Born and raised in Jamaica, Dyon Davidson came to the United States at the age of 12. As a child, she didn’t understand her peers’ accents and they didn’t understand hers. “They were like you talking too fast, and I was like you talking too fast,” recounts Dyon.
What she did understand was arts, crafts, and creating for her community. She learned this from sitting at her Grandfather’s feet as he made and repaired shoes for the community. “My childhood was filled with crafts, growing up that was my thing, when kids would be outside playing.” She grew up on Baltimore’s east side and used crafts as a way of easing her way into a new country, “ my mom was a seamstress, my aunt was a teacher, so I would just gravitate towards that stuff.” Her aunt would give her leftover paper, her mom would provide fabric and from that, Dyon would create poems with fabric borders.
In her adult life, Dyon traded in crafts for her career. She taught elementary school in Baltimore City, a job she loved. As she taught children to read and write, she never thought her favorite childhood pastime would become her life’s purpose, but tragedy struck. “Just a regular Sunday, she’s cooking, feeling good, had a headache, and passed out and had to be rushed to the hospital,” Dyon emotionally described the day she found out her mother had a brain aneurysm. “She was in the hospital from May to September.”
Dyon’s mother had to learn how to walk, talk, dress, eat all over again at around the age of 51. “Imagine being middle-aged and having to learn your life all over again.” The doctor administering care to Dyon’s mother, suggested their family continue therapy with her mom, a suggestion that shocked Dyon, “I’m looking at him like this is not our field.” However, the love for a mother was stronger than the fear of getting something wrong. “I figured if I could teach kids how to write in 1st grade and they’re just starting, then I can teach my mom how to write again,” Dyon said.
Reverting back to what she knew as a child, she went to Walmart to find crafts, but instead, she found a jewelry-making book, “The jewelry book caught my eye, but my cheap self was like, I’m not paying $30 for no book, and I don’t even know what I’m doing, ” Dyon joked.
She looked at the directions, bought some material, and started to practice. Her first bracelet fell apart. Knowing she had to do something to help her mom regain fine motor skills, she could not give up, so she practiced, got the hang of it, and started to work with her mom.
Dyon, her mom, and her niece would begin to make jewelry on the weekends. The therapy allowed her mom to get in the habit of rebuilding her fine motor skills. “ You could see the confidence come back in her” In one year, Dyon watched her mother go from rudimentary skill to arriving at her house on a Saturday afternoon and her mom saying, “Look, I made a pair of earrings!”
“That’s where it all started,” Dyon exclaimed with pride, “something bad happened, a brain aneurysm, she needed three surgeries, I taught myself how, taught her how, to the point where everyone was asking us to make them things- and of course they weren’t paying us!”
Dyon felt herself on a high, but tragedy would strike again. In 2008, Dyon found herself laid off. Her pastor suggested she sell her jewelry to sustain.
Before she left the school system, a colleague found out she made jewelry and approached her about making jewelry for the gifted and talented program. They proceeded to create clubs that had boys and girls. The kids advertised a sale and parents, students, and teachers all came to buy. Everything the kids made was sold. This experience planted the seed for Beadly Speaking, so Dyon went forth teaching kids how to make jewelry. For years, Dyon did Jewelry making without getting paid, at times, borrowing money for gas.
When Dyon was close to throwing in the towel, she found encouragement in the success of one of her students. While volunteering, a young lady in the Boys and Girls Club in Park Heights made a pair of earrings she entered into a 4 H contest, and she won, “ I was like, Oh, I might be onto something here. If I can teach her and she can get that far ahead this might be good for every kid, and not just this group of kids.”
After being denied several grants, Dyon was leary about applying for funds from BCYF. Although several people had suggested the new fund to her, she would respond, “They’re not going to fund me.” The day BCYF grant applications were due, Dyon submitted her application only two minutes before the deadline. Her experiences of several failed grant attempts led her to believe that she had no chance at being funded. BCYF thought otherwise.
She was funded for the first time and everything looked golden, until Covid interrupted everything. Apprehensive about moving to virtual programming, Dyon had no other choice. She found it to be a challenge, kids not wanting to be on camera, breaking through shyness on zoom, but a defining moment changed the tides. Kids asked for advanced classes and as they were making wire spirals, a student who almost never spoke in class came off of mute and said, “Ms. Dyon, I have an easier way to do that” and she proceeded to teach the class. Dyon felt pride like never before, “ I felt like everything I had done came full circle, the goal of the program is to build confidence in our youth.”
Remembering the joy she felt when her mom showed off a white-laced valentine’s day card, Dyon brings that same joy to kids in Baltimore, “She showed that thing to everyone in the community like it was Van Gogh or something.”
Now with full confidence, Dyon is using Beadly Speaking to teach kids to be their authentic creative selves, while picking up skills that allow them to make smiles and money, “I’m always hyping the kids up to the point where it feels like I’m getting on their nerves, and that’s alright, you need a hype man and hype woman, and I’m going to be that for you!”
Calling on the remembrance of her ancestral legacy, Dyon made it clear that her ancestors and elders have made this all possible, “It made me feel amazing to know I can instill something in kids in Baltimore city, that my grandfather instilled in me, without even knowing it, I just sat and watched him.”