More often than not, it was music that saved me from the stressors of ascending adulthood and my college career. It wasn’t exactly the most fun experience being a Black, Jamaican-American woman on a predominantly white campus, in the southern United States. My solace came from my amazingly powerful Caribbean girlfriends, of course, but most importantly my love for music. Whether it was writing my final papers, my senior thesis, through films like Dancehall Queen or Shottas, or just laughs with friends as they mocked me for playing Beres and Maxi Priest as they kindly changed Spotify to Kartel or Popcaan, music largely got me through my best and my worst days, inspiring me to push forward while keeping my culture close to, not only my ears, but also my heart.
Last year I had interned with The Beautiful Project, an amazing collective of Black women image makers using photography and writing to recreate Black women’s representation in the media. One day, founder Jamaica Gilmer handed me a camera and a new interest was born. I learned about shutter speeds and ISO and stepped my game up from iPhone prodigy to a professional lens. Photography soon developed as a new way for me to express myself and capture the images and stories I usually told through words.
I chose to celebrate the women, music, and culture that have made me feel at home in such a strange place and asked them to tell me their favorite songs, let loose, and allow me to capture it. I am grateful for their time and patience and that they allowed me to capture them in all of their openness, freedom, and dance moves they often saved for our parties at night. Being the mere lens in their self-reflections as they shared with me what our music means to them was an honor and one I continue to delve into in my research. What seamlessly started as an experiment turned out to be a beautiful manifestation of my friends and our heritage, and for that, I will forever be thankful.