Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

SFU grad combats racism, begins political career while completing BA

June 23, 2021
Trystan Jones left his life in Fort St. John at 17 to become an actor, he eventually decided to pursue a political science major and ultimately earn his BA.

Anti-racism activist. Politician. And now, SFU graduate.

Trystan Jones left his life in Fort St. John behind at 17 for new opportunities in the Lower Mainland. Although he originally moved to the “big city” to become an actor, and only began studying political science in case things didn’t work out, he eventually decided to pursue a political science major and ultimately earn his BA.

In November 2020, Jones demonstrated his skills as an anti-racism activist, as he spoke at the TEDXSFU 10-year anniversary conference. He cites giving his talk, “A Rural Reality: A Conversation on Race in Rural Canada,” as his proudest accomplishment during his time at SFU.

“It was truly the culmination of all of my hard work and studies at SFU; everything came to fruition,” he says. “I did not have the easiest road to graduation, and being able to speak on an issue that I am truly passionate about was like something out of a dream.”

Jones also appreciates the critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as the knowledge he acquired in his political science classes.

When asked about his favourite instructors and courses, Jones recalled how engaging Professor Aaron Hoffman’s courses on terrorism and American foreign policy were, and how much he learned from Professor Steven Weldon’s methods of teaching statistics. Outside of political science, Jones appreciated English Professor J.D. Fleming’s passion for teaching fiction.

“I will never read classics like The Sun Also Rises the same way again,” he says.

However, the person who impacted Jones the most during his time at SFU was his late friend Ahmed, whom he called “AK.”

“I didn’t know AK long, but we were brothers,” he says. “University taught me a lot of things; how to value those around you and not take anything for granted. AK was an unfortunate victim of the overdose crisis, and his death left a mark upon me I will never shake. I have a vision and a path now, and I will always remember my dear friend who won’t be able to see me take on the next chapter of my life story.”

In the months leading up to his graduation, Jones has continued his anti-racism activism. He has returned to his hometown to help lead and organize anti-racism protests and BLM solidarity marches. In April, he presented to the Fort St. John City Council on the REDress Project, where he asked them to proclaim May 5th as the National Day of Remembrance for the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirit People, which they did without debate.

Earlier in 2021, Jones entered the political arena, running for the Fort St. John city council in a hard-fought race where he gathered a team of 10 volunteers and ran a coordinated campaign on social issues like anti-racism, domestic and sexual violence, and increasing voter turnout. Though he lost in the election, Jones plans on using that experience to cultivate further success.

 “We did a lot of good things, and we raised a lot of awareness about important issues in our community,” says Jones. “We built a solid foundation to build off of and grow, and I can’t wait to do it all over again.”

This summer, Jones hopes to attend the Institute for Future Legislators at UBC while he plans his future. He has also been working at St Paul’s Hospital since the beginning of the pandemic, and intends to continue that work, albeit in a reduced capacity.

“This year has taught me that we always need to be working, taking advantage of whatever sliver of momentum comes our way,” he says. “It’s important to jump at opportunities as they come because they will only serve to further our growth.”

In the lead-up to our virtual June Convocation 2021 (June 24-29) we'll be sharing stories from across our eight faculties about some of our amazing graduands. You can read more stories here. Be sure to share your convocation celebrations with the hashtag #MySFUGrad.