History of the Chicago Defender Charities Bud Billiken ® Parade And Picnic
The Chicago Defender was founded by Robert Sengstacke Abbott on May 5, 1905. His plan was to use this newspaper to address African American issues. In 1921, Mr. Abbott started the Chicago Defender Jr., a section for children in the newspaper. It was edited by the young Robert Watkins, who was known as Bud Billiken ®, and included an application to the Bud Billiken ® Club. It was named after the Billiken, the guardian angel of little children according to Chinese legend. Working under Mr. Abbott, David Kellum was a key member of the Bud Billiken ® team and was often called Mr. Bud Billiken ®.
In 1929, Mr. Abbott expanded the Bud Billiken ® concept to include a parade. Its purpose was to provide underprivileged youth with the chance to be in the limelight. Hundreds of thousands have lined the parade route with millions viewing festivities on live TV. Today, the parade features dozens of bands, drill teams, marching units, floats and more.
The Bud Billiken ® Parade is the second largest parade in the United States. It has grown into an institution with participation from across generations and across the country. The parade takes place every second Saturday in August. The parade proceeds south on King Dr. from Oakwood Blvd. to 51st St. and continues on Ellsworth Dr. thru Washington Park to 55th St. where it disbands. It is broadcast live on ABC7 Chicago with picnics and other events in the park throughout the day.
Many celebrities have appeared in the Bud Billiken ® Parade. From the past, the parade has seen Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Roy Rogers, Lena Horne and former President Harry S. Truman. In recent years, the parade has enjoyed the company of then Senator Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, L.L. Cool J, Spike Lee, Michael Jordan, Frank Thomas, Donny Osmond, Queen Latifah, Tyler Perry and more.
The parade is produced by the Chicago Defender Charities which is under leadership of Dr. Marc A. Sengstacke, Executive Director. Dr. Sengstacke says “The Bud Billiken ® Parade is an historic event with a positive impact across generations, and across the country. It is the desire of the community, our responsibility, and our intent, to preserve the benefits of this great institution for many generations to come.” He continues a tradition established by past leadership of the late John H. Sengstacke, former Charities President and Chicago Defender Publisher, the late Dr. Marjorie Stewart Joyner, former Charities President, the late Frederick D. Sengstacke, former Charities President and Chicago Defender Publisher, and Retired U.S. Army Col. Eugene F. Scott, former Charities President and Chicago Defender Publisher.