Sunday, August 29, 2010

In The Virginian-Pilot 8.29.2010


by Lisa Suhay
WHEN WE first came from rural New Jersey to Norfolk, I was a wreck over choosing a safe neighborhood. Seeing the newspapers of late, I can empathize with incoming college students, their parents and other new residents rattled by daring daylight crimes.
Somehow, crime in daylight is more scary than nighttime crime because we’re more careful and mentally prepared for someone to spring from the dark alley than through our door at lunchtime.
In recent weeks, we’ve heard about a shooting blocks from Old Dominion University, a bank heist on Granby Street and another shooting in Norfolk, all in daylight.
During our house-hunting days, I remember looking at crime statistics to divine the safest place to live. That’s dicey because you need to factor in population, police response times and other math-like things.
The problem is that when people look at where to live, go to school, create a business or retire, the decision is more than whether the area or neighborhood is actually safe. It’s whether you feel safe in the area that counts.
I live right behind ODU, and I volunteer at the Lambert’s Point Community Center, a gorgeous, new, peaceful, well-run facility that just happens to be a few blocks from the site of the latest shooting. It’s within walking distance of the home where I am raising four boys.
I still feel safe today because I know my neighborhood and have faith in campus police and Norfolk police (I work with the Crime Prevention Unit at the community center). And I take jiu-jitsu with my kids. So I am alert but not constantly afraid. Jitsu, by the way, does not work on bullets. For that, you need police and common sense.
However, with all that, I will sleep better if and when the city and ODU create a joint police station on Hampton Boulevard, nearly at the back door of the community center. Renovating The Inn, a former hotel that’s now a dormitory, into a new police headquarters for the university and a new 3rd precinct for Norfolk police is a smart move on many levels.
If this really comes to pass, Norfolk police officers will not have to be dispatched from the Huntersville Station all the way over on Tidewater Drive.
Councilman Paul Riddick is fighting the new station because he sees it as one more perk for the neighborhood where council members and other “movers and shakers” live. I am glad he agrees that the at-risk children and families of Lambert’s Point and other neighboring sections should be movers and shakers in this world, because I have a heck of a time getting volunteers to help with the Hip-Hop Chess-Bullyproof program when they read about shootings two blocks away.
Riddick may not be aware that in Lambert’s Point, the community center doubles as a kind of free day care for those who need to work but can’t afford child care for their kids. Not only is the struggling area victimized by crime, it is also stereotyped as the source of all crime.
One 5-year-old walks to the center every day, on his own, through a section some adults won’t drive through. At lunch, he walks to Taco Bell with some 10-year-olds. His mom is a good mom, but she has to work to survive, and her child’s routine is common for many in our city. This neighborhood needs the solid, immediate presence of police there to help it get past a cycle of violence.
Again, it comes down to what feels “safe” being vital to both the victims and the bad guys. It feels safer knowing the ODU police have the Norfolk police backup right at hand. It feels safer knowing ODU and the city are communicating as partners when it comes to our safety and that of our entire community’s children.
Maybe if those involved in the commission of violent crimes feel unsafe, outnumbered and outflanked anywhere in our city, we won’t have as much crime to fret about.

Guest columnist Lisa Suhay is a children’s book author and an organizer of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation and Bullyproof programs in Norfolk. E-mail:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kings & Queens 6-week Chess Initiative Begins

Lake Taylor H.S. is the first location for the Norfolk P.D. Kings & Queens Chess Initiative

We have received eight chess sets as a gift from the U.S. Chess Trust to get started with our program at Lake Taylor High School.


Tuesday, March 2, 5:30 p.m., for the interest meeting/demonstration for adults only.

Then, on Tuesday, March 9, 5:30 p.m., we look forward to meeting with the students.

Dates for the six-week chess initiative are:

Tuesday, March 16
Tuesday, March 23
Tuesday, March 30
Tuesday, April 13
Tuesday, April 20
Tuesday, April 27

Hope to see all the HHCF East from Ryan and others come out to bring the new players into the fold.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Chess takes to and from the streets

Above: Chess Life magazine (USCF) August 2009
Here's the plan...HHCF and HHCF East

The initiative I am working on with the Norfolk Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit is a combination anti-crime/educational program that would be city-wide (working title) Hip-Hop Chess Kings & Queens: Life Strategies Program. Just like Adisa Banjoko put it together, Melding music, chess. The East twist is adding the component of a dedicated corps. of volunteers from the Norfolk Public Schools, Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education graduate students, Norfolk Police, workforce development, Opportunity Inc., social services, parks and recreation employees and my former high school students who have already been through the program for 1 year at Ryan Academy, Norfolk as part of the pilot program/partnership with Adisa Banjoko, Founder of The Hip-Hop Chess Federation, SanFrancisco, Ca.

What HHCF Kings & Queens Program does:
Decreases violence in schools/ the community reduces vandalism of city parks & rec. facilities.
Improves standardized test scores (*see documentation below).
Improves critical thinking, reasoning, math and reading skills.(*see documentation below).

Players city-wide will come to Hip-Hop Chess events weekly and work their way up the chess ladder ranks to tournaments for scholarships. Very important to at-risk/low-income kids who just need some money for community college, or job skills training courses.

We hope to reduce the fiscal burden on the city by soliciting corporate and community sponsorships:

Adopt-a-Chess-Park: Outdoor chess tables for city parks. 4 tables per park. Each concrete table is topped with a bronze & terazzo chess board inset (created by Norfolk Sculptor Kevin Gallup with the aid of the VoTech students.
Cost: $250 per chess table. 4 tables per park.
Sponsorships for individual tables or adopt a chess park for $1,000.

