Jerry Bibuld, FIDE International Arbiter and longtime chess advocate for the expansion of chess in the African Diaspora has died. Born in the Bronx, New York on June 9th, 1928, the 85-year old had been suffering from the effects of Parkinson’s Disease and succumbed on October 22nd. The chess world is at a great loss.
Jerry was a mainstay in the U.S. chess scene and was a Life Member of the U.S. Chess Federation. Back in February, The Chess Drum did a tribute on the chess works of Jerry and described some of his contributions.
Jerry insisted on informality and did not like to be called “Mr. Bibuld”. If you did so, he would return the formality until you ceased. Another thing he did was insist on using the African version of one’s name. He would call Nigerian master George Umezinwa by “Okechukwu”. He always shared with those whom he trusted and felt were trying to live nobly. He indeed had his own principles and he was firm in his convictions.
If you met Jerry, you would have to go through one of his political orientations where you were exposed to his own unique language. One of the principles he fought for was the right for liberty and equality. He would recount his history and the times he was accosted and jailed for his activism. Jerry took on some unpopular views, but you always knew exactly where he stood.
One of Jerry’s favorite beneficiaries of his great works.
As far as chess is concerned, Jerry took more joy in organizing, directing and documenting than playing. He had a 1600 rating (1800 peak) and said with conviction, “The average strength of all chess players is 1500. That means I’m relatively a strong player.” He certainly had a different view and offered many philosophic stances on chess that would make one take another look. Besides his volunteer work in chess, he reveled in documenting chess in all its glory.
One of the most beautiful contributions of Jerry was his stunning photography. He had compiled a huge collection of photographs of different events over the years, but was especially proud of his photographs of players of African descent. He donated countless prints to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Harlem, New York) and has been donating them for quite some time. This would be the easiest way for this information to be seen for many years to come.
Portrait of Zambia’s (then IM, now GM) Amon Simutowe in 2001.
Photo by Jerry Bibuld.
Jerry was well-respected in the African Diaspora, particularly the federations he adopted… Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique. He would make as a condition for the use of his photographs the sending of magazine subscriptions to the federation. He had been an International Arbiter since 1980 and directed tournaments in these countries to provide them with needed direction in places were there was nary an International Arbiter. He was also instrumental in organizing the historic Wilbert Paige Memorial tournament in Harlem. This tournament featured ten of the top players of African descent and he invited The Chess Drum to be the official website for the tournament.
Organizer and Arbiter Jerry Bibuld before the start of the Wilbert Paige Memorial. Three of the competitors shown are the late IM Michael Schleifer (Canada), IM Watu Kobese (South Africa) and the late FM Ronald Simpson (USA). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
Of course, Jerry had a number of detractors, but it did not seem to faze him. In fact, it gave him more resolve. On a number of listserves, Jerry could be seen debating on USCF and FIDE politics. There was even a discussion on the merits of Jerry’s list of “Afro-American” players. It was an interesting gesture for someone outside this community to take such of an interest and many found it a bit odd. However, he was appreciated by the community to which he gave so much and that was enough for him.
“Dr. Shabazz has made a dream of mine come true by setting up this website.”
~Jerry Bibuld (13 February 2001)
In 2001, Jerry was excited at the launching of a new website called “The Chess Drum” (launched 12 February 2001). It was a website highlighting the accomplishment of players of African descent worldwide. He moved to support the effort primarily through his photography. Years earlier he had shared his historic list of Afro-American masters to those whom he trusted as being genuine about the advancement of chess within this demographic segment.
This valuable list provided the year the player earned the National Master title, their current ratings and their peak rating (Note: Maurice Ashley had reached 2606 USCF and there were other high flyers on the list). He used this list as a showcase of talent and a validation that players of African descent could excel. Chess became the ultimate stereotype buster for him.
The list became one of the resources for the “Drum Majors” list which also included players from around the world. While he did not play a direct role in the creation of the website, he certainly took pride in the fact that there was a voice for players of African ancestry.
Apart from chess Jerry was an intriguing figure. According to an obituary in Black News, he enlisted in the Army in 1946 just after World War II. After his discharge, he worked for on the 1949 campaign for New York City Councilman Benjamin Davis, “an Afro-American communist from Harlem”. It was at this time he met his first wife, Elaine Jones through mutual friend Oliver Leeds. They produced four children named Douglass, Carrington, Melanie and Sarah. The Bibuld family received death threats from the National Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan since they were an interracial family.
Back in 2007, Bibuld wrote a sort of an autobiographical piece that he made public. It revealed some interesting tidbits about his philosophy, lifestyle and interests.
I am, on this date (17 November 2007) a 79-year-old United Statesian male, a husband, father, grandfather and, most fortunately, great grandfather. The best and most important part of my life is my family. Although born and bred in the United States of America – and living in CT – I consider myself an immigrant into Afro-America, essentially because all of my family, except my two brothers, is Afro-American. It is my belief that Afro-America is a colony of the United States. When it becomes a sovereign state — if I live that long — I shall apply for citizenship in Afro-America. I have hopes that citizenship will be granted me, because of the status of my immediate family and in recognition of services rendered the nation.
