By Erick Johnson, Chicago Crusader
Thousands of spectators who missed the South Shore Drill Team in the Bud Billiken Parade will see the group perform in the 19th Annual Chicago Football Classic between Central State University and Clark Atlanta University on September 10 at Soldier Field.
The surprise announcement was made during a special press conference on Tuesday, August 16 outside Solider Field, where organizers promised a powerful lineup of events and activities leading up to the highly anticipated showdown between two historically Black universities.
With its big name appeal and stellar reputation, organizers believe the South Shore Drill Team is a perfect fit for an event that has become a tradition in Chicago’s Black community. The group was founded in 1980 and includes many youth from Chicago’s disadvantaged neighborhoods. For decades, the group has wowed audiences with its electrifying moves and dazzling choreographed routines. Chicago Football Classic organizers believe it’s a combination that will add more spice and appeal to this year’s event.
Larry Huggins, construction executive and one of the founder’s of the Chicago Football Classic, said the group was a last-minute addition to the entertainment schedule.
“We had to invite the South Shore Drill Team to come and perform here at historic Soldier Field,” he said.
Dr. Clifton Underwood, president of the South Shore Drill Team expressed excitement about his group’s invitation at the press conference. He said he has not told the group about the offer because he just learned of it that morning.
The invitation is one of several the group has received in the past several days. As Underwood was being interviewed for this story, an official from the United Negro College Fund invited his group to perform at their event.
The South Shore Drill Team was forced last Saturday to skip the 87th annual Bud Billiken parade, the largest African American parade in the country. The group has performed in the parade for 35 years, but opted not to participate this year when parade organizers enforced a rule that required the group to reduced its unit to 100 members. The drill team decided not to join the parade this year, because they didn’t want to choose which kids to perform and which to send home.
The South Shore Drill Team instead held its own parade that day, but many spectators at the Bud Billiken event expressed their disappointment at the group’s absence. Many told the Crusader that the Bud Billiken parade wasn’t the same without the South Shore Drill Team.
Underwood said the decision to skip the parade was hard until he spoke to the kids. During the Chicago Football Classic press conference on Tuesday, the drill team’s president, Dr. Clifton Underwood, said it was “a teachable moment.”
Underwood said his group is in negotiations with Chicago Defender Charities to perform at next year’s Bud Billiken parade.