The largest Black parade in America is back, y’all. This year, the Bud Billiken Parade is celebrating its 92nd anniversary after being cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was the first time “The Bud,” which brings out about 500,000 people, had been called off since its inception in 1929.

Beginning Saturday at 10 a.m., the parade will feature two-time WNBA MVP and Chicago Sky star forward Candace Parker as the grand marshal. Among the other Chicagoans participating in the parade are Black People Eats founder Jeremy Joyce and Hugs No Slugs founder Englewood Barbie.

The festivities are going to look a little different this year, considering that we’re not all the way out of the pandemic woods just yet. Returning with COVID-safe modifications such as vaccination stations and fewer participants (from 250 to 125 participants), the parade will run from 45th and Martin Luther King Drive into Washington Park instead of beginning at 39th Street, its traditional starting point. A family-friendly festival called “It Takes A Village” will be held in Washington Park immediately following the parade at 4 p.m.

The TRiiBE spoke with parade chair and Chicago Defender Charities president Myiti Sengstacke-Rice. She is the great-grandniece of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, who founded the Chicago Defender in 1905 and later the Bud Billiken Parade as a way to celebrate the Black community at a time when other publications didn’t. 

Sengstacke-Rice gives us insight into the new COVID-19 guidelines that have been put in place for the parade, the importance of promoting COVID education at the event and the overall impact that the parade has had on the city over the past 92 years.

Data from the Chicago's COVID-19 Dashboard, seen at

As of Aug. 11, the city recorded a daily average of 369 confirmed cases and a 3.9% positivity rate. That’s an increase from 272 confirmed cases and a 3.5% positivity rate last week, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). Only 42.3% of Black Chicagoans have received at least one vaccination shot as of Aug. 11, the lowest of all race-ethnicity groups in Chicago. 

[This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length].

Why is the Bud still so important to the community even after 92 years?

Sengstacke-Rice: I believe the reason that it’s still here after 92 years is because of the culture and tradition that the parade represents for the Black community. It represents families coming together [and] it’s just a giant cookout. You get to see what these kids have been working on year-round, practicing just for this one special day to display their talents. 

It also represents [going] back to school, getting in that spirit of education. I think that’s why people love it so much and continue to come out because you’re talking about three or four generations of families who still attend, like clockwork, every year.

Why is it important to promote COVID education at the Bud and how do you plan to do this?

Sengstacke-Rice: We have a young man by the name of McKinley Nelson [founder of the Chicago-based sports initiative Project sWish]. He is really an advocate for why kids should get vaccines. 

We’re the community that has the least amount of, I think, trust in the government system. And then going through a pandemic, it’s a very difficult time. We have a responsibility to bring education. So we have education on vaccines. We’re also gonna have a vaccination station on 47th Street, on the West Side of the street on King Drive. There’s also a vaccination station in Washington Park. And in the park is where we have our festival. That’s exciting. There are also $25 gift certificates we’re giving away to people who take the take-home vaccination kit, which I didn’t even know about.

With Lollapalooza, there was some controversy. Many people thought the city was irresponsible in allowing the music festival to occur, which had more than 300,000 people in attendance over a four-day period. What are some of the lessons you learned from the city’s rollout of Lollapalooza this year? (For this question, Sengstacke-Rice handed the phone to the Chicago Defender’s executive administrator, Antawn Anderson).

Antawn Anderson: I actually worked with Lolla in a smaller capacity, but just to get an understanding of the event as a whole as well. So we took a lot of elements from Lolla obviously. Lolla followed CDC guidelines for special events for big outdoor events. So we’re following a lot of the same guidelines that Lolla did, which is that in order to get into the “It Takes A Village” festival, you have to be fully vaccinated or have a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours. We also are following the governor’s mask mandate, so you have to wear your mask inside of the festival. 

The only difference [between Lollapalooza and the Bud Billiken Parade] is we have to address a concern in our community, which is that our community is the least vaccinated.  Upon a negative test result, you will be administered into Washington Park, but then we are heavily suggesting that you go ahead and get vaccinated while you’re in the park. There’ll be vaccinations that will be provided by Cook County Health, Chicago Department of Public Health and Walgreens.

As far as not being able to get in without vaccination or a negative COVID test, is that a requirement for entry into the Bud Billiken Parade? Or just entry into the “It Takes a Village” festival portion?

Anderson: This is particularly for the festival. For the parade, we can’t mandate that. [The Bud] is an open event and we can’t regulate what happens on an open street. However, we can strongly suggest that all parade participants follow the governor’s mass mandate. Specifically, what we can control is the festival because it’s a controlled area.

Is there anything that you feel people don’t know about the Bud Billiken Parade or anything about it that’s overlooked?

Sengstacke-Rice: We’re not just the parade. We have an organization called the Performing Arts League, where we really support the dance team, the dance community of Chicago, and we help these kids out. It’s thousands of kids, but they also get overlooked because they’re not like your typical summer camp. They have these dance programs where they practice and they get ready for events and showcases. 

[The kids] need resources. They need education. They need scholarships. So we try to do different things and bring our partners together to bridge that gap between the resources we have with the sponsors and [the kids] to make sure that they’re equipped to get through whatever they need. We were able to give away $30,000 in scholarships this year, too. So we are excited about that.

As the great-grandniece of Chicago Defender founder Robert Sengstacke Abbott, what does this tradition alive mean to you?

Sengstacke-Rice: I’m just amazed that I’m the fifth generation of publishers in my family, and then the fourth generation around the parade. It means so much to me because I see how hard they worked to get it here. What really keeps longevity is cultivating the talent and supporting the talent of people like Antawn, for example. I’m a former college professor and he was my student. 

That’s what we have to do. We have to just reach out to the next generation. And that’s what keeps [The Bud] going. That’s what keeps it alive. That’s what I get excited about, is just legacy.

is a freelance contributor for The TRiiBE.