The Healing Power of Black Joy Marches in Chicago


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Joseph Williams, Word in Black

Every August, the Bud Billiken Parade enables the community to thrive in “an unabashed celebration of the city’s Black culture.”

Golden Sugar at the Bud Billiken Parade 2015 (Daniel X. O’Neil/Wikimedia Commons)

In its basic elements, it’s like any other big-city parade: floats and marching bands in colorful uniforms; high-stepping, baton-twirling majorettes; beauty queens, waving atop convertible sedans; high-profile politicians glad-handing crowds that line the streets. 

But Chicago’s annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, set to step out into its 94th edition on Saturday, is not just another parade. Among the largest parades in the nation — and with origins in a storied Black newspaper that fought for civil rights — the Bud Billiken is the only one that’s created by, for, and about Black people. 

Created nearly a century ago to honor the children who hawked editions of The Chicago Defender on Windy City street corners, the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic has evolved into an unabashed celebration of the city’s Black culture.

Held annually on the city’s South Side on the second Saturday in August, the parade winds through the city’s Black neighborhoods and culminates in a massive cookout and festival that draws tens of thousands of people (and big-name performers) to Washington Park. 

Bonds of kinship and cultural pride are embedded in the celebration, which serves as a public affirmation of Black humanity, and as a balm against the slow-healing wounds of racism. 

Learn more about the second biggest parade in the U.S. in the original article.

Read about the importance of Black journalism, one of the many things celebrated at the parade, in this virtual exhibit.

Find more Breaking News here.

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