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Desegregation entry may get a spot in the Fourth of July parade

June 20, 2007|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

The "Magical History Tour" bus may roll back into Huntington Beach's Fourth of July parade.

Parade organizers had snubbed the 1967 Volkswagen bus, which honors the Orange County lawsuit that desegregated California schools, because it lacked "entertainment value," although the U.S. Postal Service has deemed the lawsuit worthy of a commemorative stamp.

But after a flurry of media attention, organizers on Tuesday told filmmaker Sandra Robbie, who proposed the entry, that they wanted to steer her bus back into the Independence Day parade, billed as the largest in the western United States, with 250,000 people expected to watch.

"It sounds very, very promising," Robbie said.

Organizers asked for more details about the bumper stickers and other messages that adorn the bus, which is used to teach people about the 1947 Mendez vs. Westminster School District decision, Robbie said.

Pat Stier, who chairs the board that oversees the parade, said organizers also wanted the bus to mesh with the 300 or so other entries.

"I said, 'Can you make it more patriotic and put some music on it and make it more fun?' "

Robbie, who lives in Santa Ana, produced an Emmy-winning documentary about the Mendez lawsuit.

The ruling was a precursor to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, which outlawed school segregation nationwide.

Before resolution of the Mendez case, Latinos and whites in Westminster were sent to separate schools.

Robbie had recently finished a nationwide trek with the bus when she learned that the 103rd annual parade, with the theme "Huntington Beach Salutes the American Spirit," had excluded it. Fewer than 20 entries were turned down.

In discussing the bus Tuesday, Stier said Robbie could have resubmitted her application by May 31 if she had been in town.

"She's got a great cause," Stier said. "We just have to make it a fun great cause."

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