Monday, December 12, 2016

HHCF Chess Club Visits America's Oldest Chess Club!


Recently the HHCF chess class at John O'Connell HS in San Francisco had the honor of being given a tour of the Mechanics Institute Library and Chess Club. We were warmly greeted by GM Nick de Firmian and Paul Whitehead.

For those that do not know Mechinics' is the OLDEST chess club in America.
I wanted to share a quick clip of Nick talking with me after teaching a lesson to the HHCF kids
and then a short two part piece of Paul showing a nice counter to Queens Gambit.
Part 1: Queens Gambit
Part 2: Queens Gambit

I cannot thank them enough for their kindness, open minds, hearts and of course- their technical knowledge.
For more on Mechnics' visit www.chessclub.org

Sunday, December 4, 2016

KPIX News Channel 5 Covers Hip-Hop Chess Federation

    Kenny Choi did a fantastic look at HHCF for Channel 5!! Check out the link here on:  KPIX NEWS . It does a great job of showing that the kids at John O'Connell's Chess and Life Strategies class is thriving. Looking forward to next semester. If you would like our class at your school visit www.hiphopchess.com .

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016

HHCF Releases NEVER BEFORE HEARD 1994 Song What You Know feat. Del The Funky Homosapien

                                  Del The Funky Homosapien from Hieroglyphics

Long before I began my path of promoting nonviolence to the youth, I was in a militant rap group. In our time were dope. Freedom T.R.O.O.P 187 was a political rap group that consisted of myself, DJ Robski (now known as Rob Flow) and Hi-low (who passed away). The acronym for T.R.O.O.P was Through Revolution Of Our People.

Jason and I  used to work together at Tower Records in San Mateo. I was from San Bruno, a suburb a few cities north. In my head he was always from Cupertino. But I don't remember. I do remember but was always running around with the most dangerous people from East Palo Alto. He was nice, but he was always down to fight people. Being super small, I liked that. 'Cause I was like 120 pounds. Jason did security. I was at the register. We were both half crazy and always into something. One day an old white guy stole like $500.00 of CD's from the opera section. Jason made him cry "This is a f*****ing felony man! Are you ready for jail?!" The guy looked like a rich George Constanza and was begging Jason not to get the cops. He was rich, too. So crazy. Every other person working there was a musician. So there was always madness in the store. But it was fun madness. Folks were drunk or high on the job all the time. I wasn't, because I was on some super militant sober soldier kick. I was always wearing the most politically charged shirts to make people angry. It worked.

We hit it off instantly and Hi-low used to buy records at Tower. Hi-low was cool with Digital Underground. He was the nerdy front desk guy in the Dowhutchyalike video. He was also a pretty good musician. That is how things came together. I was wearing a Lenchmob shirt Del gave me at Costco and Rob was running the register. He asked me how I got the shirt. I told him I was knew Del and I needed a DJ. Just like that, Freedom T.R.O.O.P. 187 was born. [Rob hit me and said we met AT The Gavin Convention and then I came to Costco. Due to being old, I will go with his recollection].

Jason Slater from Snake River Conspiracy

Over the years we opened for Gangstarr and Organized Konfusion, Yo-Yo, Brand Nubian, Paris, Invisbl Skratch Piklz, The Coup. Lighter Shade of Brown, Onyx and others. Our shows had live martial arts on stage, we gave away Malcolm X Autobiographies and we did a lot of work at local colleges. Hi-low was crazy smart and he introduced the crew to the wisdom of Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Ivan VanSertima and Dr. Ben (giants of Black history). We would go to their talks and soak up wisdom and try to share their ideas in our shows and music. If you rememeber the Bay Area scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s we were there doing it. We were at the Omni, at The Stone, all kinds of undergound events. The day Hiero was on Home Turf (a legendary Hip-Hop show in the bay) I was on that same show. It was weird being a writer and a rapper. But I loved it and the group was well respected.

We would have huge parties at Hi-lows loft in Oakland on High Street. Author Danyel Smith used to live across the hall. She like me was an aspiring writer. He spot and Hi-low's spot were huge places for incredible parties and social events. Hi-Low had super high ceilings. One of his boys put a HUGE parachute to the walls about half way up. Then Hi-Low had this heater that was like a small jet engine. They would start it, and the parachute would catch the heat. All these dudes would come and smoke mad weed and the could would be under the parachute. They would always try to make me stay under the parachute to get me high because I didn't smoke. The after parties after our shows were pretty big and pretty crazy. Hi-Low would always play Israel Vibrations, deep roots reggae, dancehall and Hip-Hop. It was a truly divine time to be young and Black in Oakland. I learned so much about music, life, art, wisdom and the power of people of Oakland.

Those were the years when I met Sunspot Jonz, Living Legends, Davey D, Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hoprisy, Elements of Change, DJ Kevvy Kev, Brian Samson, Eric Arnold, the 4080 crew, The Gavin Convention (music conference) was popping and Thembisa M'Shaka and others made the bay a major hub for Hip-Hop. I'm leaving a lot of people out. But my heart remembers all of you.

Freedom T.R.O.O.P. 187 logo by Blast One aka Leo Libiran

We didn’t just rap though. We were active in the political scene. We were at every politically related rap event. If Chuck D, KRS ONE, or a noted African historian was in town, we were there 10-15 deep.

In the middle of working on our first album, most likely to be called Ages in Chaos, Hi-lo was caught up in a legal situation. While he was locked up the future of the group was really in peril. Rob and I were unclear on what to do.

