This is an opportunity, not a problem

Bud Billiken, Eugene Scott, Defender Charities, Chicago Defender

Retired Col. Eugene Scott retired last year as the CEO of Defender Charities, the nonprofit that coordinated the annual Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic.

It is very rare in our community that we have nearly a year to identify, assess and correct a situation. That is exactly what Chicago’s Black community is facing when it comes to the annual Bud Billiken Day Parade and Picnic.  In less than a week, the all-or-none decision by the South Shore Drill Team (SSDT) not to participate in the parade has fueled speculation the parade is limping along on its last leg.

Really, I hate to be the one to put a wet blanket over the talk of the parade’s demise, but it is critical somebody deal with the facts rather than emotion.

The parade critics who cite the fact the parade was over before noon are simply ignoring the fact that this year’s parade started an hour earlier, and started on time. The bigger problem would have been if it started earlier and still wandered into mid-afternoon.  an hour earlier.

Sen. Barack Obama, Bud Billiken, grand marshall

Then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, served as grand marshals of the 2007 Bud Billiken Parade

Some view the team’s departure and accompanying lower attendance than usual last Saturday  as some sort of signal the end of an 87-year tradition. Others say the change is reminiscent of the 1971 song by the Honey Cone “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Sh0w.”

Parade would-be assassins fail to see their conjecture, recklessness, and other wild assertions are doing much more to jeopardize the Bud than any management changes this year. Over the decades the parade has been able to attract some of the biggest names in industry, banking  and, retail. These are the ones who actually foot the bill for the parade along with scores of smaller operations. In the sponsorship community, controversy is the enemy. Companies tend to shy away from public disputes, figuring those will negatively impact their brand(s).

TI, Bud Billiken

TI is among the thousands of celebrities who have participated in the Bud

The Rev. Jesse Jackson at this year's Bud Billiken

The Rev. Jesse Jackson at this year’s Bud Billiken

The sponsorship dollars are used to provide scholarships and underwrite educational programs. Corporations deciding the Bud is toxic because of the controversy will no doubt severely cripple the organizer’s – Defender Charities- ability to provide funding at the current level(s) to those programs that support school kids.  Should corporate participation be removed in a and  an hour earlierSome view the team’s departure and accompanying lower attendance than usual last Saturday signal the end of an 87-year tradition. Others say the change is reminiscent of the 1971 song by the Honey Cone “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Sh0w.”

This year’s parade had new organizers and whether you’re talking Apple, General Motors, or the Bud Billiken, when new top people are at the helm changes are made. Any changes in this year’s parade reflect a new management style vs the pending demise of the Bud. It is a reckless claim to assert such

There’s no disputing the SSDT added a flavor like none other to the parade. Reportedly the problem was the team wanted to continue under past practices that allowed them to spurn parade regs about the number of members who could participate from each group. The new organizers of the parade got the all-or-none response from the team and lived by that decisions. But, when you reflect for a moment every pro sports team has lost a star and eventually rebounded to a championship status. As great as the SSDT is, the Bud is bigger than any single organization.

In the last nine decades, the parade, initiated by Chicago Defender long-time publisher John Sengstacke, has attracted presidents, dignitaries, celebrities, hundreds of thousands of spectators as well as a national television audience.

Bud Billiken, Muhammad Ali

Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali was among the hundreds of celebrities who participated in the Bud Billiken over the decades.

Joe Louis Bud Billiken Parad

Joe Louis was no stranger to the Bud Billiken

Now, h0wever, it is time to focus on removing the specter of the end of the Bud Billiken as we have known it.

It really seems that any Black person who is interested in seeing the Bud continue, as well as flourish, would  reach out to the organizers, meet with them and find out how we can all help.

The parade is too integral a part of Black Chicago’s history as well as Black America’s to see it kicked around like this and those of us who can provide any necessary assistance are spectators.

 

 

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