The Hip Hop Chess Federation is a unique organization based in the SF Bay Area that brings together young people for events featuring hip hop, chess and martial arts. It sounds like an unlikely combo until you take a closer look at the free community events that combine these art forms and their grounding in founder Adisa Banjoko's work with youth at risk.
I first came to know Adisa Banjoko, aka The Bishop of Hip Hop, back when I was a hip hop blogger. Adisa's work has always impressed me both for his deep commitment to helping kids at risk as well as his willingness to sacrifice for others even during periods when he was facing great personal challenges.
Adisa probably has a more complicated origin tale for the Hip Hop Chess Federation but I always saw it as emerging from his love of hip hop, chess and jiu jitsu in the context of his work with young people. When I first met him he was going into juvenile detention centers, totally as a volunteer, and spending time trying to reach groups of young incarcerated males in the hope of helping them turn their lives around.
Hip hop has a long history of chess references and a surprising number of hip hop artists play chess. Adisa would use hip hop to connect with these young men and then teach them some chess while sharing lessons about making smart tactical choices in one's daily life.
Both hip hop and chess were used as teaching tools in these settings and it seemed to me that when he began organizing free community events featuring hip hop, chess and martial arts, that they had their birth in his sessions with incarcerated youth.
The Opera House Massacre: A Mike Relm Video
The Hip Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) brings together a broad range of allies to free events that feature panels and demonstrations as well as a lot of chess matches between attendees.
Supporters of the HHCF include many Bay Area rappers as well as RZA who has a keen interest in chess and community. Adisa's also found support among DJs such as Mike Relm and DJ Qbert, a variety of chess players including Chess Master Vinay Bhat and numerous jiu jitsu practitioners including members of the world-renowned Gracie family.
The above video, directed and edited by Mike Relm, parallels moves in chess and jiu jitsu to a hip hop track by Jesse Cale as a way of bringing together the art forms in a music video designed to spread the word about the HHCF.
Full credits can be found at YouTube. A brief description of "The Opera House Massacre," a famous chess match, is included at the end of the video.
Adisa Banjoko at The 11th Annual Alumni of Color Conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Adisa has spoken for groups in higher education settings numerous times including visits to Harvard and to Brown University. The above talk took place March 1st and, in response to an unexpected funding shortfall, RZA stepped up and funded the trip.
On May 8th, Adisa Banjoko, Dr. James Peterson of Lehigh University, Mike Relm, Asheru and Alan "Gumby" Marques head to St. Louis for a series of special events held by the World Chess Hall of Fame.
The group will present first to students of the Innovative Concept Academy and then to local leaders in a session at the St. Louis Public Library.
For more about HHCF please see the following sites:
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