I met Del years before his album came out at the home of a woman Black Panther named Kiilu Nyasha. She taught political science classes at her home. I met Del, there back when Ice Cube’s America’s most wanted was out. I broke the first story on Del in The Source and later went onto write the first story on Hieroglyphics for RapPages Magazine. Some of this was talked about in the award winning film Til Infinity.

Money B from Digital Underground’s dad (Bobby McCall) was the group manager at the time. We did shows all over the bay and we were covered in Spin, East Bay Express and a lot other publications. We were super militant, but we kept shows fun. When Hip-Hop (even political Hip-Hop stops being fun, it starts dying). We would go hang out in Oakland at Mr. Floppy’s. People said it was an old prostitution house. It had crazy rooms and stuff. People would be everywhere. It was down the street from Laney College in Oakland. The times were so wild. At any time in and around Oakland and Berkeley there might be a huge political debate about Malcolm X and the NOI on one corner and a huge rap battle or dance cypher right across the street. This was often the case in Berkeley by Leopold's records on Durant and Telegraph.


L to R Hi-low Adisa, The Bishop and DJ Robski 
This is the only photo of Freedom T.R.O.O.P. 187

With Hi-low out, Rob and I took some of his verses out to do remixes of some of the songs. We did What You Know with Del, and we did Right Turn Down The Wrong Street with Boots (who I met years before The Coup as a DJ from my first DJ crew went on to be his DJ). I also recorded a song with Pep Love and A Plus that also never came out. The Del and Boots remixes were recorded at Jason Slaters house in Cupertino. He is now a well known producer of Rock music (Snake River Conspiracy, Third Eye Blind and Queensreich). But he always was into Hip-Hop and made dope beats. These tracks here were produced by Rob. One of my favorite tracks we made was called Sad Song (about sell out Black people) was produced by another dope DJ/Producer of the time named The Great Gazoo of Squadron Black. It was the only song we ever recorded that Rob did not make. It was right before Hi-low got caught up.  

We recorded the song at Jason’s house. I had gave Del the original version of the song with Hi-low on it. He wrote the first verse before he came to the session. The second verse he wrote there. In my first verse where I say "So what you know about that G?" We were supposed to have Rob throw in a line from Slick Rick "Cause I'm a fly brown brother and you can't school me!" but we never got it in. The song ends abruptly because he was unsure of how to close the verse. So Jason was like, “Let’s just act like the beat cut out”. So that is what we did. I thought we did this in 1992. Rob thinks it was 1994. The time was still largely a blur. So, I will defer to Rob on that.

Hi-low beat his case, but the damage done to the group was irreparable. DJ Rob started DJ’ing for Del. I made some solo tracks, but, I was always into the group thing and I let the mic go slowly.  Hi-low passed away from heart problems a little more than ten years ago. He will be missed. Some of our songs have been found again. This is the first few we plan to release. Most of it was never fully mixed and mastered. We may release it properly done in 2017 as a flashback album. More than anything, we just wanted to share a time capsule track. Share a little bit of what the bay used to be like. The production sound is perfectly 90’s. We hope you like it. I will post more soon.

DJ Robski changed his name to DJ Rob Flow is still a killer DJ and producer. He just dropped a powerful new album (you should cop, because it's hot) called Cameo Flows with Dinco D from legendary rap group Leaders of the New School. Rob to me is one of the best scratch DJ's on the planet. Truly, like DJ Premier instead of being a choppy DJ- he is melodic. This skill always made Premier a cut above. Rob is no less skilled in that regard.

Jason Slater is still making dope music and a true genius in my opinion.

Del obviously is a pioneer of the bay and a lyrical force of nature.

The Hip-Hop Chess Federation is still doing our thing (go peep what we are doing- right now!) and innovating education and nonviolence. I would have never thought all those years of militant music making in my youth would have made me a nonviolent educator today. But had I never been like that, I'd have never been like I am now.

Rest in Peace Hi-low. Thanks for everything you taught me.

LISTEN: What You Know REMIX Freedom T.R.O.O.P. 187 feat. Del

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

DJ Akiko Luv Drops The Ballad of Lady Snowblood

DJ Akiko Luv is an amazing DJ who took 2nd at the DMC DJ Bay Area DJ Battle at the HHCF HQ.
She recently made an amazing piece called The Ballad of Lady Snowblood. It is a fantastic skratch interpretation of the Lady Snowblood film series that was the inspiration for Kill Bill. Be sure to follow her YouTube Channel. Look for it on the HHCF Street Games Vol. 2. We hope it inspires people to be courageous on the chessboard, the turntables, the mic, the mat and the world. NOTE: The Lady Snowblood films are very violent and no kids or teens should watch them without parental permission. 





Monday, November 14, 2016

Notes from the Field: My Kennedy Center Keynote + I met Grandmaster Flash!


Adisa The Bishop at the Kennedy Center explaining how Bruce Lee, Bobby Fischer and kids from the Bronx changed America forever. 

I had an amazing trip to DC to the Words Beats and Life Teach In. It was in many ways a test of focus and will. Essentially, I got on a plane Thursday at midnight, and touched down on Friday about 11 AM. Right before I got on the plane, I learned that our Southeast Regional Director (Vince Bayyan) and our HHCF Durham Chapter Leader (D'Juan Owens) were not going to be able to make it due to situations beyond their control. 

When I landed, I learned the jiu-jitsu mats were not gonna be there. On the flight the turbulence was so bad. It was prayer worthy. Not just prayers. The kind where you start straight up having rambling conversations you think are heart to heart engagements with The Creator. 

