Bud Billiken Parade 2023: Oldest African-American parade in US steps off Saturday

Parade runs through historic Bronzeville neighborhood into Washington Park for post-celebration

ByChristian Piekos, Evelyn Holmes, and Christian Piekos WLS logo
Sunday, August 13, 2023
94th Bud Billiken Parade steps off Saturday
Bud Billiken Parade 2023: Hundreds of thousands line up along King Drive Saturday for the largest African-American parade in the U.S.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of thousands of people lined up along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive for the 2023 Bud Billiken Parade.

The Chicago Defender Charities produces the parade, known affectionately as "The Bud." The back-to-school tradition has celebrated and showcased Chicago's youth since 1929.

It began in 1924 as a picnic for neighborhood kids who delivered his paper. The first parade came five years later to grow to as a celebration of Black joy and community.

It's considered the second largest parade in the country behind the Rose Parade in California and the largest African-American parade in the country. Grammy Award-winning artist, poet and Chicago native J. Ivy was grand marshal.

"It's a huge honor, man. I grew up in this city coming to Bud Billiken as a kid," the artist said.

The Bud celebrates culture and promotes education and empowerment as Chicago Public Schools gets ready to start the new school year.

This is the 94th year of the parade and this year's theme is "Parading in Peace Block by Block."

Joan Curtis said she's been attending the parade for 72 years.

"My mom used to bring us all out here, sit us right here, tell us don't move," said Curtis.

The parade has become family tradition for Nicole Johnson.

"It started out with my mom. She's not here today but she used to bring us out here when we were babies, toddlers," said Johnson. "She brought us out here for almost 15 years, till we started getting old enough and bringing our grandkids out here."

What time is the Bud Billiken Parade 2023? The oldest African-American parade in the U.S. will step off on Martin Luther King Drive.

The Sengstacke family has organized the event for four generations.

"There is so much joy and happiness going on, with all the kids coming together, and showcases their talents. We also promote education. The whole point is to get kids ready to go back to school," said Chicago Defender Charities President and CEO Myiti Sengstacke-Rice. "The 'parading in peace' was inspired by My Block, My Hood, My City, and we worked together with Jamal Cole, and he has volunteers out there."

The parade stepped off at 10 a.m. from 39th and King Drive. Around 200 performers and floats were in the parade, including the ABC7 float, with several station personalities who gave a "Cha Cha Slide" salute to Chicago's own DJ Casper, who recently passed away.

"It's showing what we come from, where we grew up at. It's not all bad in Chicago. This is beautiful. This is culture, baby," said Yorella Michelle.

Lots of people picked out just the right spot on King Drive along the parade route.

"We grew up in the Bronzeville area, so I just thought it would be nice for me to try to replicate some of the things we grew up doing," said Cynthia, a parade attendee.

The Jesse White Tumblers returned to thrill the crowds. So did the South Shore Drill Team.

"They really stopped for everyone to see, not just one area, and I like that. They're really inclusive," said Bernard Banaga who was visiting from Ohio.

It stretches two miles own King Drive, through the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, into Washington Park at 55th Street, where a post-celebration continued.