Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Adisa Banjoko to Keynote: 6th Annual Citywide Youth Conference in San Jose!

What: The Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services’ (PRNS) 
Youth Commission hosts the 6th Annual Citywide Youth Conference. 

When: Friday, June 14, 2013 
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. 
Where: San José City Hall Rotunda 
 200 East Santa Clara Street 
 San José, CA 95113 
Who: 300 high school students throughout San José 
Norberto Duenas, Deputy City Manager, City of San José 
Kansen Chu, Councilmember, District 4 
Ash Kalra, Councilmember, District 5 
Donald Rocha, Councilmember, District 9 
Johnny Khamis, Councilmember, District 10 

Background: The 2013 Youth Conference theme of “Dream It, Live It”, will focus on the
unbridled spirit of entrepreneurship, with a goal to educate, empower and
inspire youth to pursue future endeavors of building a successful business.
 The conference connects our future generation with some of San José’s
prominent leaders and successful business owners.

By choosing the topic of entrepreneurship, the Youth Commission hopes to
motivate the next generation to actively pursue opportunities in business, in
order to create a robust economy for their city, state and nation.
 The conference is fully developed and implemented by the Youth
Commissioners and is centered on empowering our future generation to be
leader of our local communities and beyond. Teens from all different walks of
life actively participate in workshops, discussions, debates and hands-on
learning that have a direct impact on their daily lives. In addition to workshops
correlating to the annual theme, the conference is attended by elected
 Citywide Youth Conference  officials, local leaders and business owners who fully support the
 Commission’s vision of playing a vital role in shaping the future of San José
and our nation.

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services’ Youth
Commission is an appointed body of eleven youth, 14 - 21 years of age, and
is modeled after the San José City Council. They are recognized as the
official youth advisory group to the City Council and the Department of Parks,
Recreation and Neighborhood Services. Youth Commissioners are involved
with policy recommendatiions concerning youth and support the development
of youth who desire to serve their community through active civic participation
and constructive decision-making.

Local media is invited to attend the conference to interview Youth
Commissioners and available speakers immediately following opening
remarks on Friday, June 14, 2013 from 9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

LISTEN!! Zion I "Shadowboxing" (my current workout jam!!)

HHCF Feat. in St. Louis American!

                             Photo Credit: Shannon Bailey 
Adisa Banjoko, journalist and founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, visited St. Louis recently to highlight the powerful fusion of chess, hip-hop and activism.
He convened experts including James Braxton Peterson, founder of Hip-Hop Scholars, LLC; and Asheru (born Gabriel Benn), a Peabody award-winning journalist and youth activist. Asheru is also a hip-hop artist who created The Boondocks theme song.
Banjoko led panel discussions for at-risk youth at Innovative Concept Academy, Confluence Academy and for detained youth at the Juvenile Detention Center.

Banjoko is a self-proclaimed nonviolent revolutionary. This ideology is at the core of his organization, based in the San Francisco area, which aims to curb youth violence by teaching youth the game of chess. He stated that St. Louis has a lot of violent crime; the city consistently ranks as one of the nation’s most dangerous cities. READ THE FULL STORY HERE 

Monday, May 27, 2013

SF Examiner Feature Profiles HHCF's Raheem Payton and Antonio Godoy

Senior Raheem Payton was oblivious to the students crowding around him, sitting on a bench in the middle of the quad, deep in thought about the consequences of moving his knight forward. His opponent in this chess game, security guard Adisa Banjoko, waited patiently for him to meditate on making his move. Suddenly, the silence was broken as the front doors of the school burst open.
“They got guns!” A student screamed, as four males brandishing handguns rushed through the lobby, their voices barking orders at the students to move out of the way.
Banjoko quickly moved into action, covering another security guard, Juan Gallardo, who was standing in front of the student the intruders were after. Payton sat frozen at the table, watching the scene unfold.
The intruders, including a 13-year-old suspected gang member, engaged in a verbal dispute with the guards before noticing security cameras and abandoning their pursuit of a rival gang member. Payton held his breath those minutes before they ran from the building.“All I could think was what is going on here,” he recalls, “It happened so fast, the way they ran in ready to fight.”

Friday, May 24, 2013

Adisa Speaks on How Corruption in Education and Wall St. Hurt Our Youth!!


