D.C. Native’s Customized Boards Tout Black Lives Matter Theme, More

EDITOR’S NOTE (Sept. 24): Raymond Rouse has revised the rubrics behind his upcoming donation of a hand-crafted chessboard to the We Act Radio Summer Chess Club (for youth) from a raffle to a giveaway. The winner of the giveaway, whose name will be announced on Oct. 12, will receive a Black Lives Matter board crafted by Rouse. There is a suggested donation of $10.

Native Washingtonian Raymond Rouse will never forget his introduction 20 years ago to the game of chess nor his almost immediate attraction to the popular pastime requiring the fast-paced tactical and strategic moves of pawns, bishops, rooks and a queen whose origins date back nearly 1,500 years to India around the 6th century AD.

And while the Marine Corps veteran and father of two adult children admits being unable to convince his offspring to embrace his passion for the game, his desire to become a business owner has yielded an unexpected result.

Six years ago, he founded The Red Tile — a web-based, one-man shop in which he conceives and builds customized game boards, primarily for chess, with pieces and themes specifically chosen by customers. Some have been commissioned by devotees of Jurassic Park with prehistoric game pieces.

However, his latest project fits particularly well with today’s unprecedented political environment fueled by heated degrees of both racial and social unrest — chessboards whose 32 figures represent just a portion of the hundreds of Black men or women killed since the murder of Trayvon Martin due to police-involved encounters, white vigilantes or alleged community patrolmen.

Courtesy of Raymond Rouse via Instagram
Courtesy of Raymond Rouse via Instagram

“The business developed accidentally after someone hired me to make lamps and tables for a cigar lounge,” said Rouse, 45, who resides in Northwest. “The client came to my home to see the kind of things I had make for myself and saw a chessboard on my table that I had made. I made one at their request and that order turned into three more — and kept going. I soon patented my design and can complete a project in as little as one week or, given the complexity, as long as a month or more.”

“Some of my designs have required more hours, greater detail and become more difficult to complete, primarily because I always follow the same process in my craftsmanship. While customers vary in their specifications and their unique demands for the theme or details for their boards, I always work with liquid glass while crafting an assortment of transferred images — all hand-painted and thoroughly researched,” Rouse said.

He says he faced a “mind-blowing experience” as he began his work on his Black Lives Matter-themed chessboards.

“In the real world where I live as a Black man, I soon learned that 32 names and their spaces could have easily been replaced by hundreds of other names of men or women,” he said. “My choices were just a drop in the bucket. Two or three Black children have been killed almost every day since 2013. But I chose more familiar names despite a much longer list that was available. Tragically, most of them will forever remain names that few of us will ever know.”

Rouse to Raffle BLM Board to Support Local Youth

In efforts to support local youth who share his passion for chess, Rouse will kick off a raffle beginning Sept. 4 with the winner announced on Oct. 5 with the winner receiving a custom-made chess board based on their requirements. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to We Act Radio Summer Chess Club, a group founded by Kymone Freeman.

Details for the raffle will be shared on the Washington Informer’s website beginning this Friday.

Freeman says Rouse’s generosity will continue to encourage Black youth.

“Our club teaches kids the virtues of chess while applying critical thinking and conflict resolution skills that I learned earlier in life,” he said. “Our program teaches youth that the white piece [in life] shouldn’t move first all the time. We’re creating a more ecumenical society that values equity and which supports and embraces the dismantling of today’s corrupt system.”

For more about Rouse and The Red Tile, email www.theredtilerr@gmail.com or visit his website, www.theredtile.com.

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