By Lisa Suhay
Cinderella is alive, black and living in San Francisco’s foster care system right now.
Her name is Dyhemia, age 16, a talented chess player currently dug so deep in the system it took a top police detective to track her and pass on the news that she was selected to compete in the prestigious Susan Polgar Girls’ Invitational in Texas which begins July 24th.
I know this because this girl is a Hip-Hop Chess Federation player, selected on the recommendation of her mentor, HHCF Founder Adisa Banjoko and myself. We run free chess play, lessons and Life Strategies mentoring for at-risk children as unfunded volunteers.
Susan Polgar told me she has a single remaining Wild Card invitation to give to a deserving, unknown player. I remembered all the tales Adisa has told me over the years about Dyhemia.
It seemed like such a simple good deed to help facilitate. I called Adisa he gave agreed this was a great choice. Polgar and her board issued the invitation. All that was left to do was give her the good news and find someone to buy a plane ticket and donate the $500 for room and board for the 6-day intensive chess training and competition where girls learn to improve their game and then play for scholarships to Texas Tech University, plus prizes.
If anyone deserves a shot it is this girl who has known too many people interested in hurting, or renting her body, but few willing to invest in her mind. She has been a runaway and victim, never a winner.
Sadly, after a week Adisa called to tell me the girl could not be found. Everyone she knew was stumped and the Foster system was proving impenetrable. All was lost.
The weight of responsibility was crushing as I sat down to call Polgar and decline the invitation. Instead of dialing I sat at the computer and shook Google until, searching image files, a three-year-old missing child flyer from the San Francisco Police Department fell into my virtual lap. Adisa confirmed it was the right girl. She was known for running from foster homes, a walking lost and found. Not an uncommon occurrence in any system.
I called the number on the flyer and was transferred to Head Detective Joseph Carroll of the Missing Persons Unit. “I am going to make the strangest request you are going to get all week,” I said. He laughed.
After hearing all about this Cinderella story the hard-bitten city detective, who has seen more than his share of unhappy endings, came to a decision that changed the game, “I am going to find this girl. Let’s see if we can make something happen.”
Within 30-minutes he called and said, “I have a line on her.” Two days later I was talking to the head of Social Services who, after expressing much skepticism at the notion of a street-smart teen attending the nation’s most prestigious chess event for girls, agreed to allow her to attend. Multiple systems are in place to keep her safe, sound and mentored by women throughout the trip.
Cinderella can go to the ball, but…she needs a fairy Godparent to pay her way.
I believe God is a chess player and He didn’t run this whole gambit without a solid closing strategy. Problem is The Lord plays Blitz chess and the clock is ticking.
Someone reading this story right now is the one who is supposed to make the next move that makes this girl a winner. Maybe it’s a “simul,” the kind of game where one Grand Master simultaneously plays dozens of players at once. In that case we’re all in this game. We’re all invested in the outcome so let’s each invest a dollar in Dyhemia.
*A special Cinderella Fund has been set-up at The Susan Polgar Foundation: 6923 Indiana Ave., Suite 154, Lubbock, Tx. 79413. This is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.
Lisa Suhay is a children’s author and volunteer with the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. More at: