Thursday, June 26, 2008

Black Kings (pawns, bishops and rooks) of Chicago

Today on my way home I decided to do one of my favorite activities, browse a Borders bookstore, which is right around the corner from my apartment -- did I mention I live in Hyde Park, haters!

Anyway, while upstairs I noticed on the other side of the music section gathered around chattering was a crowd of about a dozen or more black men playing chess. If it exists, am I in heaven? I have never seen and probably never will see this in the Bluegrass, where they use to sing proudly that the 'darkies are gay'.

Seriously, I almost cried. I also realized how my black experience in Louisville, KY has been robbed. This is why black professionals escape from Louisville (wink!) like a field slave from a burning plantation. Even if the city of Louisville were to encourage it I feel like that Kentucky Negro mentality would suffocate it with cultural suicide. It's not that we're all a bunch of riverboat Negroes who are satisfied with nickels instead of dollars, but there's just more diversity amongst black folk in Windy.

Here were black men with different dress codes from different walks of life -- some professional, some working-class, some from the streets, some nerds and others cool but all connected at three simultaneous games with each calling next after a clocked 5 minute game ended.

And all talking shit!


This isn't too surprising, finding brothers playing chess. Go to any public park in Chicago, New York City or L.A. or real big city and you'll find brothers playing this game. We hear so much about Tiger Woods taking over the lilly white game of golf, but few know the name of Maurice Ashley, who is the first and as of 2007, the only African-American chess grandmaster.

"If he take it with the king we got problems," said Steven Jennings. This brother and I talked a lot, mostly about basketball and the recent squabble between NBA stars and former L.A. Laker teammates, Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O'Neal. Most of the brothers took Shaq's side, except Jennings who defended Bryant faithfully.

"This ain't basketball," said one brother.

He wasn't referring to the Shaq v. Kobe debate, but how the game of chess has little to do with luck. It is more about skill, strategy and psychology, he said. Known simply as 'Big Pawn', he had the most original tattoo I have ever seen on his left forearm. It was a giant pawn with his nickname arched around it. He must REALLY love chess. 'Big Pawn' backed up his trash talking too, he never left his seat.

Like anything we do, the conversation was mixed with a playful mix of "jokes and riddles", though there were a few moments when the banter crossed to a heated argument that raised a few voices enough to where a Borders employees had to quiet them down.

I thoroughly love the game of chess. I found that even with what is otherwise a boring game to casual observers, the soulful banter found in barbershops or basketball courts, black men playing any game, sport or hobby adds an ebony flavor.

No matter, I've found my new hangout spot. And another reason I love Windy.


'Big Pawn' makes a move on Bro. Jennings

1 comment:

Not Shannon Again said...

LOL...I saw dude with that one long loc-tail the other day! They are quite interesting to watch...and quite loud too.

As I'm sure you know, there are places in Chicago where you'd never see this, so maybe there are places in Louisville where you would and you just don't know about em. Huh?