HHCF Founder Talks Honestly About Chess, Life & School…


HHCF founder Adisa Banjoko was featured on a fantastic entertainment blog:

From blending hip hop and chess in efforts to inspire teens, to sharing the experiences of one African American child navigating the Public Education system in this country, award winning author and lecturer, Adisa Banjoko’s story is truly an American Dream.  Prepare to be inspired.

So you were recently named the West Coast editor of NewsOne.com.  How did that come about?

I’m gonna tell you its all about being lucky (laughs).  Really the truth is my background in journalism is kind of lengthy.  I was actually one of the first journalists for The Source way back when it really mattered.  And a lot of these other hip hop publications.  And luckily one of the main directors at News One is someone who has been a friend and mentor of mine for a long time.  His name is Dan Charnas, author of “The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip Hop,” about the business of hip hop.  And he and I have been friends for some time.  We have been soldiers in the same game of journalism for a while and he needed someone on the west coast to do some things and he asked me.  He said, “Hey I think this is right up your alley.  And I didn’t hesitate.

I know that’s right.  So where were you educated?

That’s what I like to call a “beautiful tragedy.”  I actually dropped out of high school in 1988, and I got my GED in 1989.  And outside of my paralegal certificate I have never really been to college.  I took a few courses at Lane College and a few others at a junior college in the area.

I am a completely autodidactic student.  I read the autobiography of Malcolm X while I was studying for my GED and it completely changed my perspective on the importance of an education.  And from that point forward I became addicted to reading.  I read like it was my job.  I would get up, have breakfast and read and then have lunch and read some more.  And so because of that I have had the privilege over the years, of lecturing at Harvard, Brown, UC Berkley, UCLA, Dickenson in Pennsylvania.  That was one of my favorite talks.  I have been very lucky.  I don’t take my blessings lightly.

What did you read?

Mainly I was reading theology and philosophy, Plato, Socrates, Ta Ho Tep, Bhuddism, Confuscius, Daoism, things like that.  And then I read a lot of the scholars of that time.  So from like 1989 – 1995 I was really dedicated.  I was reading John Henrik Clark, Dr. Ben, Ivan Van Sertima, Runoko Rhashidi extensively.  “Notes for an African World Revolution” and books like that which were incredibly detailed and accurately so about the history of black people and their travels and tragedies through out the world and their triumphs.

Peter Jennings, my favorite news man ever, was the same.  No college and a high school diploma but self taught.   

I didn’t know that.  I also read a ton of Marcus Garvey.  I took myself to a lot of Universities and hang out there and do my reading.  Because I had this low self-esteem issue because I had dropped out.  So I didn’t believe I was college material.  And so to this day, I’ll be at like a Public Enemy concert and someone will come up and introduce me as alumni to their friends.  They will think that I graduated from San Francisco State or UC Berkley, when I haven’t really graduated.

I love your story.  It illustrates further the fact that we are living in the information age.  A time when you can log onto an iphone and access free classes at Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Stanford and all of the great universities.

The crossroad of my life is this.  When you can lecture at universities that would laugh at your transcript on paper it messes with you.  I had to speak one time at Brown.  I was lucky enough to get invited to speak at a conference at Brown University where I was the only non-Ph.D speaker that day.  We were half way to Brown when I realized that I left all of my notes back in Boston.  I had to rewrite my entire speech in the car on scrap paper.   Got out of the car and we were late.  They were calling me and I walked in to someone saying, “Are you Adisa?  You’re on right now.”  I almost completely lost my lunch.  All of these Ph.D’s were sitting in the front row and I walked out there and gave one of the best talks of my life…

For the full story read it here:





About hiphopchessfederation

The Hip Hop Chess Federation fuses music chess and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and non-violence. Our goal is to improve the intellectual, cultural and artistic state of young American minds.
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