Detroit has been beset by a long list of issues stemming from the scandal-ridden politics, the financial crisis of 2008, the recent Flint water crisis and lately the “sickout” strike of 94 of 97 Detroit’s school teachers. Certainly, everyone is sick of these egregious violations of public safety and the endangerment of our youth. Many of the Detroit schools suffer from neglect, abuse and total marginalization. This is why what is happening with the Detroit City Chess Club (DCCC) makes the latest accomplishments more meaningful.
Kevin Fite, founder of the DCCC, has been a selfless leader in providing Detroit-area youth an outlet from the social pathologies that plague the proud “Motor City.” It is a town that has quite a history of productivity and is home to the famous Motown Records empire. If you visit Detroit you will see the signs of urban blight and a city separated from its prosperous past. However, in such a city there are still jewels such as the Charles H. Wright African-American Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Fortunately, these landmarks play a duel role of educating the public about the proud history of the city, but also as a host for chess activities of the DCCC.
Tamryn Watkins was the subject of a very inspirational story on chesskid.com. According to the article by Scott Talley, Watkins stated, “If I didn’t meet Mr. Fite that day my grades could have dropped, or I could have even been kicked out of Webber.” Watkins had been called to the office because of an altercation with two other girls. “I think being a part of her school’s chess team has made her more focused and goal-oriented,” says Fite. He stated that she is more focused, goal-oriented and she’s smiling a lot more.
Kevin Fite, Detroit City Chess Club
DCCC product FIDE Master Jimmy Canty
Photo by Kwabena Shabu.
Fite has invited a number of dignitaries to Detroit to expose the youth to positive images and to help invigorate enthusiasm for the local chess scene. Most recently GM Hikaru Nakamura made an appearance and gave exhibitions to the DCCC and toured the city. The DCCC services school around the metropolitan area and boasts of many success stories. Duffield Elementary shined at the 2005 SuperNationals and Bates Academy and prep powerhouse Cass Tech has produced FM James “Jimmy” Canty III.
The latest success coming from Detroit is the six students from the University Prep Science and Math team winning the “Under 14” category at the 13th Annual Kasparov Chess Foundation All-Girls National Championships. The team members are active at Fite’s DCCC and among their many titles, this was the biggest. Fite told The Chess Drum that the girls had a disappointing tournament last year, but returned with a vengeance.
Yes, They really wanted to win it because the previous year they placed in 4th place and they didn’t realize how tough the All-Girls tournament was. I’ve never seen the girls so upset like they were last year. All they talked about this year was going back to the All-Girls. All the girls will be attending Cass Tech High School in the Fall.
KCF All-Girls National Championship, 2016 National under-14 Champions!
L-R: Jaidyn Hamilton, Lauren Bradford, Sa’Nya Burton, Gisele Motley,
Jada Hamilton and Charisse Woods.
Photo by Catherine Martinez.
In actuality, four of the 8th-grade girls will attend Cass while Charisse Woods, a 5th grader who competing for University Prep Science & Math Elementary will transfer to University Prep Science and Math Middle School next fall. She will join Sa’Nya Burton who is a 6th grader. With the girls poised to attend Cass Tech, it goes without saying that they will continue adding to the tradition of the Detroit powerhouse high school.
Fite told The Chess Drum that Canty, a Cass Tech alumni, has been assisting the girls with instruction. Canty has been blazing his own trail having won $40,000 at the 2015 Millionaire Chess Open and later qualifying for his FM title. Things are looking up for Detroit and the chess community is keeping their heads when all about them are losing theirs.