Sister Carol

Carol Theresa East, known by her stage name of Sister Carol, is a Jamaican-born American reggae recording artist and actress. She has used several other stage names, including Black Cinderella and Mother Culture.

Sister Carol was born on the 15th of January 1959 in Denham Town, Kingston, Jamaica. Her formative years were spent at St Anne’s Primary School and Mico-Practicing All-Age School.

It was Sister Carol’s father, Howard East, who introduced her to the Jamaican music scene. Howard East was a Senior Engineer at Radio Jamaica Rediffusion, the number one radio station during that time and he contributed to recording sessions at Studio One and Treasure Isle Sound. 

At the age of 14, Sister Carol and her family immigrated to Brooklyn, New York in the US. Here, she studied at the City College of New York, and in 1984 she obtained a B.Sc. degree in education. In the same year she gave birth to her first child. Around that time she met Brigadier Jerry, a Jamaican DJ, who encouraged her to try dancehall style, rather than singing.

After winning competitions in New York and Jamaica, she toured with The Meditations, a reggae vocal harmony group, which was once the backup vocals for Bob Marley. Her first album, Liberation for Africa, was released in 1983, and the Pan-Africanist themes of emancipation and decolonisation are evident in the songs ‘Liberation for Africans’ and ‘Shackles’. Also on the album is the song ‘Black Woman’, a song that simultaneously highlights the struggle and praises being both black.

However, it was Sister Carol’s second album, Black Cinderella, released in 1984 that catapulted her into stardom. Sister Carol had this to say about the song, ‘Black Cinderella’, titled after the album of the same name:

"Well, back in Jamaica growing up as a youth, whenever I recognised things that I'm against, like there's a lot of political crime in the area, sometimes shooting involved with politics, things like discrimination and racism, things that I identified in my youth that I didn't like. I immediately saw them as the stepsisters or my stepmother, relating back to the same story as the book. I always felt like Cinderella, not being able to have the chance to do or to have certain things I might have desired as a child. I was never really seeking a Prince Charming, per se, to redeem me; I was more looking for something to happen by the Creator. And I knew that it would always be music, because as a youth, that's what brought joy to me, the music, every time."

During this time she dominated the music scene winning the coveted “Best Female DJ” for five consecutive years from 1983 – 1987. With these accolades behind her she established her own “Black Cinderella Record Label” in 1989.

Sister Carol went on to release eleven more albums, and in each album conscious and feminist messages remained present. For example, the album ISIS, released in 1999, Sister Carol stresses the importance of supporting women, a group which is “endangered.”

Sister Carol has also starred in films; she appeared in the Jonathan Demme films; Something Wild (1986), Married to the Mob (1988), and Rachel Getting Married (2008, to name a few.

A true testament of her resilient spirit and energy spans over thirty-five years in a male dominated industry, Sister Carol is a trailblazer for women in reggae. Her music carries a social message for people all over the world. Her message is rich with cultural heritage and infused with a vital social consciousness that permeates every aspect of life in the new millennium, hence her title as “Mother Culture.” 

Her prolific music career includes over 12 albums, a Grammy nomination for “Best Reggae Album” in 1997, “Most Outstanding Reggae Artist” two consecutive years 1997 and 1998, and “Queen of Reggae” in 2000 in Detroit Michigan, New York City Council Proclamation celebrating Jamaica’s 39th year of independence. Also honouring Jamaicans in New York for outstanding cultural contribution to life in the city of New York in 2001, Institute of Caribbean Studies Wash. DC – “Cultural Heritage Award for Excellence in Music” in 2004, “Lifetime Achievement” in 2008 in Columbus Ohio, “Roots Women in Reggae” 2009 to name just a few. 


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