For Immediate Release
Contact: Meek Gaborski
HHCF Board Member RZA Helps Launch Chess Initiative
for Juvenile Hall Students in St. Louis
Nov. 1st 2015, St. Louis, MO- The Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) is proud to announce it has begun training St. Louis juvenile hall staff it’s “Chess and Life Strategies” certification program. The HHCF St. Louis initiative was made possible by a donation from board member RZA of Wu-Tang Clan to help HHCF establish itself in the city of St. Louis. October 9, 2014 Adisa Banjoko and RZA spoke to more than 400 high school youth from Ferguson and across St. Louis. Later that same day Adisa and RZA gave a short lecture and played chess with incarcerated youth at the juvenile hall. RZA, who serves on the board for HHCF was moved by what he saw in the hearts and minds St. Louis youth. “That night RZA handed me a check and asked me to put together a program to help the youth of St. Louis.” stated Adisa Banjoko. I promised him I would make it happen.
Adisa Banjoko and RZA.
Photo from HHCF archives.
During the October meeting with the incarcerated group of boys and girls about using chess as a tool to control their energy, Wu-Tang rapper said, “Y’all are in here for not controlling your energy, yo. You are here now for not being analytical about the results of the actions you have taken. I’m the last one to talk in some sense. I’ve been through the same system…Me and my brother got our first gun, when I was 11 or 12…Riding NY city buses looking for what they call, a ’vic’ [victim].” He went onto explain how he taught himself through reading and playing chess to help him make better choices over time.
RZA explained how the trauma of watching many relatives and friends die or become incarcerated, led him away from being trapped in the streets. “It’s a game of chess in one sense, but in another it’s a study of life. We in the Hip-Hop Chess Federation are striving to bring awareness to American’s, to Black youth, but to the whole of American youth… That chess study, along with martial arts, along with music- is the best way to help develop your mind and body and protect you from pitfalls in life that will surely come at you.” The full audio of RZA’s conversation with the incarcerated youth of St. Louis is up at www.bishopchronicles.com.
Banjoko’s historic 2013 visit at Innovative Concept Academy in St. Louis.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.
TJ Jones a staff member at St. Louis Juvenile Hall Family Court wrote a letter to HHCF a few weeks after their visit stating, “You gave a memorable and powerful presentation to our youth and showed your dedication and motivation to do the unthinkable, connect chess with Hip-Hop…They were so amazed they began to ask when you were coming back again to have a chess tournament.” TJ and Adisa talked over the course of the next year looking at the most effective ways to get St. Louis juvenile hall staff trained in HHCF methodologies and philosophies. “Thanks to vision and trust of RZA in our our mission, we are currently training their staff in our innovative approach to teaching teens about life though chess. In five weeks, they will be complete in their HHCF Level 1 Certification. So many kids there already love chess, I cannot wait to see the students when we visit again.”
Video courtesy of Hip Hop Chess Federation.
St. Louis based schools and organizations looking to have their staff trained in HHCF Chess and Life Strategies program can email firstname.lastname@example.org and apply. They can also call Bay Area HHCF HQ 888-588-4418.
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