Tanitoluwa Adewumi, known as Tani, is a Christian refugee from Nigeria who fled persecution with his family from Islamist sect Boko Haram, according to the Christian Post.
Tani, a student at PS116 in Manhattan, won the state’s chess championship for his age group earlier this month and gained national attention following the New York Times article that described his family’s living conditions in a Manhattan homeless shelter.
“It’s an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person,” Jane Hsu, the principal of P.S. 116, told the New York Times.
Tanitoluwa Adewumi, who lives in a Manhattan homeless shelter with his family, won the kindergartener through third grade category in New York’s chess championship last weekend with an undefeated performance, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Tanitoluwa, known as “Tani,” learned to play chess just one year ago, and now tells the Times that he wants to be “the youngest grandmaster.”
The Adewumis, including Tani, his parents and older brother, reportedly arrived in New York after fleeing Nigeria in 2017 due to fear of terror attacks from the group Boko Haram.
Tani learned chess with his classmates at New York’s P.S. 116, and joined the school’s chess club. The club’s organizer waived the fees for Tani because of his family’s financial situation. Though he started out as the lowest-rated member of the club, he quickly improved and is now bringing his school statewide recognition, according to the newspaper.
P.S. 116’s principal, Jane Hsu, told the Times that Tani’s win is “an inspiring example of how life’s challenges do not define a person,” and credited the third-grader’s supportive parents despite being homeless.
Tanitoluwa Adewumi won the state tournament for kindergarten through third grade last weekend. He is pictured with his trophy
Tani, as he is known to family and friends, plays chess at the elementary school he attends and practices every night in the shelter.
His father Kayode drives for Uber and is also a real estate broker.
The family moved to the US to escape Boko Haram, a terrorist group responsible for atrocious attacks against Africans.
Because they are devout Christians, they feared they would be targeted.
Tani and his siblings became enrolled in local elementary schools not long after they arrived and he discovered the chess club.
His mother Oluwatoyin emailed them to say that while they could not afford to pay the fees attached, he was eager to participate.
Tani only started playing chess in 2017 after his family fled Nigeria to live in the US
Tani’s father Kayode drives for Uber and is also a real estate broker. They are pictured with his mother Oluwatoyin and older sibling
Tani now wants to be the youngest grandmaster New York has ever seen
The club waived the fees to encourage him.
Not only does Tani play with them, but he also attends a free, three-hour practice session in Harlem every Saturday to master his game. At night, he uses his father’s laptop to practice.
Now, he wants to be the youngest grandmaster ‘ever’, he told The New York Times.
Russ Makofsy, who runs the chess club in which Tani plays, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help the boy’s family.
He said it was astonishing how much Tani had improved in just a year.
‘One year to get to this level, to climb a mountain and be the best of the best, without family resources.
‘I’ve never seen it,’ he told The Times.
The Adewumis have applied for asylum, and are reportedly set for an immigration hearing in August. The hearing will take place just three months after Tani competes at the elementary national chess championship.
“I feel American,” Tani told the Times.