Apr 172012

Words Beats Life Bum Rush the Boards Hip Hop Chess Festival

The world of chess can often be an exclusionary place for people of color and female players, but Mazi Mutafa, executive director of Words Beats & Life (WBL) wants to change that – one tournament at a time.

WBL, a national hip-hop arts education nonprofit, will present its seventh annual Bum Rush the Boards Chess Tournament on April 21, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Columbia Heights Recreation Center in Northwest Washington, D.C.

“Words Beats & Life created this one-day hip-hop chess tournament in 2005 to promote strategic thought and actions within the hip-hop and chess communities,” says Mutafa, who has seen the tournament attract chess clubs and players from across the nation.

The award-winning, D.C.-based nonprofit also realized the exclusion taking place within the broader chess community.

“We noticed three years ago that many chess clubs would come to our tournament, which was often on the same day as some other pretty big tournaments in the chess community because as black or brown players, they didn’t feel as welcome,” Mutafa says. “We want to make sure African-American, Latino, women, girls and other underrepresented people have the opportunity to excel in the game of chess.”

There is a logical connection between chess and hip-hop, Mutafa says. “Hip-hop culture is highly competitive by nature,” he says. “It is replete with opportunities to battle and to compete in order to win over crowds, crews and sponsors. By connecting hip-hop to chess, WBL has created a chess tournament that exposes youth to the arts and strategies that requires them to think ahead, to manage talent and to size up their competition.”

Chess references also can be found broadly in rap music. Public Enemy, EPMD, TI, Jay-Z and members of Wu-Tang Clan have used chess references in a number of their rap lyrics. Wu-Tang member dedicated his whole 2005 album Grandmasters to the “ultimate board game.” “Those rappers’ ability to merge the strategies and principles of chess opened the minds of a whole generation to new strategies
for success,” Mutafa says. “It is our intention that this festival will continue that legacy.”

This year’s tournament will be a part of a larger Bum Rush the Boards Festival that runs April 19-22 – complete with a Beats and Blogs happy hour and Philanthrobeat fundraising party on Thursday, A Clash of the Kings concert on Friday, the actual tournament on Saturday and the Top Notch break-dancing battle that continues the hip-hop flavor throughout the weekend of festivities.

Registration, which will remain open until April 19, is $10 and covers lunch, a t-shirt and prizes for tournament participants. For more ticket information about festival events, visit the Words, Beats and Life website.

For ticket and registration information, visit the Bum Rush the Boards website.


Words Beats Life Bum Rush the Boards Hip Hop Chess Festival - flierAPRIL 19
Beats and Blogs: Happy Hour
6-8 p.m., LIV, 2001 11th Street N.W.
$10 General Admission; $7 if wearing Beats by Dre
Philanthrobeat: The Wu-Tang Edition
8 p.m.-midnight, LIV 2001 11th Street N.W.
$10 Admission

Clash of the Kings Concert
7-11 p.m., St. Stephens, 1525 Newton St. N.W.
$10 Admission

Bum Rush the Boards Chess Tournament
10 a.m.-4 p.m., Columbia Heights Recreation Center,
1480 Girard St. N.W.
$10 Registration Fee
Register before April 19

Top Notch: 2 vs. 2 B-Boys/Girls Battle
4-10 p.m., The Atlas Theatre, 1333 H St. N.E.
$3,500 in prizes available


For the last decade Words Beats & Life (WBL) has consistently pushed the envelope of what hip-hop culture can do by teaching, convening and presenting the art of hip hop.

Since its founding in 2002, WBL has created the world’s first hip-hop chess tournament and publishes the premiere peer-reviewed academic global journal of hip-hop culture.

Words Beats Life logoBut the organization goes far beyond that. “WBL is about developing and promoting educational approaches that excite young people about their futures as national and global citizens and the responsibility that comes with each,” says Mazi Mutafa, executive director of the award-winning hip-hop arts education nonprofit. In its quest to transform individual lives and whole communities through elements of hip-hop culture, WBL offers two signature programs – the Urban Arts Academy and The Cipher.

The Urban Arts Academy serves 150 students, up to 300 during the summer, at its five Urban Arts Academy locations throughout the D.C. area. Youth ages 5-23 participate in the prevocational arts program, where they learn breakdancing, graffiti art and how to produce musical beats.

“The arts educators and performers that WBL promotes and works with are artists and educators who never give up on our youth and are working through hip hop to promote a better appreciation and understanding of community,” Mutafa says.

The Cipher is a growing local and national network of resources for hip-hop based organizations. This year, The Cipher will host its annual teach-in, Remixing the Art of Social Change: A Hip-Hop Approach in D.C., Chicago and San Francisco. The D.C.-based nonprofit also has been selected as lead arts consultant for MuralsDC, Washington’s official graffiti abatement program.

“WBL is a leader in a field of arts educators using hip-hop culture to promote social change and its influence on art, academics and politics,” Mutafa says. “We want to continue to build on those strengths for a better sense of unity locally, nationally and worldwide.”

Words Beats and Live (WBL) is a national, award-winning Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to the teaching, convening and presenting of hip-hop culture. Teaching. Convening. Presenting. Hip Hop

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