Sharine Taylor – An Afro-Jamaican Writer on a Mission

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BY: KABRENA ROBINSON 

Sharine Taylor possesses a reputable line of work that precedes her. As a Toronto-based writer mostly covering issues relating to Jamaican culture and the diaspora here in Canada, Taylor has contributed to a community of writers who aim to authentically present Jamaican culture and society in mainstream journalism.

With an insightful, critical and highly opinionated approach, many of her pieces range from topics relating to music, pop culture and the Caribbean society with a specific focus on her Jamaican culture where she bears much insight due to her heritage.

Taylor was born in Canada to Jamaican parents. Her mother hailing from rural Trelawny and her father a St. Andrew native. According to Taylor, her Jamaican background has always been a major part of her identity keeping her aware of basic Jamaican culture and lifestyle. However, it was up until a few years ago after enrolling in the media studies program at the University of Toronto-Scarborough, that she discovered an opportunity to incorporate her background into her journalistic work, creating a specialized beat that would later become her passion. She found the need for a more authentic and culturally grounded representation of Jamaica and other Caribbean products in mainstream media and she made it her top priority.

“It all started a few years ago around 2015, right after Justin Bieber released Sorry,” she said in an interview. “I think that’s where the discourse surrounding dancehall situated in pop culture began and I was really upset by what I saw because the discourse that I saw was attributing the revival of dancehall to Justin Bieber and in my mind it had never died but it wasn’t until the following year of June 2016 where I was finally able to articulate a lot of what I was feeling in an essay I did for Noisey and I didn’t really stop.”

Since then, she has produced a wide plethora of work aimed at addressing misrepresentation of Caribbean products in the media. One of her latest pieces positions the “globalization” of Caribbean carnivals into perspective by highlighting the history of carnival in the Caribbean and the issue surrounding cultural products appropriated for public consumption by western countries and artists.

Another one of her major projects currently under construction is Bashy Magazine, an independent publication “for and by Jamaica and its diaspora”. Taylor expressed that the idea for Bashy Magazine was cultivated on the need to create a space for Jamaicans within the diaspora and at home to see their identity and culture represented in a manner that benefits and uplifts them.

“I wanted there to be a place for people like myself who felt similarly about not having one central place to talk about Jamaica and Jamaican cultural products and give it the same dignity and attention to detail and aesthetic practices as my favourite publications were able to do,” she said.

“I want to be able to do all the wonderful things that I see others do for their publications for Bashy and even for Jamaica. When I use to read popular articles I didn’t see anyone talk about Spice or Lady Saw maybe a one-two Sister Nancy mentions but I can confidently say now that like if I were in high school now reading blogs, I would see myself represented and I just want to be apart of that in print.”

Taylor also added that as an Afro-Jamaican writer based in Toronto specializing in a Jamaican focused beat, there are a number of obstacles existent in a media landscape that lacks much-needed diversity. Due to this, she often finds that in an effort to expand the necessary conversation around Jamaican products in mainstream media, her geography plays a huge part in informing her decision making and how she chooses to present certain topics.

“I have to figure out ways to make my blackness universal when I pitch to outlets in the states, so what that looks like in my writing is situating Jamaica in a global context always so I don’t really get to localize things I would want to,” she said.

Her hope is that with a publication like Bashy, there will be a space for Jamaicans to express themselves in a space specifically designed for them without having to alter their narratives for a more mainstream consumption.

As a long-term goal, Taylor expressed that she has her heights set on forming a discussion around dancehall in academia. She added that there is a unique and deep history embedded in the roots of dancehall that is often ignored by outsiders relegating dancehall to becoming “demonized” and misunderstood. Taylor says that she hopes to be apart of the shift that aims to situate dancehall music and its culture in a similar space as other top genres.

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