Monday, December 8, 2014

Donate to Help HHCF Publish Chess is Jiu-Jitsu for the Mind!!!

Help the HHCF publish a book on Hip-Hop, chess and Jiu-Jitsu called Chess is Jiu-Jitsu for the Mind!!! DONATE TODAY!! It's tax deductible and it will open young minds to the power of their own potential as well as the beauty of non-violence. We are thankful for any amount you can give click the link to give today

Sunday, December 7, 2014

MMA Fighter D'Juan Owens on Chess, Hip-Hop, and Martial Arts

MMA Fighter and BJJ Purple Belt D'Juan Owens

D'Juan "Dirty South" Owens is an MMA figher and BJJ practitioner fighting out of Durham, North Carolina. He also happens to be a phenomenal Bboy and chess player. The HHCF sponsors him now. We wanted to introduce you to one of the upcoming starts of MMA.

HHCF: Where are you originally from and how did you first get into chess?

DO: I'm from a small town in Mississippi called Pass Christian. I was introduced to chess at a young age but initially I regarded it as any other board game. I didn't fall in love with chess until I was about 12. When I was in the 7th grade I was sent to ISS one day. As you know in ISS there's no playing, talking, or getting up from your seat. That day the original warden wasn't there, and  a young substitute allowed us to play chess after we were done with our work as long as we kept quiet. With no other options for entertainment, chess got pretty serious. I knew how the pieces moved, but like most novice players, my tactics and strategy was pretty basic. Being competitive middle school kids, myself and about 4 other kids played through lunch and when I went home that night, chess was all I thought about. The next day I went to the school library and checked out a book entitled "The genius of Paul Morphy". After reading that, I was hooked.

HHCF: What were your earliest memories of the martial arts? What were some of your heroes?

DO: My earliest memories of martial arts would be watching old kung fu movies with my father.  "The 5 Deadly Venoms", and "Shaolin vs Lama", were two of my favorites! I remember going outside and punching, jump-kicking, and doing what I thought were katas for hours. As far as heroes go, when it came to martial arts at that time, I only looked at it from an entertainment standpoint; so Wesley Snipes would probably come closes to what I would consider a hero to me then. It felt good to see someone who looked like me taking bad guys out.

MMA fighter and old school Bboy D'Juan Owens

HHCF: How did you first get into Bboying? Who were some of your heroes?

DO: I remember being fascinated the first time I saw bboying. I was about 8 and I was flipping through channels and I saw "Beat Street". It just happened to be at the classic scene where hey were battling at the Roxy and I was enthralled. That was the first time I saw someone do "windmills" and it seemed magical to me. My love for Bboying grew as my love and understanding for (real)Hip-Hop grew. When I met Allure from The Mighty Zulu Kings, she started me on the path of bboying as a lifestyle, as opposed to simply a dance to become good at. There are many pioneers of bboying that I respect but Kmel from the Boogiebrats stood out for me.
HHCF: What made you decide to get into MMA and what has it been like, mentally speaking to prepare for fights, etc?

DO: I was exposed to MMA when I was younger by my father who was always a big mma fan. He rented the first couple of UFC's, his buddy Tim would bring his VCR over so they could double tape. I wasn't a big fan initially but around 2005 I got into it when the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" aired on Spike TV. At the time I was in the Marine Corps and my roommates and I would always talk about how "we could do that" etc. In 2006 while deployed, I met a pro MMA fighter named George Lockheart in the ship's gym. I saw him destroying everyone on the mat and I asked him if he wanted to wrestle. Of course I got absolutely destroyed. That was the first time I had ever grappled and I had no clue as to how helpless a man could be against someone who trained. I never wanted to feel like that again; so I decided to take up mma for a hobby when my contract was up.
I've been a pro for 4 years now so at this point fighting is like breathing. I enjoy all aspects of mma and I see fighting as putting on a display of martial skill. The only thing I find tough about fighting is dieting, and cutting weight. Again, I'm from MS and we love to eat!

