RZA, a member of the legendary hip-hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, has made a donation to Hip-Hop Chess Federation to help develop programs for incarcerated youths. RZA, who serves as a board member of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF,) said chess is a great way of teaching young people strategy and decision-making skills.
According to Hiphopdx.com, RZA met with about 400 juvenile hall inmates in St. Louis last month. He played chess with the young men and taught them the details of the game. RZA, who has expanded into producing, acting and directing, said he understood where the young men were coming from, because at one point his life was on the wrong track.
“Y’all are in here for not controlling your energy,” the Wu-Tang rapper said. “You are here now for not being analytical about the results of the actions you have taken. I’m the last one to talk in some sense. I’ve been through the same system. Me and my brother got our first gun, when I was 11 or 12. Riding NY city busses looking for what they call, a ‘vic.'”
RZA said chess, a centuries old game, could help the young men develop their minds and learn how to think proactively.
“It’s a game of chess in one sense, but in another it’s a study of life,” he said. “We in the Hip-Hop Chess Federation are striving to bring awareness to Americans, to Black youth, but to the whole of American youth. That chess study, along with martial arts, along with music- is the best way to help develop your mind and body and protect you from pitfalls in life that will surely come at you.”
Founded in 2006, the HHCF helps at-risk youth through chess, performing arts and martial arts. According to its website, students who play chess showed a 17.3 percent increase in test scores. Chess is incorporated into the scholastic curriculum in 30 countries around the world, said the HHCF.
Executive Director Adisa Banjoko told Forbes that although many people might not see a link between chess and hip-hop, many rappers are fans of the game.
“The connection between hip-hop and chess is actually quite deep, but unknown,” said Banjoko. “Most people don’t realize that rap music has celebrated the game of chess more than any other form of popular music. Rappers like T.I., Tupac, Public Enemy and members of the Wu-Tang Clan have played the game and championed the philosophies that come off the board. However, few of them are really seeking Grand Master status. The goal is more to stay mentally sharp, avoid threats, recover from loss, refine their focus etc. This is what The Hip-Hop Chess Federation teaches kids to do in real life.”