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 Orange County’s Black History Parade when he was growing up.
After all, his mother, Helen M. Shipp, started it.
He was still too young to grasp what it meant to ride the giant float back when he was five, but today, he gets it. Something special was in the works.
“Riding down the parade route, I was sitting on a float waving at people, I didn’t know why. All I knew is that it was exciting,” he said.
In 1980 with the county’s first Black History Parade, officials went to his mother to inquire if she still wanted to hold the event because she only had eight entries.
“She said yes, the show must begin,” said Shipp, President and Steering Committee Chair of the nonprofit Orange County Heritage Council. “This year, we’re looking at about 60 entries.”
Back then, he may not have been old enough to appreciate the legacy in the larger scope of the county’s history, but it sparked the beginning of a lifelong passion that he carries for what’s beyond the drums and twirls.
Since its inception, he became his mom’s right hand in planning, walking the grounds, taking care of all the tasks to make the parade happen.
“I’m not going to lie, when I was young I used to get a little mad at parade time. You have to pick up this or drop off that. I wanted to play with friends, but that whole time I was being taught,” he said.
On Saturday, February 5, the 42nd Annual Orange County Black History Parade & Unity Festival welcomes the community out for nonstop fun and activities from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Under the theme, “Our Heritage: Reflecting, Advancing, Uniting,” the event will have live music, a college faire, a health village, OC-HC Art Exhibit at the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center, among many other attractions. The event is held 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 of the movie KING Richard, based on the true story of Venus and Serena Williams. The event celebrates the Soul Train Dancers’ 50th anniversary.
Free vaccinations and COVID testing are 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 to the end of the event can grab some giveaways, everyday essentials and hygiene products that everyone uses, like soap, deodorant, razors.
He said they are keeping everyone safe and healthy, following the CDC rules and compliance, the same as the Rose Parade, which he attended to see just how they are handling safety protocols. This past year, the Rose Parade only pulled about 35% of its normal. He expects that his parade will do about the same or better.
“We’re getting calls every day,” he said. “It’s going smooth actually. Disneyland is open, if Disneyland was closed we wouldn’t be having it.”
Vendors are invited out for opportunities to sell their goods, and the event is still taking applications. This year, due to COVID, they have extended down the street and spread out with more space for vendors, and they have a lot of information booths about resources and programs.
“If you have your masks, and vaccinated, or if you’re not vaccinated, you can get vaccinated. It’s supposed to be 79 degrees and beautiful weather,” he said.
A custom car and motorcycle show will be on display, and the event also features break dancing, which recently got its own Olympic category.
After all this time, he said the process is still exciting.
“It’s the same emotional charge, even more of a responsibility making sure the community gets [to] experience what I first experienced. That’s why our motto is that the legacy never ends. I’m excited but responsible to keep it going.”
It is hard work, but he has learned how to slice through the massive red tape. There is permitting to deal with, the health department, the fire departments, and the trash department. There’s food and vendors.
“You have to pay for lights and for music to be played,” he said. “It has to be in your heart because at the Orange County Heritage Council, we do not get paid. We do it because we want to do it.”
His mother held the parade every year, and he said that she never once asked for, or received a personal penny. She always taught him that he could invest in things, but most of all, make sure to invest in people.
“That’s why we serve our community,” he said.
For more information, see http://oc-hc.org/