Heart of a lion
Name: Fabian Jones
UWI Cave Hill Campus
Barbados Community College (BCC)
Christ Church Foundation School
Bachelors of Science in Political Science
Associate Degree in Law and Economics
GCE Advanced Level in Law and Economics
Welfare Officer, Trade Unionist, Youth Advocate, Performing Artist, Conflict and Dispute Mediation Facilitator, Parenting Group Facilitator.
A close friend of yours, while in conversation with colleagues in his profession, is giving a short summary of who Fabian Jones is. What do you think they would you say?
I think they would say that I always seem cool tempered, that I am a caring person who loves my family and people in general. Also that I am community-minded, positive, ambitious, very helpful, that I have a bleeding heart for people in difficulty . . . oh and that I like to take pictures of myself and children, especially of my daughter Shakaia of whom I take pictures daily.
What are you passionate about?
Empowering people, music, my family, my children, life, love and happiness.
What four words best describe you?
Loving, compassionate, ambitious, peaceful.
When you finished secondary school at the Christ Church Foundation School, you pursued studies in Law and Economics at the Barbados Community College. Why BCC and not a sixth form school and why Law and Economics?
BCC because I wanted to experience that freedom you have at university and college so that I could adjust early. I also wanted to escape the regimented nature of school with all the restrictions like uniforms, hairstyles and heavy adult supervision; I wanted to feel free and, at BCC, you are an adult if only on paper . . . (lol!) . . . so I relished the thought of being treated and respected like an adult. On entering BCC in 1994, I only wanted to be two things in life; a lawyer or an economist. Hence my choices.
Having completed BCC, you went on to the UWI Cave Hill Campus where you successfully completed undergraduate studies in Political Science and Sociology. What influenced this change in subject area and why this combination of areas?
At first, I was pursuing the B.Sc. Economics Special but I felt pressured, not by the studies but by the dynamics in my life. I entered UWI at age 19 and became an unemployed father of twin boys at age 20. So I switched to a degree which I felt was more manageable for me at my stage with my situation as a young student father. I then chose a degree that addressed many societal issues while having a smaller advanced Maths content and which was essentially a degree I could literally read for.
With Political Science and Sociology, you can read and catch up if you’re disciplined but with Economics which has a heavy calculus content, you must keep up with the maths from early because the concepts lead into each other and must be practiced so as to master them. You can’t just read numbers and equations.
The plan was to raise the boys, stay in university, work in between, live a little and get my degree; and so I did. Sometimes, I would miss some classes too, so catching up was easier with “reading subjects”. Calculus needs much attention. Additionally, Political Science and Sociology were in the same faculty so the transition was smooth. To study Law would have been like starting over and extended time and I did not feel as though I had the time and I definitely did not have the money.
While at UWI, you got involved in Guild politics and served as the National Affairs Committee Chairperson (NACC) between 1999-2000. What encouraged you to get into student leadership and representation and why the NACC post and not one of the other contested positions?
From BCC days (1995), I had a political party, SRP (Students Representative Party), but was unsuccessful in my bid to be the BCC Guild President. That did not dampen my interest but made it stronger. Such is also my character. I get up, dust off and go again. So by the time I got to UWI, I was ready to try again at student politics. In my first year at UWI, I became familiar with the inner workings of the Students’ Guild and had enough time to assess the various posts. The NACC was responsible for planning or helping to plan many social activities on campus such as Campus Carnival, Freshers’ Week of activities, summer-camp and activities for stimulating general cultural awareness among the student body. The NACC post seemed tailor-made for me given my love for people, cultural activities, music etc. Additionally, my two Rastafarian and Pan-African bretherens Ean Maura (from the Bahamas) and Mark Durant were contesting the other posts that would have interested me; namely The Union Chairperson post and the Presidency so we approached it as somewhat of a team and were known as the guild trinity when we won.
You are a Pan-Africanist and have served as a resource person for the Commission. What does it mean to be a Pan-Africanist and why should fellow Barbadians embrace it?
For me, a Pan-Africanist is an advocate for Africa and Africans of the diaspora. The Pan-Africanist keeps Africans in the diaspora connected to, interested in and educated about Africa as their ancestral home through information, advocacy and any other means that brings Africans and African descendants closer together. All Afro-Barbadians have African ancestry and should have a working knowledge and appreciation of their roots. Knowledge is power. Pan-Africanism can help to improve our self-esteem in this post-slavery society, especially considering the damage that slavery and colonialism did to our personal and national identity.
In 2003, you had the privilege of being a part of the Bajan contingent for the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) in Suriname. What role did you play and what was one thing you learnt from the experience?
