Identity, Life, Interviews

Meet the Canadian-born Jamaican woman unapologetically bringing the Caribbean diaspora into the larger conversation

My body is scripted as someone who doesn't belong - so if I say I'm Jamaican, it's easier for white Canadians to accept it.

Sharine Taylor is a Canada-born Jamaican writer and creative. She has featured pieces on Gal Dem Zine, Noisey, VICE, LargeUp, and more. Her work focuses on Jamaica, Jamaican identity, and representations of the Caribbean diaspora. She spoke with The Tempest about her latest project, an exhibition entitled Home, and about how she was able to develop her voice.

The Tempest: Can you tell us a bit about your professional background and how you got started with your career?

Sharine Taylor: I applied to the University of Toronto and got accepted into the driest program on the entire face of the Earth. It was Classical Studies and I thought it was something I wanted to do. After I got suspended from the university for a year due to poor grades, I needed to figure out what I was good at. Around the time I returned to school, I started doing music journalism informally. I was resentful of my school but I also discovered how much I loved writing.

There aren't many Caribbean voices to counter the mainstream media. Click To Tweet

So, I started writing for our newspaper.

I planned to write a piece about how my university was super cliquey, even though we promote diversity. I didn’t care about who would receive it well. But then I got great reception. That’s when I started to take writing seriously. I was a contributor for a year, then the Arts and Life editor, and then the Editor-in-Chief.

Once I was EIC, I decided that writing was what I wanted to pursue.

Did you originally set out with the mindset of creating content “for Jamaican women, by Jamaican women”?

Timing had to do with everything. When I became Editor in Chief, it was when “More Life” by Drake came out and everybody was calling it a dancehall album. And I was like, no, it’s not.

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There aren’t many Caribbean voices or diasporic Caribbean voices to counter the mainstream media, so I wanted to write in a way that would interrupt these conversations. For Noisey, I talked about giving dancehall artists the respect they deserve and a lot of folks messaged me. Those words from other women were so empowering to me and I thought, this is the work I want to do. I made it my sole purpose. I specifically write for Afro-Caribbean women. If anybody else wants to come on the journey after that, that’s cool, but I’m specifically writing for that audience.

You recently had your first solo exhibition. Can you tell us a bit about the project and its development?

In 2016, I went to Jamaica and I realized I didn’t bring a journal with me. I was pissed at myself so I used VSCO Cam to document my trip. When I came home, I took a course with a professor who encouraged media students to be more interactive. So using the pictures I’d taken, I thought about what meant to be a citizen and to foster belonging between and beyond borders. It’s easy for me to say that I’m from Jamaica here [in Toronto] and nobody questions it.

My body is scripted as someone who doesn’t belong – so if I say I’m Jamaican, it’s easier for white Canadians to accept it.

But when I go to Jamaica, as much as I ride for Jamaica, I could never say, “I’m Jamaican.” They’d be like, “Umm where?”

It’s weird to feel like you belong to one space, that you haven’t been able to experience as much as you’d like to, while simultaneously being pushed out of the space you’ve experienced the most.

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Do you think learning about the diaspora at the university level has helped or harmed your current writing?

For me, academia worked. It was my saving grace. I took a History of Media course and one day the entire class was on Jamaica sound system. I didn’t realize there was room for us to have these discussions. At the end of that class, I wrote an essay about Jamaica and from there, it did not stop. In every class I enrolled in, I did my projects on Jamaica.

It's weird to feel like you belong to one space, that you haven't experienced as much. Click To Tweet

Eventually, I got the opportunity to attend a global reggae conference which was life-changing. I’d never been in an academic space where there were only Black people. Academia has helped me write about the diaspora and my position within the diaspora.

Finally, who are some of your favorite Jamaican/Caribbean writers and creators who currently inspire you?

My ultimate fave is filmmaker Cecile Emeke. Some other favorites are the cast and crew from Losing Patience, and the folks at Chattabox. I also have a friend named 300, a video director in Jamaica. Then, of course, there are the diaspora folks up here, like Sajae who’s my ultimate fave.

This piece has been edited for length and clarity. Check out and follow Sharine over on Twitter and Tumblr

Shanicka Anderson

Shanicka Anderson is from New York and is a writer and junior Pop Culture editor for The Tempest. Often and without prompting, she enjoys talking pop culture, Harry Styles, her year abroad in London, and the complexities of the Caribbean diaspora.

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