In this issue we take on gangster bankers and corrupt people in education who function as educational terrorists. We take a deep and serious look at the economic impact and the rarely discussed human toll of corruption within HSBC and San Francisco Unified School District .  They create a ripple effect of crime, drug use and emotional distress within the families they affect.

Our guests are Basketball coach and mentor LyRyan Russell and Hip-Hop Chess Federation Education Director Arash Daneshzadeh.
Then we talk with Henry Medina. He was the leader of the notorious Young Galaxies gang in NY in the 70's. His life and journey from teen gang leader to active mentor and peacemaker in San Francisco is amazing. 
Dr. MLK Jr., taught that poverty was the root of much violence. Lets learn about who keeps those cycles in motion and why many in the government are so reluctant to prosecute to the full extent of the law.  

This is not an attack on banks, bankers or capitalism. Rather, this is a counterattack on those who abuse the system. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Top Ten Rap Lyrics About Meditation (published on Rap Genius)

More than a decade back, I interviewed Russell Simmons, Afu-Ra, Shaolin Monk Shi-Yan Ming and others for Yoga Journal about the impact yoga and meditation were having in their lives.
Shi-Yan Ming told me, “When people dance and listen to Hip-Hop, they are happy. This is also meditation. RZA, when he writes songs, uses philosophy to help people. He is giving people meditation.”READ THE FULL STORY HERE!

Why Every Girl Around the World Should Learn Jiu-Jitsu

DISCLAIMER: If you are under 15 years old you I suggest you get your parents permission

When I was a child, I was raised in a very unusual home. At the time I did not realize it was unusual because, from what I saw on TV, everybody lived like me. I had a mother and a father who loved me and looked after me.

My dad worked as a mechanic at an airline company and eventually went on into management. My mother was an at home mother for most of my young life then went to school and worked in mutual funds.

Not one time in the course of their life together (they are STILL TOGETHER- 41 years) have I ever seen my father physically threaten or intimidate my mother. Not once! At the same time, I’ve never seen my mother throw plates or attack and berate my father verbally. Don’t get me wrong, they argue from time to time. But even when they argue they do it from a place of love.

I really thought all kids lived like me until I was about 15. I went to visit a friends house not too far from where my home was. I walked in to say hello (“Eddie Haskell style” as his mother used to say) and the instant I walked in, I knew it was a different world. His folks were together, but it was clear it was pretty loveless. It was more like how you might imagine visiting Smokey’s mom from Friday might be like.  Over time I learned that his house was very different than mine.
His folks fought a lot (not just argued), and there was a lot of abusive drinking and drug use in the home.

Over and over again in my teen years I quickly snapped out of the idea that most kids lived and learned like I did with two parents who loved one another and worked hard for their kids.

I’ve been lucky enough to be married 17 years to a beautiful Black woman and our kids are growing up fast. Its instinctual as a father to worry about your son as a teenage boy (because you know how quickly they might get shot or killed in some random situation). But it was not until my daughter was about 4 that I saw how hard life was for little Black girls.  

Later, after starting HHCF I saw much more in depth issues Black girls face in the inner city. I wrote a two part series last year about kids I knew who suffered from gang violence in Oakland and San Francisco. You can read PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE .

There is a deadly cocktail of cultural exclusion, identity based depression, verbal and physical violence that almost dooms Black girls to an early demise. When I say early, I mean by age 12 or 14 its already a wrap. When I say a wrap, I don’t mean to imply that anyone give up on them. I’m saying that the issues are so deeply entrenched within them that they may not be able to recover (from pregnancy, drug abuse or alcohol abuse effects). Not because they don’t want to. There are just so few systems of support in place. They can't do it alone. Most die quietly or are put in jail before we even really knew their names. Its sad, but very real.

This is part of the reason I fight so hard to promote chess to Black and Latina girls.
But you see, I quickly understood that this issue was not an issue for Black and Latina girls alone. This is a global crisis. Since starting HHCF I have seen soulbreaking documentaries about human trafficking . I have also watched many girls at the schools I work at fall victim to the streets. Many were Black or Latina, but some were White and some were Asian. I quickly realized that the mistreatment and abuse of women is not an American thing, its a male thing and it has manifested itself under every religious, political and social system we can think of. It is the duty of the men of the men of wisdom and truth to protect the women of this planet. Sadly though, we are failing to do that in large numbers. This is why I think all women of the world should learn Gracie aka Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or any other martial art they can.

