I'm from the Bronx!

I’m from the Bronx!


Dewain Barber

One of the things that has always fascinated me during my chess travels in one hundred twenty countries and all the States of the Union is the people who engage in chess and their cultural identity. I would like to share one story that is true and it happened on a trip that my Buena Park Junior High Chess team from California took to the National Junior High Championships.

I have always taught that introducing yourself to your opponent and shaking hands is important. It shows respect for your opponent and the game. This was the case when one of my players sat down at his assigned board before the start of his first round game. He leaned over the board and introduced himself when he said, “Hi, my name is Bill. I am from California.” His opponent shook hands and replied, “My name is Jamal and I am from the Bronx.”

At this point Bill began to ponder using his geographic knowledge. “Humm, I do not recall a state in the United States called Bronx.” As he prepared to make his first move, Bill spoke up and said, “Oh, you are from New York!” Jamal replied, “No, man I am from the Bronx, the Bronx!” Bill was taken aback by the strong reply and decided to carry on with the game.

Upon the conclusion of the game Bill returned to the team table and addressed me with a question, “I met this guy from the Bronx in my last game and he said he was not from New York, but the Bronx. I am confused.” I began to laugh knowing as a history teacher this was a good lesson to teach to my young players that went beyond chess.

I had them all sit down and began to explain the identity relationship that some persons have with where they live. I said, “Jamal sees his identity tied to the Bronx, a borough which is a section in New York City. That identity is very strong and no matter where he goes to live or relationships he has with other people he will always be from the Bronx.”