Tupac and The Search for Lost Gold

 


“ If they had lived in another kind of society, their exceptional mathematical talents might have been better used. But they were Black.” – Malcolm X

Malcolm X was mentored by many people as he learned to hustle on the streets of Boston and New York. One of the main people to help him survive on the streets was a man by the name of West Indian Archie. He was a numbers runner. The numbers game was kind of like a lottery for the hood.


West Indian Archie’s claim to fame was that unlike other numbers runners who needed to write every customers number on paper, he had them all memorized. In the course of Malcolm’s adventures on the grimy underbelly of American cities, he came across many Black men who had brilliant, innovative minds. These minds were not refined by the American schools and polished for a higher purpose. Because of their color, and class they often fell to street violence from the drug trade, or were imprisoned. Just the other day a teacher at my job was asking about why we needed to teach the metric system since America does not use it. I told her the hood uses the metric system every day. Those kids know how to convert milligrams to ounces and pounds to kilograms all day. Sadly, its just for all the wrong reasons.

I created the Hip-Hop Chess Federation in 2006 in part to help find those gifted young souls who were unaware that their gifts could be cultivated for leadership at Google or on Wall Street. This idea came after meeting with a group of incarcerated kids who displayed amazing cognitive skill and ability on a chessboard, but made poor life choices and ended up in juvenile hall. I started taking the positions on the board, reframing them as life situations and helping them escape the traps in the street.


Under the alias of “Makaveli” Tupac Shakur arguably wrote some of his most aggressive raps ever. The name “Makaveli” came after Tupac (known to be a voracious reader) studied The Prince by Italian military strategist Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli, like Tupac was far ahead of his time. He wrote things like “Men shrink less from offending one who inspires love than one who inspires fear.” Niccolo Machiavelli was a logical man not mislead by emotion. I believe this helped Tupac greatly as he assessed his enemies and ideas about how to deal with them.

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Niccolo Machiavelli, Author of The Prince


The works of Machiavelli resonated deeply inside Tupac on a near spiritual level. Almost as soon as he was free, the identity of “Makaveli” arises.  He wrote some of his most discussed work under this pen name. In the song Don’t stop, he spits “Mr. Makaveli moving pieces like telekinesis/ It’s a chess game, lets play with real pieces”


For the casual listener, this rhyme may have little to no meaning. However, I believe a deeper look at Tupac’s life inside Clinton Correctional Facility in New York State highlights a deeper experience unfolding.


Inside, many prisoners enjoy chess as a way to stay mentally sharp and gain philosophical clarity. Most jails however, are not supportive of prisoners playing chess. Despite a newsworthy victory in 2008 of New Jersey inmate over the Princeton Chess Team.


One of the alleged main fears of correctional officers and wardens is a false fear that prisoners might use algebraic notation (the method in which chess games are documented) as a way to pass on notes and messages that would be indecipherable.  

Nevertheless, many prisoners find themselves in solitary confinement without pieces or boards to play with. Lost in the blackness of “the hole”, inmates  communicate through the walls. One way they pass time is by playing chess. They do this by visualizing the chessboard and speaking to one another through the walls in the language of algebraic notation. This is a feat not easily achieved by those who can do it accurately.

One might call out ‘e4” signaling whites kings pawn moving the center. It is often a common way many start a chess game. A most common response by black is “e5” and so on. These kinds of game are commonplace in prisons across the country.


Famed French psychologist Alfred Binet conducted some of the earliest works on how the minds works while playing chess. He wrote in part “If one could see what goes on in a chess player’s head, one would find a stirring world of sensations, images, movements, passions and an ever changing panorama of states of consciousness.”


I have never researched his stint in prison long enough to know if Tupac went to the hole, or played chess in the manner listed above. I do however, personally know prisoners who played in that exact manner while held in solitary confinement. It would seem nearly impossible to me that he would not have heard about these kinds of games happening in “the hole”.  When Tupac speaks about playing with real pieces, he speaks, like the man he was. He was newly freed, and not always having the luxury of physical pieces he was sought to experience the entirety of all the game that chess and life have to offer.

