Why Teaching “Strategy” and Tactics is Essential for the Mental Survival of
African-American Young People. The answer is straight-forward: “Strategy” is born from thought, attention, evaluation, foresight, reasoning, and previous experience. And, without doubt, the current challenges (and distractions) facing African-American youth will require of them the ability to strategize. It does not matter what area of life or in which field of play one is engaging at any given time, engagement without a strategy to achieve one’s goal will result, usually, in disappointment, loss, and even danger. Knowing the Differences Between Tactics and Strategy One might ask, “What about the concept of tactics; are they not worth teaching as well?” The answer is “yes,” but at a later time. “Tactics” differ depending on the field of play. For example, a boxer may use “feigning,” bobbing, weaving, counter-punching, and so on because such is the nature of boxing. A lawyer may use delay tactics, speed-up tactics, objections, interrogation, distractions and so on bec- ause those tactics are, in their nature, legal or inquisitorial. *Or, similarly, a clergyman may use the tactics of exhortation, consolation, the laying-on-of-hands, the reinforcement of faith through the recital of scriptures or sacred knowledge and so on. This is how she or he prevails in instilling belief and faith among others. Whether the field of play is a debating society contest or a basketball game, the tactics will be those specific to winning in that “field of play.” *“Strategy,” however, involves thought at a higher, slightly more abstract, level. Successful strategies in life all share three common characteristics. They all involve the mastery of “Tempo,” “Position,” and “Strength.” Additionally, the most important aspect or dynamic of a contest or challenge is the control of “tempo.” Next in importance is the control of “position” and, last, the control of “strength.” They are almost always in that order of importance, regardless of the field of play. The better the formulation of this question is how can one best control the tac- tics of Tempo, the tactics of Position, and the tactics of maintaining Strength-- such as they may exist in various fields of play.
My Sources for this “Theory of Strategy” *On my 15th birthday, my stepfather bought a chess set for me. Now, living near me was a man in my neighborhood who became a mentor to me—starting short- ly after I received Joe’s present. “Bill” taught me how to play chess fairly well and, in fact, how to hustle older men who played chess but also gambled money. Because I was such a young-looking teenager they never suspect ted the skill I had acquired under his tutelage, nor that we worked as a team—he being the “promoter ” and I being the “foil”—pulling-off a regular recreational hustle in the parks and in the backrooms of local neighborhood bars. *(Let’s just say that the rules in old North Philadelphia, where I grew up, regarding how old one had to be in order to enter the bar could be “relaxed” if an underage person had actually had a good reason for being there; a reason like having some kind of job, e.g., running numbers, or another hustle of some sort. This was especially true during the off-hours, e.g., in the afternoons in the small street-corner bars). *With the help of the mentor from my neighborhood, I won second place in the citywide chest championship for youth under 18 exactly one year later. At my best, on a good day, I could hold my own with some masters' level adult players, but beyond that level my skill did not reach. Of course, nowadays, I’ve lost even that modest level of skill through lack of practice. However, the most important thing that Bill taught me, regardless of my level of play, I never forgot: It was the concept of mastering Temple, Position, Strength in any challenge or adversarial situation. *And he even gave me a book by chess master named Aaron Nimzovitch (“My System”) from whom he had learned this, the fundamental nature of strategy, whose knowledge he passed on to me, and which knowledge I now pass on to you, the teenagers and young adults, who are now similarly situated as was I when young. *In our case we will use the old-fashioned board games from three continents: “Warri” or “Mancala” from Africa, modern Chess of European derivation, and “Go” (or “Wei-Chi”) from its Asian sources in order to teach strategy. Mastery of strat- egy means that you have dominated the three major dimensions of any active and evolving situation. * The African-American youthful person must be encouraged to accept the use of his or her personal intellect (or his or her ori in the Yoruba language). In order to do this, one must accept training.What better way to teach the concepts of strat- egic living (and aspirations) and strategic planning than through old-fashioned ancient board games. They avoid the psychological pitfalls of the modern but highly impersonal digital-age games, they are cheap to acquire, entirely sus- tainable, and can be played anywhere. *Again, the African-American youth--male and female—have arrayed bef- ore them a range of social, economic, psychological, historical challenges that are difficult indeed. In many respects we are less prepared than others, and have fewer resources to bring to bear on problem solving. Culturally congruent board games are, at once, re-humanizing, and the skills acquired from their play are generalizable to every aspect of life--unfortunately, even to bad ones for some people (which is why you need to know this)--on the one hand, and mentally enriching, on the other.
“Elegba opens the Road, Shango teaches you how to fight On the Road, But it is Obatala who knows the Reason for the Road.”
-Old Yoruba saying