"How bad was it?!" you ask. 

It was SO bad, that someone pooped on the plane twice during the mayhem at thirty-thousand feet. I repeat, twice. 

Despite this, I was totally at peace. In the past I might have wondered if the following were all bad omens. I wrote a whole new lecture just for Words Beats and Life. In the past I might have undercut myself and chosen to do one of my past lectures. 

But I was at peace. 

Upon landing my ride to the Words Beats and Life event at the Kennedy Center. It is an amazing building and I started to get goosebumps as I walked in. Not long after I got there I saw Christie Z Pabon from the Hip-Hop promotions company Tools of War. I also saw Nico Ball of the Terere Kids Project in Brazil. They teach kids in the favelas of Brazil jiu-jitsu and help give them a better chance at life. 

I hung out with them as I waited for my time to speak. At that point I had been up many hours, but I didn't care. I was in a great mood and the crowd was amazing. All the people from Words Beats and Life were kind and supportive. It was organized well from top to bottom. I have to give Asad Jafri and Mazi Mutafa a serious nod for having their crew on point. 

When it came time to speak, I just went up and gave it my all. I tried to Periscope it, but the signal was bad...It did not work!!! I just focused on my talk. It was very surreal. I didn't think of it as a presentation, but more of a conversation with friends. I illustrated the history of martial arts and chess centered around Hip-Hop dance and DJ culture.We looked at clips of Bruce Lee and I talked about how he inspired so many African Americans to learn martial arts, use it as a tool for nonviolence and explore ideas like Buddhism and vegan living. I showed how that history how it had a ripple effect in shows like The Get Down and Luke Cage. The crowd loved it. I had intended to do a whole series of jiu-jitsu positions to show how they align with chess. But with D'Juan gone all that was outta the window. 

I had a last second idea to have Nico Ball come up and show a jiu-jitsu wrist escape that all young women could use. Also an arm drag to a choke from standing. This allowed me to show how position and knowledge are greater than strength when it comes to self defense. We didn't even need any mats. I went on to share how important it was for women to take jiu-jitsu, judo and take self defense seriously. 

In my conclusion I got into the important role Hip-Hop, chess and martial arts play in sparking executive function in the brain. When I was done, I got a great round of applause. It was a vindication of the highest order. I was so scared. Only my wife and my man J-Live had heard my presentation before I did it. They both said it would work. They were right. 

As I hung out at the place. Grandmaster Flash walked in. I hurried to the back to introduce myself. When I got back there, he was in a bad mood. He was coming down from having an intense discussion with someone. I walked in the room mid convo and it was awkward for me. 
I didn't introduce myself because I felt confused about the best way to introduce myself. Flash was sitting a couch in the back. I was standing in the doorway. 

Grandmaster Flash and Adisa The Bishop (trying to fix his face)

He looked over at me as I was spaced out looking at the ceiling. 

"Fix your face" he barked. "Is something wrong? You look mad?"

The old me would have been mad. I might have started yelling. I am a westsider by birth and I mighta got all riled up. In this moment though, I was not trippin'. 

Without missing a beat I said. "My face is like this because I'm in awe of being in the presence of a legend. If you mistake my face to be anything else, you will truly be misunderstanding my joy. I just talked about how your character and Shaolin Fantastic are just like Po and Kwai Chang Cain in the TV show Kung Fu. My name is Adisa. Nice to meet you." I walked over and shook his hand. 

You could see Flash was still coming down from his anger. He studied me. 

"What do you do?"

"I am the Founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation" I said with a smile. 

Half playing and half perturbed he said "That does not tell me anything. I asked what do you do?!" with a half smirk he leaned toward me. His eyes probed mine for weakness. This dude is a true New York'er. 

"I teach kids chess, jiu-jitsu and Hip-Hop to keep them off the streets."

He raised his chin as he thought, then said "That sounds pretty cool. I think I like that idea."

Then he let me interview him. I cannot tell you everything he said. I told him I'd hold onto it. I can say it was deep. He does have deep respect for chess GM Geller. He loves Kung-Fu films. We took a quick photo then he was off to do his Q&A and get his award. 

What he took to the stage was amazing. He shared a formula he created back in 1969 to DJ parties. It was a blueprint for juggling breaks (a way to play a specific part of any record over and over). It blew my mind and I have to say I was more than impressed. 

A lot of Hip-Hop pioneers are too arrogant or angry about the past. They tend to not share a lot. Flash was the total opposite. He truly is a genius. In the truest sense of the word. I was in awe of his passion and clarity. 

My conversations with him helped me reframe my outline for the sequel to Bobby, Bruce & the Bronx: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess. I created an outline for two more books as I was writing my new one. But being with him made me think deeper about what I was trying to say, and what elements of the history were missing. 

It was an honor and I learned so much going to Words Beats and Life WBL Fest. I hope to do more in DC and more with them in the future. From there I got back on a plane about 7 PM and got shaken through more turbulence. Eventually, I got back to my wife and kids. It was amazing. Despite not getting any sleep for about 24 hrs,, it was something I will never forget. 

In reflecting about my mellow mood through the escalating drama I have to credit my consistent meditation practice. I think it helped me stay in a peaceful zone. That, and I had mentally decided that like the comic book character Itto Ogami, nothing would stop me from getting there and doing my best. And nothing did. 

More to share soon. Thanks so much for your support and taking the time to read this. 

PEACE! 



Sunday, October 30, 2016

Adisa Banjoko to Keynote at the Prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington DC Nov. 4th.


