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Sat, 08.10.2024

The Bud Billiken Parade, a story

*On this date in 1929, the Bud Billiken parade occurred in Chicago. It is the largest African American Parade in the United States.

It always takes place on the second Saturday in August. It began in 1929. The Bud Billiken parade started as a promotional idea through the Chicago Defender newspaper. The paper had a weekly column in the children’s section under the pen name "Bud Billiken." Writer Willard Motley wrote the material and was the original "Bud Billiken." However, Motley’s association with the name Billiken is an offspring of the true origin of the concept.

The Billiken and its representation originated in China. The Chinese consider the Billiken a symbol of good luck and the God of Laughter, Happiness, Merrymaking, and Good Health. The Chinese believed that the presence of the Billiken, with his pointed head, pot belly, bat-like ears, and whimsical smile when kept in their homes, would protect and ensure a happy, pleasant atmosphere. When worn, it would dispel clouds of trouble and bring joy to life! He was a patron of beauty and guardian angel of children, and it is this "Billiken" for which the theme of the Bud Billiken Parade was created.

The event originated as a "parade" of newspaper delivery boys down what was then called Grand Blvd. into Washington Park for a cookout. Either way, Billiken is a legendary character who symbolizes pride, happiness and hope for young black people today.

The 2008 parade was dedicated to the memory of Chicago resident and comedian Bernie Mac, who died on the morning of the event. The Chicago parade attracts hundreds of thousands of people along its route.  In 2020 and 2021, Covid-19 caused the first cancellations in its 91-year history; for more information, call 312-225-3710.

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