The Bud Billiken Parade is an institution in Chicago’s African-American community. The annual parade and picnic have been held since 1929 in the Bronzeville/Washington Park neighborhood. It’s the largest African-American parade in the nation.
Robert S. Abbott, the founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, created the fictional character of Bud Billiken, which he featured in a column in his paper. Children were taught that they should be honest and trustworthy, and respect one another. A cartoon character, Bud Billiken, taught them how.
David Kellum, an editor at the Defender, suggested the parade as a celebration of African-American life. Kellum was a long-time member of the Chicago Baha’i community and civil rights leader. He dedicated his life to inspiring young people and improving relations between the races.
To help realize his dream, Kellum started the Bud Billiken Club. Members of the club participated in a pen-pal program with children in Africa, South America, Europe and the Middle East. The Billiken Club helped chip away at the wall of segregation that had separated these children.
I went to the 2016 Bud Billiken Picnic to try and capture the spirit of community promoted by the parade and have some fun.