Howard chess activist, Sultan-Diego Sulayman (1995-2022)


Sultan-Diego Abdullah Sulayman, a 2020 finance graduate of Howard University, passed away suddenly on October 30th after being found by his mother at their home. The news came as a shock to the Howard community as he was only 26, weeks away from his 27th birthday. At the time of his death, he was attending the Bayan Islamic Graduate School pursuing a Master’s degree in Islamic Education in Chicago.

Sultan-Diego Abdullah Sulayman

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

“I know what chess has done for me in my life. And I knew what it has done for me, it could do for other people.”

~Sultan-Diego Abdullah Sulayman

Born November 28, 1995, Sultan-Diego was known to the chess community as the catalyst for resurrecting the Howard University Chess Club in 2019 after a long hiatus. Nisa Muhammad, Assistant Dean for Religious Life at Howard helped Sultan-Diego in his mission and served as the club’s faculty advisor. Sultan-Diego’s efforts resulted in Howard competing at the 2021 Pan-Am Intercollegiate championship, winning the under-1400 prize.

Jamaal Abdul-Alim, a DC journalist and contributor to U.S. Chess Life, is an informal advisor to the Howard Chess Club. He states that it was Sultan-Diego’s efforts that brought about reactivation and that raising funds for the 2023 Pan-Am event is part of his legacy. A gofundme campaign has been launched to aid in these efforts.

Sultan-Diego at the 2022 Pan-American Intercollegiate in Dulles, Virginia

Sultan-Diego at the 2022 Pan-American Intercollegiate in Dulles, Virginia

At Howard, he was a past-President of the Muslim Students Association and a member of the Speech & Debate Team. He was also associated with ¡Changó!: Afro-Latino and Hispanic Cultural Society and the NAACP. Given his profiles and looking through his social media posts, he was a man keen on studying spirituality but was also fond of the history of the African Diaspora, NBA basketball, and of course, chess.

Howard University conducted a memorial in his honor at Carnegie Hall and chess club members were on hand to pay their respects. Sultan-Diego was a past-President and instrumental in raising funds for the team to attend the Pan-Ams in 2022. The Howard chess club is currently raising funds to attend the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championship to be held January 5th – 8th, 2023 at the Westin in Seattle, Washington.

In reality the club wouldn’t exist without his efforts to bring it back.

~Jamaal Abdul-Alim, advisor and supporter of Howard University Chess Club


Janazah for Sultan-Diego Sulayman


  1. His close friend and teammate Malcolm Wooten announced via Instagram:

  2. Thank you so much for publishing this tribute to Sultan-Diego and collecting all these other posts and the recording from his janaza in one place. The Howard University community and the entire DC area were so blessed to have him. His loss is felt by those both near and far. I never learned chess, but now I would like to learn it in his memory. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. My heart goes out to all who are grieving.

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