HHCF Founder Adisa Banjoko will be speaking at The Kennedy Center in Washinton DC Nov. 4th!!! He will be debuting new insights on connections between chess, martial arts, Hip-Hop and cognitive function. There will also be deep connections made between the rise of Bobby Fischer and Bruce Lee and the impact it had on Hip-Hop (seen through the lens of Luke Cage and The Get Down) !  If you are a fan of STEAM and STEM in education please make sure you are there. Get your tickets now https://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/PRWBL

This event will be LIVE STREAMED on Periscope!!! To view the presentation follow @hiphopchess on Twitter & Persicope in your phone. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

HHCF Jiu-Jitsu Team Wins BIG at US Open in Santa Cruz !!

What a weekend. I don't even know where to start. I guess I will start by thanking all of the HHCF Jiu-jitsu team members and their families for supporting us at the US Open this weekend in Santa Cruz, CA. I also want to thank Alan "Gumby" Marques and all of the Heroes Martial Arts Family for all their brotherhood and sisterhood. I also have to thank the Deus Fight family for designing the only Official HHCF jiu-jitsu gi (The Oakland gi) and donating the uniforms to our team. Please buy one today.

OK.....

I could give you all the back story but I won't. The thing I will say is that when I launched the HHCF Jiu-Jitsu and Chess program I did not expect this. I hoped for things like this, but really, it was beyond what I envisioned.

My first student Forrest AKA Batman walked onto the mats. He came to my school with encouragement from his father and his sister. He had previously been at HHCF Summer camps, but had never done anything like jiu-jitsu. Forrest is a super quiet kid. Till this day, I have never heard him yell. He always had high character and was always respectful. However he was also very mild. Some might say too might. He was never bullied, but, nobody wanted to see that happen.

What he lacked in vocal tone he made up for in focus and effort. In between time, I worked on his mind using books like Josh Waitzkin's The Art of Learning. I want to thank Josh personally and everyone at the JW Foundation for donating books to our class. With training from myself, HHCF's wrestling coach Andrew Swank and our other jiu-jitsu coach Sammy Teame Batman took home second place. I gave him the nickname Batman because Batman has no super powers. He works hard and he knows HE has enough inside of himself to win. Forrest is the same way.

WATCH his first match here:



He won his first in less than 2 min (virtual textbook win) and losing his second match just before the buzzer. The second match was dynamic from front to back, but I  don't have it on film. When I asked him what match he liked he smiled and said the second- because of the back and forth.

 4 out of 5 of our athletes took home medals.

Batman WINS....This is not a movie. It is real. 

BillyRay aka Megatron took 2nd in his division and 1st in open weight div. 


                                           Bryan wins GOLD in his division. Fight with heart and technique.

                                          Pete was dominant in his first match. Most scores in jiu-jitsu are single digit, like a soccer game. This guy not only racked up 24 points but he secured an armlock with ONE SECOND on the clock. Electric. He went on to submit two more opponents after scoring big but lost in the semi finals. He walked away with a bronze. It was unreal.

                                         One of our guys was DQ'ed for doing an illegal choke in his first match. I take responsibility for that. He thought the choke was legal. I assure you he will be crushing the competition in tournaments to come. I too will be back in the mats in the next month or so. I'm thankful to all our supporters. I also want to thank the coaches from all the teams that make up the HHCF Jiu-Jitsu team. Fighters from Heroes, Team Silva BJJ, Smash Gyms, Mauricio Alonso, KOA Martial Arts and others have united to support the cause of nonviolence and peace through martial arts, chess and Hip-Hop. There was a time in the bay when all of our schools would never support one another. Now through embracing the unity in our diversity, we stand as champions together.

If you would like for your son or daughter to be part of the HHCF Jiu-Jitsu team please sign them up today at www.hiphopchess.com 

Friday, October 21, 2016

HHCF Jiu-jitsu Team Going to US Open This Weekend!!!


A quick shout out to our coaches and students competing in the US Open!!! The HHCF jiu-jitsu team is an affiliate of Heroes Martial Arts and we appreciate the guidance of Alan "Gumby" Marques, coach Sammy and our wrestling coach Andrew is developing our students.  Sign your kids up at www.hiphopchess.com . If you would like one of the HHCF jiu-jitsu gi's go to our sponsor Deus Fight for the "Oakland" gi www.deusfight.com !! 









HHCF's Raw AllStars Cheer & Dance Takes TWO 1st Place Wins at USA Regional Championships!!



Big congratulations are in order for HHCF's Raw AllStars cheer and dance team. They took first place in their division at USA Regional Championships in Santa Cruz, CA a few weeks back. It was a totally stereotypical California beach boardwalk kinda day. Our kids worked super hard to get the win. Our coaches, parents, and choreographers all deserve a hand.

Another special shout has to go to our Lyrical dance team who competed the same day. They no only took first, but won a bid to compete in Las Vegas this May!!!! We are immensely proud of them.



Sign our kids up today for award winning cheer and Hip-Hop dance at www.hiphopchess.com or www.rawtalents.org . All ages and skill sets welcome. No experience needed. See you on the floor!!!







HHCF Classes on Chess & Life Strategies NOW Enrolling!!!

HHCF is now enrolling kids in classes on chess, chess and life strategies and chess and jiu-jitsu and youth entrepreneurship . Our classes are fun, all ages and help kids of all backgrounds learn to value the power of their own mind and body.  We also offer amazing Hip-Hop dance classes taught by Grant Torino and Karate classes taught by Sensei Anthony Thomas! Visit www.hiphopchess.com to learn more. 







