August 11, 1929: Founding of Bud Billiken
The Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, which still takes place annually in Chicago, was started by Bahá’ís Robert Abbott and David Kellum in conjunction with the Chicago Defender.
Early Photo from the Bud Billiken Parade
Robert Sengstacke Abbott was the founder of the Chicago Defender. By the start of World War I, the Chicago Defender was the most influential Black weekly newspaper in the United States. Along with being a member of the Chicago Bahá’í community, Abbot was also a member of the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, a committee formed to conduct an inquiry into the 1919 Chicago Race Riots.
Robert Abbott, Image Courtesy of the Chicago Defender
David Kellum was a long-time member of the Chicago Bahá’í community, an editor at the Chicago Defender, and a civil rights leader dedicated to inspiring young people and improving relations between the races.
The Bud Billiken parade is held on the second Saturday in August and has attracted more than 50 million children and their families throughout the United States for a day of community gathering and a celebration of African-American culture in Chicago.
The Obama's at the Bud Billiken Parade, 2007
Alain Locke Becomes Bahá’í
Along with W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke (1885-1954) was a leading intellectual of his day. Locke was the first African-American Rhodes scholar and he chaired the department of philosophy at Howard University. Editor of the influential anthology The New Negro (1925), Locke was also known as “The Father of the Harlem Renaissance.” Dr. Martin Luther King referenced Locke when he said: “We’re going to let our children know that the only philosophers that lived were not Plato and Aristotle, but W.E.B. Du Bois and Alain Locke came through the universe.¹”
“Bahá’í principles and the leavening of our national life with their power, is to be regarded as the salvation of democracy. In this way can the fine professions of American ideals be realized.” -Alain Locke, Bahá’í Congress, Green Acre April 1925
This clipping is from the October 1952 issue of Ebony magazine. Alain Locke is pictured opposite of Robert Abbott. The article is titled “Baha’i Faith: Only Church in the World that Does Not Discriminate.”
On June 17, 1933, the Chicago Defender published article on the Bahá’í Faith and sited Alain Locke as a prominent member of the Faith.
Photo Courtesy of Christopher Buck
“If they will but see it, because of their complementary qualities, the two racial groups [Black & White] have great spiritual need, one of the other.” -Alain Locke, 1933
1. Quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: Address Delivered at Poor People’s Campaign Rally. March 19, 1968. Clarksdale, Mississippi
(photos and information courtesy Christopher Buck. Buck’s book, Alain Locke:Faith and Philosophy can be found here)