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.

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