Interviews

Moore Chat JA: A conversation with Blogger Carla Moore

Written by Kerri-Ann M. Smith

 

If you haven’t heard of her by now, you are in for a treat. Next to the viral videos with Clifton “Cliff Twang” Brown and the little girl who “knows Maddi Maggie,” Carla Moore’s eight-minute rants are the most popular Jamaican videos to recently hit the World Wide Web. Moore tackles topics ranging from politics to basic house cleaning rules for the people who dare to abandon their better senses to use a “Swiffer.” She sometimes addresses current events and is a strong proponent for the Jamaica 50th Anniversary Celebration.  If you thought a Jamaican accent was the only way to recognize a fellow Jamaican in “farin,” Carla will tell you that the “patty crumbs” in their car, along with their swirling of ice in a glass at a dinner party are authentic ways to recognize the “hidden” Jamaican in your presence. Her poetic diction, singing of national anthems and hymns, and priceless facial expressions are reminiscent of the late Louise Bennett Coverly and Carla could arguably be dubbed as a modern-day version of the Jamaican folklorist. This multitalented intellectual tells us some more about the person behind the videos we have come to love and appreciate. Like it or not, Carla’s rants will have you laughing til yuh belly full, and undoubtedly reflecting on the many things we all love about being Jamaican.

Tell me about yourself. Who is the lady behind the videos?
I’m from the country—Linstead, St. Catherine—specifically and I grew up on an orchard. So mi know how fi clean hog pen! People don’t believe me when I say it but I attended Campion College. I’m very passionate about animals, my family, and my country. I was raised in an extended family, which included my brothers, my parents, and my grandmother. I am a theater geek but I majored in media and communication for my first degree.  I’m now doing my M.A. in gender studies at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. 

What do you miss most about living in Jamaica?
The weather! Lawd, di wedda! Canada Cowl!!

I miss the understanding that people have of me. I miss having a shared a set of references that people just understand so I don’t have to preface my statements with, “as a Jamaican…” I have to constantly explain every thing I do from talking with my hands to some phrases I use. Also I miss the resilience of the people. I miss the comforts of home. I miss the way people talk to people for no reason about real things…not about the weather. Mi miss di yaad inna dem. Yaad as a place weh u live, weh u  get up and function.  Mi miss di realness, authenticity, humanness of Jamaican people. I appreciate the candor of Jamaican people, the reach out and touch tactile nature of Jamaican people. Mi miss di ooman who nuh know mi but who wi tell mi she mi heelback look dutty and den mi look pon it and seh “it look tough fi true” and mi do betta nex time.

Who would you say are your influences?
There is a toss up between my grandmother and my mother. Mum, my Indian grandmother taught me to cuss badwud, how to drink rum, and how to wash rice properly! I think of us three on a continuum. I think my mother did the things that my grandmother couldn’t do because she was denied the opportunities and I do the same as my mother. I need to get the Master’s and Ph.D. in order to pay homage to the ones who came before. They are both very loud, very strong, determined, independent women who just have this way of caring about people. Dem help everybaddy!  You can’t be around them and not learn something. Mi not nowhere near as kind or as strong as them. Before shi dead, mi granny always tell mi seh mi fi learn fi “stan up pon mi two foot and look wid mi two eye. Be strong and sensible.” Mi modda always tell mi, “Grab hold of every opportunity that is there for you.” I’ve learned a lot from these women who have had a lot of foolishness thrown their way. Watching them influences me to care about people and do something that can benefit others while holding my own as a strong woman.

Tell me more about Carla, the “Theater Geek”!
I’ve been acting since 2000, and it’s more than a hobby, it’s a passion. I love it.  The first play I did was ‘For Colored Girls’ at Grinnell College in the corn fields of Iowa and it was a great experience.  I was always dramatic but I had never taken acting seriously before then. Mi family dem fulla drama so I was always around it and whenever I entered a room, people would always seem to wonder, “what’s that big thing in the middle of the room?” That’s my personality!

At UWI I got involved in the Drama Society and kept going from there.  Brian Heap, who is like a mentor to me, took chances with me as an actress. He forced  me to look deeper within myself by challenging me to do parts that I didn’t imagine myself doing.  After graduating, I kept working with the University Players, and I’m still doing small acting things. I recently did a production called “Down There,” similar to Vagina Monologues at Queens University.

Ideally, I would love to do a movie and a big play.  I am open to any type of acting: traditional theater, roots plays, anything! People in Jamaica tend to tun up dem nose at di roots plays because dem claim di plays lack the  formal structure but di roots play actor dem have great comedic timing and  are skilled enough to know how to control their audience.

