Hip-Hop Chess Facility Opens In Fremont

Music and chess to help young people

"Wait a minute, and think about what you're going to do next. It might save your life."

I remember that line from an interview - it wasn't a firefighter at a disaster drill, though. It was from Rza, hip-hop icon from Wu Tang Clan, and he was talking about the game of chess.

Hip-Hop and chess have been linked for years, thanks largely to an organization launched in part by Rza, called the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. The HHCF has been taking at-risk youth, and sitting then down at chessboards for years. The results have been amazing. 

And now HHCF, already active in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, is opening its newest facility Saturday, in Fremont.

"The HHCF Community Education Center will help young people improve their grades, sense of purpose, and physical attributes," says organization founder Adisa Banjoko.  

I've played chess with Banjoko. He's good, but never happier than when he's being beaten by a young person - or, better yet, when he sees a rapper (and many show up to play: Rza, Rakaa Iriscience, Immortal Technique, DJ QBert, and D Labrie are just a few of the Hip-Hop studs who play with young people, jaws dropping as they try to maneuver against their heroes) going against a young person.

If you're interested in a game, or in seeing lives being changed, Saturday's opening starts at 1pm, at 3396 Seldon Court in Fremont. There will be music, lectures, martial arts, and of course, lots of chess.

As HHCF Director of Education Arash Daneshzadeh tells us, "The Center will give young people a place where their minds can thrive, free of judgement, and actualize their academic goals."

Chess used to be nerdy. Now, it's part of Hip-Hop culture, and that's cool.

Scott moves on Twitter: @scottbudman

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