While some in Trinidad and Tobago and even across the Caribbean found no issue with the word ‘J’ouvert’ being used by actor Michael B Jordan and his partners for their new rum, scathing backlash from countless others has seen the Black Panther actor apologize to the community overnight, saying the rum would be renamed. His statement came on the heels of international rapper Nicki Minaj’s social media comment on the issue, hours before.
In his Instagram stories, Jordan said “the past few days has been a lot of listening, a lot of learning and engaging in countless community conversations.”
The matter of the word ‘J’ouvert’ being trademarked in the US, drew concern from cultural gatekeepers who questioned why a word, while French-creole by origin, yet innately and completely representative of the Trinidad and Tobago created pre dawn carnival celebration, would be taken for use in generating personal profit at a time when the issue of cultural appropriation is quite sensitive.
Many Trinidad and Tobago nationals, angered that in the trademark filing it was stated that the word had no meaning in a foreign language, became duly defensive. In a Newsday interview, Attillah Springer explained in greater detail, the history of the word, highlighting its true root in the emancipation of slaves. “J’Ouvert is part of our emancipatory process. It is a ritual, and it becomes really problematic for someone to try and own that. We rioted for this. We rioted for the right to have J’Ouvert…J’Ouvert is about visibility. J’Ouvert is about protest, celebration in the face of people who did not see you as a human being.”
Michael B Jordan, in his statement on social media on Tuesday morning said while he hoped to celebrate and shine a positive light on a culture that “we love and respect”, he and his team have heard the outcry and are now in the process of renaming the rum.
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