Last weekend, actor Michael B. Jordan announced the launch of his forthcoming line of rums, J’Ouvert. The name was quickly called into question, as it references a Caribbean festival that celebrates emancipation but has origins in 18th-century slavery. After some people — including Nicki Minaj and Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of trade and industry — criticized the branding for being culturally appropriative, Jordan has issued an apology and said he plans to change the name.
“I just wanna say on behalf of myself & my partners, our intention was never to offend or hurt a culture (we love & respect) & hoped to celebrate & shine a positive light on,” Jordan wrote in a statement posted to his Instagram Story. “Last few days has been a lot of listening. A lot of learning & engaging in countless community conversations … We hear you. I hear you & want to be clear that we are in the process of renaming. We sincerely apologize & look forward to introducing a brand we can all be proud of.”
“J’Ouvert” is an Antillean Creole French term that translates to “daybreak.” It also refers to the start of Carnival in the Caribbean, an annual celebration that originated in Trinidad and Tobago and dates back over 200 years. Per BBC, the festival originally began with 18th-century plantation owners and masters dressing up as enslaved people. After emancipation, newly freed people took over the festival, mocking the enslavers who once imitated them. Now J’Ouvert is both a celebration of emancipation and Caribbean culture, with festivals taking place across the Caribbean and internationally, including in New York City.
Shortly after Jordan announced his new brand, Paula Gopee-Scoon, Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of trade and industry, told Newsday the potential trademarking of the term “J’Ouvert” was “of extreme concern.” Gopee-Scoon said her office would be working with the office of intellectual property and ministry of the attorney general to do “the necessary investigation and, as always, seek to support anything that is Trinidad but at the same time protect what is ours.”
On Tuesday, Nicki Minaj, who is Trinidadian, shared a post highlighting the history of the word “J’Ouvert” and its roots in the Caribbean. “I’m sure MBJ didn’t intentionally do anything he thought Caribbean ppl would find offensive,” the singer wrote, “but now that you are aware, change the name & continue to flourish & prosper.”
Jordan has not yet said what he plans to rename his rum brand.