OC Black History Parade & Unity Festival
By Dianne Anderson
Nothing attracts community and business attention like tens of thousands in potential foot traffic.
While COVID-19 put the breaks on most Black History Parades last year, Dwayne Shipp said their program pulled 13,000 out, according to the city census. This year, he expects attendees to reach about 18,000.
“We have more businesses participating, we have a lot more food vendors, more product and information vendors, more colleges are involved. Our health village has grown, more people are calling in,” said Dwayne Shipp, president of the Orange County Heritage Council.
On Saturday, February 4, the parade starts at 9:00 a.m. at Anaheim Blvd/Lincoln Avenue featuring marching bands, dignitaries, and floats winding south to Water Street, returning to Anaheim City Hall with the Unity Festival at Center Street Promenade begins.
Shipp, also a Ward 5 commissioner for the city of Santa Ana, said the event has grown significantly, but he remembers the height of Santa Ana where his mother Helen Shipp first started the parade. At one point, it was pulling from 20-30,000 for the day.
Since he’s been president, his goal is to keep building it to the next level.
From noon to 5:00 p.m., the Unity Festival features music and entertainment with its three stages, dancing and hip hop. Under the theme, “Our History, Our Voice, Our Pride,” they will have numerous vendor booths, a college fair, a youth village, a food court and food trucks, and a custom car and motorcycle show.
The community will also access free health screenings at the health village.
Everyone is excited about their decades serving the community, but Shipp sees time as relative. The 43rd anniversary is his marker for what’s to come.
“My vision is that every 40 years is a new generation. Everyone is counting 43, but I’m counting 3, it’s an opportunity for a new generation,” he said. “It’s the Orange County Black History Parade, but by the time it turns 50, I’d like it to be the California Black History Parade.”
This year, his 90-year-old dad will also participate.
“We start the parade off with the car representing my mother,” he said. “It’s been five years since my mother passed, and I’m going to get him out there so he can ride in the car for her.”
Each year, Shipp’s nonprofit also hosts the MLK parade, and they had over 350 come out last month for a day of family food fun and memories. He met someone recently that started coming to their events at age 12, who is now 26 and bringing out the whole family.
“Our parade has been successful because it is for the people,” he said. “Every year we struggle to get sponsorships, and it’s down to the last few days, but it’s always successful because God has his hands on it.”
Kimi Rochelle Porter said they are sold out with a waiting list for vendors, but may be able to make room for those that get in soon.
There will be free health screenings and tests, food vendors will be out, and they are giving away scholarships. It’s a full day of fun and entertainment for all.
If anyone is without transportation, they are also offering a free bus pass to come out.
“It’s like a family affair, we have youth performing, we have talent. We have major artists coming to perform,” said Rochelle Porter, spokesperson for the event. “Mr. Shipp is keeping the vision of his mom alive. Through his actions and we have an excellent committee, it’s just getting better and better and better.”
Now that the event is nearly at full capacity, she feels that major companies are starting to take notice. Next year, the goal brand activation and more interaction with the community.
This year, she said the spotlight is also on the vendors in the health pavilion.
“I want to put more eyes on them and the churches that are participating, a lot of people don’t get that recognition. Every part of the parade has a light on it because it’s such an awesome parade and cultural affair,” she said.
The parade will be hosted by Mr. Tyrone DuBose, Voice of Unsung, and model Ashley Medina.
“I’m beyond thrilled to continue the tradition of our community by co-hosting with Mr. Tyrone DuBose for the fifth consecutive year. Time flies when you’re having fun, and I know this upcoming parade will be the best one yet. I’m beyond thankful for the honor and can’t wait to see everyone,” said Ashley Medina.
“Now in my ninth year, I can’t thank the Orange County Heritage Council for the opportunity to once again host the parade along with Ms. Ashley Medina. Being able to see the crowds, the love, but more importantly, the dignity and respect of the community in Orange County welcoming such an important event is great beyond measure,” said Mr. Tyrone Dubose.
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