I went to CARIFESTA as an understudy guitarist to the Mighty Gabby. I was the stand-in just in case he couldn’t perform for any reason. I have the highest respect for the maestro and treasure that experience dearly. I learnt how unique and valuable our Barbadian culture is as an export. Seeing our rich performing, social, musical and literary culture on display so professionally was awesome and it gave me a sense of immense pride.
If you had the opportunity to live your life over again starting from the time you entered secondary school, what is one thing you would do different and why?
I would be more active in athletics and cricket because I did have gifts in those areas but never pushed to develop them or saw them as a viable alternative until later in life and who knows, I could have taken [Sir Garry] Sobers’ record first or be the Bajan [Usain] Bolt (lol) . . . who knows?
If you were going to be marooned on an island, what three things would you take?
Water, lighter and some form of weaponry to hunt and defend myself.
If you were given one million dollars and couldn’t use it to benefit you or your family, what would you use it for?
I would use it to build or repair houses for our indigent elderly who live in derelict housing, sponsor the special education of cognitively challenged children whose parents cannot afford special education and purchase any lifesaving equipment for our hospital needs.
What inspired you to get involved in HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy?
As a late teen, my mother took me to visit a young family friend who was dying from the illness in the hospital and seeing how it adversely affected that person really shook me up for good.
You are a proud St John man who has served your parish well – PRO of the Youth Arm of the NUPW; Youth Development Council Member, teaching Social Studies; President and Vice-President of the St John Primary PTA and PRO of the Parish Independence Committee. What is it that you love most about St John and if given the opportunity and the necessary resources, financial and otherwise, what five changes would you make?
I love the people. Although St John has been developed a little, it retains some of the feelings of the good old time days; that laidback village feeling and kindness of old where people share peas, pears, dried coconuts, ackees, mangoes etc.; whatever they have, although they may be poor, and that original Bajan dialect and strong sense of community is still there.
Five changes I would make:
(1) Fix or rebuild roads like Featherbed Lane, Martin’s Bay and Victoria, in addition to some access roads connecting St John to other parishes like St George and St Joseph.
(2) Build a primary school as two have been closed over the past several years.
(3) Create more recreational facilities for the youth e.g. green spaces and parks
(4) Set up a scholarship fund for anyone willing to pursue a course of study but who lacks the financial resources
(5) Provide incentives to revitalize the fishing industry at Consett and Martins Bay as well as small farming.
You were the St John Parish Ambassador between 2001-2002. How did this experience contribute to your personal and career development?
Wow! The experience was phenomenal! The parish ambassador programme honed and shaped my raw skills and competencies. We had workshops on etiquette, public speaking, talent performing, motivational speeches, survival skills, family life and health, to name a few. The training was intense and of a very high quality with great inspiring facilitators. These all served to mentally prepare us for success in our personal lives and career pursuits. Once an ambassador, always an ambassador, they said, and that remained with me. The programme made me an even more disciplined and professional person; traits which have served me well in all of my jobs since then.
From PRO of the Youth League Executive of the National Union of Public Workers to Floor Member of the Youth League Executive to currently being the 2nd Vice-President of the NUPW Executive. What motivated you to get involved in the NUPW back in 2011 at the ‘youth level’ and what was the defining moment that confirmed for you it was time to serve at the national executive level?
I attended a training workshop for shop stewards at the NUPW around 2010 when the Youth League was being revitalized by persons such as Akanni McDowall [former YL executive President and current NUPW President], Kimberly Agard [former YL executive President] and union employee Rene Withers, among others. The YL had become somewhat dormant prior to 2010 and I was approached as a good candidate, probably because of my known interest in youth work, community work and advocacy. I jumped to it with enthusiasm and wanted to be part of the rebuilding process of which I felt proud . . . . I served two terms on the YL, contesting my last YL election as a 35-year-old, which is the age limit, so I barely got in and was allowed to serve because I was 35-years-old at the time of that election. The defining moment was me wanting to continue being involved but being too old to serve at the YL level after my last stint, so moving on to the national executive was a natural progression.
Secondly, I was encouraged by some of my old YL colleagues to contest the upcoming Executive elections. I must also add that I became somewhat disillusioned with how the Union’s affairs were apparently being handled and felt as though government employees were not being represented effectively nor efficiently and thirdly I was approached by Akanni’s campaign management about joining forces as a team and I readily accepted as I was impressed with the group.
Most of my years knowing you, I knew you as Dandelion and there are others who know you as Ranksman. Where did these names originate from and do friends still refer to you by them?
Yes, my friends still call me by both names. Once I hear Ranksman, I can bet it’s a St John person, Foundation school friend or friend from my childhood days growing up in St John where I got the name.