                                              MMA fighter D'Juan Owens playing chess in Peru.

HHCF: Tell me about your time playing chess in the military?

DO: My schedule was less demanding at that time so I played and competed MUCH more often than I do now. I was a 2x Camp Lejeune Chess Champion in 05' and 06. When I was on a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) in 05', I won the only chess tournament held on the ship and it felt great to represent for my unit, and for the enlisted marines :)

HHCF:  Have martial arts, chess and Hip-Hop done anything to enrich your life?

DO: In more ways than I can explain. I've made friends and acquaintances from every walk of life imaginable. A common passion, or pursuit of a common goal (especially an obscure one) can build the strongest bonds. Each of these transcend racial, cultural, and economic barriers. Because of these arts, I've been introduced to intellectual and physical competition. To compete and win is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. Contrarily, coming up short is humbling, and the best teacher....or so they say lol.

HHCF: What artists do you listen to the most when you are preparing for a fight?

DO: I love listening to REAL Hip Hop. Anyone from Yasin Bey (Mos Def), Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, The Roots etc.....BUT, when I'm training, or lifting, I want to hear the most ignorant/ratchet and crunk rap possible. I listen to T.I., Young Jeezy, and if Rick Ross comes on while I'm sparring..........yiu better ask somebody.

HHCF:  Do you currently teach chess, bboying, or martial  arts in your spare time?

DO: I've taught bboying(breakdancing) in the past in Durham and Hilsborough NC. Sometimes I help with classes at the MMA Institute where I train if one of the instructors can't make it, but I'm usually training and being coached. I've also taught chess for Big Brothers Big Sisters of  Durham, and given chess lessons at the Durham regional library.

HHCF:  Any last words? How can people get in touch with you?

DO: I want to say much love and respect to everyone out there striving and grinding!!! Fight for your goals, dreams, family/friends, and ideologies. Lastly, this Ghandi quote always applies: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world.."
You can contact me through my personal, or MMA page on facebook at: D'Juan "Dirty South" Owens.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

TONIGHT!!! Author of Check The Technique 2, Brian Coleman at Q&A with Eric Arnold!!!

TONIGHT! 3396 Seldon Ct., Fremont, CA 7:30-9:30 PM!!! FREE

A meeting of east coast and west coast Hip-Hop minds taking place at the HHCF Community Center. 
We journey into the cultural context of what makes a classic Hip-Hop album and what constitutes the "Golden Age". The discussion will also touch on the evolution and maturity of the Hip-Hop generation and the lessons learned for a new generation of Hip-Hop scholars and artists . 

Author of Check The Technique Vol. 1 & 2 Brian Coleman and HHCF Founder Adisa "The Bishop" speak on the hidden wisdom behind the makings of some of the greatest Hip-Hop albums of all time and the future of Hip-Hop. The event will be 
moderated by Eric K. Arnold of Oakculture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

HHCF Hosts Chess and Life Strategies Class at St. Louis Juvenile Hall

This past weekend I was in St. Louis talking to kids about the value of Hip-Hop and chess. As many of you know, this has been my lifes obsession that went from a small organization to a rapidly growing 501(c)3 nonprofit.

The long version of what we do, is that we fuse music, chess and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and nonviolence. We have been doing this since 2006 and the impact is expanding and  as our research and knowledge is refined and revealed through innovative outreach strategies.

Rapidly these strategies gave us new insight and naturally changes our form of approach. So today we simply say, “The Hip-Hop Chess Federation fuses logic and the arts, to unite minds and hearts.” It may be done through chess, Hip-Hop, performing arts, cheerleading, theater- it goes on. We are not committed to anything beyond helping American children improve their sense of purpose and academic function. How it happens, is less important. We all learn differently.

