Episode 8 – Curating a Global Jamaican Voice with Sharine Taylor


The Digital Jamaica Podcast with Sharine Taylor

There is a noticeable skew to Sharine’s writing. For the most part her subject matter is intensely focused on Jamaica and Jamaicans. This is not by accident but rather her efforts to change what is often a very myopic unnuanced view of Jamaica and Jamaicans. The bigger goal being to curate a global Jamaican voice by making those stories the centre-piece of her work. 

If you’ve been following the blog you would’ve already been introduced to Sharine back in March. She was one of our People to Watch in Digital Media Nominees for her work with Bashy Magazine and her international advocacy for Jamaican culture. For the podcast we go in depth with Sharine  about Bashy Magazine,  her approach to telling Jamaican stories as a Jamaican in the Diaspora and reshaping the global Jamaican narrative.

Sharine is a Jamaican-Canadian writer, publisher and editor. She is the founder of Bashy Magazine a digital and print publication specifically about Jamaican culture and lifestyle. Though born and raised in Canada still strongly identifies with Jamaican culture.  This is why she is on a mission to change how that culture is talked about and the concomitant perceptions arising from that.

She’s very careful however not to exclude other Jamaican voices from that movement. After all it’s our collective lived experiences that drives this movement. Her approach is inclusive, ensuring that ALL Jamaicans wherever and whoever they are is heard.

“I believe that a part of my position is stepping back and stepping down and shutting up when I need to because a part of making space for talking about the Jamaican experiences whether in the Diaspora or on the island, particularly when it’s on the island or talking about island experiences that my voice is not overpowering anyone or speaking on behalf of anyone unless somebody says you can tell my story. “

That’s important because all too often when these stories are being told by non-Jamaicans and even Jamaicans in the Diaspora there’s this tendency not to include locals. But as Conservative African Americans love to say WE ARE NOT A MONOLITH. No single story can define what it means to be Jamaican. We are as diverse as we are colourful and with varying interests and experiences.

Our collective individualness

Sharine’s writing reflects her understanding of what I call our collective indivdualness as Jamaicans. Even with her own publication, Bashy Magazine there are editors from Canada, America, Jamaica and the UK. Each contributing to the bigger picture.

In making Bashy I am able to just sit back and allow people to tell their own stories in their own way from wherever they are located, from wherever their social or cultural identities are and its a great way to curate a global Jamaican voice that has voices from all over the place but especially from the island which I believe is important.

Barriers to entry

Jamaicans are everywhere, on every continent, in everything, representing and infusing the culture with those external experiences. Hell, we are known for our strong patriotism  extreme cultural pride. The saying goes there’s no Jamaican more Jamaican than a Jamaican not in Jamaica. We are often the loudest, proudest (definitely the most colourful) and most instantly recognized group anywhere.

There are more Jamaicans in the diaspora than in Jamaica itself so there are lots of stories to be told.  The problematic bit is who gets to tell them and where they are told. In this respect there are serious barriers to entry, one being us not having our own platforms. The other is that Jamaicans are not often allowed the space to tell our own stories especially on major international platforms.

So the fact that Sharine’s work has been able to penetrate and make it onto mega platforms such as ComplexThe FaderBustleBuzzfeed, and Vice is a win for the culture.

What is so impressive about her op-eds is how unapologetic they are. She is not trying to apologize or explain Jamaicanness. Avoiding the stereotypes, vague generalizations, watering down or  non context that often dogs the conversation. Instead there is a detectable reverence and respect for the truth of it.

This is the same energy she brings to her own publication Bashy Magazine. In fact Bashy is at the forefront of this movement to frame Jamaica and Jamaican culture in a more nuanced context.

I think that part of what allows people to gravitate towards it [Bashy Magazine] is because  it complicates the identity and expands the explanation or definition of what being a Jamaican is, it gives nuance to those things.

Embracing the Jamaican language

My biggest pet peeve is how the Jamaican language is used, perceived and reflected by some misguided frighten Jamaicans but particularly non Jamaians. It’s become a parody, a cute quirk a ‘kool’ accent for some. Something to be used as an expresison of anger or for comedic purposed but never really given the respect any other legitimate langauge is given.

Even how it is used in Jamaica is problematic. Believe it or not it isn’t even our official language. We have elected officials in our Parliament using the language to shit talk each other but never in serious discourse. It is not taught in our schools, apparently our Ministry of Education is allergic reaction to the very idea of teaching Jamaican children in their own mother tongue. But how can we, with a straight face call ourselves Jamaican yet not embrace the language that gives effect to that description?

“I believe that there’s no way to embrace aspects of our culture without embracing patois. The living breathing entity that it is … The more we try to push out things that make us uniquely what we are, the less of who we are we become. We become these hybrid things. When I think about language I see it not only as a means to communicate but a historical artifact, a cultural artifact … Everybody in Jamaica speaks it. So if I was allowed to give my opinion on it i’d say absolutely we should be mobilizing to make it the standard.

Archiving the culture

The world has gone (and will continue to go) the way of digital. Recognizing the importance of preservation, Sharine is positioning Bashy Magazine as a digital cultural archive.  Because it’s one thing to create our own space to talk about us. The bigger picture however is creating cultural reference and anchor points for future generations to build on. We should want our own voices, our own stories, our own perspectives remembered, not just what was said about us. 

A lot of the times people that are not from the island, come to the island and they take. Sometimes subconsciously sometimes consciously. When I say take, I mean they take photos, they write about a particular experience and then they go back to wherever they go back to and their subjects become just that, subjects. I started off this publication with the sole intention of just having Jamaica be spoken about with the same amount of respect we give anywhere else and more importantly have those  archived.

And nuff more

I love what Sharine and Bashy Magazine is doing for the culture. I love how fully and openly they have embraced and advocated for it. I love how intentionally unapologtically Jamaican it is. I love how Sharine is trying through wer work to reframe the narrative. I love the fact that her work is spotlighting Jamaica and Jamaican culture in the most positive beautiful way. I especially love that it’s from us, for us, by us.

A whole heap more tings we chat bout in this episode of the Digital Jamaiaca Podcast. So press play for more of this insightful indepth conversation with Sarine Taylor a modern day Jamaican folk hero.

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