About two years ago I taught a womens self defense class to girls at a high school I work at. It was so amazing to see their faces light up when you showed them how knowledge could overpower strength and speed. I told them about the creator of Gracie Jiu JItsu  and how he was a small man. I explained that they deserved to be defended, but they had to know that they were the first line of defense for themselves. They soaked it up and some still thank me for what I showed them. Even more impressive, not one of them used what I taught to fight another girl on campus or bully another female.  

Another thing is that watching girls who do judo and jiu-jitsu I have noticed a totally different level of confdence in them (on the mat and off the mat). Its a great thing to see.

Bottom line is that working at high schools has taught me one very specific thing: Many of the boys of today have no respect for girls. This is not just a teenage immaturity that needs a little guidance. These boys (most without fathers) are physically aggressive and feel little remorse for their actions. It is very scary to watch. The only thing more scary than the boys violence, is the girls acceptance that their being beaten is just “how it should be”.

Last year a girl I’m trying to reach out to asked me if I ever hit my wife.

“Never” I said.

“G.O.D.?!?!” [they spell God out meaning “swear to God”]. She searched my eyes for any level of weakness or faultiness.

“G....O....D!” I shouted with a smile. “I don’t hit my wife. She’d leave me for real if I did. But, I don’t even pretend to. I don’t threaten her. I never have.”

She shook her head, faithless of my words and said “I’m gonna ask her.”

I encouraged her to do that. The point is, what bothered me in the exchange we had that day was just that it was inconceivable that a women live her life without being beaten by the men in their life.

As men, I take on the duty to change that trend. I can’t save the women of the world. But I can work within my sphere of influence to help young girls physically and mentally. Mentally I believe all the women of the world should learn chess. Physically, they should be training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I favor Jiu-Jitsu because its made for people without lots of strength and speed to win. Also, woman cannot be raped if they cannot be grabbed and pinned down. This is super crucial to understand. If a women cannot be pinned or grabbed they are safe. If they can keep themselves safe, they cannot be trapped and if they cannot be trapped they can escape!  

If Jiu-jitsu is not available, I suggest judo (especially because its usually cheaper than jiu-jitsu). But if Kung-fu or kickboxing is near you- take that.

Girls often talk about how fighting is not like a lady. I remind them that the female lions of the pride are the ones who do the hunting. I remind them that the mother falcons and eagles are super dangerous and it makes them no less beautiful. Kyra Gracie, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and many other women out there are very lady like (however you define that) but are clearly amazing at self defense.

If I could, I’d take every girl on the planet to learn Women Empowered by the Gracie Family.

But I can’t. I can only encourage every girl, parent, uncle, aunt and cousin to take a female they love to a class on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for no less than a year. Help them learn to have faith in their body and mind.

Military strategist Sun Tzu said something like “Don’t count on the enemy not coming, be prepared for them when they arrive.” My hope is that most of the women I know never have to use Jiu-Jitsu. But if they do, I want them to be calm under pressure and use what they were taught to be safe and return to their families and friends.

This summer my oldest daughter who is 11 will spend it learning jiu jitsu and boxing basics. This is because I know that I won’t be around forever. Her brother won’t be with her in every situation. When something happens, I want to know I trained her right- regardless of the outcome. As a father and a friend of my daughter its my duty to prepare her. I’m not preparing her to be a fighter. I’m preparing to make her a woman of the world, who is confident within her own mind and body. Whatever else that is born from it, is her choosing. If you live in the Bay Area I suggest taking your daughter to and letting them take a free introductory class. I encourage you to share this with other women and girls you know.

Much Respect,
Adisa Banjoko

Saturday, May 18, 2013

HHCF" Break Free from the Matrix

We Need More Black and Latina Girls Living Like Queens

                                                 Rochelle from the movie Brooklyn Castle

I’m still on a psychological high from my time in St. Louis. The HHCF squad really came together with the World Chess Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Chess Club to do some really powerful things. Of all the things that are on my mind though, the biggest priority is making sure more girls (but especially Black and Latina girls)  play chess.