Our organization was born from a visit I made to a juvenile hall detention center in San Francisco. Since then I have always had a special place in my heart for incarcerated youth and at-risk youth of all racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds. We believe that American children are some of the planets most valuable resources. Many of these intellectual diamonds, rubies, and emeralds are largely undiscovered in our juvenile halls and dysfunctional high schools. So this is where we like to spend our time. We excavate the minds of the youth in search of a better tomorrow.

RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan has faithfully served as our Director of Outreach. since early in our infancy. After doing a mountain of research for the Living Like  Kings exhibition at the World Chess Hall of Fame (because of the kindness and wisdom of Jennifer Shahade and Susan Barrett) RZA and I spoke at the Demetrious Johnson Charitable Foundation to about 400 kids from across St. Louis (where the WCHOF is located).

I fell in love with the city a year or so before when I came out there with my man Mike Relm. He and did some work at a co-ed juvenile hall and it changed me. It refined my sense of purpose. RZA and I spoke there again the day of the Living Like Kings opening. They invited us back and the demand was heavy. Before the closing of the opening, I returned for a weekend to meet with some hitters in education, innovation and art between new visits to both the city and county juvenile hall facilities.

I went with the HHCF’s Director of Chess Education, Kevin Hwa. He’s a great teacher of chess as well as a super avid Hip-Hop head. He understands chess on a much deeper level than I do and can integrate my philosophies into positional realities on the board that I cannot see (due to my very average playing ability).

When I invited him out, Kevin was immediately on deck. He is a true student of the black and white jungle. A chance to go see the World Chess Hall of Fame, visit the St. Louis Chess Club (the Mecca and Medina of the chess world) and help kids in the same weekend? He was not going to miss that.

Our hostess was Susan Barrett of Barrett Barrera. She is to HHCF what Obi Wan Kenobi was to Luke  and Han Solo. That was unnecessarily nerdy, but it is a fact. She took us around and is always framing and reframing the history and culture of St. Louis for us so we don’t miss a beat.

When we landed it was super late. The city was chilly, but not freezing as it usually is this time of year. After checking into the hotel we went straight to my favorite sushi spot, Drunken Fish we tore down some White Tiger rolls and Spider rolls as we talked about everything under the sun. It was almost 1 AM and we were lucky they let us in. We went back to the hotel and got ready for the morning grind.

At 8:45 Susan pulled up and we went to the juvenile hall. Kaelan Mayfield greeted us (he’s a real good dude) and took us to the lunch room. It has mustard colored walls and fluorescent lighting. The overcast light from outside gives the room and odd balance of light and darkness. Juve is gloomy homey. This was the first place Mike and I went to when we first came here. This was a bigger group of kids. The audience was 100% Black, as it was last time. A small contingent of girls with faces harder than the hardest hard rock could get entered the room.

Kevin setup a board and played with kids who knew the basics while I evangelized on the power of chess for young minds. I was not met with much immediate buy in. But I kept on. I broke down the 3PA > 1NT methodology. Told them how I knew Pac in my youth and the importance of reading. I broke down how if Pac does not read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli we lose how military science and Hip-Hop meet. I talked about Michael Jordan and the important duty of diligent practice. I talked about how the Moors brought chess to Europe and if those African Muslims don’t do that then we never get chess in America. At that point in the conversation I might as well have been telling them about Martians.

Susan shared some ideas on art the work ethic it takes to be truly great. Kevin was showing the kids how to improve how they see what is happening on the board and why. I cannot lie, it was a lukewarm start. Nevertheless, by the time the session was done, they were feeling us. . I even shared a 16 bar rhyme cipher with one of the youngsters. He was really good. A reminder of the untapped artistic and intellectual goldmine in juvenile halls of America.

