That's a photo of me aged three, wearing my red, gold and green leather medallion with pride, probably listening to some sweet Island sounds having just downed some Red Stripe from a sippy-cup. By which I mean, I don't think it's hard to deduce from this picture that I am Jamaican.
This is me now. I am a half-Jamaican, but I'm also half-Danish and I grew up in Leeds. I'm not saying that everyone in Yorkshire dresses like this, but growing up there surrounded by mainly white Yorkshire people has heavily diluted the Caribbean influence in my life. These days, I'd be far happier to be dropped in a vat of Yorkshire Tea than one containing rum punch. My little sister called me a Bounty bar the other day – not a reference to my sweet, sweet nature but a thinly-veiled insult alluding to the fact that I’m brown on the outside and "white" on the inside :( :( :(
Jamaica has been busy celebrating 50 years of independence these past couple of weeks. I’ve had almost 20 years of independence from Jam-Rock and wanted to rediscover my (Levi) roots. I sought out guidance from my not-so-fresh-off-the-ship nana. Nana grew up just outside of Kingston and was the perfect person for me to turn to because a) she is very Jamaican, and b) that’s the only pre-requisite I need for my cultural quest. So Nana, how can I be more Jamaican?
Me: Nana, do you think I’m acting too white?
Nana: You know there are white people in Jamaica too. But you forgot your roots, yes. I feel like a traitor. Can you give me some tips on how to be more Jamaican, please?
Run fast like my man Usain Bolt. I’ll try, but I’m not really that sporty. I’m asthmatic. Are all Jamaicans really that good at running?
I think so. It’s a small place, I used to walk everywhere. Others run around. Climb trees. It’s a different lifestyle. Different to Yorkshire?
Yes, a lot different. You don’t forget where you come from. I like to think I still live a Jamaican lifestyle. I think you do. Sometimes I can’t understand what you’re saying when your friends are at yours speaking Patois.
It take a special ear to understand wha' dem a say. Hahaha. Dat’s da Island sound. Yeah, you just slipped into it then. Sometimes me and my white friends pretend to speak Patois. We say "Wha Gwan?" and "Bumba Clart", and "Ras Clart" and "Pussy Clart". What is a "Clart" anyway, Nana?
A clart is like a… cunt. Nana! Maybe I shouldn’t say it so much, then. Can you give me a list of the main things I need to do to re-Jamaicanise myself?
OK, we like to dance, you’re a good dancer. I’ve seen you, but you need to sex it up, you’ve seen me bogle, do da butterfly, dutty wine, all o’ dat. Guinness punch; you need my recipe. That’s what I always drink. Jamaicans drink slow and steady, that’s why we like rum, ‘cos it goes down nice. Your uncle Lloyd, he play dominoes, that’s really a man’s thing, but they all do it. You used to like playing with him, actually. Yeah, but I think he’s a bit of a perv now…
Haha, that’s another Jamaican thing. The men, they like their women and they not afraid to show it! They like women with a bit of meat on their bones too, you’re getting too skinny. They like a batty. I’m like a size ten, that’s quite meaty. I do have a big "batty", too.
Yes you do, but I’m saying it’s good to eat. Eat more, you will fill out. Is food a big part of our culture?
Are you kidding? Have I ever not fed you? Yes, I cook every day. Even if I don’t have anyone to cook for, I cook up some chicken, rice and peas just in case. Somebody always come and eat it. Like your uncles and your dad. Yeah, he’s just greedy though. Is it normal in Jamaica for a man approaching 50 to still make his mum cook his food?
A West Indian woman COOKS. Cook, cook, cook, cook, cook. OK, calm down, I get it. Why is it so important?
It’ll get you a man and it’ll keep you a man. Jamaican food is good food, too. What about Rastafarianism? Are you a Rasta? Am I a Rasta?
You know what, forget about that. They don’t eat meat. They don’t drink. All that is is dreadlocks and ganja. Oh, I meant to ask you about that. Does a proper Jamaican necessarily have to smoke a lot of weed?
Well, it’s whatever you want. I would smoke it at Christmas, birthdays, not all the time. But in Jamaica people smoke it a lot, because it chills you out. None of this "X" pill, make you go all twitchy and sweaty. Just a nice, relaxed time. OK. Nana, thank you. I promise I will try and be a better Jamaican. Happy Jamaican Independence!
Thank you baby! Follow Sheree on Twitter: @shereemilli
VICE recently went to Jamaica to make a film with Snoop Dogg. While he was there, he made a reggae album, converted to Rastafarianism and changed his name to Snoop Lion. You can watch the trailer for it here.