Approximately 12 years ago, I was introduced to a poem. I was only 15 years old, but that poem changed, forever, the way I analyzed and interacted with the rules and norms presented to me as a young Afro-Caribbean woman. The poem is called, “Colonial Girls’ School. The poet is Olive Senior.
In this, one of my favorite poems, Senior addresses some of the ways in which the region’s colonial past affected the confidence and perspective of young Caribbean women. She postulates that everything from the way we dress to the way we comport ourselves, the decibels of our laughter and speech, and clearly, the way we wear our curls – de-kinked – had been influenced by a subtle, unspoken belief: the colonial way is better.
willed our skins pale
muffled our laughter
lowered our voices
let out our hems
dekinked our hair
denied our sex in gym tunics and bloomers
harnessed our voices to madrigals
and genteel airs
yoked our minds to declensions in Latin
and the language of Shakespeare
EXCERPT FROM: “COLONIAL GIRLS’ SCHOOL” by OLIVE SENIOR
Many young Caribbean women would not deny Senior’s assertions. Until about 2008, it had become a rite of passage for many – dougla, shabin, Indian or Afro – to straighten their kinks.
But the way we see ourselves – who we are, our capabilities, our gifts and our talents – is not just concerned with our physicality. It often translates to other matters pertinent to our development as small island states.
Do we purchase the local product or the foreign product? Do we remain on our islands or do we leave? Do we hire an equally qualified native or must we import one from the more developed world? Do we believe that our regional institutions – The University of the West Indies cluster – are good enough or do we still believe that sending our children “foreign” is better?
And perhaps addressing the mental blocks that we have concerning our physicality and cultural inclinations do not provide a full-proof solution to our seeming hatred of everything that we are: Caribbean; but they are indeed a start. If one Caribbean woman can be convinced that who she is, what she looks like, her God-given physicalities are good enough, then perhaps it can trickle down to her belief about everything Caribbean: our people, our food, our culture, our countries, our products, our economies, our strengths. Perhaps it would help her eradicate the belief that “colonial is better”. YouTuber, Chadel Mathurin leads the charge.
Take a peek at our interview with Chadel!
Country of Birth
Country of Residence
Trinidad and Tobago
Tell us about your YouTube Channel. Tell us what topics you discuss.
I’ve recently given myself permission to discuss any topic I think relevant under the tagline of #OutsideTheHairBox, but my content is predominantly Natural Haircare related.
How many subscribers do you have?
If you’d like to subscribe to her Youtube channel, click here.
Does your content address any of your village, community, country, or region’s problems
Yes for sure! I touch on colorism, texture-discrimination, cultural appropriation and representation in media for young women of Afro background. I also sporadically touch on issues related to debt, unemployment, mental health, food security and subsistence farming. I’m multi-passionate and this is reflected in the themes I touch on on my channel.
What inspired you to start?
People kept asking me similar questions concerning proper haircare practices for kinky-textures natural hair, and I thought it would be easier to just record it and refer persons to the videos.
How did you start?
I started with a camera that my sister bought on eBay. It was a SONY A3000 to be specific. It came with the kit lens- 18-55mm and a 55-210mm. I had no lights and no income since I was unemployed.
What equipment do you currently use?
I use the most basic equipment.
Camera – SONY A5100 ;
Lens : Kit lens from 1st camera ; and a NEWER 35mm lens.
I own umbrella lights but on most days I use natural light.
Backdrops: 1 1/4 yards of any vibrant colored cloth.
Laptop : Macbook Pro. Tripod : I use one of the umbrella light stands.
What would you say has been the greatest challenge of the journey thus far?
I suffer from imposter syndrom and so I am horrible at selling myself and my work because I never think it’s “important” enough. This translates to me being horrible at marketing which translates to me doing a poor job of sharing my Youtube channel & videos with the world. I foolishly want people to discover my content for themselves and share it with the world with no input from me. (I know better though).
It’s also very difficult to get public support from Caribbean viewers. Many people watch my videos and DM or message me to say that they loved a video, but they refuse to comment on said video, or share said video, even when they share similar content.
What was the value of your first cheque from YouTube? What was your reaction?
$107USD. I was thoroughly thrilled. To date, I am thoroughly thrilled any time I get a cheque, and they are all usually around the same amount.
Have you been able to leverage your success on YouTube for success in other areas?
How have you leveraged your presence on YouTube for success in other areas?
I have to some degree leveraged my presence on YouTube for success in community development and youth empowerment, which are both important to me. I have also leveraged my brand to partner with local and international companies such as JORD wood watches, FIRMOO eye company, Aso Dara Wraps, ECINAJ Naturals and the Mixtress J Cosmetics. These partnerships involved these companies sending me their products, sometimes in exchange for a review.
What is your vision for entrepreneurship in your country or in the Caribbean?
My vision for entrepreneurship in the Caribbean is for there to be more collaboration between creatives and budding entrepreneurs. We are very insular as a Caribbean people, and everyone happens to want to shine alone. What I’ve noticed though, is that many of the influencers from foreign shores that we love and admire had support and assistance from other creatives.
I’d also like to to see more local support. For example, I see many people sharing YouTube videos and blog articles on my timeline, but rarely ever from Caribbean creators. I’ve observed a reticence by our people to share our work, while these same people share similar content from foreign creators.
What would you say has been your most valuable entrepreneurial lesson thus far?
My most valuable lesson is one that I’m not certain I have fully grasped yet ; and it is that it’s ok to start small. According to my grandmother : “Sé petite ki ka fè gros” which basically means that the small beginnings will add up to something more substantial if you keep at it.
What recent purchase of yours has most positively impacted your life?
I actually took a few minutes to figure out what would qualify as my most recent purchase since I haven’t made very many outside of necessities recently. I’d have to say a book – “All the places to Go” by John Ortberg.
How has a failure of yours set you up for later success?
Failure has released me from the shackles of shame and caring about what people will think. Failure has given me room to be transparent and honest and to speak my truth.
Share one of the BEST decisions you’ve made.
One of the BEST decisions I’ve made thus far is to chase my “happy” (which essentially is seeking to live in purpose) and leave my old job. It just wasn’t meeting the mark professionally or otherwise , and it was beginning to take a serious toll on my joy levels and my mental health. I am still employed outside of my creative interests but I love my work – it is meaningful and fulfilling , and I would not have been able to grab ahold of the opportunity if I was holding on to my last job.
What advice would you give to a school leaver in your country ?
I’d tell a school-leaver to think outside of the box of traditional careers that I was forced to present them with in my job as a Guidance counsellor. The world has evolved far beyond these. Even if your passion is captured by a traditional career, you will have to create a niche for yourself and be creative.
I’d also tell him/ her that it’s OK not to know the next step; to not have a clue where to go next; It’s ok to bloom late as long as he/she is working towards figuring things out.
Take stock of your life; figure out what you’re good at; figure out what drives your passion , and look for a creative way to bring it all together.