By Celia Collymore
Mr. Dempstu Simmons Jr (D.J. Simmons) is a Man of Arts and we delved into his mind to connect with a strong and humble man who is passionate about life, people, culture and all things Barbadian! We had so much fun not only interacting and learning about all that he is, but being inspired by his will to do good for those around him and his desire to put all that is Bajan on the world stage.
There is nothing like an artist who can use their creativity and art form in many ways to showcase their true colours, create experiences, add value and beauty to the world. 34 year old DJ Simmons is the CEO of Dojangles Publishing, a Writer, Performer, Spoken Word Artist, Mic Man for Mayhem Soundz, Tutor, Story Teller for children and works on many literary and Crop Over projects.
We asked D.J. to describe himself and here was his very colourful and flavourful response. “D.J. Simmons is a Bajan. I love Barbadian culture and all aspects of art. I love the people that are around me. I love to see people expressing themselves. I love to people-watch. I love language. I love to hear Bajans “cussing”. I am a man of art so I love all different kinds of art. I love to dance.”
D.J. is a proud Harrisonian who played the trumpet while at school. He later attended Barbados Community College and studied Computer Science and Desktop Publishing. After graduation he worked for Hanschell Inniss Ltd as an Assistant System Administrator where he fixed computers and helped manage network systems. Although he loved the arts, he was not pursuing his passions. “I was brainwashed to believe that art was really uncool. I hid my talents for years and years.”
It was while working at Hanschell Inniss that his love for poetry was discovered by his supervisor, Rhonda Jordan- Smith. When she saw his poems on the computer she said to him, “If you don’t do something with those poems, I will do something to you.” With some pressure, D.J. got to the drawing board, did lots of research and taught himself how to publish books. “She was one of my first audience members because I would share a lot with her and she would keep pushing me. She had a lot of input into how my first book would look and she was credited as my creative consultant for my first two books.”
“After I published my books, I got permission and sold them via public spaces. I got to meet a couple people who shared that they collected local literature. They would keep asking me to come to different events and through that experience I recognised that there were so many people who wrote books and had difficulty getting them published, so I decided to register Dojangles to help others get their short stories and poems published as well.”
The universe has a way of pushing us closer to our dreams sometimes via unfortunate yet timely circumstances. In 2008 D.J. was one of the twenty persons who were downsized, however as he looked back on that experience, it was a blessing and became the catalyst for him to pursue his dreams and expand himself as an artist.
“After 3 months, I was literally doing nothing and just collected my NIS cheques”. With more flexibility and time, D.J. began to focus on enhancing his skills and performing at shows. Shortly thereafter, DJ was approached by the owners of The Good Life Eco Bar & Café to manage the establishment, which also became an adventure for him. This was also around the same time that a lot of the establishments were closing down and the spaces artists used for their shows started to dwindle. NIFCA was the only platform, and that is where he has won over 10 awards in Gold, Silver and Bronze in both the Performance Arts and Literary Arts. He saw the opportunity to use the café as an artistic hub.
D.J. produced his first show with Adrian Green called Iron Sharpen Iron in 2008. That concept came about from what he learned from Adrian as it was based on a passage in the Bible…Proverbs 27: 17 – “Iron sharpen iron such as one man sharpens the continents of his brother”. It was created to build a movement of poets and conscious lyricists so they could have a headquarters to sharpen their skills and highlight spoken word as a professional art and directly showcase how poets can make revenue from their work.
What does success mean to you?
Success for me is defined via people. When I see how my work has inspired others and catalyses them to explore their craft professionally and consciously, to me that is success.
What is the most important thing(s) in the Arts?
Being genuine and having confidence. Many people are talented but not skilled, the approach to what they do is very jittery. You have to be passionate, practicing all the time, so that when you have the opportunity to express yourself, persons can feel it.
What advice would you offer to aspiring artists?
Get mentorship, maintain momentum and don’t stop. When you form a plan for yourself you know this is what you want to do, be disciplined and realistic.
Good news! D.J. will be getting married this August to the beautiful Empress Zingha Griffith and we at Dazzle wish him a long, happy and successful marriage filled with love and beautiful babies.