Using chess, Eugene Brown visits Power Cross to show kids importance of making right decisions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 22, 2021

SALISBURY – Eugene Brown is bringing life experience and chess knowledge to the boys at Power Cross this week.

Brown, a Washington D.C. native, has been teaching children how to play chess for decades. He first picked up the game in a community chess program and found himself playing a lot of chess while serving 18 years in federal prison.

Brown robbed a bank when he was 20, and after his release, he dedicated himself to reaching out to at-risk youth like himself to keep them from making the same mistakes. Brown uses the game to teach kids about choices and thinking before they make a decision.

His program,”From Pawns to Kings and Queens,” is geared toward helping children understand the importance of thinking before they move. He said there are parallels between chess and life that make it a good teaching tool, noting the importance of strategy in the opening, middle and end-game.

His story was chronicled on the big screen in 2013 when he was portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Life of a King.”

Brown is at the Salisbury Power Cross Ministries campus this week, working with the children to give them a crash course in the game. He is giving them more than the basics on how different pieces move.

On Wednesday, during a brief lesson about using the knight, Brown talked through the quirks of the piece: its unique ability to jump other pieces and it’s L-shaped movement. He also showed them the power of the knight if they make good use of it by demonstrating the piece can cover huge swaths of the board from the center, but its movement is constricted when it is on the edge.

Power Cross Coach E’Kiah Gillespie said the game is showing the boys how acting without thinking leads to undesirable results. In chess it is obvious: acting without thought often results in a loss.

Gillespie said the competitive nature of chess is a good motivator for the children.

“If it’s not competitive, they just kind of shrug their shoulders and it’s not that important,” Gillespie said.

Dermyis Sloan, a sixth-grader at Knox Middle School, said he did not know anything about chess before this week. He now enjoys it and wants to keep playing.

“It could help me be better at thinking and it’s fun to play,” Sloan said.

Salisbury Campus Director Shane Ridgeway said Power Cross Ministries helps children aged 7 and older with athletics training for football, basketball and baseball as well as academic assistance and spiritual guidance.

The programs, including meals, are free for families.

Ridgeway said the program brought in chess instruction because the organization tries to expose students to new experiences.

“There’s strategies, and what Mr. Brown does, he brings that strategy and that skillset to life for them,” Ridgeway said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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