Middle Passage Marker events kick off in Port Arthur with celebration

Published 5:05 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie led guests in a rousing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at Friday’s reception for Middle Passage Port Marker events at the Press Building.

Gumbo, vision boxes, song and ancestor remembrance kicked off a weekend of activity to honor the Port Arthur Area as a site where captive African children, women and men first disembarked after the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Middle Passage.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the public is invited to attend an unveiling of a marker that will be installed in downtown Port Arthur. The event has moved from “Popeye” Holmes Park to council chambers, on the 5th floor of Port Arthur City Hall, 444 Lakeshore Drive in Port Arthur.

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A service will be at 11 a.m. Sunday at Isreal Chapel AME Church on Freeman Avenue.

At Friday’s event, Phyllis L. Baker, who taught science at Memorial, admired a vision box made by Gail Pellum, who has organized Middle Passage, Juneteenth and Kwanzaa events in Port Arthur.

One of many boxes on display, it represented a miniature of the joy of learning.

“Science is the basis of everything you can understand in the world. If you understand science, you understand life,” Baker said.

Joan Hubert, who is on the board of Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, was one of several attendees supporting Port Arthur activities.

Galveston is the only other site in Texas with a marker.

— Photos and information courtesy of Port Arthur Convention & Visitors Bureau, which features the Soul of Port Arthur self-tour at www.visitportarthurtx.com