Mercy Home Celebrates Back To School at Bud Billiken Parade
A highlight of late summer in Chicago is also the largest African American parade in the country: the Bud Billiken Parade. The beloved annual tradition celebrates back-to-school season and honors African American culture
Thousands of spectators lined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. to enjoy the marching bands, floats, dance troupes, tumblers, cheerleaders, civic organizations, celebrities, charities, politicians, and so many more as they made their way through the heart of historic Bronzeville. The parade ended in Washington Park, site of the Bud Billiken Parade’s It Takes a Village Festival.
Mercy Home was honored to be among the sponsors of this year’s parade. The partnership offered us the opportunity to host an informational tent at the festival near the main stage, which attracted hundreds of curious festival goers who went home more aware about the services we provide and our roots in the community.
“We had a nice amount of people that didn’t know about Mercy,” said Ashley Monroe-Turner, a coordinator in Community Care. “We got a few families that [were interested in Mercy Home, and referring someone], and we had a lot of schools come up. [Some] said they referred some of their kids to Mercy Home.”
Many of our young people and volunteers were on hand to pass out Mercy Home swag like bags, sunglasses, water bottles, stickers, frisbees, and many more goodies. This helped build connections with parade visitors and will spread the word about Mercy Home long after. These public Interactions will have a long-lasting impact as many visitors to our booth expressed interest in visiting our Home.
Our young people in particular had a great time interacting with festival goers while enjoying the live entertainment. They didn’t leave empty-handed, either, receiving free school supplies, a backpack, and a science kit from the Museum of Science and Industry. To top it off, they enjoyed some laughs thanks to a Chicago stand-up comedian and were able to take pictures with him after his set.
Participating in the parade was a great opportunity to get the word out about Mercy Home. In addition to the materials handed out at the informational tent, our AVP of Community Care Daniel Nelson was interviewed by CBS2 Chicago’s Irika Sargent and Joe Donlon during a televised one-hour special about the festival.
Mercy Home coworkers and youth have participated in the last several Bud Biliken Parades. Monroe-Turner reflected on the meaning of our participation to our young people.
“[Our presence] in that parade will show our kids that we are invested in them,” she said. “We understand what they like, and we want to show them we support them in all aspects of their life.”
The Bud Billiken Parade is the brainchild of the late Robert S. Abbott, “the father of black journalism” and founder of the Chicago Defender, the legendary newspaper for African Americans which served as a cultural beacon during the Great Migration as it spread news of northern jobs and opportunity to the American South. Thousands of African Americans during that era would come to call Bronzeville home and make it the vibrant hub of Black life in Chicago.
In 1923, Abbott established the “Bud Club,” a social club for young African Americans in Chicago that echoed the Defender’s children’s page, which encouraged reading, appropriate social conduct, and community involvement. With “Bud the Billiken” as the club’s mascot, Abbott expanded the club’s scope to include a parade in 1929.
Ninety-four years later, the Bud Billiken Parade continues to celebrate African American culture while connecting the community to resources that promote education and empowerment including scholarships and school supplies.