My last talk was to a co-ed group of kids at a juvenile detention center. I have a daughter and a son the same age as these kids on lockdown. It troubled me deeply to leave. When I got back, I started thinking about how important it is that more girls learn and stick with the game. I’m not even talking about on a competitive level (but that would be awesome!). I mean just more casual female players of the game.

I wrote a two part series last year about kids I knew who suffered from gang violence in Oakland and San Francisco. You can read PART 1 HERE and PART 2 HERE .

One of the main things those stories taught me is that there are many young women out there who are direct and indirect victims of violence and they have no outlet.

When I first started HHCF I always planned to do huge events for women. Few realize the second event after the HHCF Kings Invitational was a Queens Invitational- but it never happened. The short version is, nobody wanted to sponsor a chess event for girls.

It was not an easy “sell”.

A few years later, we finally did pull it off and it went well, but not as good as it could have been. I hope to do an HHCF Queens event on a larger scale in the fall of 2013.

A girl playing chess at a John O'Connell High chess tournament

The main thing I see today, as an obstacle to teaching at-risk, gang intentional or gang impacted girls chess is simply their immediate situation. What I mean is, their immediate situation is so dire, so crazy, so violent and unforgiving that they don’t seem to be able to make the time to even learn the game. I’m specifically talking about teen girls here.

But for teen girls who are in tough areas, but not in “the system” I think there is MUCH we can do with chess to inspire and guide them to better lives.

The other issue I see with inner city girls is that many feel chess makes them unattractive. When I say this, I don’t mean that playing the game makes them look ugly to boys. Its actually WINNING in chess that makes them unattractive.

I have seen this first hand: Boy likes girl. Boy likes chess. Boy teaches girl chess. Girl likes chess. Girl eventually wins in chess. Boy now likes another girl. First girl quits chess so boys like her.

The social pressure a teen guy feels to win all the time against girls is silly and immature. But I have seen girls quit playing chess and watch their boyfriend play with his friends (who she can also beat) rather than play herself.

We need to teach girls that they were not put here to play second fiddle when it comes to using their mind. We need to teach boys to value intelligent women and not see them as a threat, but as a blessing in our lives.

I have a mantra I repeat to every girl I can as often as I can say it: The world is a cold and unforgiving place for an uneducated woman.

I tell them to look around them and see the women they know who are suffering. Then I ask them to ask the women they trust and are close to one question...”Did you ever go to college?”

                                       Every parent should make their daughter read this book!                                                        

It has been my personal observation, that a woman's level of suffering and education often go hand in hand. This does not mean that educated women do not suffer (many do). But uneducated women are almost sure to suffer deeper and more often than their educated sisters. For me this is not just an American issue, its a global issue. We need to teach our girls about the history they have in the game and their duty to uphold it through action! Through consistent play and sharing of the game with their friends.

I work hard to make sure girls know and love chess. Not for trophies and medals (though its always beautiful when they get them!). But for self confidence, for trusting in the power of their own mind and the life strategies that come from thinking and living like a queen.

If you agree, please share this with a girl or woman you care about. Then play a game of chess, or teach the game of chess to girl important to you.

Much Respect,

PS. Super shoutout to Jen Shahade, Rochelle Ballantyne, Natalia Pogonina, Phiona Mutesi and Alexandra Kosteniuk and all the women out there who play chess and inspire others to follow their lead.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

HHCF and World Chess Hall of Fame Take Over St. Louis + Adisa Interviews GM Maurice Ashley