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Hip-Hop Chess tournament about to begin at juvenile hall in St. Louis, MO.


Any self taught chess players who can function at that level, should for all intents and purposes be builders of the next Apple, Intel and Adobe- not just work for them. These lost youth could be building a new digital infrastructure for the world. I’m talking about coders, designers, innovators of new technology methods and business models are boxed out before they can begin to change the planet. If we approached the identification and cultivation of these minds with sincerity and strategy we might be able to cut outsourcing for American businesses in half.   

These are the kind of people Malcolm X lamented in his autobiography. Some of the brightest innovators in business, education and science are not located in India or China. They are right here, right now, having their talents neglected and undermined by schools that do not value their gifts. That is why I walk the streets of the hood mining for lost gold. If you are in the hood and you want to know where the lost gold is that I’m seeking out, look in the mirror.

Adisa Banjoko is Founder and President of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF). The HHCF is the first non-profit 501(c)3 to fuse music, chess and martial arts, to promote unity, strategy and nonviolence. To learn more follow on Instagram @realhiphopchess or visit www.hiphopchess.com .

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HHCF’s RAW All Stars KEEP WINNING! Join Our Champions Today!

For Immediate Release

PR Contact:

cheer@rawtalents.org


Cheer-69 (1)Bay Area’s RAW Allstar Cheer Team Wins National Championship

Tri-City Cheer and Hip-Hop Dance Team Take Top Honors

4/22/2015 Fremont, CA- A co-ed team of Bay Area youth ranging from 5-17 years old had the prestigious honor of National Champion bestowed upon them at last weekends Elite National Championship in San Mateo, CA.


Raw Allstars is one of The Bay’s most decorated affordable and respected Allstar competitive cheer and Hip-Hop dance teams around. Created in 2012 to give kids an authentic, affordable competitive cheer and dance experience. Since then the team has been winning regional, national and international titles consistently.


“Our team is meant for hard working kids of all ages who want to discover, build and test their skills” said Coach Bishop. “


Allstar cheer is a competitive form of cheerleading that blends dance, gymnastic and a variety of athletic skills to fast paced music. Allstar cheer boasts more than 100,000 kids and teens across the country and is regaining is popularity on the west coast.


“We are so proud of all these kids” stated Cheer Director Andrea Ceballos. “It was not an easy year for us. The work came from us taking 3rd place standing at the Aloha Spirit Championships in Honolulu. When our team got back, everybody on the squad was ready to take it to the next level. Elite National Championship was our final competition of the year. Our kids gave it all they had and the results paid off.“


RAW Allstars will be opening their doors this weekend for a upcoming team placement event open to the public.


RAW Team Tryout Info :An informative parent meeting and team placement will take place Sunday April 26 starting at 3pm at 37428 Centralmont Place, Fremont (off Cedar and Central). Come see why athletes from all over The Bay Area travel to be RAW Allstars.


For more information call 888-588-4418 or follow on Instagram @rawallstars_bayarea

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NEW AUDIO: Podcast on Hip-Hop, Technology and Entertainment

New Bishop Chronicles podcast covers Adisa Banjoko on his recent travels talking at Oberlin College and University of Connecticut. He also has a great conversation with filmmaker Thembisa MShaka about TV shows like Empire, Scandal and Fresh off the Boat. The show takes a fun look at the evolution of race and gender in entertainment. We also talk about how technology has changed the way we make and listen to hip-hop and film. LISTEN HERE!

Adisa Banjoko at Oberlin with the Oberlin Chess Team after his lecture!!