LISTEN: The Cipher Podcast Talks to Adisa Banjoko about life BEFORE HHCF (parental discretion advised)

Over the trajectory of our existence, there have been many cool stories done our organization. We have had amazing features in Forbes, Good Morning America, Chess Life, Hard Knock Radio and others. This however, was very special. It was special because I don't think anyone has ever researched my life so intensely as Shawn Setaro when he decided to interview me for The Cipher Podcast. If you like Hip-Hop even a little bit, you must listen. He is my favorite Hip-Hop podcaster on the planet. Not because he did this story on me and the creation of HHCF. But, because he tirelessly tries to understand every person he interviews on a higher level.



Please give this a listen and understand that a lot of what is on here deals with my life before HHCF. So there is gonna be some talk about cops, guns, memories of some of my folks like Eazy and Tupac and a lot of the pain I went through that brought me to creating the HHCF.

                               Shawn Setaro creator of The Cipher Podcast and Forbes writer.


I hope you like it. I'm sorry to Shawn for taking so long to formally post it.

HERE IT IS: The Cipher Podcast interview of Adisa Banjoko by Shawn Setaro


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Working to Build Queens: HHCF at Girls Juvenile Hall



Working to Build Queens: HHCF at Girls Juvenile Hall
By: Adisa, The Bishop


A few weeks ago Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) was invited to teach some of our Chess and Life Strategies classes to the boys at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center. I was working with kids as young as 13 and as old as 19. It went amazing. I wrote about my first five days in a blog entry I posted a few weeks back.


As soon as it was done I requested an opportunity to work in Unit 6, the girls unit. Educating girls about Chess and Life Strategies has been a core part of the mission of HHCF. These days however, as I see incarcerated girls by daughters age or sharing her physical or personality attributes I’m even more determined to help them. The staff was impressed about my sincerity in sharing chess wisdom with the girls so we got it going. Yesterday was my second time working in Unit 6.

Nothing screams nerd like the glare on these glasses.



Almost half of the first girls I taught had already rotated out. I’m happy to see them free but always sad I did not get more time to teach our lessons. Nevertheless there was a lot of enthusiasm on their faces. Mainly because the ones who were in the first class were excited to play.


One by one the girls walked in the classroom in a straight line. I always make sure to shake their hand and greet them individually with a genuine smile. You’d be surprised at how much a genuine smile can change anyones mood. As you might imagine they were all talking and laughing about whatever is going on in their day. These young ladies are certainly tough, but they never escape sharing their share of giggle and smiles and quirky aspects of their personality. Another thing I noticed is that girls always have much greater classroom respect and focus than any of the boys units. When it’s time to learn, they focus.


“Ladies, please settle down” I asked.  “I need you attention.” The sat straight up and gave me the floor. I’m still trying to gain their trust so I wanted to share some things about me to re engage them on a personal level.


First I showed them a photos of me and Tupac and Eazy way back from my new book Bobby, Bruce & Bam: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess. Immediately they asked me one hundred question questions about Pac, Eazy and old school Hip-Hop. They also showed a lot of interest in writing books of their own. I encouraged them to follow through on that vision.


Next I talked to them about Prince Niccolo Machiavelli and how Tupac read Machiavelli and Sun Tzu in jail because he realized he needed to make better decisions. Better decisions than the ones that got him in jail. “Plus all the reading he did is what made it so he could created all the music he did. A lot of today's rappers are one hit wonders because they don’t put anything new into their head. So the songs always sound the same. Tupac was the exact opposite.” One of the Latina girls raised her hand and proudly stated she had read Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The other girls in the class were impressed. So was I.


Then I passed around two books Play Like A Girls by Jennifer Shahade and Birth of the Chess Queen by Marilyn Yalom. I passed it around as I told them the history of the chess queen. I shared the importance of being intelligent young women of action. Some of them were bothered by the title of Shahade’s book. I reminded them that “playing like a girl” was in fact a show of strength and ability. It clicked.


Next I wrote the word queen on the board in big letters. I look around the classroom for a minute to let the silence settle. “What words come to your mind when you see the word queen?” I asked. Without hesitation words rained down on me faster than I could write them on the board:


Power
Educated
Beautiful
Reign
Ambitious
Confident
Woman


“Very good. Did you notice not one of you used words like ‘bitch’, ‘hoe’, ‘trick’ or any of these other words y’all tend to use a lot more often than you should? Why is that?” I asked rhetorically.


Without a pause I stated  “Because you know that is what queens are. You know what queens are NOT. From now on, I’m calling Unit 6 the Queen’s Unit. I make no promises to save you. Only you can save you. I’m just asking you to give me a chance to help you cultivate that inner queen.”
“One of my goals is to help you understand that you are queens. The words that came out of your mouth, out of your own minds came from within you. In chess most folks know queens are the most powerful. Many use queens too early in the game. If she runs out into the battlefield without protection she can get cut off and die quickly. She is most dangerous after a solid plan has been put into motion that no one can stop. So let us plan and make you unstoppable. “


I reminded them to never hesitate to express and defend their inner queen. You could see them nodding as they worked to internalize what I was saying.


From there we went straight into reviewing piece names, movement and value. All but two were ready to play. I think they almost every girl took notes from the board on their own accord. The two who didn’t play were a little more shy than the others and watched the others do battle. After about ten minutes of watching the others, the two shy girls got on the computer and tested themselves on different chess puzzles.


Time went by ast. When class was over they were all upset. They passionately argued for more time on the boards “But wait, this game ain’t over. I almost got her! Can we keep the boards? I just need like ten more minutes so I can win.”

