CHICAGO – The Bud Billiken parade, this city’s biggest parade and the largest gathering of African Americans in the country, has been held every year since 1929. It was started by the late Robert S. Abbott, founding publisher of the Chicago Defender newspaper, as a tribute to youth and the struggle against racism.
The parade is named after Bud Billiken, a mythical figure who serves as a guardian angel over children and who welcomes them back to school after their summer vacation.
This year’s parade on Aug. 9 featured hundreds of floats, marching bands, baton-twirlers, elected officials, and an enthusiastic audience of over one million people on Chicago’s south side.
Carolyn Black was among them. Black, a member of the Illinois bureau of the People’s Weekly World, was helping staff a table sponsored by the PWW, the Communist Party of Illinois, and the Young Communist League.
“Despite the fact that the vast majority of people are of African American descent, there is a growing Latino and Asian contingent in the parade,” Black said. She said she’s invariably inspired each year by “the very large number of talented youth who participate in the parade,” notwithstanding the heavy presence of corporate, military-related, and politician-sponsored floats.
The PWW has been a part of the parade for as long as anyone can remember, she said.
The literature table, a bee-hive of activity during the parade, was staffed by a multi-racial group of members and friends of the Communist Party and the YCL. It was located under a bright a red canopy with a huge banner reading “Push Bush out the door in 2004!”
“The banner attracted a constant flow of people to our table who agreed with our slogan,” said Black. A variety of progressive and Marxist literature on the table was picked up by the parade-goers, and people were encouraged to register to vote.
Nearby a group of volunteer PWW distributors, including CPUSA district organizer John Bachtell and PWW editor Terrie Albano, handed out over 3,000 copies of the Aug. 9 issue, which bore the headline “More jobs, less bull!” That headline was very popular with the crowd, they said. Unemployment is pervasive in Chicago, as is dislike for George W. Bush.
YCL members helped distribute the newspaper, too. Celica Vasquez said that she was encouraged by seeing “a lot of people working together.” Megan Marshall commented, “This is where the youth can have fun.” Brandi and Neil also worked hard to get the papers into the hands of the crowd.
During the parade I met David, who said “I still have the last paper I got from you last year. As soon as I get my act together I will take out a subscription.” Delores Pittman of Gary, Ind., told the World that she has 27 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Originally from Chicago, she said, “I was in one of the first Bud Billiken parades when I was a little girl. I was a baton twirler from my church. I’ve been coming here a long time, but never have I seen so many people in Washington Park. This is our day!”
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org