                                                      T-shirt by artist Daniel Jefferson

From there we went on several meeting with artists and educators across the city. One of the most memorable was Daniel Jefferson. He is one of the realest dudes out there right now. His approach and sincerity struck me. I wanna bring him out here. He reminds me of my man Keba Konte...They look related. I also made a stop by the Philip Slein Gallery where they have an amazing exhibit on African American artists. Such a healing and beautiful space given the nature of the tensions in the city out in Ferguson. Needless to say, HHCF has a new crew of allies and we are honored to be in tune with so many wise and beautiful spirits.

Adisa, Yasser, Ana and Kevin
Next we had dinner with some amazing friends at Bar Italia in the Central West End (soooo good). As luck would have it Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan and Ana Sharevich were there. Yasser is a wise and fun man who always has been supportive of HHCF. It is always enriching even to spend a few moments with him.

HHCF Founder Adisa Banjoko and rapper So'nSo from Midwest Avengers in Paint Louis

After dinner rapper So’nSo from Midwest Avengers took us around St. Louis. It was almost midnight. Me and Kevin wanted to go to Ferguson, but we all agreed it was pretty tense and we did not wanna get hemmed up. All day rumors of the city announcing on if Darren Wilson would be charged by the DA would happen. Riot vibes were in the air. Instead he took us to Paint Louis. It is a mile and half long wall of bombing (graffiti pieces). It was so amazing. I was mad it was so late. I plan to go next time first thing after hitting Sweetie Pies!!! Damn that food is the best soul food on Earth.

The next day we went to the other juvenile hall center. This was the one where RZA and I had spoken together at in October. TJ and the rest of the staff there are always very awesome. One of the other guys there, Mike, is a serious Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student. He and I spoke at great length about how cool the connections between chess and BJJ are. Not long after that the kids came out.

Most of the kids from my initial visit with RZA were gone. None of the girls from our previous visit was there. About ¼  of the kids from in October were on hand. They were excited to see us there. Kevin and my man James had the boards set up.

They have a serious passion and knowledge of chess fundamentals. Some of them are giving me pounds on sight. The ones who were not here when RZA and I last spoke are just supportive off top because they see the love we get from their peers. When I jumped into the philosophy of it, they were locked in from word one.

I went over 3PZ > 1NT again and went into the Poisoned Pawn. They got it. They loved it. Then we had Kevin host the simul. They had never seen one. Essentially, we line up all the boards. The kids are on one side. Kevin is on the other. He walks to the first board, moves, then the other guy moves. Goes to the next board, moves, then the other guy moves etc. He rotates to each board move by move until no one is left. It was great. The winner got to keep one of the boards. Then Susan suggested we give a few boards to the hall. TJ and Mike were happy about that.

                                  Adisa Banjoko gets faded by one of the kids in St. Louis. 

I played a few games. Lost one to a kid I crushed a few weeks back. He was looking for me. I had a few big blunders. First, I did not castle early as I had planned. Second, I slipped and lost my queen early. Third, I thought a knight fork check was real when it was not real. I lost.

The kid was so juiced. I told him I looked forward to playing him again in a few weeks. He smiled big and said “I get out tomorrow.” To not be able to play him next time I come out, made my happier than plotting my revenge on the 64.

HHCF Dir. of Chess Education Kevin Hwa and HHCF Founder Adisa Banjoko

Super long story short. We ran by the World Chess Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Chess Club to take some photos and chill. Took some photos of my research on display. Then James took us to the airport. It was an amazing trip. So’nSo Midwest Avengers, KyJuan from St. Lunatics and Jason Wilson get an extra shout out. Looking forward to building more bridges between St. Louis and The SF Bay Area. If you or anyone you know might be interested in helping us connect on a deeper level, or help is find funding for education, arts and peacemaking events visit .  

PS. I know we are late dropping the HHCF Street Games Vol. 2. It is in the mix. I gotta send the last tracks to DJ Rob Flow. I think it will drop in late Nov., or early Dec. Grandmaster Maurice Ashley and Eugene Brown (the real dude from Life of A King) are the hosts for the mixtape.