I told them I needed the boards for the next class with the boys. They reluctantly put the boards and pieces away. I’m looking forward to games we play next week in the Queen’s Unit. I will keep you all posted as the lessons continue.

Monday, July 18, 2016

HHCF Panel on Hip-Hop & Violence August 6th in The Bay Area!

For Immediate Release
Crystal Silva


Hip-Hop Chess Federation Hosts Community Panel to Discuss
Hip-Hop and Violence
RZA of Wu-Tang Clan Sponsors HHCF Community Forum on Rap’s Role in Promoting Peace


July 18, 2016- San Francisco, CA - Due to the climate of violence in America the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) is hosting a panel discussion on Hip-Hop and Violence. “HHCF has been fusing Hip-Hop, chess and the martial arts to help kids conquer violence for ten years. In the recent wave of violence in America and the around the world we are hosting a panel on how people art are using it to educate and inspire people to be more peaceful servants of our community.” August 6, from 2-6 PM at GM Services in association with HHCF located at 42660 Christy St. Suite B, Fremont, CA. This event is free for all ages!


Panelists include rapper Casual of Hieroglyphics, Sociology Instructor at Merritt College Dr. Charity Clay, rapper CMG of the pioneer woman's rap group Conscious Daughters and St. Louis Art Consultant Susan Barrett of Barrett Barrera Projects. A special MMA guest panelist will be named shortly.


After the panel there will be open chess gaming to be played by those who attend, Hip-Hop dance exhibitions and Brazilian jiu-jitsu exhibition matches as well. The organization's goal is to help individuals discover themselves and respect the humanity of others through the fusion of art and logic.


The event is being funded in large part by RZA actor and founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan. RZA is on the HHCF Board, a 501c3 nonprofit.  RZA and Adisa have worked together in St. Louis promoting art as a path to peace to the youth during the St. Louis uprisings surrounding Mike Brown. Due to RZA’s heavy recording and film schedule he cannot attend this event but knows the importance of it. The work RZA and Adisa accomplished in St. Louis is detailed in Adisa’s new book Bobby, Bruce & the Bronx: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess.


Beyond the panel there will be exhibitions of Hip-Hop dance, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and open chess gaming.


“RZA supported us when few understood the importance of what we do. His kindness and consistence with HHCF is unparalleled” stated Adisa Banjoko. “ With so many weapons of war on American streets and in the world, there has never been a better time than now to be nonviolent. When I look at the streets of Minnesota, Louisiana and Dallas the one thing I’m sure of is that those choosing violence as a solution are not winning!!  I don’t see anyone winning with violence right now. I see all sides in America losing. My faith in the power of innovating nonviolence has never been greater and the time has never been better than now to create more peace.”

For more information call 888-335-4418 or RSVP @ https://www.facebook.com/events/1738612206381189/ or follow them on IG & Snap @realhiphopchess



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

HHCF Diary: 5 Days in Juvenile Hall


Entry by: Adisa, The Bishop 





But I'm stay incogni', in places they can't find me/ Make my moves strategically, the G.O.D./It's sorta similar but iller than a chess player - Fat Joe, I Shot Ya Remix  

A few weeks ago the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) was invited to teach a 5 day intensive on Chess & Life Strategies. We were invited to be there by the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE). The classes covered the similarities between chess and life, so the inmates could make better life choices  after their release. I worked in three different units. The main juvenile hall HHCF works with is in St. Louis, MO. So I was excited to work with local kids locked down.


On day 1, none of the kids were sure what I was doing. One in particular sat down and said “What the f*** does chess have to do with Hip-Hop” mean mugging me from the back of the room. He was not feeling me. Dr. Elliot Gann from Today’s Future Sound (who was also teaching the same week as HHCF noticed this same youngster. Dr. Gann is able to teach algebra via drum programming. By the end of the program this kid was one of the strongest players and he recorded an amazing rap about chess and life with Dr. Gann.


On day 2, the connections were making more sense to them. We talked more than we played. I don’t think we played at all in one particular unit. There were some deep conversations about the authenticity of everybody’s pain. One kid told me how much he missed his mom. “I hate sleeping here. When I’m at home, I’m at peace. When I’m at peace I don’t dream. When I’m here though, I dream. Every morning I wake up from my dreams, it’s a reminder that I’m not at home. That is when it hurts the most.”


On day 3, we talked about Sun Tzu and Machiavelli. One of the students had actually read the Art of War. Many knew who Niccolo Machiavelli was because of Tupac’s work. However, none had really understood the role he played on Tupac as a thinker and writer. This also allowed me to emphasize the importance of literacy in art. I told them how much ‘Pac’s reading in jail helped him share his passion and pain on a higher level than most rapper still living room. They ate that up. It didn’t hurt me to share that we were friends.


On day 4, I had an unexpected run in with a young inmate in one particular unit. In all of my 10 years of working with at-risk, gang impacted and incarcerated youth this was a first kid who tried to tussle with me. The class was reviewing rook attacks. A kid (let's call him Fred) who was a constant interruption was asked to leave. He refused. I asked the guards to remove him. The classroom had big glass windows and the door was open. Six guards stood on the perimeter of the room and called out to him.


“No big deal, Fred. Come out. You can just chill in your room- it’s no big deal.”


Fred sat up straight in his desk, and looked at the whiteboard. But he did not move.


