she said.

Bruno, a professor at the University of Texas, was the guest speaker Thursday at the city’s Juneteenth Flag Raising Ceremony. While not from Port Arthur, her family is.

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“I’ve been doing research on Port Arthur for some years,” she said before speaking on Port Arthur pre- and post-Civil War.

The event at the Jefferson County Sub-Courthouse was a kick-off to a 12-day celebration.

“It announces, ‘hey, it’s June,’ said Carolyn Thibodeaux. “We try to get everyone here and excited, and those that don’t understand the rich knowledge that you get from understanding the holiday and why it’s important. They gain that knowledge. That’s my passion.”

In addition to a speech by Bruno and the raising of the flag, Constable Christopher Bates led the crowd as they sang “Life Every Voice and Sing.” The Memorial High School Marching Flame performed West African Beats and former Memorial High School student Kerina Rogers recited a poem.

Mayor Pro Tem Tiffany Hamilton served as emcee.

“Juneteenth has been a part of this community for an extremely long time, and I have actually been a part of Juneteenth with my family since I was a little girl with Juneteenth pageants starting back from the early 90s,” she said.

Mayor Thurman Bartie also remarked on the date.

“This day has had significance to Texans, but the blessing is that now June 19 has significance to the entire world,” he said. “All of America and the civilized world actually know of Juneteenth. And I thank God that I lived through the process and the knowledge of the world knowing what it’s about.”

Bartie said his family celebrated each year on the West Side, and later on Pleasure Island.

“Now the blessing and the glory in this is folks in the entire community — black white, brown, yellow — can celebrate the significance of a group of people who were enslaved are now legally out of their bondage,” he said.

The event was held in conjunction with Jazz in the Park, hosted by Commissioner Michael Sinegal. Vendors including food trucks filled Popeye Holmes Park while live music played.

Juneteenth Event Schedule

June 15: Free gospel concert, Lamar State College Port Arthur, 6:30 p.m.

June 16: Going Green Environmental Speaker, Westside Development Center, 11 a.m.

June 16: Juneteenth Pageant, 525 Lakeshore Drive, 5 p.m.

June 16: SETX Sneaker Ball, S&G Auditorium, 9 p.m.

June 17: Boxing tournament, 1308 9th Avenue, 2 p.m.

June 19: Parade, lineup at Procter Street and Stillwell Boulevard and end at Gilham Circle.