By Chinta Strausberg
More than 27 million people watched the 82nd Bud Billiken Parade Saturday on TV including 800,000 to 1 million present along the parade route that proudly showcased black family unity and the talents of more than 300 participants who danced, strutted their stuff and even roller skated while politicians reminded students itâ€™s almost time to go back to school.
And, thanks to the Chicago Defender Charities, more than $1.2 million in scholarships have been awarded to area students since 2003, according to Chicago Defender Charities President Retired Col. Eugene Scott who also thanked his sponsors for making this a reality.
â€œThis year, the Black McDonaldâ€™s Owners Association (BMOA) gave $150,000 for the scholarships,â€ said Scott.
Gov. Pat Quinn called the parade â€œa special day in Illinois. It is especially importantâ€ because he said the Chicago Defender â€œfor years and years was the only voice of truth. In the southern part of our country, there were Pullman porters who would throw the Defender papers off the train in southern states so that people can know the truth.
â€œYou really have to understand how importance it is to honor that legacy and look to the futureâ€ and to believe in the power force of education he said â€œis the most powerful in our society, equal opportunity and a good education. That is what this parade is all about. We want to teach our children how important it is to be life-long learner. Readers are leadersâ€¦.â€
Asked his feelings about the 82nd Bud Billiken Parade, Scott said, â€œIâ€™m excited because it means this is a legacy and an institution in our community that continues to grow and to take care of our kids and that is all what the parade is about,â€ he stated. This year, school begins on Tuesday, September 6th for regular track students.
Scott said about 800,000 to 1 million people were along the parade route and more than 27 million watched it on TV.
Held on the second Saturday in August, the parade is a reminder that school is about to begin.Â â€œOur parade is a clarion call to get ready and go back to school,â€ said Scott.
Begun in 1929 by the Chicago Defender founder, Robert S. Abbott and Defender editor, David Kellum, the 82nd parade snaked down Dr. Martin Luther King Dr from Oakwood Blvd. to 55th Street in Washington Park.
Numerous elected officials were present including: Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th), Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd), Rep. Constance Howard (D-34th), Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow, Pam Morris from WVON, the Chicago Defender Charities Green Team that as hired by Gov. Quinn, and many others.
Mayor Emanuel reminded the VIP audience that the original purpose of the parade as a reminder to children that school is about to begin. â€œWe did real well this week in an increase in kids for the first day of school.â€
Emanuel said Chicagoâ€™s school system has changed from the shortest school day and shortest school year â€œto one where our kids are in the classroom at a full day so they are learning and they are safe in adult supervised activity either in classroom or after-school activities, athletes, academics, what ever their hearts desire.â€ He wants them to be safe and secure while preparing for their future.
He reminded parents about the cityâ€™s new curfew policy. â€œWhen that light goes on, 8:30 p.m., back home and doing their studies so they are safe and secure. There is nothing more precious than our children,â€ said Emanuel.
Preckwinkle, a former teacher, also urged the students to return to school and said education is important to their futures.
Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-1st) he is 64-years old and for the past 48 or 49 years he has been in the Bud Billiken parade. â€œMy firstÂ Bud Billiken parade was as a Cub Scout. Itâ€™s really the most consistent thing Iâ€™ve had other than Christmas and Easter in my life. Every year, itâ€™s exciting and inspirational.
â€œItâ€™s like a national, local family reunion. It is an opportunity for us to highlight our children in a way we used to highlight our children. The quality of it is still so important. I wish we could have Bud Billiken Day every day in our community,â€ said Rush.
Stateâ€™s Attorney Anita Alvarez said, â€œItâ€™s important for our kids to know how important education is. If we can get that message across to all the young kids that education is the key to success and that it opens so many doors.â€
Rev. Jackson, who is holding a back-to-school rally at his Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters, 930 E. 50th St., 9 a.m., Saturday, August 20th, urged parents to sign and take the following pledge: â€œI will: 1) take my child to school, 2) meet my childâ€™s teacher, 3) exchange phone numbers with my childâ€™s teacher, 4) turn off the TV three-hours a night so my child may study, 5) pick up my childâ€™s report card each grading period, 6) take my child to church, temple or synagogue, 7) fight for equal adequate funding for public education students will also be expected to sign a similar agreement.
