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Genealogy Buffs Among Throngs at Black History Event


When a relative told Marjorie Sholes-Higgins of her grandfather's vast family, she decided it was time to explore her past and dig deeply into her African American roots.

Sixteen years and 1,379 relatives later, she is amazed at the complexity of what she found. It is both an epic tale that unfolds on three continents and a personal story of struggle and survival.

"All that from one man," she said.

On Saturday, Sholes-Higgins came to Orange County's 21st annual Black History Parade & Cultural Faire to share that story--and encourage others to find their own.

She and her husband tried to encourage people to become members of the California African American Genealogical Society, which teaches how to document ancestry.

"A lot of people don't know about us," Ronald Higgins said. "We may get five members today out of a thousand people we talk to. That would be great. That's why we're here."

The theme of this year's event was "Unity Through Diversity," and it could be found along the parade route and in the festival's grounds at the Santa Ana Civic Center that were jammed with thousands of people.

There were high school bands, break dancing clowns and children in elaborate costumes twirling to traditional Mexican folk music.

There were people waving from the back of open convertibles, among them Grand Marshal Kathryn McCullough of Lake Forest, Orange County's first black mayor, and elderly Tuskegee Airmen, World War II pilots from a segregated squadron, who never lost any of the bombers they escorted.

"I go to all the ethnic festivals--the Greek, the Thai, the Vietnamese," said Huguette Wilson of Newport Beach. "We're so fortunate to have this all around us."

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