HHCF Scholarship Sponsors: Donations to help sustain the Norfolk Police Dept. Chess tournament scholarship fund. King = $10,000+, Queen = $5,000, Castle = $3,000, Knight = $1,000 Bishop = $500, Pawn2Power under $500.

Adopt-a-Norfolk High School: It costs $5,000 for one year of Hip-Hop Chess Kings & Queens one-on-one in the classroom instruction in a high school for one year. Norfolk has 5 high schools. It will cost Norfolk Public Schools $25,000 to increase standardized test scores, boost self-esteem and take violence off the table via a two-day-per-week per school prograkm with the author and a rotating slate of chess and life strategies experts.

CONTACT: Lisa Suhay

See HHCF mainline videos and HHCF East online:
HHCF Obama chess invite

Suhay Radio interviews
A face changed:
Congressman Glenn Nye plays chess with Suhay students:
B&N Chess fundraiser:

Overview: Students will learn to play chess while absorbing the entire story of its history from the Middle East in 500 B.C., through the introduction of the queen during the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella of Spain. Students will explore the parallels between chess and life in general and in their own lives. Classes will revolve around the game, its history and application to life strategies that students will learn to apply to their own life situations. They will keep Commonplace books ala Thomas Jefferson, containing their favorite quotations, one-liners, poetry and words of wisdom to be used in “Chess Slams” on the chess clock.

Students will compete in mini-blitz chess tournaments to gain position on the class “chess ladder” system and will become eligible to compete in live, online chess scholarship tournaments as well as in city, state and national scholarship tournaments.

Participants with music, poetry writing, rap, hip-hop, instrumental or artistic talents will be encouraged to find applications for their art to the game and vice versa. All students enrolled in the Kings & Queens program will be part of the city-wide Street Chess League to be run by the Norfolk police Department’s Crime Prevention Division. The league will be a rotating series of chess/music/art happenings around the city’s parks, libraries and recreation centers after school and during the summer. League members will play against members of the police department, Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education, Opportunity Inc.’s workforce development personnel and chess masters/grandmasters, musicians and martial arts masters who reside in Hampton Roads and who call the game of chess their intellectual home.

Reference: Adisa Banjoko, Founder Hip-Hop Chess Federation (408) 449-9810
"In these times of financial stress we see violence is rising as bank balances drop. It’s critical that young people get a chance to learn directly from the stars and athletes, how to make good life choices," said HHCF CEO Adisa Banjoko. "We greatly appreciate the time these artists give to the young people. We look forward to a big crowd, banging beats and making major moves on the boards."
Banjoko added, "We have recently launched pilot programs at John O'Connell High School in San Francisco and The Ryan Academy in Norfolk, VA. Our students were moved by the story and we appreciate GMA Weekend for finding value in what we do."
View GMA video (aired nationally on 2/15) online at . The story follows HHCF founder Adisa Banjoko as he works with Wu-Tang Clans RZA to help show inner city youth more options in life.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Taking Chess to the Norfolk, Va. community

I went into a classroom in the fall of 2008 with nothing more than the hope of beinging knowledge, power and hope into the lives of my students.

Thanks to The U.S. Chess Trust, Hip-Hop Chess Federation, Adisa Banjoko, The Josh Waitzkin Foundation, Virginia Scholastic Chess, Tidewater Chess Club and many parents putting in time and supplying chess sets and encouragement I was able to meet and exceed my greatest hopes.

Inside a classroom that was little more than four thin walls in a portable, I was greeted by a majority of seniors who had given up on themselves and chosen to marinate in bitterness, anger and rebellion. Through the use of chess, humor, a feather halo, caution tape, dollar-store magic wand, a cell phone with their relatives on speed dial, we built a learning environment.

In the fall most of the boys in the senior class went from one in-school brawl and swear-fest to another, not caring much for themselves, let alone anyone else. As time passed so did they, rising from Fs to B and a few As. They all became avid chess players.

In May 2009, when a classmate, here for the year from Cambodia, was being unjustly deported over a misfire in communication they galvanized into a force of nature. They wrote and called the organizations involved in the deportation. They called a U.S. Congressman and got him involved. Within four intense days our American Government class turned into a lobbying group of stunning force and the classmate was back, surrounded by a group hug of arms of every shade, tattooed and not, woven in a protective circle over the prodigal mate.

The next day the Congressman, Glenn Nye, came to meet them and play chess. The next week the students of the senior class also taught a major newspaper publisher to play and enjoy the game. Parents who had been shut out of angry teens’ lives were playing chess on Tuesday nights.

Moms danced in the middle of Barnes & Noble in the mall to teen tunes blaring as their children taught chess to strangers in an effort to raise funds to help classmates in need.

This is what chess has done for people here in Norfolk, va. and I hope to continue to teach the game and the life strategies in our community. Vivian Anderson and I hope to put together HHCF events around the city to bring chess, music, martial arts and the arts together. We liked what we saw developing in these students and believe it must continue on after graduation as these young people find their way into the community. We also believe it is critical that the game of chess become a touchstone for all grade levels as part of unpressured, social competative, learning events.

We welcome any ideas, venues and donations of prizes, locations, materials and volunteers to teach chess. Welcome also to Chess Master James Schuyler who will participate by playing simultaneous chess games with all comers. We hope to have a 30-player exhibition as part of our first event. Check this space for details.

It takes a community to raise the standards, dignity and self-esteem of a student and the teachers, parents, relatives, friends, congress people, newspaper publishers, even the maintenance and kitchen staff of a school are all part of that village. United we stand. Many thanks to those who stood with us. ##