Photos and Interview by
Stephen A. Cooper
Sister Carol, respectfully and affectionately known as the “Black Cinderella” and “Mother Culture,” is both a pioneer and pillar of reggae music. The last of three female reggae artists to ever be nominated for a Grammy award, Sister Carol is one of the most highly accomplished, glass ceiling-shattering, charismatic, and unique figures in the entirety of reggae’s rich, robust history.
I was fortunate to interview Sister Carol after she headlined the first ever L.A. Reggae Vegan Fest, held on the first Sunday in October. The many topics we discussed included: veganism and living an “ital” lifestyle; Jamaica and some of the problems it’s confronting; marijuana; different “mansions” of Rastafari and the diversity that exists in Rastafarian beliefs and practices; respect for women; her fondest memories of late reggae superstars Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott; and much, much more. What follows is a transcription of the interview, modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.
Q: Sister Carol, greetings and give thanks for this opportunity to interview you at the very first L.A. Reggae Vegan Fest! Consistent with your Rastafarian faith, throughout your historic career in reggae, you have often promoted organic, ital food, and, living a healthy, natural lifestyle; so it’s only logical you’d be invited to perform at this event. Do you agree?
Sister Carol: Most naturally.
Q: Your song “Veggie, Veggie” and also “Strong and Fit,” a track from off of your Grammy-nominated album “Lyrically Potent,” immediately come to mind. And I understand your passion for organic food and cooking has caused you, at times, to seriously consider opening up your own restaurant. True?
Sister Carol: Most definitely.
Q: I know that you are still doing plenty of touring and traveling, but are you primarily living in Jamaica these days?
Sister Carol: Yes, I am.
Q: Sister Carol, at the end of August the [Jamaica] Gleaner reported on a study that showed over a seven-year period there has been a 100 percent increase in obesity in boys, and between 60 and 70 percent in girls, in Jamaica. Now, in May, the Gleaner also reported that the Director General of the food and agriculture organization [(FAO)] of the United Nations blamed the importation of cheap food imports loaded with salts, fats, and sugar for obesity in the Caribbean. What are your thoughts about this issue? And what can be done to encourage the youth, especially in Jamaica, but also here in the United States, to eat more vegetables and other healthy foods? And [to consume] less processed and fast food?
Sister Carol: Part of my entire livity as a Rastafari woman is always to promote eating fresh food, drinking good water, and promoting health and wellness. Which includes exercising. And we’ve been singing and promoting this lifestyle within the music for over thirty-seven years now. So, in addition to what they’re doing is like something we’ve been preachin’ and teachin’ for quite some time now. And not just preachin’ and teachin’, but actually livin’ that lifestyle. You know, the livity? Having a plant-based diet. Which is healthier for the structure. Because you never see a cow eating [a] chicken. Or beef. A cow eats grass, vegetables. Because the cow is an herbivore, and we are also herbivores. We’re supposed to eat a plant-based diet. ‘Cause once you have the intake of flesh within flesh, that’s the beginning of sickness. And we’ve been preachin’ and teachin’ that for a long time. So it’s really an honor for me to be here as part of this very 1st [L.A. Reggae] Vegan Festival. Like you say, songs like “Strong and Fit” and “Veggie, Veggie” among many other songs that we write about ital food, exercise, and all of that.
Q: Does it bother you to see some of the Americanization – the foods that come [to Jamaica] from America – for example, I know when I visited Jamaica, one thing that was easy to see was that Kentucky Fried Chicken [is] very popular it seems. Does that bother you to see –
Sister Carol: Well it’s the lifestyle of Babylon, always to confuse the people and them living a lifestyle opposite of what they’re supposed to be doing. Because it’s not just the food, you know? It’s everything [in] general. You have a thing, what do they call it now….? A PlayStation generation that is in existence right now. That every youth [has] a tablet or some kind of [electronic] device a-play. And that youth is so in tune with that device that there’s totally no sensation around him or her. They don’t even go outside to exercise, and run up and down and play and think – to be in touch with humanity. It has totally been destroyed by technology. And the youth press the buttons, and most of the time when they play a [computer] game, it’s one person a-try and kill the next person. Which have a mentality that plays out in our society. Sometimes, you can’t even overstand where it’s coming from. So these are things we talk about and sing about over the years.
Sister Carol: The food. The livity that Babylon encourage[s], you know?