Monday, October 13, 2014

RZA Joins Hip-Hop Chess Federation to Launch Chess and Martial Arts Program in St. Louis

Photo: Adrian O. Walker

RZA Joins Hip-Hop Chess Federation to Launch Chess and Martial Arts Program in St. Louis
Wu-Tang Clan Founding Member and HHCF Unite to Promote Nonviolence   

San Jose, CA 10/14/2014- The Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) is proud to announce that actor and rapper RZA of Wu-Tang Clan and Adisa Banjoko visited the Demetrius Johnson Foundation and spoke to a crowd of about 400 mostly inner city teenagers from St, Louis on October 9th. 2014. The youth listened for an hour as Susan Barrett, of Barrett Barrera Art and Fashion led the discussion on how Hip-Hop, chess and martial arts can enlighten minds and promote nonviolence. St. Louis photojournalist Adrian O. Walker also spoke to the youth reminding them of their brilliance, potential and power.

Tension had been high across the city in the shadow of the recent police killing of Vonderrit D. Myers. The shooting death came as many citizens were still actively protesting the murder of  Mike Brown. RZA and Adisa Banjoko spoke about the value of all life, the power of peace and how chess can help you see options you might not have considered. The conclusion of the panel ended with a booming ovation from the crowd.

After youth discussion, RZA, Adisa and Susan visited the St. Louis County Family Courts Juvenile Hall to speak to co-ed incarcerated youth. It was a closed session and no media were allowed inside to protect the identity of the the youth. The panel was similar to the first, but it was filled with reminders that virtually all mistakes can be redeemed with consistent effort in seeking knowledge and wisdom. After their talk, RZA and Adisa played multiple games with the eager teens. Many of them were well schooled in the fundamentals of chess. A lot of fun was had by all participants.

From there RZA and Adisa went to the Living Like Kings VIP opening at the World Chess Hall of Fame. They were joined by St. Louis MC’s KyJuan from St. Lunatics as well and Tef Poe. DJ Needles rocked the turntables spun classic Hip-Hop and a b-boy cipher exploded on the floor.

Living Like Kings: The Unexpected Collision of Chess and Hip Hop Culture is an exhibition that explores the surprising ways in which the ancient game of chess intersects with the powerful, creative expression in hip hop culture, which includes music, fashion, art, dance, and spirituality. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a 27 minute film by Benjamin Kaplan shown on two screens simultaneously. It features RZA, Adisa Banjoko, Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, Rakaa Iriscience and Womens Grandmaster Jennifer Shahade among others. The opening of Living Like Kings broke all previous attendance records for an exhibition opening. People were lined up down the block to learn about Hip-Hop and chess.

Adisa Banjoko stated “It was an honor to serve as an Education Consultant to the WCHOF and teach their organization the history and art of how chess and Hip-Hop are connected. The Living Like Kings exhibition and film are very compelling and I believe this is just the beginning. For RZA and I, healing the impact of violence on St. Louis using music, chess and martial arts is key. Our organization focused on engaging at-risk and incarcerated youth of all backgrounds.

We cannot thank Demetrius Johnson, Rodney Hubbard and Susan Barrett enough for their trust in our intentions and abilities. HHCF will soon announce the schedule for our Life Strategies certification training for teachers, as well as kids introduction to chess and jiu-jitsu classes soon. A donation from RZA has made it all possible. We plan to announce the details of the program in a few weeks. The HHCF is grateful to RZA for donating his time, money, wisdom and compassion. “

RZA who serves as Director of Outreach for HHCF stated " It was a pleasure for me to join the HHCF The WCHOF and Demetrius Johnson in St. Louis to help spread the cultures of hip hop chess and martial arts.  The trip was enlightening, engaging and uplifting.

Enlightening in the sense I learned that St. Louis is a core city for the history of chess. Parts of the first world championship took place in the city. The World Chess Hall of Fame relocated from Miami to St. Louis.