What’s your dream role?
My dream Role is to play Miss Lou.. Although I didn’t realize how big an influence until I started vlogging and people started comparing me to her, she is a big influence in my life. Mi adamant bout patois so mi really waan do a Miss Lou role.

Another role I can see myself playing is someone ecstatically happy and someone who is totally self-destructive. Working through those emotions without having it become trite would be challenging.

What inspired you to begin vlogging?
Yuh eva hear bout Kingston, Ontario? Well, it is a very small town and the school I am attending full a plenty privileged pickney who are out of the prep school system. So what would happen is I would walk down the walkway of the university and I was see a wave of humanity walking towards me but it was as if they never saw me! It was as if I never existed. I would tell people about how lonely this place felt but I was felt ungrateful because I knew I was  fortunate because I’m going to school overseas.  

Mi start get lonely and mi start notice some likkle tings bout di place and mi neva have mi fren dem fi talk to fi tell dem bout di foolishniss weh mi see every day. For example, di bus system. One day mi goh outta door ah di bus stop and stan up half hour inna zero degrees and di bus nuh come. Di one ting mi know fi sure is if mi goh outta Linstead and wait, a bus mus come! But not in Kingston, Ontario. Big big farin and not a bus! Mi seh mi jus get bex and decide fi goh upstairs, tun awn mi computa, and do a video. The first time I vlogged it was out of frustration. I had something to say to my friends and it did only mek sense inna patois and I couldn’t reach all of them at the same time to tell them soh mi turn to Youtube fi mek dem see it and di video went  viral. It was just me venting in my room. 

The videos became an outlet for the patois because aside from me roomie who try undastan it and one fren weh me nuh see nuff,  me never have nuhbaddy fi labrish wid . Then mi staat realize seh people did waan hear wah mi have fi seh soh mi seh well, if unnu a listen let me continue talk den! I soon began getting lots of comments under the videos, which resulted in lots of followers on Twitter. 

How have the vlogs changed your life?
They have resulted in the complete opposite of what was happening to me at school! I went from invisibility to hyper visibility. There are some topics that I really want to address but I will not touch. Honestly, I cannot deal with the flack although I try not to internalize things. People talk to vloggers and celebrities like dem nuh have feelings and some topics just not important enough to mek it worth it. 

How have people been responding to your vlogs?
Overall, the response is good. I mean, people sometimes say some very mean things like, “I am what is wrong with the country (Jamaica).” Because me chat patois dem call mi “bootoo and ghetto,” some say “I sound like an ungrateful bitch” because I “came from the Third World” and should never dare say anything against Canada (like dem bus system nuh wuk!). Funny enough, a lot of the foolishness comes from other Caribbean people. Sometimes mi set fi ansa dem and by time mi ready fi type mi facety response, mi “fans” dem jus gang up and string dem up, soh mi jus relax and say, “okay, mi good now.”

But I welcome the negativity too, you know, because it is useful. There is that moment, after you read them, when you pause and think. I situate myself and ask what it’s about. Is it true? Is it something I need to learn? Some of it hurts but it reminds me of who I am and where I come from. I am from a slave state that became independent and people don’t like that—including people from that slave state. That kind of criticism keeps me grounded and I am very aware that my position as a Caribbean person is very fraught in the eyes of others.

What’s the best thing that has happened to you since you started doing your videos?
There is someone in Beijing who is watching the videos and there is someone in Pakistan who is watching. Every time I go on and see my blog stats and I see that I wonder, “who are these people watching from those countries?” It’s amazing to me.

Another thing is that Jamaica 50 Toronto asked for me to work alongside them and that’s a great thing because I really wanted to find a way to get involved in the celebrations of our 50th anniversary.Oh! And the people from the CXC (CSEC) want to use some of the videos for their Cultural Studies curriculum.Other things were great like Blacka Ellis sending a Tweet about three women who he thought were funny and I was included in the group. Oh and the first time someone recognized me walking through the mall, that was kinda cool. Someone also recognized me in an elevator and I was probably more excited than the lady because me did jus frighten say somebody recognized me from my videos. It’s hard to pick one but Jamaica 50 and CXC are the top two because they recognize what I’m doing as a contribution to Caribbean life and culture.

 Which of your videos is your favorite?
I hate to choose but if I have to, I’d say that my top two are “Wifey and Matey,” because it was the one that made people really start watching my videos and then secondly, the one on Trayvon Martin because I took a political stance and it truly showed my raw feelings on the subject. Those two are very different but they show the many sides of me.

The video you did on Yendi and Chino channeled several social issues that you seem passionate about. Can you tell me more about where that passion comes from and why? 

