PHOTOS AND VIDEO — Community comes together for Port Arthur Juneteenth flag raising

Published 3:04 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

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Port Arthur’s Juneteenth flag raising ceremony brought people of various ages and ethnicities together in a thoughtful atmosphere Thursday morning.

From Latasha Williams explaining the significance of the imagery on the flag, to the singing of “Life Every Voice and Sing,” to the walk across the street to the Middle Passage Marker adjacent to the Jefferson County Sub-courthouse.

Gail Pellum, LaDonna Ambers and Sandra Castille led the crowd to the marker, which commemorates the lives of the Africans who perished and those who survived during the Middle Passage journey and those who were transported though Sabine Pass during the slave trade.

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Ambers held an interpretive performance at the marker to the song “Never Would Have Made It” as a tribute to the ancestors while the crowd gathered and took photos.

Standing in front of the courthouse, Jefferson County Commissioner Michael Sinegal told of a time during segregation when his mother, pregnant with his older brother, needed to use the restroom while at the courthouse.

She couldn’t find the “Colored” restroom and entered a different restroom. For that she was accosted and threatened by an officer for using the “White’s only” facility.

“And the testimony on how good God is now, I’m commissioner of this courthouse,” Sinegal said. “It’s a testimony to the people of Jefferson County as well as Americans that understand that diversity and the sins of the past is not to be repeated but they are to be remembered.”

Sinegal thanked the crowd and the Juneteenth Committee for putting the event on each year.

“We still have a long way to go. No, I haven’t forgotten and I will never forget as long as I’m alive,” he said.

“And I look at the crowd and I see diversity in this crowd. It resembles what America is, not about one race. It’s not about one individual. It’s about being a democracy, where everybody has a voice, but to respect each other.”

Sinegal’s office brings recognition for Juneteenth as the day slavery finally ended in the United States. June 19, 1865, is when the last group of enslaved people were informed of their liberation in Texas, two and a half years after the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The flag is raised in early June to signal June is a month of freedom for those gone before us and that Juneteenth is now recognized a federal holiday, according to information from the organizers.