Get To Know: Sharine Taylor, Editor-in-Chief of BASHY Magazine

In advance of This is Worldtown’s One Year Anniversary Event ARCHV RMX, we chatted with guest panelist Sharine Taylor about the importance of representation from diaspora communities, her love for keeping archives and how she found her voice in digital spaces.

Sharine Taylor is an Afro-Jamaican, Toronto-based digital content creator, artist, writer, editor and academic. She is currently a contributor at Noisey, the Editor-in-Chief of BASHY Magazine and is on the final leg of pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in the humanities.

How did you get started?

I’m a student at University of Toronto and after three million and four program changes, I landed in the media studies program, which was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me. In this particular program, it’s very interdisciplinary. You can bring in your knowledge from virtually any field and curate it so it fits the mold of media studies. And for me, it was sociology (And also my strong sense of arrogant Jamaican pride in virtually every space that I occupy). One of the classes that I took made me realize that I could be visible in an academic setting, where often people of colour, women of colour, Black and Indigenous folks were not visible. Once I realized that media studies was something that I didn’t necessarily have to do in an academic space, everything just took off from there. I started freelancing and doing work through internships at advertising agencies, at VICE and with Noisey. And from there, I used all my collective experiences to create BASHY Magazine.

What inspired you to create BASHY magazine?

When I would see writing about Jamaica, and I’d click on the author, they wouldn’t tend to occupy Jamaican identity and it tended to be written by somebody who had an appreciation or fascination with the culture, maybe even fetishization of the culture. Given all that I had access to living in the Global North and understanding my privilege, and seeing how there’s a real disconnect with access to resources in the global south – I thought to myself, there is no publication that I know of that exists in the Global North that is 100% focused on Jamaica and that also includes the voices of the diaspora. I think that we’re often left out of the conversation and I just wanted to make space for that. With BASHY, I wanted it to be a global conversation and not one that was just restricted to Jamaica, but also one that talked about our identities outside of the island.

Can you speak to the importance of reclaiming narratives about diaspora communities?

A lot of the work that I’ve done, my own personal work as well as the research that I’ve done in school, has largely been focused on citizenship, belonging, home, community and how that’s fostered between and beyond borders. Borders are man made and only exist for capitalist and neo-colonial purposes. A lot of how I felt, and a lot of what home means to me, means existing between these two spaces. The beauty of living in Toronto is that I never feel far from home. In every community that I’ve lived in, both in Toronto or in different cities in the GTA, I’ve never felt very far from Jamaica. There’s always a festival or a concert or a community or a restaurant; there are these small pockets. Those [pockets] draw on the existence of diasporic communities. It’s important for me to think about our identities beyond the geographic space that we occupy and talk about what it means to be Jamaican in Toronto, what it means to be Jamaican in a different location. And also taking a very intersectional approach like asking what it means to be somebody who identifies as queer in Toronto who is also Jamaican? And just speaking about those different identities because that’s ultimately what’s going to shape our experience. I think that those experiences are worth talking about and worth championing in BASHY.

Photo by Peter Sterling, from Over Hills and Valleys, Too

Could you describe how your work involves archival material?

My mother is not a very sentimental person at all. So there are very little memories in my household of myself as a child. Just photographs, no video or anything. That is something that I’ve wanted to change for my own self. So I document virtually everything. Things that don’t need to be documented, I document it. And I save things and I hoard things. So with BASHY, have the print, and as long as those exist, our stories and our narratives will be there. But I really like that we are also online, and the fact that we’re able to house these stories in a print and then make it accessible in digital spaces. We also try to uncover stories that haven’t been told or trying to preserve stories in digital ways. Most recently, we published a story written by our music editor Shanice Wilson, who is a descendant of the Maroons, a group of people in Jamaica who were granted independence before Jamaica as a country was granted independence. Much of the Maroon histories are oral stories. They’re very cautious of who enters this space and when people do enter this space, what people are leaving with from this space. Our access to this space, through Shanice, and being able to digitize the story and make the transition from oral to digital, was something that really meant a lot to me. I thought, in a few years, if BASHY is still up and running, somebody can read this and make it accessible. And based on our comments yesterday and how I saw it move across online, people were saying things like “I have Maroon heritage and I never knew any of these things!” and just thinking somebody across the pond in the UK is reading this and sharing this with his or her family members. I think that is how BASHY has tried to archive moments.

Why is it important to have physical spaces and digital spaces for artists of colour and specifically female artists of colour to share their work?

I know that online spaces can be incredibly violent, especially toward Black, Indigenous and women of colour. Thankfully my experiences online have been good. I very much use my space and my time online to make meaningful connections and I would not have the access to knowledge that I have if it weren’t for being online and accessing these digital spaces, particularly Twitter. I think that those spaces are super important because for me they both give you access to information and they make information accessible. But I also think it helps you confront things that you’re not all that comfortable with. And it makes things visible to you, and challenges the things you already believe. I think it’s important for us to have access to those things. A lot of us are cash poor people, a lot of us are artists who work on the margins. And I think once one learns how to use a digital space to their advantage, then you can change your position. I know that’s been the scenario for me. That’s where I found all my online work. That’s where I’ve connected with the BASHY editors, that’s where everything was formed for me. I often tell the folks: as much as you take up space in your physical settings, do that online as well.

