Chance the Rapper continues his year of total world domination with an appearance mid-August as the grand marshal of Chicago’s Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic. And while the Bud is the nation’s second largest parade —if we’re being honest— a better description of it is the longest, largest and blackest parade in the world.
The three hour (cut from five hours in the past), three-mile, back-to-school extravaganza runs down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in the heart of the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side. It features the best of Black American culture with non-stop entertainment from groups showcasing the city’s own footwork, high school bands, deejays, dance teams, motorcycle clubs, sororities, fraternities, politicians and Olympic-style tumblers. It culminates in a picnic, not too far from the front lawn of the DuSable Museum of African American History, where Chancellor Bennett is also the newest board member.
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“We had been fortunate to have someone from the White House serve as grand marshal during the entire time President Obama held office,” said Beverly Reed-Scott who served as Bud Program Manager for 15 years and is married to Col. Eugene F. Scott, the Chicago Defender Charities President and Chairman Emeritus.
“But in light of all the drama, violence and loss of morale by our youth, Bud Billiken Parade Coordinator Chez Smith decided we needed a different kind of heavy hitter. Another true hometown hero someone who represented creativity, community service, values and could delight all the elements of the community. She reached out to his team and Chance The Rapper immediately agreed to serve as grand marshal.”
As grand marshal, Chance will lead the parade and has already anointed the king and queen of the Bud Billiken court, which in terms of pomp and circumstance, is akin to a college or high school homecoming court. What else will he do? Social media gives us an inkling. In an Instagram video, Chance said, “Me and my friends are gonna pull up,” and that he’s “coordinating” the August 12 parade.
Celebs are no stranger to the Bud, as Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, James Brown and Aretha Franklin have all attended. Given Chance’s sold-out concert, Grammy-winning status and connections, anyone from JAY-Z to Vic Mensa and Jamila Woods could show up and show out.
School principal Monique Dockery, who was the recipient of a portion of the $1 million that Chance raised to help balance the beleaguered budget of the Chicago Public Schools, said she’s ready for anything.
“He’s just so unsuspecting,” said Dockery, whose school Westcott Elementary received $10,000 from the rapper. “It was huge because we finally made it to being a Level 1 school, and he came at the time when I felt like building morale and teaching morale had started to crash.”
Adding, “This is really our time to shine, to make Chance proud and the parents in our community proud.”
Chance is bringing renewed shine to the 88-year-old parade, which was created by the owner of the Chicago Defender newspaper, largely responsible for encouraging the Great Migration from the southern states to the northern ones. Owner Robert S. Abbott created the fictional Bud Billiken character as a way to encourage the kids and their parents, who were having an arguably difficult time transitioning to the north and dealing with Chicago’s racist housing and policing policies.
The Bud represents all that is good about summer in the city and the positivity that can happen when thousands of Black people get together.
“It’s a mini economic engine,” says Reed-Scott. “It takes your breath away because Black Chicago is one of the most powerful Black communities in America and on this day, the second Saturday in August, everybody knows it.”