“Seeing a lot of young brothers who turn to the streets, I’d rather help my community than destroy it.” ~ Shyan Chipman
By Hadassah Deleveaux (née Hall)
From Milton Street to Strachan’s Corner and Hospital Lane to Plantol Street, Shyan Chipman is on the ground over the hill. He is hands on, sometimes driving through the tiny corners on a nearly empty tank, knocking on doors, sitting on porches, engaging in conversations with the young and old, listening intently and eventually returning with goods for the needy.
“I don’t have anything to offer in and of myself. What I do is bridge the gap between organizations and those who need. I do my due diligence. I drive around the community in the hardest hit areas and go to where people hang out, where people connect. Some days, I get cussed out too,” said Shyan matter-of-factly.
So who is Shyan Chipman?
He is a man with a big heart, who is particularly concerned with the people over the hill, with emphasis on Centreville, Bain and Grants Town, St. Barnabas (the Grove) and Englerston areas. What’s most interesting is that Shyan is working within the community while on crutches. The 6’4″ Shyan has spinal decompression. Since late 2015, he has been on crutches and has taught himself to drive again.
“Every Friday, I used to hang out at Via Café. I wouldn’t be drinking, but I would walk like I had drank the whole bottle. There were eight months of x-rays and MRIs, but it was in Cuba that the condition was diagnosed,” he stated.
The 47-year-old went on to explain the genesis of the problem. He once designed and built costumes for Roots Junkanoo group. At one point, he became a grand marshal and was responsible for ensuring costumes got from the shacks onto Bay Street and then off Bay Street at the end of the parade.
“There might be 30 marshals on Bay Street, but when it was time to move them after the parade, there would be like three,” he revealed.
Nevertheless, Shyan’s condition doesn’t stop him from reaching out and helping others.
“For example, Graycliff was giving out food, so I found out who I needed to talk with. I went house to house and wanted to get some of that good Graycliff pasta to some of the seniors in Centreville and Bain Town. It’s about understanding the community,” said the community builder.
There was a time in Shyan’s life however, when he had a different mindset. He is actually the former leader of a small gang, the Clawers, which was a faction of the Syndicates.
“I had a lot of influence on the streets, but eventually got in trouble,” he said.
Shyan spent 11 months in prison, but by the time he was released, his outlook had changed.
“It was the breaking point for me. I saw a lot of young brothers suffering from my area. What should have been my worst experience turned out to be my greatest blessing. What was my setback in life, was a setup for my great comeback,” he exclaimed.
Today, Shyan is affiliated with some eight community organizations, including the Southern Centreville National Neighbourhood Watch Association, United Against Crime and People Empowering People (PEP). His main thrust though is as President of the Core Project. It is the organization he formed and considers the “heartbeat” of all the other projects he is involved with. He describes it as a “second chance” program where he pairs teen girls and boys with older, responsible women and men within the community who serve as mentors.
In fact, when we spoke, he said he was going through Peter Street later that day; he was going to encourage the community and lend a hand where he could, following an overnight shooting of five men.
“I could either hang with friends on walls or in bar rooms, but I make time for who and what is important. Seeing a lot of young brothers who turn to the streets, I’d rather help my community than destroy it,” said the community activist.
Shyan truly has a huge heart for helping those in need, particularly those in the community so dear to him. His navel string is buried over the hill and he has a love for the people there. In fact, the family’s homestead is through Lifebuoy Street, which was renamed John Chipman Street, in honour of his late father, back in 2014. The son of deceased cultural icon, John “Chippie” Chipman, Shyan and many of his 27 other siblings, have inherited a passion for entertainment. Chippie was a master drummer and has made contributions to Junkanoo, our national festival. He taught his children and grandchildren the magic behind the reverberation of his drum’s beats.
“The entertainment industry is in my blood. I was always beating drums for local bands or with my dad’s rake n’ scrape band. My dad would even make us dress up in those old costumes, and we had to participate in Junkanoo,” he recalled.
Back in the 1990s, Shyan’s endearing personality, good looks, height and beefed chest had him strutting the local runway and even entering a male modeling contest or two. In 1997 he was crowned Mister Bahamas. He went on to represent The Bahamas internationally, winning Mister Intercontinental 1998, besting men from 70 other countries.
Those days are behind Shyan now. The father of one is no longer focused on himself. His thrust is about the people around him who are in need. And crutches won’t stop him either.
“To help in the community, it feels so good. I will keep making strides and keep connecting people. It’s the warmest feeling,” he said.