At 14, Orrin Hudson was headed down a path traveled by countless young black men in his neighborhood. In the Birmingham, Alabama, housing project he called home—along with 12 siblings—Hudson cured his teenage boredom by stealing and selling inner tubes.
There were few outlets in his community and even fewer people who cared about yet another black male destined to enter the penal system. That was, until Hudson met James Edge, a white English teacher in his all black high school.
“He explained to me that every action has a consequence. He then taught me the game of life through chess,” said Hudson. “I was voted most likely to succeed and outstanding student in my senior year. Upon graduation, I received a chess book from Mr. Edge. The turning point in my life was when I learned that no one was coming to my rescue. Chess taught me that for my game to get better, I had to get better, and for my life to get better, I have to get better.”
After high school, Hudson served in the Air Force, worked as an Alabama state trooper, and for a short time, owned Hudson’s Auto Sales. But the relationship he developed with his former teacher inspired him to reach out to young people. He remembered how playing chess allowed him and his mentor to form a life-altering bond. So, armed with faith and his life savings of $20,000, Hudson founded Be Someone Inc. (www.besomeone.org).
“I chose chess to empower youth to make good decisions. They’re taught every move counts, whether positive or negative. It’s important for me to make sure they make a positive move,” says Hudson, Birmingham’s 1999 and 2000 citywide chess champion.
“Chess teaches you that planning, knowledge, attitude, skills, and perseverance all have special value to the successful person.”
Hudson builds interest in his organization, which was founded in 2001, by hosting chess events at churches, shopping centers, and schools in underprivileged and affluent communities in metro Atlanta and nationwide. He oversees a staff of about 30 volunteers.
According to Georgia psychologist Irma Best, creative ways to reach young people have a lasting impact. “It’s especially important to expose underprivileged kids to other segments of society, help increase their self-worth, and expand their world view.”
For John Alexander, 11, a student at Wynbrooke Elementary School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, playing chess with Hudson is challenging him to be a critical thinker in ways his school cannot.
“He teaches me the game of life through chess,” says the sixth grader. “He taught me that you have to work with other people like the pieces to a chess game. You have to go through teachers to get an education, work with instructors to get a degree, and work with managers to get a job.”
QUICK TIPS ON STARTING A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION
- Develop a clear mission, vision, and strategic goals
- Obtain state filing information to incorporate a nonprofit organization
- Choose and reserve a corporate name
- Create your bylaws
- Research IRS mandates and state and federal laws
- Hire appropriate professionals such as a lawyer and accountant