AT 10 years old Barbara Dixon was involved in a terrible car accident, after the vehicle she was travelling in was hit by a truck. Both her aunt and uncle whom she was travelling with died in the accident.
She received a third degree fracture to her skull, and she said doctors advised her not to study, as it could cause damage to her brain. And so it seemed that her ability to achieve a good education would be hindered.
But the young girl, who also received two broken arms, fractured ribs, and broken fibula and tibia, decided to press against the odds and do what she always wanted to do — write.
"I have always been culturally aware of my environment and so love to be active in whatever cultural affair is happening," Dixon told All Woman. "I love to write poetry and songs, and there have been days when I have written over 30 poems in one day."
To date, she has written and published four books, with another two ready to hit the press. Her poems, she said, can be found in every corner of her Portmore home.
"I met in the accident during the time when I passed my scholarship exam (equivalent to GSAT)," she said. "And because doctor said I should not study I went to Durham College [which was on South Camp Road]."
This, she said, was her next educational stop after leaving primary school.
"I used to come first in my classes at primary school. I always came first," she recalled. "So my teachers cried and said 'Barbara you gone to waste'. But I still persevered."
And with extra lessons and determination, two years later she regained her position of first place. During this time she continued her writing.
After Durham College, where she did a secretarial course, Dixon studied languages at the Language Training Centre located on Half Way Tree Road, and the Venezuelan Institute, also in Kingston. Today she is fluent in Spanish, and also speaks French and Japanese.
"Even though I was doing the languages I would still have terrible headaches, but what I did, I would stop, and then go back, stop and go back, stop and go back. And thank the Lord I overcame," Dixon said.
Her first publication was a collection of her poems titled Poems by Barbara Dixon. This was followed by Break Free, which sold the idea that whatever situation one finds him/herself in, one should break free and move ahead.
Her third publication was Poetry in Motion, which was written in three languages — Spanish, English, French — as well as patois, and her fourth speaks to her personal experience in The Fall of the Twin Towers: 9:11 Reflection, as she was in New York city at the time of that incident.
While many authors need months to pen a book, Dixon spent the days immediately following 9/11 completing that publication.
"I was in New York and I had written the book just for myself but a friend asked 'why don't you publish it?' So that was when I decided to," she said. "The incident was very traumatic for me. I wanted to come to Jamaica like crazy, but no flights were coming out," she recalled. "There were really some sad moments. My son was there and he saw the plane hit the tower, and my niece and nephews were all in the area. It's all in the book."
Soon after that she also penned poems for the New York chief of police and firemen who were on scene.
"They were all appreciative. I received a letter from the chief of police in Long Island as a result," Dixon said.
Dixon received a scholarship to the University of Miami in 1992 as a result of her writing.
She also got the editor's choice award from the national library in New York, as well as certificates from Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, and Pushkin's Festival at Cultural Yard in Kingston for her work.
"One time this guy told me I was sitting on a pot of gold," she said. "Right now I have two more books ready. I wanted to get one ready for Jamaica 50 but it didn't work out, so I changed the name to A Long Time We A Come, and I have another one, Faith, Frustration and Fame. This is a work of fiction about a Christian woman who could not get pregnant and her husband took terrible steps with her. But she just continued praying to the Lord and eventually had a daughter whom the husband was very proud of."
Dixon said she started writing at age nine and started performing at age 10.
"I would always write poems in school and just hang them up. I don't even remember the first poem I wrote. I would just write and throw them away. I did not take much interest in my writing until people started saying, 'girl you sitting down on your talent. Why don't you publish them?'" she said. "People always like my poems whenever I do them, although I just write them [without much effort]. And it doesn't take me any time to write a poem. And sometimes people just call upon me abruptly because they say they know I can do it."
Dixon grew up on the border of Westmoreland and Hanover — born in Hanover, registered in Westmoreland, she explained with a laugh. There she attend the Mt Peter Primary.
She grew up with 10 siblings who were very supportive of her work as a writer.
Dixon has travelled to The Bahamas, Canada, Venezuela, USA and Grand Cayman, sometimes doing recitals and readings.
A divorced mother of three boys, the 59-year-old retiree worked as a senior secretary at the Central Sorting Office (CSO) where she said she also did language translation. She worked at Institute of Jamaica, Jamaica Civil Service Association and Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
"Wherever I go I always form a group," she said. "So I formed a cultural group at CSO (the last place she worked).
Today she still heads two groups — The Originals and The Original Youths.
The Original Youths will be performing pieces of her work at the Black History concert slated for February 23 at the Portmore Missionary Church Hall in Edgewater.
One of her fondest performance memories is that of performing at Women of the Word with Cherry Natural at the Phillip Sherlock Centre at the University of the West Indies. There she did poetry in English, French, Spanish and patois.
"When I was done I was so surprised to see so many people coming up to me and asking for autographs," she said with a bright smile. "It's not like I don't have confidence in myself but I didn't know so many people were so touched," she said.
"I have to give thanks because people like my work. To me it comes easily, it is something that I love.
"My friends, family and church members at the Portmore Missionary Church are all very supportive. They will help me with delivery, with sale of my books, in any way they can."
And being retired, she said she now has more time to write and organise the cultural groups.'