The way I see it is it doesn’t make sense to talk for eight minutes and talk about foolishness. If you have people’s ear, you might as well use it. I saw Yendi’s announcement on Facebook and the first thing I knew people would see is Chino’s very dark hand on her very light-skinned body. We still have some race-ish issues in Jamaica. Also,  I have watched other women in my life go through similar things and no matter what happens, ah di ooman haffi deal widdit—the backlash, the bad publicity. Certain things, regardless of position, the woman usually has to bear it and a woman would not have to deal with it by herself if society forced the man to stay and to come up to the level they require of the woman 

I was speaking very honestly on that video. I usually have to record the videos a couple of times but that one was one straight take. I get tired of watching girls go through the same thing over and over again. I was observing the way people talked to her as if she had no value. We need to examine how we talk to women. When a black woman is pregnant with a black child, there is stress on her. She has to work on whether she should keep it or not. The woman has to deal with, “this is my baby and I’m alone in this.” I started to think about those things. I have friends whose men are saying they should have abortions because dem nuh ready fi pickney yet and it makes me wonder, when will we get to a place where a black child comes into this world and all that people will say about it is, “I want you here”? 

People were acting like plenty single mother nuh inna di Caribbean. I know the nuclear family is ideal, but this is how we do it.  And we don’t do any work in finding value in what is ours. We spend our time trying to imitate North American culture. Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah once said we need to do work to document our own cultural forms because in fifty years we will find out that a man is going to come from Europe and say he invented mento. We need to validate ourselves in the Caribbean in a round robin kinda way. We can validate Trinidadian tings and embrace dem, and Barbados do di same fi wi and St. Kitts and alla dat and den alla wi wi have wi own value by fi wi own standards.

You’ve been promoting a few important causes on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Would you like to tell us more about them and why they are so important to you?

Yes! The first one is Help JA Children—the number of children coming to hospitals with untreated STIs each year is at about 2000, and counting. Brandon Allwood started the movement to help these children. Child sexual abuse is something that we need to talk about. It’s something that flourishes in silence. Our unwillingness to deal with that issue publicly helps to perpetuate the problem and puts our babies at risk, so we need more initiatives like that in Jamaica. We need fresh ideas about how to link organizations with media. If you want to report suspected abuse the number is 1-888-PROTECT or 1888-776-8328 and if you want to get involved its [email protected] 

I also want to do some work around adult literacy and volunteerism in Jamaica. There was a time when people used to volunteer to teach JAMAL and all of these kinds of nation building things after work and the adult literacy rate rose during that time period.  But we don’t do that anymore. We just don’t have enough money to pay people to fix us, so I’d like to come up with a list of the grassroots organizations doing work in Jamaica and get volunteers to help out. Jamaicans need to take responsibility for things in Jamaica. We cannot fix everything but Jamaicans for Jamaica can fix more things than we are fixing now. 

What are you anticipating most for the Jamaica 50th celebration?
Lots of curry goat! There are supposed to be quite a few events in Canada during the daytime. They are planning a JAMBANA in Canada, which is the Jamaican version of Caribana and a few galas. I will do some vlogging for Jamaica 50 and Some Video hosting work at the events as well

What can we expect from you in the near future? Any projects? Has anyone approached you with a pitch for anything interesting now that your videos have become so popular?
I’m currently collaborating with Tifa on her upcoming album so you can listen out for that. I’m planning to continue doing more things with Jamaica 50. A few people have approached me to do shows. I was even approached about position to do a fortnightly show on the radio in England, but nothing concrete yet.  I should also being doing a TED talk through the Jamaica 50 network. I really hope the CXC thing comes through. 

My Master’s will be done in 2013 and, ideally, I’ll be going on to the Ph.D.  My dreams are to finish this degree, go on to the Ph.D., write a book of poetry and have it published while I’m at this school in Canada. I would love to have my own show and if not I’m cool with vlogging. 

Professionally, I’d like to do development work to benefit and impact people in Jamaican communities. That is my number one priority. Everyone has ideas but if u nuh goh mek di sun bun u den there is no point. 

I’d love to get back into acting. I want to continue growing and developing the vlog and blog into something that people come to and want to hear something that is thought-provoking but not too serious. 

Any last words you’d like to share with the Jamaicans.com readers?
What I say to myself: If you’re going to be Jamaican, you have to accept all parts of Jamaica. You have to accept the part weh sweet you and di part weh mek you wonda if this is your country. Accept alla it. Ms. Lou to Tivoli is what made you and what makes you Jamaican. Love it up!

For more on Carla Moore visit her:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MooreTalkJa
Contact directly: [email protected]
Twitter: @Mooremayhem
Follow the blog: http://mooretalkja.wordpress.com/
Subscribe on Youtube: countryfromlongtime

About the author

Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Assistant Professor of Academic Literacy at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of a gregarious little girl. She is a senior writer for jamaicans.com.