by Andrew Gaudet, Staff Reporter

The city of Pass Christian saw the first Juneteenth celebrations this week as the established federal holiday arrived on the 19th of June 2023. Many people across the country celebrated this day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Chairwoman Kimberly Joseph and Vice-Chairwoman Tammie Dedeaux Gray of the Juneteenth Committee in the Pass set to work over a year ago to hold a celebration at the Randolph Center on June 17th, the day Juneteenth became an official holiday.

The celebration started with a moving prayer given by Reverend Harry Toussaint of Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church followed by brunch.

Gray then introduced the guest speaker, Leon Roberts, who talked about Juneteenth’s origins and why this holiday matters.

While to many Juneteenth holds little significance, the holiday is an important symbol to many African Americans across the nation.

It is a celebration of their freedom, and their ability to decide their own destiny for themselves, not having to suffer the horrors of slavery any longer.

Many African-Americans across the country still feel as though they are not yet truly free, as many organizations have organized throughout the history of the nation to suppress the collective consciousness of black Americans.

After Roberts finished, the Juneteenth Committee handed out awards to prominent figures within the local African-American community in the area.

This included; Mary Alice Berry Bowser who has lived in Pass Christian for over 50 years, and has tirelessly produced many phenomenal plays and musicals, Alva Singleton who joined her husband in the Pass Christian School District teaching English and math while also being the typist for the school newsletter, sponsor of the cheer- leaders and the school yearbook, Eleanor Jones who traveled the world while in the US military before dedicating herself to community service back in the 1970s by handing out food and water to people living in tents in Washington D.C. and by starting a food pantry after Hurricane Katrina, Patrick Walker, Sr. who bravely served in the army before being honorably discharged due to having to have his leg amputated, before going on to coach pee wee football, volunteering at the local nursing home, working in his church as a deacon, and serving on the Gone Fishing Ministry where he prepares and delivers food to the community, and finally Joseph Piernas, Sr who has spent 22 years on the Pass Christian Police Reserve and 12 years as the Reserve Chief, who still contributes to his community as Director of the Christian Ministries Food Pantry at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church and Chairman for “Jazz In The Pass’.”

After the closing, attendees were welcome to go to any of the local vendors who sold valuable jewelry, delicious baked goods, makeup, candles, art, clothing, and woodworking, all accompanied by live music.

Although Juneteenth has existed as a folk holiday in Texas for many years, this was the first celebration of its kind in Pass Christian, with one speaker saying, “We are so privileged to live in this time, we are so privileged to be free.”

The mayor of Pass Christian, Jimmy Rafferty, was enthusiastic about the event, stating that “Diversity is the biggest strength of Pass Christian’’ and emphasized his commitment to building up historically underdeveloped parts of Pass Christian. Mayor Rafferty talked at length about the importance of uplifting all people of Pass Christian regardless of background and believes that going forward Juneteenth will play a strong role in building stronger, better-connected communities.

Both he and the organizers of the event expressed hope that Juneteenth is only going to get bigger as more businesses and people become more aware of this important day.