What issues do you hope to change or address through the work that you do?

My priority has always been to allow people to see Jamaica beyond the stereotypical tropes that they see, and the lens through which they understand Jamaica. A lot of times, the Global North dictates how the Global South is perceived. I find it very comforting and I find peace knowing that through BASHY, there’s a bridge to access this publication that is visible, and that there are people in Jamaica who can say, “hey, this is how it really is.” I’ve always tried to be conscious of the ways in which im visible in these digital spaces. And I want to lend that visibility to the things that I create so that people who are a part of it can also create those things. It’s always been about shifting the politics of visibility to folks who can better speak to their experiences and shift how Jamaica is understood in the global imagination – beyond smoking weed and beyond being linked to deviance and criminality – which is often the case in news and broadcast and print media. Those are the aims and I’m hoping that we can maintain those things going forward.

Photo by D.L Samuels, from No Joke Ting: A Discussion on Mental Health in Jamaica by Shanice Douglas

For the people who are moved by your work, what would be the next steps for them to take?

Stepping into the world of independent publishing has been very interesting. It is not cheap. And I understand why people pivot to video or why there are digital publications that exist as opposed to print publications. But I really do love print and I love the feeling of holding something and holding your work. I would advise anybody if they’re interested in supporting this lovely endeavour to consider purchasing a copy. Any issue that is purchased, the money goes right back into paying our contributors and our editors, covering our operational fees and production, shipping costs, all that wonderful stuff. We are being supported on Patreon which is a monthly subscription based service. I’d also encourage folks to go online, read our articles, listen to our playlist, looking at our photo essays, sharing our videos – just engaging with the content.

Detangling the Root: A Photo Series Celebrating Black Hair

By Shawntol Drakes

By now, most of us have seen, or at least heard of the infamous Shea Moisture video and their cringe-worthy follow up apology. The video, which is part of a rebrand for the Black-owned hair care company, features three women (one biracial and two white) talking about their battles with “hair hate” which they claim was combatted by the use of Shea Moisture hair products.

The video was met with much backlash from Black women who felt like they were not represented in the ad despite them being the brand’s largest customer base. The ex brand loyalists, came out in droves online accusing the company of pushing out their core audience in order to appeal to a wider (read, White) audience.

For centuries, Black hair has been a topic of controversy, oppression and pain. There has often been a lack of resources and products catered to Black hair in the mainstream market and for countless Black folks, Shea Moisture products seemed like a miracle sent from the hair gods — products for Afro hair that actually worked and were heavily cosigned in YouTube tutorials by Black women around the globe. Many people feel that Shea Moisture is erasing that history by “selling out” and compromising the quality and integrity of products that were initially created to suit the needs of Black hair in order to attract a White customer base.

The key theme of the video is the idea that “hair hate” is a universal experience. And while this may be true on a surface level, it is unfair to reduce the complexities and turmoil of the Black woman’s hair experience as simply hair hatred. While the white women in the commercial described their hair hate experiences as wishing they were a blonde instead of a redhead or struggles with limp, oily hair, Black women’s “hair hatred” is often rooted in racism, systemic white supremacy and misogyny.

As Black women, our hair hatred looks like wishing we could trade our Blackness for Whiteness in order to have long, straight hair like the girls in magazines.

It’s processing our hair with toxic chemicals every six weeks in order to obtain a look that is acceptable for Eurocentric beauty standards.

It’s being denied jobs because our hair is seen as unprofessional or unkempt.

And it’s unsuccessfully searching for products to use in your curly Afro hair in a market that sells to straight hair by default.


My project, titled “Detangling the Root” is a documentary photo series that chronicles the hair stories of Black women of all hair types, and gives them a platform to reflect on their individual relationships with their hair. In the interviews, I ask Black women to share memories and experiences with their hair, as well as the political implications of their hair choices. Many of the women interviewed spoke candidly about relaxing or perming their hair due to pressures of conforming to white beauty standards, their struggles finding products that worked with their hair textures and the journey to self-love and acceptance. They also spoke of the joy and affirmation they found in brands like Shea Moisture.

If the Shea Moisture debacle teaches us anything, it’s that Black women need to reclaim our narratives now more than ever. Too often do we see our struggles being co-opted by other cultures, as has been the case with #BlackLivesMatter being reduced to #AllLivesMatter and now the natural hair movement. By speaking out on the erasure of Black women from the Shea Moisture brand, we are amplifying our voices and asserting our existence. As the proverb goes, “Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story”.

A portrait of Cailyn wearing loc extentions. Image by Shawntol Drakes.
A portrait of Khadijah wearing her natural afro. Image by Shawntol Drakes.
A portrait of Lu wearing her natural hair in ombre blue locs. Image by Shawntol Drakes
A portrait of Alannah wearing a natural teased afro. Image by Shawntol Drakes.