I have been active intellectually all my life, especially in chess and in struggles for human rights, which, in the United States, essentially was subsumed into the “civil rights movement”, especially in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. In my later years, I became an active photographer. At one time, I was the best known “chess photographer” in the United States. I have maintained throughout my life an active interest in classical music – especially the opera – the theater and literature, with relatively minor interests in poetry and motion pictures.
Last January, I enrolled as an undergraduate student at Western Connecticut State University. At first, I was going to study only Spanish and Portuguese, because Danbury is a hub of Hispanic/Latino and Brazilian/Portuguese populations, but my Love Woman suggested that, as long as I was going back to school, I go after the baccalaureate. So I wrote to NYU, which had kicked me out in 1952, for a transmittal. Not only did NYU comply with my request, but it actually wrote something like “student left in good standing”.
Now, I hope to get a BA in May 2010, but I’m taking it slow and easy. (One thing I note is that there is much more reading involved than I remember back in the early 1950s.) I was kicked out of NYU because I was considered a loose cannon. Many persons who know me consider that I still am a loose cannon, although I am older and less volatile today. Socio-politically, I am more radical, I believe, than I was in 1952.
Who I’d like to meet: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Hugo Chavez, Amy Goodman
In another 2008 autobiographical piece titled, “Towards and Autobiographical Dissertation,” he wrote about his views of (then candidate) Barack Obama. His political views were leftist and he wasted little time excoriating the militaristic policies of the U.S. and what he calls the Afro-American colony. While his 1950s and 1960s battles for human equality via the Brooklyn branch of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) were well known, Jerry took on other fights.
The Bibuld Family picketing for desegregation during a 1962 protest. Jerry and wife Elain were disgusted by the condition of the schools their children were in. Photo by Bob Adelman (Brooklyn Congress of Racial Equality – CORE), Brooklyn Historical Society.
He campaigned against the apartheid regime of South Africa when it was not a popular thing to do. In addition, he campaigned to punish those athletes competing for South Africa and getting them banned from international chess competitions. He compiled a list of 38 South African apartheid-era tennis players and once proposed an 11:00am protest at the 1990 U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York against their participation.
“The racism and the male supremacy of the society in which I live are the most important matters of principle in my life. I try to live by pro-human principles. This means that I must fight racism and male supremacy continually because I am a United Statesian and a male in an imperial society.”
He also took the apartheid fight to FIDE and rallied support of constituents in the General Sessions. According to Nick Barnett,
South African chess was split down the middle. The SA Chess Federation went along with the apartheid government while the SA Council on Sport (SACOS) whose motto was “No normal sport in an abnormal society” excluded itself from all existing sporting bodies. Its members were not even supposed to watch sport on TV. CAPSA (Chess Association for the People of South Africa) was affiliated to SACOS.
The two existing bodies, the SACF and CAPSA were not on speaking terms. The former wanted things to go on as usual with some concessions, while CAPSA demanded a moratorium on all overseas contact. As SACOS we eventually brought about reconciliation and contacted Fidé. I was delegated to draft the letter to Casta Abundo a Filipino, Fidé General Secretary, who I got to know when I worked in Manila in 1967. Fidé appointed a CACDEC (Committee for Assistance to Chess Developing Countries) troika headed by Nigerian lawyer, Emanual Omuku with US anti-apartheid activist, Jerome Bibold, and John Warnock president of the US Virgin Islands federation. It took weeks of hard negotiations before Omuku demanded a conclusion and Chessa was born. (full entry)
Thus, Jerry was successful in helping to get the South African Chess Federation (SACF) banned and to later abolish apartheid policies. SACF contended that CAPSA (mostly from predominately-Black Cape province) had no players strong enough to be integrated into the national team. Deon Solomons was the perennial champion of CAPSA and its Vice President in 1992 when CAPSA became part of Chess South Africa (CHESSA). Then vindication occurred!
Solomons became the first champion of the newly-formed non-apartheid CHESSA, thereby confounding many apartheidists, who had claimed that CAPSA did not have players as strong as the apartheid government-sponsored South African Chess Federation, which also had been subsumed into CHESSA.
In 1992, South Africa was reinstated. Jerry was CAPSA’s first life member. His reputation followed and he became endeared by the African continent. It was then that he began to take on another mission of helping African federations to join the world’s chess landscape. He adopted three federations (Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique), but directed tournaments in several countries to help them gain momentum as new federations. He was bestowed Life Memberships in both the Ugandan Chess Federation and Jamaican Chess Federation.
(L-R): Louis Smith and Sherman Maduro playing for Dutch Antilles at 1996 Olympiad in Yerevan, Armenia… Ugandan (men) at 2002 Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia… Angola (men) at 2002 Olympiad; Botswana (women) at 2002 Olympiad… Jamaica (women) at 2002 Olympiad… Nigeria (women) at 2002 Olympiad. Photos by Jerry Bibuld.
This was Jerry’s legacy. He did not want to be soothed or appeased, nor did he appreciate condescension. He did not treat anyone with pity, but tried to instill dignity. He was a straight-laced person fighting for principle and in doing so, gained many friends… and some enemies. Such is life. Memories of Jerry will show both his hard side and his soft side… which he showed to those closest to him. He had a beautiful spirit.
Services will be held 3:00pm on Saturday, November 9th
Frank R. Bell Funeral Home
536 Sterling Place, Brooklyn, New York 11238