SAN DIEGO, CA.—The 13th Annual Heritage Day Parade, organized by Nu-Way Operation BHILD (Black History Is Learning Development), did something more than just celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity on last Saturday, but also encourage minority groups to record their bone-marrow type on the national registry.
Alonzo Flores, a 22-year-old leukemia patient, needed a bone-marrow transplant to fight his rare form of cancer. He rode on in a convertible during the parade as the 13th grand marshal and participated alongside with youth group dancers and other church groups to raise awareness amongst minority groups to register their bone marrow type.
When he saw people were responding to the call and lined up to join a national bone-marrow registry, Flores was touched.
"This is overwhelming, it's great, it's everything," said Flores, who wants to find a bone-marrow donor so he could overcome his disease and complete his transfer from San Diego City College to San Diego State University.
Joining the line included Johanna Delgado, a 19-year-old nursing major from SDSU, and five Alpha Pi Sigma sorority sisters who also came with him to support the bone-marrow typing drive.
"If it turns out I am a match for Alonzo, I would donate bone marrow for him," Delgado said. "And I want more Latinos to register."
As a minority, Flores has a better chance of finding a bone-marrow match from another minority. "But it's not about helping me,” said the journalism student. “It's about educating minorities about donating blood and bone marrow."
The parade is held on the last Saturday of February in honor of Black History Month. This year, the procession started at Logan Avenue and 49th Street and proceeded down Euclid Avenue. Over 80-100 organizations from churches, schools and local businesses took part in the event.
Pastor Steve Cooper founded the non-profit Nu-Way Operation BHILD in 1991 after seeing the need for the community to become more involved. The organization sought to address issues such as teen pregnancy and drug abuse by building character and pride.
“We teach everyone that by learning about Black History, from the accomplishments, successes, and struggles that will help to have a positive effect on their future,” says the organization’s Web site.
"We have grown so much, and now we are reaching out to other ethnic groups," said Pastor Cooper. "We want this event to be uplifting for all of San Diego. And we want to direct this parade to important causes. That's why we have Alonzo here."