By: Juan Martinez
What do hip-hop music and chess have in common? The answer is simple according to Adisa Banjoko, the founder of the Hip Hop Chess Federation (HHCF), a non-profit organization that combines music, chess and martial arts to help young people promote nonviolence in their communities.
The art of rap and the game of chess are extremely competitive and difficult to master. In a game of chess, two people battle each other by making strategic moves on a board that has 64 squares. In a rap battle, two artists seek to display mental superiority, using similar survival strategies to a chess player, except that they duel with the wittiest rhymes to win.
Although Banjoko’s traveled all over the country organizing community outreach events, the Bay Area holds a special place in his heart. Banjoko once lived in Oakland and was a part of the ‘90s Bay Area hip-hop music scene. Currently, he is teaching chess and life strategies to students at Encinal High School in Alameda through a partnership with his friend John Fuentes, who oversees the after-school high school program for Bay Area Community Resources (BACR). From now to the end of this school year, Fuentes’ goal is to have Banjoko teach chess at several Oakland high schools as well.