Zen And The Art Of Chess, By Way Of Hip-Hop: Bum Rush The Boards Brings Together Competitive Chess & Hip-Hop

Posted by Billyjam, April 24, 2008 09:31am | Post a Comment

Washington DC hip-hop organization Words Beats & Life (WBL) are preparing to present their third annual Bum Rush the Boards hip-hop chess tournament. 

The competition, which is open to players of all ages and skill levels, is happening on May 17th in DC. There will also be chess classes for newbies plus classes in how to DJ, emcee, b-boy/b-girl, and a how-to create graffiti art class.

Inspired in part by the Wu Tang Clan and other hip-hop artists and fans' keen interest in the stimulating board game of chess, and taking its name from Public Enemy's classic album Yo! Bum Rush the Show, Bum Rush the Boards, was created to promote the idea of strategic struggle within the hip-hop generation.   The event's organizers say their hope is to "harness the power of hip-hop culture and the science of chess to open the minds of a generation to a host of new options the world has available to them."

Last year in San Jose, a gathering of martial arts, chess, and hip-hop enthusiasts convened for a free hip hop chess exhibition/ grudge match -- also geared for all ages. That event had similar positive goals of wanting to teach hip-hop generation youth the mental benefits of the age old game of chess. The NorCal event, organized by the the International Hip Hop Chess Federation's Leo Libiran and Adisa Banjoko (pictured left), featured on the boards that day Banjoko, DJ QBert, Casual, Davey D, and Boots Riley of The Coup, among others. It was RZA who won the Hip-Hop Chess Federation belt at last year's tournament.

I recently caught up with the Washington based WBL's executive director Mazi Mutafa to ask him about the upcoming DC event and if it was only happening in that East Coast city. His response: "Yes, but that is due in large part to the fact that we are a DC based organization and wanted to use this third year to create a blueprint for how to bring this event to scale with the right kind of funding and marketing so we could next year look to host this event in multiple cities." He added that next year the goal is to bring the event to other US cities and also to London, England.

"We have had organizations in each of these geographies contact us about wanting to co-host Bum Rush the Boards in their city.  We expect  to be co-sponsoring an event in New York with the Hip-Hop Association, tentatively, in September called The Kings and Queens Classic. We hope to use these events as a spring board to host Bum Rush the Boards tournaments throughout the country," said Mutafa.

I asked Mutafa if he had ever considered doing the chess battle as an online event -- whereby the players from anywhere round the globe could participate via the Internet. "We have not, in large part because this is not just a chess event," he replied. "There will also be DJ workshops, poetry workshops, a graffiti mural exhibition, custom shoe design workshops, etc. This event is a kind of service project for hip-hop artists who can contribute and share their skills with the next generation of artists."

Bum Rush The Boards happens on May 17, 2008: 11:00AM-7:00PM at Lincoln Middle School located at 3101 16th Street, NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20010. It costs only $5 per person and that includes lunch. It is free to be an audience member. Click here to register online.

Visit WBL's website for more information on Words Beats & Life.

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Mazi Mutafa (1), Adisa Banjoko (8), Hip Hop Chess Federation (2), Words Beats & Life (1), Hip-hop (215), Chess (2)