Adisa Banjoko had forever changed the perceptions and trajectory of the Oberlin student body. The diversity and depth of his topics was astounding. Not only were we informed of a powerful intellectual history of Hip-Hop, we were also given a once in a lifetime perspective on non-violence. All the students that heard his words were infused wit his spirit and desire to positively impact the world. – Cara Welch-Rubin, Class of 2015

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HHCF’s Raw Allstar Cheer Wins National Title

For Immediate Release

PR Contact:
Bay Area’s RAW Allstar Cheer Team Wins National Championship
Tri-City Cheer and Hip-Hop Dance Team Take Top Honors

4/22/2015 Fremont, CA- A co-ed team of Bay Area youth ranging from 5-17 years old had the prestigious honor of National Champion bestowed upon them at last weekends Elite National Championship in San Mateo, CA.

Raw Allstars is one of The Bay’s most decorated affordable and respected Allstar competitive cheer and Hip-Hop dance teams around. Created in 2012 to give kids an authentic, affordable competitive cheer and dance experience. Since then the team has been winning regional, national and international titles consistently.
“Our team is meant for hard working kids of all ages who want to discover, build and test their skills” said Coach Bishop.
Allstar cheer is a competitive form of cheerleading that blends dance, gymnastic and a variety of athletic skills to fast paced music. Allstar cheer boasts more than 100,000 kids and teens across the country and is regaining is popularity on the west coast.

“We are so proud of all these kids” stated Cheer Director Andrea Ceballos. “It was not an easy year for us. The work came from us taking 3rd place standing at the Aloha Spirit Championships in Honolulu. When our team got back, everybody on the squad was ready to take it to the next level. Elite National Championship was our final competition of the year. Our kids gave it all they had and the results paid off.“
RAW Allstars will be opening their doors this weekend for a upcoming team placement event open to the public.
RAW Team Tryout Info :An informative parent meeting and team placement will take place Sunday April 26 starting at 3pm at 37428 Centralmont Place, Fremont (off Cedar and Central). Come see why athletes from all over The Bay Area travel to be RAW Allstars.

For more information call 888-588-4418 or follow on Instagram @rawallstars_bayarea

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Help Scholarship Kids to Join HHCF Mind Over Matter Program

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DONATION LINK: https://www.tilt.com/campaigns/help-kids-join-chess-arts-fitness-program/description

The Hip-Hop Chess Federation needs your help in getting 50 scholarships for youth in the HHCF Mind Over Matter  mentoring program. This  is a 12 week program created to give American youth of all backgrounds (7-17 years old ) tools to discover and actualize their life goals. This program is designed to increase student’s GPA, physical fitness and sense of purpose. Beyond that, this program will inspire youth to help others in the community as they grow in knowledge and understanding. HHCF has been featured on Good Morning America, NBC 11, Forbes and Rolling Stone.

HHCF Mind Over Matter program will  teach chess fundamentals with parallel life lessons, participants will learn fundamentals of artistic expression through performing arts using Hip-Hop (dance, drawing, video and poetry) as the medium. Finally they will learn the fundamentals of self defense through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Each class in martial arts will also focus on positive social interaction methods. This will serve as a guide for them to avoid violence and promote mutual understanding.

Our Mind Over Matter program will have special guests from the chess, business, music & the arts, as well as from the martial arts communities to inspire and motivate them to actualize their ambitions. Our program was created by the Founder of Hip-Hop Chess Federation, Adisa Banjoko. He has spent the last 8 years working with underserved and incarcerated youth using these kinds of strategies to inspire and motivate them.

We need your donations to deliver this program to kids most in need in San Jose, Hayward, Oakland, San Francisco, and the surrounding areas.
The cost per child is $180.00. Our goal is to scholarship no less than 50 kids in the Mind Over Matter program.

DONATION LINK: https://www.tilt.com/campaigns/help-kids-join-chess-arts-fitness-program/description

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TONIGHT HHCF Hosts Check The Technique Author Brian Coleman!!

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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.

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

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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   

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 that 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 www.hiphopchess.com

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