The air was electric. Fred was holding onto his desk in defiant silence. He hopped up out of his seat and approached me after I asked him to leave for a second time. “Don’t talk to me, man. Don’t talk to me” he repeated as he started to skip toward me with a boxer's bounce.


One of the guards waved me over  “Can you step out of the room for a minute please?”


“No problem” I said calmly as I exited the room.


About three minutes later the door reopened. Two kids had actually been removed from the classroom. It all went down peacefully. Apparently one of Fred’s friends was upset I asked Fred to leave and they were both sent back to their rooms.


As I approached one of the guards smiled and said “I could tell you been in the hall before. You handled everything super calm.” I just smiled. “You right” I said nodding and smiling. “But this is the first time a kid tried to get with me. I’m sure he’s frustrated about things bigger than me though. I’m not even mad.”


When I came back, the room was silent. The class of about 15 kids didn’t know what I was going to do or say. All of the interaction through the week had been extremely positive. I could see the adrenalyn from the situation was just starting to come down in their system. So, I sat down and just looked at them for about ten seconds. I scanned the room to make eye contact with each one of them. My face was relaxed like I was on a beach. I wanted them to be clear that I was not shaken in the least by Fred’s outburst.


Once the silence started to get awkward I pointed to the position on the board and I said “Chess and life is about choices. Fred just made a bad choice. Do you think I’m here to teach you about chess and Hip-Hop?” You think I’m only here to talk about chess and Jay-Z and the Wu-Tang Clan??” My laughter confused them. They stared at me with attentive eyes.


“Do you think, that I think that- I’m your saviour?! I’m gonna come down with my chessboards from heaven and save the hood?!” I laughed harder.


“I won’t save you. Only you can do that. Don’t be confused about that. I don’t care about chess or Hip-Hop that much. However, I know the system out there is deeper than you can understand. The world gets way colder after you turn 18, trust me. All the counselors, and teachers and guards checking in on you to get your homework in and all that. They disappear. When they disappear, YOU have to figure it out. I’m here to save you from your own mind. The one that got you locked up here right now. The mind that made you think that last mistake you made on the block was a good idea. I’m here to get rid of that mind. If you will allow me to help you think better for yourself and make better decisions- I should never see you here again. I want to see you owning businesses or in college. That is the only other way I want to see you.” I paused again and made eye contact again so they knew I was not joking.


“Now, if you are here to learn about chess and life and you are ready to study these boards properly and play today- you are welcome to stay. But I don’t want you here if you don’t wanna be here. So if this is not want you want for yourself, raise your hand and you can go back to your room.” No one moved. No one spoke.


“OK then, let's get back to this rook on A6. What happened next was a pure stream of consciousness that had us all interconnected. We were all in the same space mentally. It was probably the best day in the hall.

IMG_7737.jpg

Dr. Elliot Gann and I between classes at Alameda County Juvenile Hall.



One of the guards walked in ten minutes later to the room and saw it quietly buzzing with focused young minds on the hunt for the others king.


“Hey! This is great, man” he said smiling as he gave me a pound.


On a day I don’t remember, I also had some powerful conversations with the same group about life in general. I always tell my students the importance of being drug and alcohol free. This is for the best clarity of mind and health reasons specifically. It is also a way to keep yourself out of juve and jail. The engagement got deep and they shared how many of them have tried promethazine, codeine, percocet, xanax, molly and more. This is on top of alcohol.


It was heartbreaking to me. I told them how J. Edgar Hoover worked hard to get heroin into the Black community but we never liked needles really. “Now these syrups are how they get the heroin in- they don’t need needles anymore. This was J. Edgar’s dream all along. Lil’ Wayne had to land his airplane from the seizures he gets from his addiction to syrup. I know you like the popular Future song called Lowlife. On the real, all that syrup talk is a fast track to the grave. Why do you think Rick Ross lost all that weight and trying to be fit? ‘Cause the Dr. probably told him. ‘If you don’t change you finna die, bruh’. Because no matter what Rick Ross is selling on wax he knows he can’t live on syrup, alcohol and pills.”


With a different unit I reminded them about chess, life and decisions making. “The choice you make at move 3 will determine the level of options you have at move 13. The decision and action you take at move 13 can decide if you make it to move 30 or if you have any chance of winning at all.”


I told them about two young men I mentored. Both came from tough backgrounds. Both were brilliant with academic and social skills above average. However, one could not hear me over the sound of his grumbling belly. If he wanted to eat he could listen to my talk of scholarships and college meals. He needed to eat now. He needed new clothes now. He would sometimes come back from hustling in new gear and belly on full. I understood why he did it, but I never stopped asking him to change.


The other kid had a rough journey. Sometimes he didn’t have the coolest clothes. Other times he didn’t have a full stomach. What he did do however was keep his grades on point as he applied for more scholarships and grants than any other person I’ve ever known. He walked off the graduation stage to a four year university. He is doing great right now.


The first kid I talked with before he walked the stage. I told him “You can be the Mayor of this city. Not the pretend Mayor. You can really be Mayor. But you have to get off the block. This is gonna kill you. I worry about you. Because so much Black brilliance is lost to the streets. The same mind that converts pounds to kilos can launch businesses. Do you hear me.


“Yup, I hear you. Thank you. I love you O. G. ‘Dis.” he said smiling. I told him I loved him too.


A few months later, he was killed sitting in a car. People said the other guy had a hit on him and when the shooters came my young friend had to take took bullets too. When I said that, one of the kids asked “Was that so-and-so?”. I answered that it was.


He told the class. “I knew him. That was a good dude.” The whole class was blown away. We spoke for a moment about the youngster and the things we liked about him. What a small world. I used that moment to remind the kids how interconnected we are even though it often does not always feel that way.


