Professor Jian Jones and mindful hip-hop

As the “Mindful Hip-Hop scholar,” FAMU’s Jian Jones embodies hip-hop identity in the classroom. Photo courtesy: Jones

Jian Jones’ lifestyle is far from relaxed, but she manages to find a balance between motherhood, teaching and managing her brand, the mindful hip-hop scholar.

By trade, she is a certified occupational therapist and a professor of occupational therapy in Florida A&M University’s School of Allied Health Sciences, but she is also a life coach, certified exercise physiologist and mother of three.

Jones spent her childhood between Tallahassee and Pelham, Ga., located right across the state line. Her mother was a music teacher at FAMU for 35 years which exposed her to people from different walks of life and experiences.

Jones was raised in a big family, sometimes at her aunt and uncle’s houses because of their close-knit relationship. Her childhood was filled with lots of love and adventure.

“The family values we have, my interactions with family and friends, and having an awesome mom is what I would say made my childhood a great one,” Jones said.

Jones began her college career at Florida Atlantic University on a track scholarship. She started on the physical therapy track but changed routes upon applying to FAMU’s physical therapy graduate program. A research project on the range of allied health disciplines changed Jones’ career interest.

“I had never heard of occupational therapy. I did that research project and I wanted to change my graduate route so that’s what I did,” Jones said.

Although Jones was not expecting to become a professor, she was inspired by the compassion and grit her mom showed to her students. One of her professors needed assistance with co-teaching a class and offered Jones the position.

“I originally came in to assist my professor and I didn’t expect to like teaching, but I really like teaching,” Jones said.

Derrick Standifer, an academic coordinator, says that Jones’ work ethic speaks for itself.

“She’s the only person that was medically diagnosed for working too hard,” Standifer said. “Her work ethic is second to none.”

Jones is also a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Education. Her dissertation will be defending her cultural perspective of the mindful embodiment of hip-hop and the empowerment it gives Black students.

“Because she is a student herself, she has compassion for her [own] students,” Standifer added. “She ensures that the students are prepared for career entry and that they represent FAMU’s OT department with excellence.”

During a troubling period in her life, Jones decided she wanted to become more grounded within herself. Because she was an athlete, exercise and yoga came natural to her, but she was not knowledgeable about the practice. Reading books on mindfulness and taking certification classes in yoga helped her discover a new passion.

“As I am meditating, a song pops up in my head and I was like, ‘This is helping me focus more,’” Jones said. “And they were always songs situated in the hip-hop feel, smooth hip-hop.”

Jones knew this was a life-changing practice that could help others as it has helped her. She calls herself the “mindful hip-hop” scholar because she was determined to make this newfound lifestyle part of her life’s work. Incorporating hip-hop, mindfulness and occupational therapy, she could reach students in a different medium from traditional teaching practices.

“Hip-hop can be an aspect of mindfulness culture,” Jones said. “If you embed it in your practice, you can use it to help you stay present in the moment without judgment.”

Maurice Johnson, professor of hip hop and mass communication at Florida State University, says that Jones has a great understanding of hip-hop’s cultural effect on society, which includes lending a female perspective.

“Black women have had a tremendous impact on society as a whole and hip hop specifically,” Johnson said. “So, I invited her to be a guest lecturer in my hip-hop and global mass communication course.”

Jones was one of the few professors selected by Honeypot and Target to host and speak at a fireside chat during Black History Month at selected HBCU campuses. She moderated a masterclass series on shame and vulnerability where young Black students and faculty shared their thoughts on what it feels like to be Black and vulnerable.

Johnson says Jones has a great understanding of hip-hop’s cultural effect on society.

“One thing that hip-hop cultural educators recognize is ‘hip-hop is a lived experience,’” Johnson added. “Hip-hop is about being present and Jian represents an opportunity for the culture to move forward academically.”

Through all her personal endeavors, one of her greatest assets is being a mother of three. Jones says multitasking and combining activities helps make her work-life balance less complicated.

“If I am working on schoolwork, I have my boys do their homework with me or read to me while I’m reading,” Jones said.

Jones’ advice to other women hoping to merge all of their interests is to just do it. Any negative thought is still a thought to push forward and always remember to be mindful, she said.

“The present moment is the most precious gift that we can have because it helps to establish what the next moment will be,” Jones said.