Michael B. Jordan became a breakout Hollywood star following his roles in hit films like Creed and Black Panther, but social media has turned the actor’s latest business endeavor into a punching bag — one that he likely wished he could have avoided.
David K. Li and Stefan Sykes of NBC News have reported that Jordan has come under intense fire on social media and accused of cultural appropriation and overall insensitivity following the announcement of a new brand of rum he was attempting to market and sell.
‘J’Ouvert rum’ shares the same name as a celebration that has 18th-century roots in Trinidad when the island was controlled by French colonizers who kept slaves to toil in the sugar, coffee and cotton industries,” Li and Sykes said.
While Jordan may have been attempting to conjure images of beach celebrations with the naming of the rum, critics were quick to point out that Jordan, who was born in California and later moved to New Jersey, has no cultural ties to Trinidad and Tobago and appears to be trying to capitalize off of Caribbean culture. Even worse, J’Ouvert has roots in plantation slavery and originally included slave owners forcing and mocking slaves to harvest sugarcane in fields — even when late-season wildfires engulfed the land in flames.
“The withering backlash appeared to be fueled by Nicki Minaj, the Trinidadian-born, New York-raised rapper and singer-songwriter,” Li and Sykes reported. “About six hours before Jordan’s message, Minaj — with 142 million Instagram followers — shared an extensive IG post by the Trinidadian artist Xaria Rae Roxburgh, who explained the festival’s sobering ties to slavery.”
Minaj later added that she didn’t think Jordan was intentionally trying to offend or profit off of or those with Caribbean roots — but she still urged him to change the name of his product now that he knows better.
For his part, Jordan is doing just that. On Tuesday, June 23, he issued a statement on social media saying: “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. The last few days have been a lot of listening, a lot of learning and engaging in countless conversations.”
“We hear you. I hear you and want to be clear that we are in the process of renaming,” Jordan said. “We sincerely apologize and look forward to introducing a brand we can all be proud of.”