I went onto tell the kids how I always felt like I failed him after he got out. That I still wrestle with how much I could done, or should have done. That I wonder about how much support he had after high school. But ultimately, we all live and die by our choices.


I pointed to a chessboard projected on the screen. We talked about how one's survival depends on unity in diversity. The idea that the pieces don’t all move the same, but through their differences are able to achieve their goal if they support one another. I also reminded them that everybody who starts with you, does not finish with you. I followed with the idea that if they could stay strong (like the pawn who starts our powerless) and get to the other side they can be the most powerful piece.


We looked at a very famous chess game by Paul Morphy called The Opera House Massacre. I used that game to share ideas about understanding people's intentions. A person might move their bishop to attack your knight, but really they want the queen behind it. In real life people approach you asking for help with one thing, or another. In truth they want something greater you have- so be mindful.


I used the final moves to explain that one must be willing to sacrifice everything on the board (including the queen if need be) to win. You have to be willing to risk it all if you really want to win. That carried over into talk about the precision of sight. Is the situation really what it looks like? The group then talked about what sacrifices each of them would need to make to attain their higher goals.


The 5th day of classes things went smooth. The guards wanted to let Fred and the other kid to come out to apologize. I told the guards that I accept their apology, but today was the last day. I told them I wanted to let this day be truly for the ones that spent the week focused. They totally understood. One my one the kids came in. I greeted them all with a handshake as usual. Then I walked in and sat down. On the whiteboard was the words:


“Intelligence without discipline is a curse.”- Adisa Banjoko


“ I didn’t want Fred in class today because I wanted only those serious to be here” I told them.


“It is important to me that you take my time and your time seriously. I’ve been here all week listening to you talk about your homies on the block who got love for you. Some of you been talking about all of your family looking out for you. But you know what? I have not seen any of them all week. Ain’t nobody beating the door down to come help y’all!


So here I am, put my plan together for ten years. I have programs here in the bay and across the country. But then I walk in treating you like civilized young men and some of you take my kindness for weakness wanna waste my time? Why would you do that if nobody is beating down the door to help you?”


No one spoke.


I showed them a black and white photo of an inmate as I read the slogan on the board. “You are all intelligent. I’ve watched you all show amazing levels of intelligence this week. You must understand though that if you don’t do daily work to refine your skills, nothing will come of it. Once this guy took responsibility for his wisdom look what he became.”


“This man was doing everything you are trying to do. He was a real pimp, a real coke dealer, he ran with guns. This man was doing it for real. Then, he changed his mind about how he was living and what he could do with what he knew.”


I clicked the screen and you see Malcolm X.” It is the same man, but now he is living with a different purpose” I said.


None of the kids recognized Malcolm X in his Detroit Red phase. “You owe it to yourself put in the time to refine your gifts. If you don’t only you will suffer. “ I told them.


After that, we jumped into the best chess battles of the week. Some of the kids already knew the game when I got there. Others had actually competed and had trophies from their youth. You could tell in their by their openings who knew the realness. None however, had taken the time to apply chess to their life until I showed them how. It was immensely empowering.





Keep in mind we are talking about kids that for the most part have been written off by mainstream education systems. A good portion of them are on an IEP (individual education program), or are openly rebellious to traditional schooling methods. In some ways, I must admit the needs of the kids are wider than the public school system is prepared to manage. As I watch these kids with 2nd and 3rd grade reading skills speak and write in algebraic notation, I am further convinced these brilliant minds have many intellectual gemstones yet to be discovered. My goal is to help them mine their own mind for these gems and share what they find with the world.


Nevertheless, those same kids displayed what I believe to be high level expressions of executive function- through chess. A fellow educator Dan Gildea taught me about executive function. Executive function improves an individual's ability to self-regulate. You need a working memory, mental flexibility and self control to exercise it. A study at Harvard noted “These functions are highly interrelated, and the successful application of executive function skills requires them to operate in coordination with each other.”


That is what we believe the total fusion of chess and Hip-Hop does. That is why we use martial arts to help teach self-control. All three lead to heightened expressions of executive function. One of the boys said he used to train in LA with Mayhem Miller and Rampage Jackson, but was shot in the leg so he can’t do martial arts any more. When I made my connections from martial arts to chess, he got it. He was the same student who had read The Art of War.


One game with a kid we will call Kevin was quite impressive. As I approached him on the board as Black he used his pawns to shut down my forward advancement. In chess terms this is called zugzwang. Now, at the las Chess Kings Invitational in LA, RZA from Wu-Tang Clan talked about how many times kids in the hood use classic chess moves by instinct. So they may be using The Kings Indian, or the Sicilian Dragon but they don’t call them by those names. It is the instinct they play from. Kevin’s use of zugzwang was a living testament to RZA’s words.


The other day I checked my email and I was happy to find that HHCF has been invited to bring our full program to the hall. We meet next week to discuss the details. I look very forward to reconnecting with ACOE and helping the kids discover themselves and actualize their potential on another level. Finally I’d like to thank Mr. Fenner, Mr. Hopson, Mrs. Goree, Kamal Ahmed of (MBA) and all of the guards and staff at the juvenile hall for their kindness and support.

If you would like to pilot the HHCF Chess and Life Strategies program, Youth Entrepreneur Summer Program or Chess & Jiu-Jitsu classes visit  www.hiphopchess.com. You can new book by Adisa Banjoko Bobby, Bruce & the Bronx: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess.  

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