Introducing Season Two of The Gaze Podcast

The Gaze, our favourite podcast on race and gender representation in cinema, is back with season two. We speak to Maya Annik Bedward and Aisha Jamal, Toronto-based filmmakers and hosts of The Gaze, about what to expect in upcoming episodes. This is Worldtown will be featuring the episodes as they’re released and you can listen to Episode One below. You can subscribe to the Podcast via itunes.

Maya and Aisha focus on Indigenous female filmmakers in season two and “discuss the creative, commercial and emotional labour of making film in Canada”. The first of their three episodes features Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, director of the critically acclaimed doc ANGRY INUK! It’s recommended listening for new and emerging filmmakers, and for anyone interested in representation in film. You can listen now.

We speak to Maya and Aisha about the podcast, being under the Gaze, and what to expect in this upcoming season. 

This is Worldtown (TIWT): How did you decide on doing this podcast?

Aisha Jamal (AJ): Maya and I would often find ourselves in social situations talking about race in film and I think we both used to get worked up over misrepresentation and all kinds of other related issues. Eventually, we joked that we should do a radio show. The joke turned into reality.

Maya Annik (MB): Aisha called me up one day and told me that we were making a radio show. I said, OK!

TIWT: Can you explain where the name came from — why The Gaze?

AJ: It’s related to the idea of the ‘female gaze’ or the ‘racialized gaze’ and the suggestion that the idea of who is looking is as important as who is being looked at. Of course it’s also a reference to Laura Mulvey’s concept of the male gaze and the idea that film (among other visual arts) primarily depicts the world and women from the male perspective. So it’s about all these references on top of the idea of fixating something with your gaze (looking at it with fixed attention). We wanna give ours to topics that we find need more attention: the experience, stories and depictions of gender and race in cinema.

MB: It’s short and to the point. I knew cinephiles would understand the reference to Mulvey’s male gaze right away, and I thought for those who were less familiar with the concept, the title would prompt them to ask the question “whose gaze?” I think it invites people to think critically of the way we look at images, culture, media and the world at large.

Maya Annik and Aisha Jamal (L-R). [Image by Sean Liliani]

TIWT: As women of colour who both work in film, you’re attuned to the most cringeworthy attitudes in the industry. Do you have an example of having to call out this bias in your work life?

AJ: I think it must be having to repeatedly answer the question: “Why would the average, middle class Canadian housewife be interested in this story?” There are so many layers of weirdness in this question when you are pitching a story about refugees or immigrants. My answer is “Why wouldn’t they be?” I guess I go meta and think about our shared humanity but [to me] what the question is actually saying is “why would a white woman with a ‘normal’ life care about your story?” URGH.

MB: The day after I finished shooting my short The Foreigner, I was at an industry event and this white, male filmmaker asked me what I was working on. I told him I had just finished shooting a film and he asked me what my role was on the project. When I told him I was the director, he looked shocked. He told me I didn’t look the part and then tried to pick me up.

TIWT: What are some of the best lessons from Season 2 of The Gaze?

AJ: I have to say personally speaking it was good to hear the struggles that these accomplished filmmakers had to endure. You can’t help but be impressed by these women, their work and their conviction. But to hear what it has taken to get to the finished product convinces you that this is a craft and you have to work at it. Your success relies a lot on tenacity when you make films about difficult subjects.

MB: Filmmaking is not easy – on any front. It will put your personal life on hold. It will make you question your ideas, your craft, and your self-worth. Many doors will close on you before one opens. Sometimes the door that closes will be one that eventually opens. It’s important to remember that no matter what, you are not alone! Filmmakers at any point in their career are dealing with these same struggles, and they persevere and make beautiful work! Season 2 left me very inspired!

TIWT: What are the podcasts and/or media heroes/sheroes that inspire you right now?

AJ: Someone recently sent me a list of podcast she thought I should listen to so I started going down the list and I got hung up on “Sooo many white guys,”  hosted by the comedian Phoebe Robinson. She interviews musicians, artists, authors and none of them are white guys! Well, that’s what she intends but then there’s Tom Hanks in the recent episode…. Regardless, hers is a fun podcast and she can be insightful so check her show out.

MB: A podcast that brought me great comfort was The Anti-casserole by local Toronto heroes Kate Fraser and Loveleen Kaur! They only had one season, but it was great.

TIWT: What else can we expect from The Gaze?

AJ: This season features three female filmmakers, all indigenous, all working in documentary.  We’re interested in the creative and emotional work it’s taken to get to where they are. Maya and I have not decided on future seasons yet but we’re talking about it. I would love to do a season on Afghans in Canadian cinema (yes, very specific but yet lots to talk about) and Maya had suggested looking at genre cinema. So we’ll see…

MB: Let’s just say, I’m all about Get Out right now. But yes, there are so many interesting topics to cover and so many great filmmakers to interview! We’ll see where our hearts and minds take us!