By Robyn Mitchell-Henry.
Twenty-twenty has certainly delivered plenty of new experiences and most of them have caused us to grow and stretch and bend to extract the lessons presented. Learning to accept the changes and challenges associated with the global pandemic has not always been simple, so it’s time to add some uplifting goals to this time in our lives. The same goes for our major events every year that we look forward to.
The Bud Billiken is the largest African American parade next to the Thanksgiving Macy’s Day parade. One of the most popular and anticipated events on the second Saturday of August for the past 91 years. This event has always been a huge part of the back to school experience for those in Bronzeville, all over Chicago, the country and the world.
WHO IS BUD BILLIKEN?
The name Bud was a pen name for the junior section of the Chicago Defender newspaper in the 1920’s and 30’s. The Billiken was a very popular Chinese mythical caricature that represented a protector of children. There used to be a Bud Billiken Club that expanded all over the country where children could connect as pen pals. The club also taught entrepreneurship, journalism and there was a performing arts component. All of this is what makes up the Bud Biliken spirit that remains in our hearts pandemic or not.
WHAT ABOUT THE PARADE IN 2020?
So, in case you missed it, this year the parade continued but it was presented in an entirely new format. Due to the pandemic the organizers had to get creative and came up with the idea to collaborate with producers on ABC7 to air a one hour special that told the story and history of our great tradition. This new production was creatively executed to keep the focus on getting ready to go back to school with the right attitude. This 2020 attitude could be called the “Bud Billiken Spirit.”
While the 2-mile parade of floats that normally stretches through Bronzeville from 31st Street to 51st Street was not part of this year’s action, together we made history by sharing a new experience! This year the spirit of Bud Billiken lives on through encouragement about education, health, wellness, career readiness, and getting out to VOTE.
Today the organizers who produce the Bud Billiken Parade are still working diligently to keep the spirit of what the founder Robert Abbott Sengstacke and what he envisioned. This year they gave away $30,000.00 in scholarships to students going to college for the first time. The Abbott-Sengstacke Foundation (organizers) also created a new Bud Billiken Club similar to the prior one that was formed years ago called the Bud Billiken Performing Arts League or (P.A.L) This program gives students a chance to showcase their talents and expand their reach and allows for educational extracurricular activities. They will have access to support from the Bud Billiken through scholarship opportunities, programs and internships.
STAYING POSITIVE IS KEY
Olivia has spent her entire summer taking online classes before setting foot on her university campus. She is ecstatic about receiving a full scholarship to complete her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Her avid love for learning about science has led her to reach her goals of attending her favorite university. According to Olivia:
“You may not have an entirely normal senior year, but you have to keep your eyes on the prize. If you slack off you will not be prepared for college and that is a
much bigger priority. I wish you all good luck and try to make the best of everything.”
Myana is excited about starting college, and she will be at home during her first semester. Her plans to go away right away were reworked when her school decided to only allow freshmen on campus at the beginning of the second semester. Myana sees virtual learning as a blessing:
“Know that your future is so much bigger than high school. Participating in virtual learning classrooms will set you apart from older students. Your experience may not be traditional, but it will give you plenty of resilience and build strength! I am not unhappy that I get to stay home and attend classes. I will be safe until they figure out how to keep everyone safe on campus.”
We are all having to adjust but when in doubt, rely on the “Bud Billiken Spirit” and just do your best no matter what!