Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Juvie Visit in South Bronx

One of the highlights of my recent trip to New York was the presentations Greg and I did at the Juvenile Detention Center at in Hunt's Point, south Bronx.

Often, when Greg and I were giving presentations about our book, Chess Rumble, I got to preaching a little about the elements of chess and how they relate so beautifully to life.
When we think of ourselves as pawns, we usually mean it in a negative way. But who is the king afraid of? Or who should they be afraid of? The pawns. Yes. Who makes a nation run? Who makes war possible? If it were just kings in a war, there would be no fight because they don't want to die. They don't mind sending pawns to fight and die because they have lots of them. But would any society succeed without the pawns? Of course not. Pawns create the structure upon which a nation can be built. So when you alter that perception of what it is to be a pawn, you are able to think past your economic, social or any other type of barrier.
In chess the pawn can become any other player on the board except the king, providing it makes it all the way across the board. And that's ok, because I don't want to be a king anyway. I want to be a bishop. I want to lead my people out of injustice and into the light.

My favorite quote from a student was "I wouldn't change anything about their presentation. They were just being their selves." I think that is the best review I have ever gotten.

I got to play a few games while I was in the city and I felt blessed that after I preached on the value that chess teaches, I was able to school this student with a four move mate. Fate, always up for a dose of poetic justice, gave me my own schooling. One of the councilors at the detention center set up his own board and proceeded to crush me three times in a row. It was an honor to lose to him because he was a great player. He was able to see into the future and spoil every plan, while at the same time, put me continually on the defensive. Respect, Teacher.


To quote my Greg's blog (yes, because I am lazy):

"The highlights: The new Bronx Library Center, PS 196 in Brooklyn, and Juvie in the Bronx. If you are an author or illustrator in NY or traveling through, here are 2 folks you need to talk to:

Paquita Campoverde of the Brooklyn Public Library. She is actively looking for authors to speak in the Spring and has 53 branches plus schools to fill with visits. And Jessica Fenster-Sparber of the Passages Academy in the Bronx. She works with detained juveniles and has put together a great library filled with one of the best collections of YA/MG for urban teens that I have seen. She too is looking for authors to come visit, and if you can put aside your fears of being behind bars, you'll find kids who are truly effected by your visit and your books. It is a rewarding experience, one that ourselves and Walter Dean and Christopher Myers have done."