Sponsored by Chicago Defender Charities, the parade is a well-loved tradition in Chicago, particularly within the city’s African-American community. It began in 1929, and is named for a cartoon character that was the brainchild of Robert S. Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper, and Luscious Harper, the paper’s Managing Editor. This cartoon ran for years in the Defender, teaching youth that they should obey their parents, respect one another, and grow up to be honest and trustworthy. The paper even organized a “Bud Billiken Club” for its young readers – a special society complete with membership cards and ID badges.
The first Bud Billiken Parade was meant to provide these children, many of them underprivileged, with a fun, festive experience. Since that day, nearly 50 million children and their families have made the second Saturday in August an annual celebration of community and African-American heritage.
“Historically, the Bud Billiken Parade has been a very important day in Chicago’s African-American community,” said Lafayette Ford, part of the Family and Community Engagement division of CPS. “It runs through several of the south side’s African-American neighborhoods and is a great source of pride for everyone involved.”
Almost since its inception, CPS has maintained a major presence in the parade, and 2014 is no exception. As attendees consider this to be the culminating event of the summer, the District uses the gathering to springboard its Back-to-School campaign, handing out thousands of t-shirts, fans, and other memorabilia adorned with the date for the first day of school – Tuesday, September 2, 2014. Volunteers are also available at Presence in the Park – the post-parade picnic held in Washington Park – to hand out valuable Back-to-School information.
“This year, we plan to hand out around 6,000 t-shirts and fans along the parade route,” said Ford. “And we will have people in Washington Park passing out information on early childhood registration, health requirements, and other things parents need to know as they get ready to send their kids back to school.”
The CPS contingent will include three parade floats – one for its JROTC programs and two boasting Chicago radio personalities and several valedictorians from the Class of 2014. Five CPS marching bands will also walk in the parade, as will several of the District’s military schools, the “CPS Proud Parents”, and hundreds of additional supporters. Anyone interested in being a part of the CPS presence at Bud Billiken is encouraged to call the District’s Back-to-School Hotline at (773) 553-3223.