‘We Hear You’: Michael B. Jordan Apologizes and Announces Rum Renaming Following Cultural Appropriation Accusations

Just days after announcing that he would be launching a rum brand called J’Ouvert, Michael B. Jordan was accused of cultural appropriation by many people online, including rapper Nicki Minaj. Now the “Black Panther” star is issuing an apology and has even promised to rename the liquor line.

On Wednesday, June 23, Jordan took to his Instagram Story, where he apologized on behalf of himself and business partners, maintaining that they never meant to “offend or hurt a culture (we love & respect) & hoped to celebrate & shine a positive light on.”

Michael B. Jordan attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards, Presented by BET, at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

He continued, “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.”

Michael B. Jordan issues an apology via his Instagram Story. Photo: @michaelbjordan/Instagram

The “Creed” star became a trending topic over the weekend after it was revealed he filed to trademark the word “J’Ouvert” for his luxury alcohol brand. The term, whose roots stem from the Caribbean and Trinbagonian culture, is derived from the French word “jour ouvert,” meaning daybreak, or the break of dawn, and marks the start of a freewheeling street celebration that begins before daylight on the Monday that precedes Carnival Tuesday in Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere in the Caribbean where the tradition is observed. Though the word has since been popularized with week-long festivities and elaborate costumes with beads and feathers, it also symbolizes the emancipation of enslaved people — much like how Juneteenth is for many Black people in America. 

A petition on Change.org was also started and had since amassed over 12,000 signatures in efforts to stop the New Jersey native from moving forward with his trademark. Many people felt the actor had no right to be the face of the product without having any connection to the Caribbean, let alone be able to profit from it. One Twitter user wrote, “For someone whose largest role to date was centered on an antagonist fiercely against colonization, TRADEMARKING THE TRINIDADIAN WORD J’OUVERT IS EXACTLY THAT SIR.” The person called Jordan’s actions “Gross.”

On Tuesday, the Grammy award-winning female emcee joined the conversation via a post on Instagram where she reshared information on the term. In the caption, Nicki, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, wrote, “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. 🙏🏾🇹🇹 #jouvert.”

Rapper Nicki Minaj calls out actor Michael B. Jordan over rum name. @nickiminaj / Instagram

However, not all were entirely angered by the situation. Newsday reported that Dr. Justin Koo, a lecturer in law at the University of West Indies St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, also attempted to shed some light on Jordan’s trademark fiasco, stating that, “If the trademark for J’Ouvert rum is granted, this does not mean we can no longer say the word J’Ouvert, this does not mean we cannot write J’Ouvert, this does not mean we cannot throw J’Ouvert parties anymore.”

He continued, “In relation to the J’Ouvert rum trademark application if that is granted, all that it means is that in the context of the United States of America where the trademark was filed, no-one else can sell rum or any confusingly similar product under the name J’Ouvert.”

Koo also expressed that a U.S. trademark would only have significance on the islands should it be approved by the Intellectual Property Office or the brand grew in popularity. Otherwise, “there would be no repercussions for an application for J’Ouvert being accepted in the US.” However, the Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-SCoon said the situation was “of extreme concern.”

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