The most engaging part of my trip was talking to the young people from different schools and the Juvenile hall. Hearing how they viewed the world and their city struck me. Hearing the young athletes ambitions and young talent,  seeking education and opportunity in order to better their lives and the lives of their family, community, etc., was a beam of hope.
Finally I was deeply moved seeing and knowing the frustration and disharmony the citizens are feeling due the past and recent brutality of law enforcement officers- it only threw gas on the fire of the city’s race relations. Then to see at the World chess hall of fame enjoy a full house of what Rev Jackson would have called a rainbow coalition of people, all under one roof with a common denominator.
“The Hip-Hop chess and art exhibition was the first of its kind in the midwestern city . The WCHOF experienced a record breaking attendance for a single opening night event. This is a testament to the fact that if we find what we have in common, we can overcome that which don't have in common. Thanks to Adisa Banjoko, Susan Barrett and the art contributors for the bravery and poise to show the city, there is a beam of light penetrating. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of it. "

For more information on HHCF visit

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today's Math: Cultural Exclusion Within the STEM Trend

Today’s Math: Cultural Exclusion Within the STEM Trend
By: Adisa Banjoko

Can we talk about the top 1% and the bottom 99?/ Or the wise 5% and the deaf, dumb and blind 85?/ Or how the circle 7 and the 120 saved our lives?
                                                                                     - Come to the Hills Amir Sulaiman

A few weeks ago I walked into the Ocala Youth Center in San Jose after passing out fliers for our free Hip-Hop Chess program. I was sweating like a runaway slave under the summer sun, but I was happy. You might think walking between Crip, Norteno and Sureno gang turfs trying to teach kids about chess would not work, or be fun. But its a ”beautiful struggle.”

Our non-profit was awarded the Safe Summer Initiative Grant provided by the City of San Jose through the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force.  Through that, we have been able to teach the game of kings to underserved kids in East side San Jose. Because of the shimmer of silicon chips is so often in the news, it's easy to forget the gang wars and turf battles. The BG’s (young "baby gangsters") respect my efforts and let us do our work without any hassles. They know my intentions. I appreciate that. When we first opened up at Ocala Middle School, five kids walked in. Two weeks later we were getting just under fifty.

HHCF teaching fundamentals at Ocala Youth Center in San Jose, CA

One of my favorite kids is a teenage girl who learns freestyle wrestling from her dad, loves rap and heavy metal, and has a passion for singing in her spare time. “Where did chess come from?” she asked me one day between moves. I smiled and spoke to her like an uncle talking to his favorite niece.  

“Chess came to America essentially because the Moors brought the game with them when they conquered Spain on 700 AD. If they don’t bring the game to Spain, Europe never gets it. If Europe never gets it, Benjamin Franklin never learns it. If he does not learn it, and come to America- we never get it. Today Maurice Ashley stands as the first Black Grand Master. Cuba had a World Champion, Jose Raul Capablanca, a true icon for Latino’s around the world. The beauty of the sport and art of chess is something all cultures have connected through. If you think chess is a game only by and for old rich White people, then you have lost your place in the history of chess. Im here today to help you find it and do something with it.” I also remind my students about Black female chess champion Rochelle Ballantyne (seen in the documentary Brooklyn Castles) who is now at Stanford University and rising female champion Diamond Shakoor.

She immersed in the conversation. I told her that opening with pawns, knights and bishops to control the center of the board, was no different than keeping your head up, elbows tight and low center of gravity heading to the middle of the mat to meet your opponent in wrestling. I knew then that the history of chess, when framed through an authentic cultural lense, gets students immediately engaged.. I had an instant flashback to one of my discussions on this topic with a former colleague who served as a mathematics  teacher.

Moorish men playing a game of chess in Spain

Working as a security guard at John O’Connell High School in San Francisco, I learned a lot about American public schools. Compared to the average American parent I’ve had an uncommon level of access to teachers and students unfettered for several years. These experiences helped me configure my non-profit, the Hip-Hop Chess Federation to help teachers and students find new ways to achieve academic greatness.

