R. Akin John will see you now.

He had just picked me up from my hotel, in the residential area of Kingstown Park. “I’m using my friend’s car today,” he offered. “I loaned my mother my vehicle.” The statement rings more of apology for any awkwardness – the black BMW is dropped low, almost grazing the ground – than diffidence. We were making our way to a local watering hole, popular with the Friday, after-work crowd, and he directed the car along the ‘back roads’ of Kingstown Park, bumping ahead through uneasily-narrow, hilly lanes. A barrister-at-law, he is, at once, in control; setting the pace of the interaction, peppering me with questions about the magazine and myself.

“I’ve never been very comfortable with attention,” he said. “Sometimes you just want to melt into the background.” Indeed, securing this interview with the 35 year-old Vincentian required steady cajoling. This is uncomfortable for him, these personal questions. As he explains, his voice is deep and steady, his tongue examining every syllable, enunciating each word carefully. The first-born son of a former politician – the type of parliamentarian with a standing so unimpeachable, one has no choice but to become former – I get the sense that his image is less carefully honed, and more a natural result of years of conscious becoming. And while he is aggressively polite (his mother’s influence shines here), his personal life is decidedly his own, and is certainly not up for grabs. Skillfully, he deflects; focusing the attention, on me.

We parked on the dimly lit James Street. His 6’4” frame stretched languidly as we crossed and walked up the stairs to Flow Wine Bar. El Dorado 15 and coconut water was in tidy supply, fueling the conversation, which eased back and forth from playful banter to a carousel of themes: from relationships to social responsibility, reciprocity to family. And, of course, self-control.

He is the Caribbean man, writ large.

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From his demeanor to his diplomas, everything about him reads ‘very competent’. Upon returning to St. Vincent – he studied law in England, at the University of Durham – he joined his father’s practice and set about the thrill of making a living. His days are a constant churn of research and court appearances, including regular lunches with Senior, the elder John. The working relationship has served to reframe his affection for his father, and there’s a disarming boyishness whenever he talks about him. “I knew I wanted to be a lawyer,” he gushed. “And not just because my father’s a lawyer. When I was in school, I… my perception of what a lawyer did, is what most people think. You know, you go to court and argue matters. But now I see ways in which I can use it, and use my expertise to do more. I like the way my work is evolving. I couldn’t see myself being anything else.”

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For now, he’s careful to avoid politics; a social space that, at its most delirious, is lavishly publicized and littered with the souls of the well-intentioned.

“I really have no immediate desire to get involved in active, electoral politics. My focus right now is on service, engagement to community and country,” John said. “I think I can make a worthy contribution – in fact, an even more impactful one on a wider scale – if it’s not tainted or comes within the packaging of a political agenda or political objective. I’m always happy to express my political opinions and perspectives, in discussions or the appropriate forum.”

There’s more here, an undercurrent of reluctant skepticism (“I remember the way folks would talk about my father, even though he was one of the very-straight ones…”), that seems to reflect his narrative of growing up in the crucible of small-island politics. John continued, “I’m consistently engaged by folks now, to get involved in electoral politics. Almost on a daily basis, I’m being pursued about that…” he pauses, thoughtfully. “One never knows what may happen in the future. There may come a point where the stars align, when the timing is right, and I feel like I can positively contribute by being involved in politics.”

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He is now redrawing the boundaries of his personal impact. “My focus is always on how I can help someone else make an impact,” he declared. “Whatever impact you make is never really about you… it’s part of the greater scheme of things.” And the greater scheme, for John, surrounds youth and SVG Football administration. He’s an Executive Member of Hope International Football Club, a scrappy little outfit based in Sion Hill (the community lies at the edge of the capital, with club members hailing from throughout mainland St. Vincent, and the Grenadines). He has been an active member for the past 17 years and now he feverishly mines young sporting talent and tries to groom young gentlemen.

“I don’t mind being a role model. I don’t think I’d have to change who I am to be a role model,” he laughed. “In 5-10 years’ time, when everything is going to pieces, I’d feel a greater sense of responsibility for not standing up when I should have…”

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See more from Akin’s shoot, here.


 

Threads highlights Caribbean professionals, with a focus on social responsibility and personal style. All images captured with the Huawei P9.

R. Akin John photographed on location at Grenadine House, by Mel Gabriel, for Caribbean Lookbook.

 

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