Revered for its history and celebrated for its tradition, organizers of the 88th Annual Bud Billiken Parade now seek to infuse energy into this year’s installment of the Chicago custom that ushers in the new school year.
The Bud Billiken Parade has been recognized as the oldest, largest (and depending on who you ask) the best African-American parade in the nation. Affectionately called by some Chicagoans as “The Bud,” the parade has served as the unofficial culminating event of the summer. The timing of the parade each year (just before the start of the school year) perfectly coincides with the underlying mission supporting childhood education just as the event’s founder, Robert Sengstacke Abbott, intended.
Since Abbott founded the Bud Billiken Parade on August 11, 1929, the Bud is surpassed only by the Rose Parade celebrated in Pasadena, Calif, on New Year’s Day in terms of sheer size in the United States. Over the decades, Chicago Defender Charities, Inc., founded by John H.H. Sengstacke, has taken on the duties of producing the parade, which has witnessed notable individuals in attendance like (then) Senator Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, among dozens of other stars.
This year’s theme of “Honoring our Hometown Heroes” was selected by Chez Smith, parade coordinator, according to Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, president, Chicago Defender Charities. She shared with The Defender that the idea originated from the desire to celebrate those who have gone on to accomplish great feats from Chicago. Few exemplify the spirit of this year’s theme better than parade grand marshal, Chicago’s very own, Chance The Rapper. Sengstacke-Rice applauded the selection of the South Side MC calling him “an inspiration” to the younger generation.
“This year we are so excited to have Chance the rapper as our Grand Marshall,” said Sengstacke-Rice. “Chance the Rapper was hands down the perfect choice for this year’s Grand Marshall because of his stance on education, his drive to celebrate the talent of the youth in our community, and we want to celebrate his amazing accomplishments this year. He represents the vision of our Bud Billiken Parade founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott who started the parade to celebrate our talented community children and promote education.”
Chance’s efforts to change the lives of Chicago’s children through education have been nothing short of iconic. The 24-year-old donated his 2017 Grammy award for Best Rap Album for “Coloring Book” to the DuSable Museum of African American History. He would later donate $1 million to Chicago Public Schools. His Instagram post announcing his role as grand marshal of the parade has received more than 947,000 views.
Previous grand marshals include legendary soul singer Chaka Khan and Katherine Branch, director of special projects and events at The White House.
The parade is scheduled to kick-off at 10:00 a.m. at the intersection of King Drive & Oakwood Blvd. The parade route heads south down King Drive and ends at Garfield Blvd./Elsworth Dr. & 55th St. Individuals unable to attend the parade will have the ability to watch it on ABC-7 Chicago.
The South Shore Drill Team Returns
This year Bud Billiken Parade staple participant The South Shore Drill Team returns to the festivities after a single year absence.
The South Shore Drill Team, known for their grand show-stopping performances, bowed out of the proceedings last year after parade organizers opted to limit the number of participants in a move aimed to improve the flow and pace of the grand processional. However, in February, both sides came together to announce the return of the fan favorite.
“I am happy that we were able to find a middle ground, our members were excited to know that they would be participating in this year’s parade,” said Arthur Robertson, founder and director of South Shore Drill Team.
The South Shore Drill Team stated in a release that it intends to march with 150 participants including youth, parent volunteers, staff, and more.
“I am so excited to be back at the Bud Billiken Parade this year; we do such much year round, but this is the one event we look forward to doing,” said Kira Ruthledge, a member of South Shore Drill Team.
Bud Billiken Parade Scholarships, Community Service Honorees, and Royal Court Announced
The Chicago Defender Charities announced 10 Bud Billiken Scholarship recipients and six community service award honorees at the recently held Chicago Defender Charities Annual Fundraiser & Scholarship Awards.
According to Sengstacke-Rice, Chicago Defender Charities has awarded more than 300 scholarships totaling in $1.5 million thanks to the support of individual sponsors, corporations, and businesses. She told the Defender former recipients have attended Howard University, Hampton University, Chicago State University, University of Chicago, Boston College, and more.
The 2017 – 2018 Chicago Defender Charities Scholarship recipients are:
Alexandria Polk – Howard University; Matayiah White – Clark Atlanta University; Amir Brown – Hampton University; Nia Hill – Howard University; Emmanuel Owusu – North Central College; Christina Pincham – Loyola University; Jorian Reeves – Xavier University; Kiara Daniels – University of Illinois – Urbana; Nathan Plummer – University of Illinois – Urbana; and Ruby Diaz – University of Illinois – Urbana.
The 2017 Community Service Award Honorees are:
Mr. Lester McKeever, Robert S. Abbott Entrepreneurship Award; Pastor Bill Winston, John H.H. Sengstacke Business Award; Dr. Anderson Thompson, Frederick D. Sengstacke Education Award; Ms. Chris-Tia Donaldson, Dr. Marjorie Stewart Joyner Innovation Award; Ms. Tammera Holmes, Bessie Coleman Aviation Award; and Ms. Sheila Wilkinson-Sanders, David Kellum Community Service Award.
Parade organizers recently announced the winners of The Bud Billiken® Parade Royal Court Contest presented by BMO Harris Bank. The co-ed contest gave Chicagoland girls and boys ages 8-12 an opportunity to be recognized by a group of judges for their dedication to education and citizenship. Winners took a picture with Chance The Rapper. The Bud Billiken® Parade Royal Court Contest winners are:
Earnest Carver, King; Isis Dixon, Queen; N’kiya Johnson, Princess; Jaquan Collins, Prince; Austin Washington, Lord; Brasiah Eggleston, Lady; Jeremiah Johns, Duke; Jeremiah Hudson-Davis, Royal Advisor; Aniya Owens, Duchess; and Caitlyn Smith, Royal Advisor.
For more information about the 88th Annual Bud Billiken Parade, visit https://www.budbillikenparade.org/.
We hope to see you as the beloved tradition rolls on!