US actor/businessman Michael B Jordan has apologised for naming his new rum brand J’Ouvert and has promised to rename the product.
Late on Tuesday night, Jordan posted his apology on his Instagram stories.
He wrote: “I just wanna say on behalf of myself and my partners, our intention was never to offend or hurt a culture we love and respect and hoped to celebrate and shine a positive light on. The last few days has been a lot of listening, a lot of learning and engaging in countless community conversations.
“We hear you. I hear you and want to be clear that we are in the process of renaming. We sincerely apologise and look forward to introducing a brand we can all be proud of.”
The Black Panther actor made this apology amidst a backlash from people both in Trinidad and Tobago and in the diaspora criticising him of cultural appropriation.
On Sunday, Instagram posts revealed the launch of J’Ouvert rum with a big box set displaying the rum included a schematic of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, a written reference to Trinidad, how to pronounce J’Ouvert and a description of it as a local celebration of Emancipation and Carnival.
The box set included two bottles of Angostura bitters, leading people to believe that the local company was somehow in a business relationship with J’Ouvert. On Tuesday an executive from Angostura announced that the company had nothing to do with J’Ouvert rum.
US-based rapper and TT native Nicki Minaj said on Instagram: “I’m sure MBJ didn’t intentionally do anything he thought Caribbean people would find offensive, but now that you are aware, change the name and continue to flourish and prosper.”
Cultural stakeholders expressed their opinion on J’Ouvert being used by an American to sell rum.
Wendell Manwarren, 3canal singer and J’Ouvert bandleader, called Jordan a mocking pretender for his ignorance in using the name.
Another point of contention was that on the trademark registration page there was a note saying J’Ouvert has no meaning in a foreign language.
J’Ouvert activist Attillah Springer said this cold legal statement brought up a visceral rage in people because J’Ouvert was not simply a street party but a tradition born out of Emancipation through rioting by enslaved Africans.
The UK Guardian newspaper reported Jordan’s change of heart on Wednesday, quoting Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon from a Newsday story saying the intellectual property implications of the filing were “of extreme concern.” It also said an online petition to stop the trademark had already topped 12,000 signatures