OC Black History Parade and Unity Festival

By Dianne Anderson

Even if he wanted to, it would have been impossible for Dwayne Shipp not to participate in the Orange County Black History Parade when he was growing up.

After all, it was his mother, Helen M. Shipp, who started him.

He was still too young to understand what it meant to ride the giant chariot at the age of five, but today he understands. Something special was in the works.

“Walking the parade route, I was sitting on a float waving at people, I didn’t know why. All I knew was that it was exciting,” he said.

In 1980, with the county’s first black parade in history, officials approached her mother to ask if she still wanted to hold the event because she only had eight entries.

“She said yes, the show has to begin,” said Shipp, president and chairman of the steering committee for the nonprofit Orange County Heritage Council. “This year, we are considering about 60 applications.”

At the time, he may not have been old enough to appreciate the legacy in the larger context of the county’s history, but it sparked the start of a lifelong passion which he carries for what is beyond drums and whirlwinds.

Since its inception, he has become his mother’s right arm in planning, walking the field, taking care of all the tasks for the parade to take place.

“I’m not going to lie, when I was young, I got a little nervous at the time of the parades. You have to pick this up or drop that off. I wanted to play with friends, but all this time I was taught,” he said.

On Saturday, February 5, the 42nd Annual Orange County Black History Parade and Unity Festival welcomes the community for non-stop entertainment and activities from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. , advance, unite,” The event will feature live music, a university fair, a health village, an OC-HC art exhibition at the MUZEO museum and cultural center, among many other attractions. The event takes place at 205 W. Center Street Promenade Anaheim Blvd.

The Grand Marshall is R&B singer Kenny Lattimore. Also featured are actresses Danielle Lawson and Layla Crawford from the film KING Richard, based on the true story of Venus and Serena Williams. The event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Soul Train Dancers.

Free vaccinations and COVID testing are being provided by the Orange County Health Department, and there will be plenty of masks and sanitation stations set up with free sanitizers. Those who stay until the end of the event can collect gifts, necessities and hygiene products that everyone uses, such as soap, deodorant, razors.

He said they were keeping everyone safe and healthy, following CDC rules and compliance, as was the Rose Parade, which he attended to see how they were handling safety protocols. Last year, the Rose Parade only shot about 35% of its par. He expects his parade to do much the same or better.

“We get calls every day,” he said. “It’s actually going well. Disneyland is open, if Disneyland was closed we wouldn’t have it.

Vendors are encouraged to take opportunities to sell their products, and the event continues to receive applications. This year, due to COVID, they have expanded to the street and expanded with more space for vendors, and they have lots of resource and program information booths.

“If you have your masks and you are vaccinated, or if you are not vaccinated, you can get vaccinated. It’s supposed to be 79 degrees and beautiful weather,” he said.

A show of custom cars and motorcycles will be featured, and the event also includes break dancing, which recently got its own Olympic category.

After all this time, he said the process was still exciting.

“It’s the same emotional charge, even more of a responsibility to make sure the community gets [to] experience what I experienced for the first time. That’s why our motto is that the legacy never ends. I am excited but responsible to continue.

It’s hard work, but he’s learned to cut through huge bureaucracy. There are permits to deal with the health department, fire department, and garbage department. There is food and vendors.

“You have to pay for the lights and for the music to be played,” he said. “It must be in your heart because at the Orange County Heritage Council we don’t get paid. We do it because we want to do it. »

His mother organized the parade every year and he said she never asked for or received a personal penny. She always taught him that he could invest in things, but more importantly, be sure to invest in people.

“That’s why we serve our community,” he said.

For more information see http://oc-hc.org/

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