Myiti Sengstacke – Rice, Founder and Publisher

So much happens the day of the Bud Billiken Parade. For 94 years, the parade always represented education empowerment and that it is time to go back to school. We start with a VIP breakfast and kick off with a 10 am ABC7 live broadcast. We march, dance or float for almost 3 miles to then end up at the reviewing stand and “Grand Finale” on 51st and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. During and after the parade it’s off to Washington Park where we have a huge back to school festival. There’s food, fun and festivities for the kids and families. My hat goes off to my amazing team, we start planning right after the last parade. When you are busy doing the work it’s hard to stop for much else, but I am so grateful when our hard work is recognized.

This year I received the Presidential lifetime Achievement Award from President Joe Biden and VP Kamala Harris. The award was presented to me by Senator Napoleon Harris at our annual VIP parade kick-off breakfast. When I received the letter that I was chosen to receive the award I thought…lifetime achievement? I still have a lot more to do. However, I recognise the fact that I am standing on the shoulders of great men and women who paved the way so I could carry such a rich and powerful institution such as the 94 year old legacy of the Chicago Defender Charities and the Bud Billiken Parade and Festival.

We are built on the vision of the Chicago Defender, founded in 1905 by Robert Sengstacke Abbott, and it was more than just a newspaper. It was a voice of empowerment, resilience, and aspiration for the African American community. In 1947, The Chicago Defender Charities was born, as an extension of the newspaper’s commitment to social justice and community development.

Our Grand Marshal this year, Grammy award winning Poet, J. Ivy kept saying that the Bud Billiken Parade is a “Cultural Phenomenon.” I love this statement and couldn’t agree more. In 1929, the Bud Billiken Parade made its debut, and it quickly became a beloved annual tradition for Chicagoans and people around the world. Named after the fictional character Bud Billiken, the “guardian of children,” the parade was designed as a celebration of African American culture and a source of inspiration for young people.

Over the years, the Bud Billiken Parade has grown into one of the largest and most iconic parades in the United States. It is a vibrant showcase of music, dance, art, and community pride. The parade also places a strong emphasis on education, with marching bands and local schools participating, reinforcing the importance of learning in the community.

Looking Forward, the challenges facing the African-American community have evolved, but the commitment to progress remains unwavering. These two institutions have proven time and again that they are up to the task.

As we move forward, let us remember the importance of supporting organizations like ours and continue to celebrate the traditions like the Bud Billiken Parade. These legacy institutions remind us of the power of community, the value of education, and the potential for positive change. In these challenging times, these institutional and community successes are beacons of hope that guide us toward a brighter, more inclusive future for all.