One of the first things I learned was the gross lack of cultural connectivity to math and science. It all started while talking with a White female teacher at the school who was concerned about not reaching a certain group of Black and Latino males. They were regularly in trouble in her class. These kids were very disruptive and she called me to her room many times to wrangle mayhem out the classroom.

After hearing her legitimate grievances with these youngsters I asked her “Have you ever thought about teaching math from a cultural perspective?”

“What do you mean” she asked?

“For instance, the book Blacks in Science by Dr. Ivan Van Sertima talks about how the Mayans invented the concept of the zero before the people of India did. I find this fascinating because there is no historical account of them having any contact with one another. Now, I believe things that that would really excite kids from  Mexico and El Salvador (we have a large Latino population).. Maybe if you talked to your Black students about Imhotep , architect of the first step pyramid in Kemet (commonly called Egypt) you would be able to make math not just another subject, but an extension of their culture. That makes it more than just homework, it makes it part of a tradition to uphold.”

She looked at me with the most serious eyes on Earth and said “But I don’t know any of that stuff. I can’t teach that.” The horror in her response was that she said it as if she was incapable of reading the same book I just referenced. I realized a millisecond later her response was ploy to evade taking the time to do homework on her own to get connectivity to her pupils. As if by virtue of her college degree, she no longer needed to read these kinds of things to qualify her as a teacher. She continues to struggle with Black and Latino students.

Looking at the dismal state of Black and Latino achievements in mathematics, can make any half sane parent cringe. Bloomberg recently reported “The achievement gap between black and white students has remained steady at about 30 points in math from 2005 to 2013.” One could google for hours the low numbers in Black and Latino math and science deficiencies. quoted  Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, Professor and Director of the Higher Education Research at UCLA in 2011 stating “It is very disturbing to see more pronounced gaps at basic science proficiency in 12th grade, and that so few Black and Hispanic students are proficient at the most basic level.”

Mayan scholars like the one pictured above invented the concept of the zero long before the people of India.

Almost everytime I turn around I see people trying to promote STEM (Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics). It serves as the latest buzzword in academia. As exciting as it appears, I find this an offense to Black, Latino and other non-White peoples. This is simply because the bulk of STEM approaches are culturally sterile, sleepy hollow methodologies that frankly don’t inspire inner city minds. But it does not have to be this way.

My belief is that the future is not in STEM but STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art [underline emphasis mine] and Mathematics. The element of art instantly alters the effectiveness of teaching the others. It's  also closer to the ancient traditions of many in the global diaspora.

The unmatchable classic Who Is God  Rakim paints images of the Black man and womans past “Life was life, and love was love/ We went according by the laws of the world above/ They showed us physically, we could reach infinity/ But mentally through the centuries we lost our identity.” This is the the most succinct explanation of our academic failure in American education I have ever heard from a rapper (or anyone really).

Look around. Most ancient Black and Brown civilizations never separated their art from mathematics, science and engineering. They are the inventors and curators of STEAM. These ancestors painted pyramids, decorated lunar and solar calendars. Kemetic craftsmen engraved towering pillars in their houses of worship adorned with hieroglyphics. The architects of the Ottoman empire emblazoned geometric calligraphy in their masjids. Nevertheless, Most non-White children believe their people have no historical bond with science, math and engineering. Yet we know better, and so do most American teachers. Clearly a type of cultural and ethnic cleansing inside education has been taking place.

Geometry, algebra, architecture, art and spirituality were never separated in traditional cultures

I think many astronomy students would love to know that the Kaaba in Mecca, built by Prophet Abraham is perfectly aligned with the star Canopus. “The four corners of the Kaaba roughly point toward the four cardinal directions of the compass.[1] Its major (long) axis is aligned with the rising of the star Canopus toward which its southern wall is directed, while its minor axis (its east-west facades) roughly align with the sunrise of summer solstice and the sunset of winter solstice.

