J. Ivy, a Chicago poet and 2023 Grammy winner, has been named grand marshal for next month's 94th Bud Biliken Parade.
Ivy became the first winner of the category created for spoken word poetry albums with her fourth album, “The Poet Who Sat By the Door,” after she lobbied for the category to be created for more than half a decade.
“This is the highest honour,” said Ivy, 47. “Bud Biliken, that's the basis of being able to stand on stage (like at the Grammys). … This is a beautiful celebration of Black primacy.”
The march, started in 1929, kicked off the back-to-school season. Started by Chicago Defender publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott, it is the largest and longest running African American parade in the United States. Billiken is a fictional character created by Abbott and drawn by Willard Motley. She is depicted as a guardian angel for children, and appears in the children's section The Defenders.
Ivy said after being elected, she reflected on going to the parade when she was younger and all the people that got her to where she is today. That mostly includes his family, but also his former teacher Paula Argue. She credited him in her Grammy speech for pushing her to her first poetry performance.
“Standing at this place in history as a poet and as a proud Chicagoan,” Ivy said. “Chicago has become my North Star. There would be no J. Ivy if it weren't for Chicago.”
He said because education was an integral part of his “foundation”, he always wanted to go back to school to tell kids to chase their dreams and “climb their mountains”, which he said he would be able to do as grand marshal.
The theme of this year's parade, which continues to be the largest African American parade and the second largest parade in the country, is “Parading in Peace Block by Block.”
“March for Black preeminence, march for peace and greatness,” said Ivy. “We are marching to help raise our future leaders, to raise funds and send these children back to school in a peaceful and safe environment where they can become great leaders of tomorrow. To stand in that space, and to know that the city has entrusted me with it, I was overcome with joy.