TheBlackManCan: Senator Rabain, at what point in your life did you realize you wanted to head into politics?
DVSR: I honestly view politics as a natural extension of one’s devotion to community service. I graduated from FAMU in 1995 and upon my return to the island, immediately became involved in community service. I volunteered for the Bermuda Reserve Police Force and did mentoring at various community clubs. While I always wanted to pursue politics, I felt that I personally needed to prepare myself first and “earn the right” to represent my peers. Through the subsequent years, I always maintained a presence in various volunteer events up to my initiation into Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in March 2002. From there, I can say I became much more involved in community service and began to seek and achieve position on various Government Boards. I only sought out boards that I felt I could make a meaningful impact in the lives of our young people, however. These were boards that dealt mostly in education, training and social awareness. Through the years, I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to mentor many young men and women and provide guidance when it came to education, life and personal choices. Through boards such as Bermuda Education Board, Bermuda Government Scholarship Board, the Road Safety Council, The Architectural Advisory Council and CURE (Commission for Unity and Racial Equality) I was able to fulfil my personal mandate. Currently in addition to sitting in the Senate as the Junior Minister of Education and Youth, Families and Sport I am still a member of the National Training Board and the Board of Governors for the Bermuda College. I mentioned previously, I always wanted to pursue politics in some fashion and view it as a means to make a positive impact on those who feel that the political process doesn’t involve of matter to them.
TheBlackManCan: What do you feel has been some of your major accomplishments since taking office?
DVSR: As a Senator, our job is the support the various ministries we are responsible for in the Senate Chambers. Since I was appointed to the Senate by The Honourable Madam Premier Paula Cox, JP, MP, I have learned very quickly the various ins and outs of passing legislation and performing official duties on behalf of my various Ministries. The Senate is somewhat of a grooming ground for those of us who are planning to run for a seat in Parliament. I am the candidate for my political party, the Progressive Labour Party, in constituency #7, Hamilton South. To date, I would consider my greatest accomplishment is making onto the ticket and getting out to canvass and meet the people of #7. I say meet, but really should say re-acquaint myself as I grew up in this area I am running. When I go out canvassing, it a proud moment to hear the constituents reminding me that they know my family and me as a young boy running around the neighbourhood. There are not that many greater callings then that of being called to serve the people of your community.
TheBlackManCan: You attended Florida A&M a historically black university. What role did the school play in your development to the man you are today?
DVSR: FAMU played a huge part in moulding me into the man I am today. When I stepped on the Campus in 1989 at the tender age of 17, I had no idea what I was in for. I attended a private Grammar School in Bermuda. This school was majority white and male only. Being on FAMU’s campus gave me sense of pride I didn’t even know was missing. To be around so many progressive and positive black men and women was an eye-opener. It helped boost my confidence level and had me thinking, I can! I went on to pursue a degree in Electronic Engineering Technology, became president of the school chapter of IEEE and was even awarded Engineer of the Year one year. I was promoted to a lab assistant and could be found in the computer lab assisting other students or tutoring freshman. I consider my experiences at FAMU priceless and a very formidable part of my life.
TheBlackManCan: You are currently a partner in small Bermudian architectural drafting and land surveying company. What is the name of this company and what projects have you worked on?
DVSR: In 1999 me and my partner, Troy Lewis, came up with the idea to form a company. We both worked for the Bermuda Government at the time so it was more of a part-time thing. In 2000, another Government worker, Ms. Quinell Francis who was a registered Land Surveying, the first black female Bermudian to achieve this honour, joined us in out “part-time venture” and we added the Land Surveying part. In 2002, the Bermuda Government commenced the construction of the 2nd Senior Secondary School, a project valued at $121 Million. Our small, 3 man firm bid on and won the contract to supply all the Land Surveying services for this project. We all resigned from the Civil Service and have been going at it ever since. The building of the Berkeley Institute High School remains our largest project to date.
TheBlackManCan: Your company accepts high school seniors from both public and private schools for work release training. Why is it important to have the youth getting practical work experience at a young age?
DVSR: It is important for us to take on and mentor young people, focusing on young men mainly, because they need to be shown that there are people that care very much about their success. We have been able to use our company to accept young men, perhaps a bit rough around the edges and maybe a high school degree and help them to see things in a different light. We are proud of the students and young people that have come, worked with us and gone on to do positive things in their lives. We don’t focus that much on the experience part, especially with high schoolers, but more or less want to build a sense of pride and confidence that anything is achievable with effort.
