The Bud Billiken Parade is the end-of-summer treat for the children of Chicago’s South Side, the truest way to ring in the new school year. But the familiar sights and sounds of the parade — the sequined leotards, the rumbling snare drums, the sweet scent of barbecue wafting from backyard grills — were overshadowed Saturday by the parade’s grand marshal.
“Chance! CHANCE!” children yelled as they pushed through crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of Chance the Rapper, the 24-year-old local musician who rose to greater fame this year by winning three Grammy Awards and donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools. One group of kids ran down the entire parade route, trying to keep up with the white convertible driving him so that he wouldn’t leave their sights.
For several families, no one was better suited to lead the historically back-to-school celebration than Chance, who isn’t shy about championing youth empowerment or standing up for Chicago schoolchildren. Trailing the white convertible was a U-Haul truck from which volunteers with the rapper’s local charity, SocialWorks, unloaded 30,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies. Children cheered as they were handed backpacks by volunteers.
“A water bottle! Headphones! Oh, my God!” cried out 7-year-old Xavier Pratt. The second-grader at Heather Hill Elementary in Flossmoor rummaged through the backpack as though it were a Christmas stocking. There were pens and pencils, Post-it notes, a notebook and a sturdy folder. His cousin Kailyn Paschal, a third-grader at Calvary Academy in South Holland, was just as delighted.
“This is lit! This is lit!” Kailyn said as she pulled out each item. She was excited to come to the parade this year to see Chance, but would’ve attended the parade regardless, she said.
“This is tradition,” she said. “Something we always do.”
Chance stole the show with a second giveaway: tickets to a free concert Saturday evening at the Auditorium…