PORT ST. LUCIE — A group of residents came before the City Council on Monday to voice their disappointment with what they see as a lack of recognition for Juneteenth here.

Juneteenth National Independence Day, which became a federal holiday in 2021, commemorates the last enslaved people learning of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas.

Port St. Lucie City Hall

Not enough is being done in Port St. Lucie to commemorate Juneteenth, residents told the council.

Chauncelor Howell, president of the Treasure Coast Black Chamber of Commerce and former mayoral candidate, said he was “personally taken aback” to see a lack of events in Port St. Lucie but multiple commemorations of the holiday in nearby Fort Pierce. Fort Pierce city offices were closed for the day, Howell said, and the city celebrated its annual Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom festival.

Chauncelor Howell

“We can do better,” said Howell.

City leaders said they invite future collaboration on Juneteenth events.

Vice Mayor Jolien Caraballo noted that Fort Pierce does not host the Juneteenth festival, but rather it is organized by a private group and then sponsored by the city, along with St. Lucie County and other sponsors. Caraballo said that could be a model for a celebration in Port St. Lucie.

“I think this is an opportunity for us,” Caraballo said. “There needs to be a group that’s out there that would like to host that, and we can work in collaboration.”

Alex Blue, 14, of Fort Pierce, plays with her 12-month-old brother Aidan during the Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom festival Wednesday, June 19, 2024, at River Walk Center, 600 N. Indian River Dr., in Fort Pierce. The event featured live music, a kid zone, vendors and food. Juneteenth is an annual celebration that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863 to free all slaves, news of the emancipation did not reach enslaved people in Florida until May 20, 1865 and Texas until June 19, 1865.

Councilman Anthony Bonna noted that Mayor Shannon Martin issued a proclamation marking the Juneteenth holiday.

“The mayor is the ceremonial head of the city. She did issue a proclamation for Juneteenth, but if there is something that we can collaborate on in the future, I think that that’s a great opportunity,” Bonna said.

More:Fort Pierce celebrates Juneteenth with Celebration of Freedom festival

More:Florida state offices closed extra day for Fourth of July. See state, federal holidays

Martin, who said she would be happy to meet with anyone interested in a future Juneteenth celebration, noted that this is the second consecutive year she has issued a proclamation for the holiday.

Juneteenth, the proclamation reads, “shall continue to remind each of us of the promises of freedom, equality and opportunity, and serve as an occasion to observe an important milestone in our collective goal toward justice, while also understanding the injustices that African Americans have endured.”

Wicker Perlis is TCPalm’s Watchdog Reporter for St. Lucie County. You can reach him at wicker.perlis@tcpalm.com.