There are certain times in your life, where you feel it coming together. Right now is one of those moments. Shortly before I started Hip-Hop Chess Federation I interviewed Grandmaster Maurice Ashley for my second book Lyrical Swords Vol. 2: Westside Rebellion. The book also included interviews with RZA, GZA, Afrika Bambaataa and many others.
I met him face to face through Jen Shahade in NY at a HHCF/9Queens event with the RZA. He was very supportive of the momentum we had. I told him then that there was no purpose in me doing what I did if he, Jen, Josh Waitzkin and others did not exist. I explained that HHCF for most serious chess players and fans is misunderstood. That I point people in their direction, knowing that you (meaning Maurice, Jen, Josh, and other GM's, WGM's etc.) do all the true heavy lifting.
Over the years he and I would talk, or email, but we could never seem to catch up.
Thankfully, Jen Shahade introduced me to Susan Barrett from the World Chess Hall of Fame and she invited Hip-Hop Chess Federation out to do several panel discussions on the history of where Hip-Hop, chess and martial arts interlock and how we can use it to inspire children toward self-mastery and self-discovery.
L to R Alan "Gumby" Marques, rapper Asheru, Judge Jimmie Edwards, Susan Barrett of World Chess Hall of Fame, Dr. James Peterson, Mike Relm at Innovative Concept Academy
L to R Alan "Gumby" Marques, rapper Asheru, Judge Jimmie Edwards, Susan Barrett of World Chess Hall of Fame, Dr. James Peterson, Mike Relm at Innovative Concept Academy
The events they set up were nothing short of amazing. We went to the famous ICA school ran by Judge Jimmie Edwards. We hosted a panel at the St. Louis Library, the Confluence Academy (also one of the best schools I have ever been to!)  and a juvenile hall detention center. To stand on Marilyn St. in Saint Louis between the World Chess Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Chess Club is like standing between Meeca and Jerusalem. The energy is electric.
Adisa Banjoko addresses Confluence Academy
Adisa Banjoko addresses Confluence Academy 
Among the other amazing things that happened though, is, Maurice Ashley interviewed me during the championships. It was a shock and I was truly nervous beyond words during the interview. But later the next night, I got to interview him. It was amazing!!! He talked about his early years as a young chess player, his time playing with Jay-Z and an amazing chess hustler set up match he had with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis. This stuff is simply beautiful. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as much as we loved making it. St. Louis is a beautiful city and my experiences there made me a changed man. I understand chess culture better than I ever have.  
I want to thank a few people before I go and understand that the list is simply too long to really get everybody. But here it goes: Jen Shahade (you pulled the trigger on this, thank you so much!) Susan, Laura, Shannon, Amanda (great driving!), St. Louis Police Department (the two nicest cops I ever met after a fender bender was in St. Louie!), everybody at KMOX (Hi, Charlie and Debbie!),Matt Barrett, Mike, and everybody at the St. Louis Chess Club for their kindness to the HHCF squad and my family. You all opened by eyes to a new level of chess culture and duty to serve the community. Thank you for making me a better citizen of the world.
Ashley and Seirawan take on all comers at ICA in St. Louis
Ashley and Seirawan take on all comers at ICA in St. Louis
To my HHCF squad (The Furious Five): Mike Relm, Dr. James Peterson, Alan "Gumby" Marques, Asheru and Dr. Daaim Shabazz. You guys take the science and art of Hip-Hop, chess, martial arts and education to the next level. I could not imagine having a better experience in St. Louis than I had with you. Thank you for trusting my vision and bringing your best selves to the Live The Game event. A special shout out to Meek Gaborski (the titanium backbone of this organization) David Frazee Esq., Arash Daneshzadeh (HHCF's Education Director), LyRyan Russell, Elaine Moskowitze, Kay Hones, Pablo Fuentes,  T-KASH, Dlabrie, Shamako and Rahman, Josh Waitzkin, Joe Schloss, Dawn-Elissa Fischer, Davey D, RZA, Rakaa Iriscience, Ralek, Ryron and Rener Gracie, Denny Prokopos, Eddie Bravo and a lot of the real Hip-Hop, chess and jiu jitsu folks that really put it down for us back when nobody believed in the fusion of Hip-Hop, chess and martial arts.  
To Judge Jimmie Edwards at ICA, the St. Louis Library, to everybody at Confluence Academy and St. Louis Juvenile Detention Center I want to thank you for your open minds, for giving us a chance to speak to your youth and trusting that our vision could help. Any time you need us, please reach out. You all do amazing work and everybody at HHCF was left inspired beyond measure.
FOOD SHOUTS: Lesters, Bar Italia, Drunken Fish and PAPPYS (thanks for the extra bottle of sauce, but TSA gaffled it).
PHOTO CREDITS: Shots of ICA credit Daaim Shabazz. Photos of Maurice Ashley and Adisa Banjoko credit Mike Relm.

Uproxx Covers HHCF Founder plus, FREE PDF download of Bobby Bruce and the Bronx Available

The book Bobby Bruce & the Bronx by Adisa the Bishop is now available from this day forward FREE in PDF form. Please enjoy it and share ...