Any class of Algebra that does not start with the Persian mathematician  Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (a scholar at the House of Wisdom in Baghdad), dishonors all the work in the classroom that follow it. The words algebra and algorithm, are born from his name. He was from Baghdad. In People of the Book, Zachary Karabell quotes the intellectual achievements of that city by one person who walked its street stating “Baghdad thrived as few cities ever have, or ever will.” One of the greatest mathematicians of Baghdad,  Ibn Yaḥyā al-Maghribī al-Samawʾa was the son of a Moroccan Rabbi who wrote several books on algebra and also respected scholar of medicine.

In the book Golden Age of the Moor, Edited by Dr. Van Sertima, it highlights how Africans and Arabs “made algebra an exact science and developed in considerably and laid the foundation of analytical geometry; they were indisputably the plane and spherical trigonometry which, properly speaking did not exist among the Greeks.” In The Immortal Game, David Shenk highlights how the Moors used the chessboard as an abacus for mathematical calculations. Andalusian architecture in Spain today is a living testament to centuries of African and Arab science, technology, engineering, art and math.

What the Moors built, was on the shoulders of the Kemetic (Egyptian) ancestors. On the topic of African contributions to physics, John Pappademos wrote “The few papyri which have survived, show that they (the Egyptians) could compute the areas and volumes of abstract geometric figures….To the Egyptians we owe the idea of letting a symbol represent an unknown quantity in algebra.”

Like the Moors, when Hip-Hop was In its “golden age” (1988-1993) it heavily promoted the importance of mathematics. This was mainly done by the 5% Nation of Gods and Earths, a branch of the Nation of Islam. Artists like Poor Righteous Teachers, Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Brand Nubian, Jay Z  and many others have been affiliated with the organization. For them, understanding of mathematics has many practical and spiritual importance. Their symbol is the number 7 inside a circle and star. They teach their own “supreme alphabet”, “supreme mathematics” and “120 degrees” of knowledge. Hip-Hop spread these ideas across the world.

On the left, Jay Z, wearing a 5% medallion. On the right, its Founder Clarence 13  X

One of the fastest growing movements in teaching science is Science Genius. It is spearheaded by Dr. Chris Emdin who works closely with Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA (heavily influenced by the 5%) to host youth rap battles about science. Its impressive to see.

As a young adult in the early 1990’s I cannot allow the effort and accurate scholarship of Dr. Van Sertima, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan, Dr. Runoko Rashidi and others to be buried under online searches. Our contemporary educators need to be informed and trained on this wisdom and encouraged to teach it to all American youth. To fail to do this, is not just a crime against the Black, Latino, Arab and Persian contributions to STEAM are the foundation of everything we say want our children to study. It is a crime against all American youth as a whole. Because the current culture of mathematics reinforces European superiority in STEM- it robs them of the truth! Today’s Black academics have a duty to demand more books with these truths be made part of public school curriculum. Virtually all cultures have had a hand in the evolution of how we learn and apply math. Eurocentric based math classes dishonor STEM’s founders and innovators as well their newest students. I am not in favor of Black or White supremacist teaching methods. I’m an advocate of the truth for the benefit of all.  At the same time I understand that the enemies of my ancestors had no vested interest in ensuring their children knew the truth about my people. In many ways the American school system is functioning as it should in its failure to properly educate kids.

I submit to all administrators and teachers in American public, charter and private schools that teaching science, technology, engineering and math minus an artistic element  undercuts the potential of student engagement from day one. The global diaspora has never separated their art from their cultural relationship to mathematics and science. Our culturally barren methods now used to teach math and science only alienate and marginalize American minds. This renders them incapable of moving full STEAM ahead in the future. We must do better.

Adisa Banjoko is Founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. They are hosting the grand opening of their new facility August 16th 2014 in the Bay Area. For more information visit

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 ...