THERE is still a “golden opportunity” to build a relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and American actor Michael B Jordan’s rum line, which was called J'Ouvert, that can help support the local culture and arts sector.
This was the response of Minister in the Finance Ministry Brian Manning to the social media furore which followed Jordan's announcement last weekend of the launch of the rum brand.
Jordan was accused of cultural appropriation. Some were angry that the trademark paperwork said J’Ouvert does not mean anything in a foreign language. On Tuesday Jordan apologised and promised to rename the rum.
Manning said the comments made in trademark filings were unfortunate because J’Ouvert means so much to TT and Carnival lovers.
“It is a part of our culture. Michael B Jordan isn’t above making mistakes. He’s human just like the rest of us. He has apologised.”
Manning, the PNM San Fernando East MP, said he felt there is still an opportunity for TT to work with Jordan to help support the culture and arts and maybe even generate revenue.
The country, he said, has to find new ways to economically grow the culture and arts sector, including Carnival.
Traditionally, artistes have struggled to generate financial support from the private sector and a relationship with Jordan’s rum brand could assist.
“I think it is going to be one of those opportunities. It’s good for Angostura, Michael B Jordan, and TT. That is a win-win proposition.”
A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Ajala Pilgrim, marketing director of Annex Advertising, said the bacchanal around J’Ouvert is a good learning experience for all.
“The entire thing is quite interesting, eye-opening and definitely a learning lesson for Trinbagonians in the tourism, arts and culture sector.”
Pilgrim said he understands both sides of the story and thinks the J’Ouvert rum marketing was poorly executed and in the end, misrepresented the country.
“I actually think MBJ is the scapegoat for the entire thing. The real person who should be answering is this so-called Trini (who is a partner in the rum line) and any other Trinis who were involved.”
Pilgrim said it seemed Jordan’s business partner did not want to be the face of the brand, but that could not have been possible if the rum is called J’Ouvert, something indigenous to TT.
“I don’t mind exposing Trinidad’s culture to the world, that’s what we need to be doing. But do it correctly. I real embarrassed they leave out Tobago. No right-thinking Trini will do that.
“I like the overall idea, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn't well executed at all. So they deserve everything that came to them. Don't profit the most by doing the bare minimum.”
Pilgrim said he is glad Jordan is changing the name because the country should not sacrifice its culture and heritage for a little bit of exposure.
“Everybody would start seeing us as an easy target. That’s why I think it was a great lesson for us. I am happy he is changing the name and now we have the opportunity to tell our own story the way we want to.”
He said the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts can use this incident to tell TT’s stories and export culture to the rest of the world.
Asked if the country missed out on opportunities because of the online debate surrounding the J'Ouvert rum, Pilgrim said: “Nah, it not that serious for MBJ. He realised his mistake and took responsibility. We cannot lose out on an opportunity that was never offered to us to begin with. We will be okay.”