President Barack Obama: Bud Billiken Parade Grand Marshal, 2012

Barack Obama will lead this year’s Bud Billiken Day Parade as Grand Marshal, according to Stella Foster’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times today. The 83rd annual parade, presented by Chicago Defender Charities, will kick off at 10:00 am on Saturday, August 11. The theme this year is “Education: Built to Last, A Tribute to President Barack Obama.” The South Side parade route begins at Oakwood Boulevard (39th Street) and proceeds along Martin Luther King Drive until continuing through Washington Park from 51st to 55th Street along Ellsworth Drive.

I contacted Bud Billiken Charities president, retired U.S. Army Colonel Eugene F. Scott, who confirmed Stella’s facts and added that there will also be a VIP breakfast featuring President Obama on the day of the parade. He said that more exciting details can be found in this Wednesday’s Chicago Defender Newspaper.

What an inspiration this will be for the youth who inhabit that surrounding Bronzeville neighborhood and for all of Chicago. As a child growing up in Bronzeville, I loved seeing in person the many celebrities and politicians, majorettes, floats, bands and other spectacles witnessed at the parade.

During that time the newspaper boys were kids from the neighborhood who could make money delivering Chicago Defenders to subscribers. The parade was the brainchild of Defender founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott as a tribute to those youngsters as well as a tribute to youngsters in the Bud Billiken Club, and as an exciting event for the public. It always served as a back-to-school celebration.

It is said that the title “Billiken” came from a Chinese legend about a guardian angel of children. What are your memories of the parade?

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