I got the name around the Shabba Ranks era (1990) when it was cool to add on “ranks” to your nickname. I was popular at school and Ranks was also synonymous with respect and I was respected generally and by the older fellas with whom I would hang around, so at first it was Piggy Ranks (Piggy was an earlier childhood nickname). Around age 17, I started to disassociate from the Piggy part of the name and started to become more conscious and a vegetarian as well. Then it evolved to the cooler sounding Ranksman from then. However, as I started to develop my music and my consciousness, I wanted a name that reflected me as I saw myself. So, I adopted ‘Dan’ from my Rastafarian tribe as an October born and I identified with the ‘lion’ because of its resilience and strength as well as its symbolic reference to Africa and Rastafarianism as a movement. So my name became Dan-DE-Lion around age 19 and I decided to take out the spaces as a sign of completion or wholeness because I felt a sense of arrival in terms of knowing myself and where I wanted my artistic creations to go. Ranksman sang anything, but Dandelion is a conscious and more enlightened artiste who seeks to educate, agitate and inspire through the music.
You won the Revo-dub-a-lution Reggae/Dancehall competition back in 2004, was second runner up and winner of the talent segment in the Emancipation Roots Experience that same year and a NIFCA bronze award winner in performing arts in 2002. Will we be hearing new music and seeing performances from Dandelion/Ranksman in the near future?
Of course, you will. I have never stopped creating artistic pieces but started to focus more on my career and my sons’ development with no regret.
Having acquired much satisfaction in the other areas of my life, I am warming up to hit the studio again soon with those pieces I have been creating over the years, so listen out for me.
Having studied Sociology; been trained in Conflict and Dispute Resolution Facilitation; attended conferences and training workshops on drugs and violence, counselling skills, parent group facilitation, gender awareness; served as a youth and community worker and currently employed as a Welfare Officer, what advice would you give to parents who have children involved in crime, drugs and other deviant behaviour?
My advice would be to talk to the children a lot. Let them know how much you love them; separate the behaviour from the child when addressing issues of undesirable behaviour; avoid speaking in negatives to them and speak positively with them; validate them on the simplest of accomplishments and find creative ways to keep reinforcing their self-esteem.
As parents, we have to compete with our children’s peers and the media and we have to do all we can and if that fails, at least we did our part. There are no guarantees in parenting; however, if we fail to give parenting our all, then we have ourselves to blame when children pursue negative paths. Self-esteem and identity issues seem to be at the root of many of the issues of deviance facing our youth.
You are the father of 18-year-old twin boys and a beautiful 15-month-old daughter. How important is the role of a father in a child’s life?
Very important and equally important to that of a mother. A father’s presence gives a child a sense of security. The man is associated with protection in most families and for instance, if a child is bullied and says, “I am going to bring my mommy,” it almost sounds laughable, especially if it’s a boy, but when that child says, “I am going to bring my daddy,” it creates an awareness of that child’s security. Boys also gain an idea of how to be a man and what kind of a man to be and girls learn what to expect from a man and what qualities to look for in a good man so it is important that a good father tries his best to be a good man in general because the children are watching and our words and actions become like a Bible unto them.
Who has contributed to your success?
The Almighty Father. I have always felt a divine hand on me throughout life. Then I would have to say my parents and my siblings for their encouragement from my early years and for always believing in me. However, along the way, I had many angels who touched my life, people like the Waterman brothers of Erwin, Wilfred, Adrian and Malcolm (R.I.P) who I found to be good examples of good character; Mona Corbin who gave me my first lessons; my cousin Lawrence Hayde who opened my eyes to current and international affairs from as early as age 7; Class 4 Primary school teacher Mr. Butcher who would inspire and teach at the same time; I once saw him jump for joy when I used the word “impaled” to describe how I killed a fish in a composition about “a narrow escape” and also when Mark Clarke used the word “engulfed” to describe a house fire. To see your teacher so excited about your learning was awesome. It made us try to widen our vocabulary even more. Lennox Padmore who was the 4H leader for my primary school; Youth Commissioner Charles Griffith and the entire Youth Development Department, Glyne and Lynette Murray. Ossie and Annette who were the Cub Scout Leaders at my primary school, Mrs. Angela Lashley who taught me at Foundation School, Teen talent show, Ambassador Programme, Roots Experience show to name a few.
Finish this statement. It is my desire to . . . . . .
See the world happy and at peace, free from hunger, poverty and disease and to be all I can be so that I can help others be all they can be.
(If you are a young Barbadian professional, or know of any worthy of being highlighted for their amazing contribution, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org)