About two weeks ago, my friend and famous blogger over at RoundSeventeen, Rich Siegel wrote a wonderful post called “The West is the Best,” about California and the innovative, open and accepting way of life in, at least portions of that state.
Rich writes, “Here you will find the best and the brightest. And they're not all white. Last week I finished a job working with my partner from Bangladesh. We were working for a creative director from Germany. And one from England. The woman who called us in was from Australia. Every morning was like a mini meeting of the United Nations. We'd swap stories. Gain new perspectives. And be better people for the experience.”
I whole-heartedly agree with Rich about how wonderful and inclusive America can, at times, be. And how inclusion and diversity enrich us all.
Small-minded people will never understand this. They are too busy being angry.
Maybe they should read the op-ed I just read in “The New York Times,” by Nicolas Kristof. If it doesn’t bring a tear to your eyes or a smile to your lips, you're more callous even than I am.
It's the story of eight-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi, Tani for short, whose family fled northern Nigeria in 2017, fearing Boko Haram terrorists. (Tani’s family are Christians and Christians are often the targets of Boko Haram.)
Like my grandparents 100 years ago, they arrived on these teeming shores with nothing. They were steered by a pastor to a homeless shelter. In short order, Tani was enrolled in P.S. 116 where he met a part-time chess teacher.
Tani wanted to join the chess club and told his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, about it. She emailed the chess club, explaining that she couldn’t afford the fees since her family was living in a homeless shelter.
“Russell Makofsky, who oversees the P.S. 116 chess program, waived the fees, and a year ago the boy took part in his first tournament with the lowest rating of any participant, 105.”
Tani’s rating is now 1587 and rising fast. Extraordinary, considering he started learning chess just a year ago. He has trophy after trophy by his bed in the homeless shelter.
“I want to be the youngest Grandmaster,” he told Kristoff.
Kristoff ends his op-ed this way, giving me, and I hope you, something to feel good about during our sad, dark and dystopian times.
“Tani is a reminder that refugees enrich this nation — and that talent is universal, even if opportunity is not. Back in Nigeria, his parents say, his brilliance at chess would never have had an outlet.
“‘The U.S. is a dream country,’” his dad told me. “‘Thank God I live in the greatest city in the world, which is New York, New York.’”