In Trinidad & Tobago, the use of Black iconography in Emancipation Day ads backfires


[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Janine Mendes-Franco offers an excellent analysis of the recent Emancipation Day ad fiasco [see previous post “Trinidad apologizes…”]. She states, “Riding the wave of a social movement? Get it right.” She concluded with an important lesson to remember, “There’s a difference between taking a stand on pressing social issues, and regarding those issues as nothing more than a marketing opportunity.” Please, read the complete article and related images at Global Voices; here are excerpts.

One of the ripple effects of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been personal reckoning when it comes to racial bias. After a video of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked worldwide protests — including in the Caribbean — many have been educating themselves and confronting their privilege and now that BLM has captured widespread attention, companies are also making a point of supporting causes that advocate for racial justice.

On August 1, in Trinidad and Tobago, this desire to be seen as “woke” and in solidarity with the cause took on an interesting tenor as the country marked Emancipation Day, which commemorates the freedom of enslaved Africans in the former British West Indies.

Trinidad and Tobago, like other Caribbean territories, has a history of occupation, colonisation and slavery and in 1985, became the first independent country in the world to declare Emancipation a public holiday.

As is customary, the pages of local newspapers were filled with corporate messages acknowledging the anniversary of the abolition of slavery.

The raised, clenched fist

Several advertisements that missed the mark featured the symbol of the clenched fist most often associated with the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and early ’70s, and now, with Black Lives Matter.

Stag, a locally brewed beer, posted an image of the fist emerging from one of its labelled bottles with the message, “Open up to freedom in every sip” [. . .].

[. . .] Some commenters expressed their disappointment at the trivialisation of the importance of Emancipation, while others felt those who took offence were being “snowflakes” and “over-sensitive”.

However, the ad that struck the sourest note came from KFC, which posted an image of a drumstick whose shadow cast an image of the fist clenched in resistance. Social media exploded at the audacity of the stereotype, with many users wondering if it was even authentic. [. . .]

For full article, see

[Photo by Paul VanDerWerf: “Image of the clenched fist, a symbol of resistance that has come to be most closely associated with the Black Power movement, and now, with Black Lives Matter.”]


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