Michael B. Jordan‘s new rum line, J’Ouvert, is sparking controversy, including allegations of cultural appropriation.
The movie star and alcohol entrepreneur drew heat over the weekend when it came out that he filed to trademark the word “J’Ouvert” for his new brand of high-end alcohol.
The term — which is deeply rooted in Caribbean and Trinbagonian culture — marks the start of Carnival, and is derived from the French words “jour ouvert,” meaning day break, the break of dawn, or simply morning.
While often associated with the fun and festivities of Carnival, the term and the celebrations associated with it are deeply tied to the emancipation of enslaved people and is incredibly significant to the cultures that participate in the celebrations.
Jordan was first criticized for trying to trademark the term at all, given its widespread and already existing use among many different groups and traditions. Additionally, fans took offense to one line in the trademark filing which claimed the word “J’Ouvert” has “no meaning in any language.”
A Change.org petition was quickly formed to try and have the filing dismissed. The petition appeared largely to be a way to call Jordan’s attention to the outcry and to encourage him to change direction.
Rapper Nicki Minaj, who is Trinidadian, was among those who voiced their concerns about the festival name being used to brand rum.
On June 22, she shared a message explaining the cultural significance and history of J’Ouvert, and like the petition, her intent seemed to be to educate Jordan and urge him to make a change.
She accompanied that with a message for Jordan, 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.”
On Tuesday night (June 22), Michael took to his Instagram Story to apologize.
“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,” Michael started. “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,” Michael continued. “We sincerely apologize & look forward to introducing a brand we can all be proud of.”