By: Jacqueline Miles
(PORT ST JOE) – This year’s Juneteenth celebration took a very special turn for everyone. “We are using this celebration to bring our community together,” said Pastor Chester Davis of Philadelphia Primitive Baptist Church and President of North Port Joe Project Area Committee. “We know there are some issues here and we are ready to address them. First we must learn to work together to get these things accomplished. “
The celebration opened with a prayer and pledge of allegiance followed by a welcome address and recognition of guests by Pastor Chester Davis. Pastor James Chambers of New Bethel AME Church gave the history of Emancipation and the reasons we celebrate “Juneteenth Day”.
Members of the community were invited to remanence about the history of North Port St Joe. Some of the businesses that were remembered included Gant’s Preschool, Starlight Restaurant-Joe Buie, Operator, Eara Buie’s Beauty Shop of Avenue A; Mary Riley’s Beauty Shop, Adele Jackson’s Boarding House of Avenue B; Driesbach’s Dry Cleaners, Alma Bryant’s Beauty Shop, Ike Mincy’s Taxi Service, Mamie Gaffney’s Beauty Shop Eva Gant’s Beauty Shop, Peter’s Laundry Mat of Avenue C; Eddie Beverly’s Bait Business of Avenue D; Allen ‘s Grocery, King’s Barber Shop, Georgie Boy’s Restaurant/Club House of Avenue E; Portia’s Beauty Shop of Battles Street; Dow McNair’s Store, Gardner’s Store of North Park Avenue; Club Heat Wave, Clara’s Restaurant, Jones’ Market/ Russ’ Hair Care, Big 10 House, Hall’s Dentistry, Drug and Liquor Store, Williams’ Funeral Home, King’s Service Station, Bell’s Store, Harris’ Beauty Shop, Campus Corner, Stallworth’s Grocery, Dixie Jewelry, Peter’s Grocery, Nathan’s Bar, The Tavern, Jr. Davis Barber Shop, The Pool Room, Walter Duren’s Grocery and Sander’s Grocery of Main Street-Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Mayor Bo Patterson, former City Commissioner and now first term mayor, stated “I just want to work for everybody. There has been a time when I feel that people have been neglected. The only reason I am Mayor is to help everyone. One of the things I’m looking (forward) to doing is to make Martin Luther King a thriving boulevard. It should be thriving just as we have Reed Avenue. Over the years it has gone away and we need to bring it back. People can then have pride in themselves.” We need some jobs. Our people are leaving here left and right. We want to bring industry here. We want to bring our Port up to working standards. We have one of the deep Ports in Florida. The biggest then we need right now is to get a Letter of Intent. The legislature has set aside money for dredging ($20 million) and another $5 million to improve our railroads. We are actively looking for Corporations to come into this area to ship their goods.”
Everyone agreed that Port St Joe is ready for a change. Brett Lowry, newly elected City Commissioner stated “I grew up in this town and I have seen many of my buddies leave to find jobs elsewhere. I want to see more jobs come to our community so that our people can stay here instead of moving.” After the entertainment , everyone lined up to be served a fabulous meal of bar be que chicken, hot dogs, fried fish, baked beans, cole slaw and bread.
“We are looking forward to next year’s Juneteenth,” said former City Commissioner Rachel Smith Crews. This type of celebration will help bring everyone out and we can work to make a change in our community,” she said.
Crews served in group 3 as City commissioner for 8 years. When asked what she considered her project of heart she replied “to bring affordable housing to the community.” Our young people could qualify for affordable housing and that would give them the incentive to stay here and find jobs here.”
After all was said and done, children and adults left feeling as if there was definitely a change in the air.
For more information about getting involved in next year’s Juneteenth, contact the North Port Joe Project Committee. They are looking for vendors as well as performing artists.