The student pledge states, I will: 1. Attend school daily and strive for excellence in all that I do, 2. Respect the authority of my parents and teachers, 3. Study three-hours each night without interruptions from anything and anyone, 4.Â Ready each day, 5. Complete all classroom and homework assignments. Jackson said education is key to their success.
Agreeing was Rev. Dr. Leon Finney, Jr., who said, â€œI think that the end of the day, itâ€™s important to remember what itâ€™s about. Itâ€™s not about the luminary. Itâ€™s about the kids in this community and other African American communities across the city of Chicago.
â€œIn days like this when we are really challenged to make sure that our kids go to school and get out of schools with decent grades and degrees, this is even more important. I have never seen it more important in my lifetime than to emphasize education. It is the absolute door to opportunity. Without one, we will have no shot at getting jobs and getting further in life.
â€œThere was a time when education was the primary issue that affected the African American community outside of ending discrimination, and my sense is those days are right back here again. Too many of our kids are dropping out of school. Too many of our kids are not going to school, and weâ€™re not competitive in any kind of way with the world community, and we have to bring an end to that,â€ said Finney. â€œThis is another occasion for us to connect, bring together the resources among ourselves to make a difference.â€
Ironically, earlier Rev. Barrow added: â€œI think itâ€™s a good time for our people to come together and to connect. If ever there was a time for us to connect, it is now.â€
On the morning after the parade, two Cook County Department of Corrections buses were parked at 55th and King Drive. Scores of Cook County Jail detainees were picking up trash left by picnic goers. In fact, during the parade, several Streets and Sanitation trucks including sweepers were doing some serious cleaning along the parade route.
Attorney Ernesto Borges had pushed the cleaning of the park on his Sunday WVON talk show, which airs from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. He had urged parade goers to clean up after themselves and for the city to swiftly clean up the park which they did while the parade was going on and to cut costs both Saturday and Sunday Sheriff Tom Dart dispatched SWAP workers (detainees) and Mayor Emanuel called out his Streets and Sanitation crews for a swift and thorough park cleaning.
Riding on his float that bore the sign â€œBillBusters,â€ Borges, who was also in the VIP section behind Rep. Rush, said, â€œThis is my first time as a participant in a float or car, but Iâ€™ll be back each and every year, God willing. Itâ€™s very enlightening and encouraging.â€ Borges said he saw many of his clients who called out his name.
â€œItâ€™s a very positive thing for the community.â€ He urged students to study hard and if they are a good student â€œdonâ€™t be ashamed of it. Wear it proudly. Theirs is nothing wrong with being smart, educated and being at the top of their class. Some think itâ€™s not cool to be smart, but believe me itâ€™s cool to be smart,â€ said Borges.
Another first time participant was Borgesâ€™ aunt, Lucille Ish, 85, a retired regional director of the Office of Civil Rights covering a six state area in the Midwest. â€œToday, Iâ€™m covering my very first Bud Billiken Parade.â€ Awed by the number of floats and the people attending, Ish waved at the crowd as she rode on Borgesâ€™ float and marveled at the number of tents erected in the park, barbecue grills and tables where families gathered for a peaceful day out in the park.
During the parade, there was a red trolley bus that bore signs reading: â€œNext Stop Main Street,â€Â â€œTax Wall Street, not Main Street,â€ â€œSome Cuts Donâ€™t Heal,â€ â€œBlame Wall Street, No Concessions,â€ â€œHeal America, Tax Corporations,â€ â€œMain Street Contracts for the American People,â€ â€œRN Strong Union, Protect our Patients,â€ â€œNational Nurses United.â€ There were numerous messages participants used to get the word about their many issues.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host.