Leadership Identity Series: Episode 2 – From Canada to Barbados!

Words by Fatima Lee Garsi
Photography by James Ip 

Meet Fatimah:

I am pleased to introduce you to Dr. Fatimah Jackson-Best!
Fatimah Jackson-Best is indeed the best! This is a lady who is the real deal; there’s something about FJB (I hope she doesn’t mind the acronym!) that is real nice. This is someone who doesn’t waste her time, someone who knows what she wants to do, and does every action deliberately and with direction and thoughtfulness.

Dr. Fatimah Jackson-Best ready for a ride! Photography by James Ip.

When you’re in the presence of FJB, you feel something special: she exudes a deep confidence that people go searching for their whole lives. It’s her very humble and grounded energy that makes you reflect on why you’re not more like her. I believe this confidence is rooted in her identity and the work that she does.

What I Learned:

The Black Community and Public Health
Well in short, Dr. FJB  is a superstar both in the Muslim community and the world of public health. She is a public health researcher and consultant who specializes in mental health in Black communities in Canada and Barbados. She is a member of the Black Health Alliance and is a Project Manager with Pathways to Care.
She has produced work researching Black Muslims in Canada and the importance of hearing their experiences and understanding their history. Ninety-five percent of research pertaining to public health information about Black Muslims in Canada is focussed on the Somali community. Dr. FJB’s research fills an important gap by focusing on other Black communities, particularly the Caribbean community.
Connection to Identity and the Work You Do
Dr. FJB mentions the importance of personal connection to her research:
“I am a firm believer in people doing research that is close to their identities and that they can understand. I think that it definitely brings a certain amount of nuance and understanding that is not necessarily possible for people from outside communities.”

Dr. Jackson-Best taking a moment to connect. Photography by James Ip.

I am struck by the importance of human connection and identity when gathering research from communities that can be sensitive to talk about due to stigma. A shared identity fosters a bond of trust that allows quality and much needed research to emerge.
Here is Dr. FJB in a TedTalk in Barbados speaking on maternal depression and stigma:


A Dish I Must Try:
Flying Fish and Cou cou
When asked about traditional Bajan cuisine, Dr. FBJ told me about flying fish and cou cou! That sounds very different from anything I’ve seen in the local Caribbean shops.
It consists of small and apparently “cute” flying fish that are fried and placed on top of cou cou which is like corn-meal polenta. The cou cou is thickened with the thick water that remains from boiling okra. I watched many different videos on this traditional dish and promise to try cooking it myself and impressing Dr. FJB.

Photography by James Ip.

Why is Dr. FJB a leader?

Photography by James Ip.

She does work and research that is new, important and original. She is able to move through different spheres of the community as a trusted and well-respected researcher.
I find it rare for Muslim leaders to speak openly and expertly about the LGBTQ community without further stigmatizing or excluding this group from the conversation. This is why it was refreshing to see Dr. FJB present “Your Story”, a pilot study examining the lived experiences of the Carribean LGBTQ community as part of her work as a research consultant with the Trinidadian NGO called “I am One.”
About this work Dr. FJB comments, “The work that I do is about doing justice, doing right, and making sure we’re amplifying information that’s good and helpful to communities…and so from that respect, I don’t care who it’s taboo for.”
Dr. FJB’s interview left me curious about Barbados and about my own identity. Would connecting more deeply with my identity help solidify my confidence and purpose? I certainly feel inspired to take it on!
Watch FLG’s interview with Dr. Jackson-Best on YouTube or listen on-the-go on The Leadership Identity Podcast on Spreaker, Spotify, and iTunes!

Listen to “From Canada to Barbados! FLG Interviews Dr. Fatimah Jackson-Best” on Spreaker.