A visitor to the Green Pastures Learning Center in Decatur asked in the office where Orrin Hudson would be making a presentation on a recent Friday afternoon. While the adults looked around for information, a young girl in a school uniform asked brightly, “Do you mean the chess man?”
Within the hour that child would be at a board playing against “the chess man,” founder of Be Someone Inc., a non-profit crime prevention program through which youth are taught self-esteem, responsibility and analytical thinking skills, using numerous tools including the game of chess.
Like others in the class, the child had accepted a challenge from Hudson: “You get $1,000 if you beat me,” he told each one. As each child left the table in defeat, Hudson insisted that he or she look him in the eye, shake his hand and say, “Thank you for letting me play against you; that’s how I learn.”
“Every time you lose, you learn something,” he told them. “Defeat should be a vitamin that just makes you stronger.” To date, no one has collected on Hudson’s $1,000 challenge.
Hudson, who has headed the organization since 2001, said that in light of a number of recent incidences of violence–especially, “the senseless killing of four people [last week] and the killing of former boxing champion and U.S. Olympian Vernon Forrest and the carjacking of Atlanta city Councilman Ceasar Mitchell”– it’s time for him to “kick it up a notch.” He called the incidents prime examples of evidence that “we have a crisis on our hands.”
An international chess champion, Hudson connects the game to life itself, emphasizing that every move one makes has possible favorable or unfavorable consequences. Reciting one of his many mantras, Hudson said, “The only way to fight is to use your head. Think it out, don’t shoot it out. Push pawns not drugs.”
Hudson won top honors in the Under 1700 Game in Time 10 Minutes Blitz Tournament at the 37th annual World Open, an international chess tournament that took place in Philadelphia over Independence Day weekend. Such wins, he said, not only provide a platform from which to promote his non-profit organization but offer the youth that he works with evidence that dreams can come true.
“People told me that there was no way I could win in Philadelphia. They said, ‘Those people are the best in the world.’ But I went to Philadelphia, and I won. Winning … where the best in the world compete is a great feeling. It was exciting to be back in the game and to be able to use this opportunity to teach the youth of America that making the right choices can make you a champion at life and at chess,” Hudson noted.
“Excellence is not enough; you have to be amazing. At that international chess tournament there were players from 22 countries and every one of them was excellent. To win, you have to be amazing. Excellence will get you laid off. When the ship is sinking, they are going to throw everything overboard that’s not amazing,” he said.
As he travels the country mentoring children, Hudson urges them to value KASH – knowledge, attitude, skills and habits – over cash. “You make yourself valuable with these things. You make yourself the one employers will want to keep. In a hospital, if the brain surgeon left and the janitor left, who do you think would be harder to replace? You want to be the one who’s hard to replace,” Hudson told the youth in his Green Pastures Learning Center group. He said he has touched the lives of more than 20,000 students across the country and has had great success with increasing grade point averages, classroom participation and attendance.
Hudson said his ultimate goal is to reach a million young people. “Our biggest enemy is ignorance,” he said. “Our young people don’t know that you can make more money legally than you can make illegally. But you have to get in the game; the game is life. I tell them, ‘Heads up, pants up, grades up and never give up.’”