Michael B. Jordan Responded to Cultural Appropriation Backlash Over His New Rum
"Our intention was never to offend or hurt a culture we love and respect."
Over the weekend, Black Panther's Michael B. Jordan launched his own rum brand, originally called J'Ouvert. However, after images from the launch party hit the internet, fans and critics were a bit taken aback that Jordan, who has no connection to the Caribbean cultural celebration, would co-opt (and trademark) the name and the meaning behind it to sell his rum.
"Derived from the Antellian Creole French term meaning 'daybreak,' J'Ouvert originated in the pre-dawn streets of Trinidad, as celebrations of emancipation combined with Carnival season to serve as the festival's informal commencements," the rum's box reads. "Crafted on those same islands, J'Ouvert Rum is a tribute to the 'party start.'"
J'Ouvert is an annual Caribbean festival that starts just before daybreak and is now a celebration of West Indian identity and culture. However, the festival can be traced back 200 years to Trinidad, when French plantation owners would throw Canboulay festivals and dress up as their slaves. These parties began after one fateful sugar cane plantation fire caused slaves to hurriedly harvest crops before the fire destroyed everything. Canboulay was a reenactment of this event during which the slaves' panic was mocked despite them saving their masters' crops in the end.
Trinidadian rapper Nicki Minaj reposted an Instagram user's retelling of this history to her Instagram feed, writing, "I'm sure MBJ didn't intentionally do anything he thought Caribbean ppl would find offensive- but now that you are aware, change the name & continue to flourish & prosper."
After listening to fans and those who took offense, Jordan took to his Instagram Stories yesterday, June 22nd, to apologize.
"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," Jordan wrote. "Last few days has been a lot of listening. A lot of learning and engaging in countless community conversations."
"We hear you," he said. "I hear you and want to be clear that we are in the process of renaming. We sincerely apologize and look forward to introducing a brand we can all be proud of."
The J'Ouvert Rum Instagram page has deleted its posts and the website requires a password to enter. We'll have to wait and see if and how Jordan's brand makes a comeback under a new moniker when one is chosen.