Written by Roshanne Dorsett
This is a milestone year for Jamaica as it marks the 60th Diamond Jubilee anniversary of independence. On 6 August 1962 Jamaica became an independent country after almost 300 years and a member of the British Commonwealth instead of a colony, the first country in the British West Indies to gain independence.
“Out of Many, One People”
For a tiny island in the Caribbean Jamaica has long enjoyed a mighty global reach, from music, cooking, language, fashion to sports. Not bad for a country that is 22 times smaller than The United Kingdom, with a population of fewer than 3 million, compared to the UK’s 67 million.
Jamaican musicians from Bob Marley, Beres Hammond, and Popcaan, athletes Usain Bolt, Shiley-Ann Fraser Pyrce and Elaine Thompson-Herah have grown from their home parishes to reach global popularity and are the source of inspiration for many people around the world. When Keith Valent Graham, walked into the Dragons Dens guitar in one hand, serenading them all with his “Reggae Reggae Sauce” jingle in a now infamous video. Who would have thought that would propel him to legendary status. Graham better known as Levi Roots has gone on to grow a successful food and drink business, to an estimated £35million, all inspired by his home town Clarendon, Jamaica.
You may know the above mentioned Jamaican superstars, but how well do you know the four female Jamaican founders I caught up with to talk about their ancestral home? Whether you've come across their brands or not, these are four women you should have on your radar.
Who are you, what do you do and what exciting things are you working on at the moment?
Hi, I’m Sammy, a Gemini Toronto-born Londoner on a mission to elevate lifestyle experiences for the African Diaspora. I have so many projects that I want to pursue that build joy and prosperity in the community and I’ve started with my concept store, Yard + Parish. It’s an island-life inspired shop & community that curates sustainable gifts, beauty, & wellness by Black-owned businesses. Right now, I am focused on creating thoughtful experiences by hosting live events, so watch this space to join in on the fun!
I am Lavinya, the founder, CEO of The Black Curriculum, and a writer. Currently I am writing my debut book, Omitted, which is out in 2023. TBC has just turned 3 years old, so I am busy expanding the team as we scale. Personally, I am working on improving my physical strength!
I’m Olivia my star sign is Cancer and I’m building JAMCAN, a Jamaican inspired, CBD infused juice company harnessing traditional Jamaican flavours commonly recommended in Jamaican households usually by the matriarch of the family to boost the immune system.
My name is Natalie Meredith. I am a Gemini and an Australian Jamaican, living in London. I am the founder and director of Empwr Botanics, a wellness company. We have just launched a new product which is a natural nootropic supplment, formulated to enhance brain function and increase energy. Check it out! - CHARGE Nootropic supplements.
What areas of Jamaica are you from?
St Elizabeth (both sides) – Olivia Simpson Founder of JAMCAN JUICE
St Ann Parish, my grandparents met in a lush, hilly, district just outside of Brownstown. – Samantha Newell Co-Founder of Yard + Parish
My family come from an area called Mocho Hills which is part of the Clarendon Parish. It is up in the mountains smack bang in the middle of the island.- Natalie Meredith Founder of EMPWR Botanics
My dad family are from St Catherine, my other side is from Portland – Lavinya Stennett Founder, CEO of The Black Curriculum
What are your favourite memories of Jamaica?
My favourite memories are definitely from childhood. Visiting my grandparents during summer holidays and the rituals we developed was everything. Like passing through town to pick up an outrageous amount of hot patties on the way up to the house. Another memory I cherish is being too young to understand conversion rates and being extremely shocked when my uncle gave me “ice cream money” which I thought I could certainly use to take over the world. There was a man who rode through district on a bicycle selling the most magnificent ice cream that you could fill your own containers with. Hearing his bell ring and sprinting down the hill with my cousins is one of my favourite memories. – Samantha
Driving down Fern Gully (a three mile long canon in Ocho Rios Jamaica) with my dad! - Lavinya
A family holiday when I was 15, it taught me so much about the culture, people and myself. It was an amazing trip, I even rode a horse in the sea ! - Olivia
I haven’t been since I was 14 (I know, shame on me) but I have fond memories of Duncan Falls with my family – Natalie
What are your favourite Jamaican food and drink?
My fave food and drink has to be ackee, sprat and fried dumpling (love a breakfast!) with some soursop juice – Lavinya
How can I choose? I LOVE plantain and can’t go past anything jerked - Natalie
Oxtail and rice and peas, any natural juice but if I had to choose then soursop - Olivia
Breadfruit, Mannish Water, Guinep, June Plum Juice, Sorrel Red Stripe, Blue Mountain Coffee w/ Condensed Milk – Samantha
What are your top place(s) to visit in Jamaica?
I love the city, so I am always going to say Kingston, especially Jacks Hill and I also love Portland. – Lavinya
Martha Brae River to go rafting – Olivia
Devon House, Kingston, Rockhouse Hotel, Negril, Anywhere in the Blue Mountains, Puerto Seco Beach, Discovery Bay. On that note... I actually love living like a local more than anything; like picking fruit off trees, outdoor cooking, and spending quality time with friends & family. - Samantha
This is something I’m yet to discover, I’m waiting on our girls trip! Wherever the sun is shining, the sand is white and the water is blue will do just fine - Natalie
To be Jamaican is to be…
Cool by Nature – Samantha
Full of vibes, fun, wild and free! – Olivia
Strong, proud and one love - Natalie
To be Jamaican is to be two steps ahead - Lavinya
Jamaican culture is…
… Trailblazing – Lavinya
… Eclectic, magic & all-inclusive! – Olivia
… Vibrant, unique and addictive - Natalie
… Powerful, Passionate, & Proud – Samantha
Want to know more? Connect with these incredible women and support their brands.
Olivia Simpson - @JAMCANJUICE / https://www.jamcan.club
Samantha Newell @Sam.In.The.Sun / https://www.yardandparish.com
Lavinya Stennett @Gottabelavin_ya / https://theblackcurriculum.com
Natalie Meredith @natameredith / https://www.empwrbotanics.co.uk