After a 2021 pandemic hiatus, the Orange County Black History Parade and Unity Festival will return to downtown Anaheim on Saturday. The Orange County Heritage Council will lead the 42nd annual parade with the theme “Our Heritage: Reflecting, Advancing, and Uniting,” starting at 9 a.m. with a parade pre-show and opening prayer.

After the morning blessing, the parade will kick off at 10 a.m., starting at Anaheim Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue, and will march toward Water Street before returning to Anaheim City Hall. The parade will feature marching bands, floats, community units and dignitaries. 

The parade will be followed by a unity festival, previously known as the Cultural Faire, beginning at noon. The festival will feature live music and entertainment, food, vendors, a college fair and an art contest. The 2022 grand marshall, R&B singer Kenny Lattimore, is scheduled to speak and perform a selection of his music. R&B historian Tyrone Dubose and model Ashley Nicole are slated as parade hosts. 

The city of Anaheim has hosted the O.C. Black History Parade since 2011. It has become an iconic tradition celebrating diversity and the richness of Black culture. According to the 2020 U.S. census, Anaheim has the county’s largest population of Black people. About 9,364 Black or African American people live in Anaheim, which is 2.7% of the city’s population, out of 66,927 Black or African American residents in the entire county, or about 2.1% of the O.C. population.

The O.C. Black History Parade was founded by the late Helen M. Shipp and celebrated 40 years in 2020. This local tradition began in 1980 in Santa Ana and has seen a growing number of participants resulting in the parade being moved to Anaheim. Her son, CHC President Dwayne “BH” Shipp, has kept the legacy of the parade going in recent years. 

Along with the typical family, fun and food, the event will provide the community with free COVID-19 vaccinations and testing with a health village, Shipp said. There will be three stages with entertainers and motivational speakers performing, he said. 

The first stage, the Freedom stage, will host jazz, gospel, R&B, motivational speakers and comedians. Among those scheduled to perform are comedian Dexter Smiles, gospel singer Maurice Griffin and rapper Knoc-turn’al. The second and third stages, the James Weldon stage and We Up Next stage, will be the youth and hip-hop stages. The youth stage is sponsored by Vans, and Maserati Shellz will emcee the hip-hop stage. 

In addition to COVID-19 services and entertainment, the festival will host a virtual college fair, exhibitors, information booths, church organizations, community resources and delicious ethnic foods, Shipp said. Among the list of food vendors are Santa Ana Redds, Endless Eats, Word of Faith and Pucker Up Lemonade. 

The OCHC canceled the parade and festival last year in an abundance of caution as COVID-19 cases were on the rise at the time, Shipp said.

“We had to be safe. It wasn’t just about the parade; it was about our humankind,” he said. “The world was going through something. We all needed each other. Even Disneyland was not open; we couldn’t have a parade.”

“It wouldn’t have been smart to have a parade in the bulk of a spike,” he added. 

Shipp said the 2020 Black history parade saw an estimated 14,000 people in attendance. While he acknowledges those numbers were pre-pandemic, he hopes and encourages everyone to come out and be a part of history this year regardless of race, color or ethnicity. 

“Our organization is ‘The Legacy Never Ends … New Vines Grow from Strong Roots.’ I’m a vine from the root my mother laid. I’m just continuing our community work that she started,” Shipp said. “Our mission is to serve our community.” 

Those who cannot attend Saturday or wish to learn more about the parade’s 40-year history can visit Santa Ana’s Crear Studio to see the O.C. Black History Parade Archival Exhibition. The exhibition is supported in part by the California Arts Council, and archives and images are courtesy of the Shipp Family and OCHC. 

42nd Annual O.C. Black History Parade & Unity Festival

When: 9 a.m morning blessings; 10 a.m. to noon, parade; noon to 5 p.m., Unity Festival. Saturday, Feb. 5.

Where: 305 W. Center Street Promenade, Anaheim

Tickets: Free

Contact: oc-hc.org, 714-579-9966

The exhibition will have an art walk after the parade this Saturday from 6-10 p.m. Regular exhibition hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 4-8 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., and by appointment on all other dates and times. 

The exhibition will have a closing reception on Saturday, Feb. 26, from 2-5 p.m. The last day to see the collected photographs, videos, newspaper articles and event artifacts will be Feb. 26. 

“It is a visual journey. It takes you back through the history from 1980, the beginning of the parade, and how it came through the community,” Shipp said. “You can’t have history without artifacts.” 

Muzeo in downtown Anaheim will also feature artwork from the Orange County Heritage Council Youth Art Contest in its Studio Gallery. And in Muzeo’s Kabel Gallery, additional guest arkwork will illustrate the parade theme, “Our Heritage: reflecting, advancing, uniting.”

The exhibits will be on view through March 20. Visit muzeo.org for details.    

Emily Melgar is a writing intern for Voice of OC. She can be reached at emily.melg@gmail.com.

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