TheBlackManCan: You have served on numerous boards one that is called C.U.R.E. (Commission for Unity and Race Equality). What the mission and vision of this board?
DVSR: Unfortunately, I was appointed to CURE during its last 6 months of operation before it was attached to the Human Rights Commission and formally dissolved as a Board. Because of the winding up, we really didn’t get to of much apart from the winding down part. The purpose of CURE was to provide an entity that provided Bermuda with a means to discuss the role of Race, Ethnicity and the Inequalities and their effects on our everyday thought processes. The longest serving Board I have been on is the National Training Board. This board is responsible for developing training, schooling and apprenticeship programs for young people graduating from high school and looking to pursue a career in Technical areas. We provide scholarships to various technical Schools overseas, work with local industry partners to develop National Certifications, develop training programs with the Bermuda College and Industry partners to facilitates young Bermudians gaining schooling and work experiences and more recently as part of the Bermuda Government’s 1 Stop Job Centre, we have taken on a new role. That role is encouraging Bermudians to register for employment, coming up with methods to evaluate their skillsets and identify areas of competence and areas in need of improvement, matching them with potential employers and monitoring the various work permits issued to non-Bermudians and developing programs to ensure the Bermudians are trained in those fields to eventually be able to fill those positions once a work permit expires.
TheBlackManCan: What are some of major differences between the United States political system and the Bermudian political system?
DVSR: I would have to say the main difference in US politics and Bermuda Politics is that politics is essentially a part-time position unless you are a Minister with a Ministry to run. It requires much more desire to be involved because it is essentially a 2nd job. I enjoy it a lot because I know in my heart I am making a difference and encouraging other young men to get involved and become a factor in our country’s future. Another big difference is the separation of personal life and political life. Far too often, we watch the US News and have to see someone’s very personal details being reported on. Here, your job performance is what matters most, with less emphasis being put on your life outside of politics.
TheBlackManCan: How do you balance family life and work life? How has being a father impacted the way you view the world?
DVSR: The balancing act has become more and more difficult as my responsibilities outside the home have increased. My wife will always tell me, remember that you must save time for you and it’s ok to say no to a request. I always try to be home to see my daughter to bed no matter what. Once she is sleep I am free to do my work, relax and discuss the day or even catch a nap. I tend to wake up and do my reviews, debate preparation, etc. some hour in the morning when it’s quiet and wife and daughter are asleep. I have to keep a calendar and really that is what saves me. As long as it’s in my calendar, I can manage! So every little thing goes in the Blackberry from feeding Layla in the morning to making a phone call in the afternoon. My greatest joy is my daughter Layla, who provides me with all the inspiration I to go out and do my best. After all, I now have a more personal attachment to ensuring my country is on the right path.
TheBlackManCan: Where do you see yourself in the next 5-7 years?
DVSR: Within the next year I see myself elected to Parliament. Within the next 5 years, I see myself as a Minister for the Bermuda Government hopefully in my preferred department, anything to do with advancing the plight our young people and helping them with their life issues. Beyond the next 5 years, I see my political career blossoming even further and me being re-elected to Parliament and continuing the good works I will have started in my first terms as a Parliamentarian.
TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for young black boys and men to see positive images of themselves?
DVSR: It is very important to see these images because it helps to inspire them to want to achieve. I am not saying that a positive mentor has to be a black man only by no means. However, part of the battle is to win over their confidence and trust. When they view someone they can relate to on a very basic social level, helps to break through some of the barriers that do exist when talking to these young men. When you see someone you can relate to at this basic level, it serves to boost their confidence level to a point where they feel that if he can do it, just maybe I can too.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for young black boys?
DVSR: One of the things I always make sure to pass on, it that it is important to maintain as much control of your success as you can. Do not rely on others to do the heavy lifting for you. Always strive to make the reason you don’t succeed is because of something you could have done differently and that way you can learn from those mistakes much quicker. Also, while we are competing with each other to get ahead, we have to also learn how to support and uplift each other at the same time. There is no honour in stepping on your fellow man in order to achieve success at any means necessary.
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