Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / African groups demand ‘reparative action’ from Prestige Holdings for KFC’s Emancipation Day ad

African groups demand ‘reparative action’ from Prestige Holdings for KFC’s Emancipation Day ad

“[…] We cannot allow a major Caribbean corporate player to perpetuate demeaning images of African People at any time—and more so on a day that is sacred to us, when we pay homage to our ancestors whose sacrifice resulted in the freedoms we celebrate on Emancipation Day.

“In light of all of this, we collected groups—the Emancipation Support Committee, the Kwame Ture Educational Institute, Rhodes Must Fall Caribbean, the Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago—along with design experts will engage Prestige Holdings Trinidad Ltd in discussions about reparative action for this insulting representation of our people…”

The following letter to the editor on KFC’s controversial Emancipation Day advertisement was submitted to Wired868 by Emancipation Support Committee chairman Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada, Kwame Ture Education and Development Centre founder David Muhammad, Cross Rhodes Freedom Project director Shabaka Kambon, and Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago president Rubadiri Victor:

Photo: KFC’s controversial 2020 Emancipation Day advert, which the company subsequently withdrew.

On Saturday 1 August 2020, Trinidad and Tobago celebrated its 35th Emancipation Day holiday. This year’s Emancipation commemoration was marked by two significant concurrent events: the world-changing ramifications associated with the Black Lives Matter movement and its interrogation of white supremacist systems, and those changes associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

These twin upheavals have made this Emancipation a time of real communal reflection. Unfortunately, in the middle of this historic celebration, the African people of Trinidad and Tobago were horrified to find that one of the nation’s largest restaurant conglomerates had concocted a most heinous racist campaign to mark its Emancipation remembrance and solidarity message for 2020.

Whether the image in question was created in malice, in carelessness, in jest, or in complete ignorance of racist stereotypes and good design protocols, it was racist, derogatory and diminishing of the African Struggle for racial justice particularly in terms of the Black Power Revolution celebrating its 50th anniversary and the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement.

The image enjoyed widespread purchase throughout Emancipation Day, being viewed by tens of thousands—here and abroad. Negative reaction to the image was nearly immediate. Many commentators engaged in long viral conversations about the debilitating and negative nature of the image.

Photo: Prestige Holdings chairman Christian Mouttet is a member of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s Economic Recovery Team.
(Courtesy Ansa McAl)

Yet still it took most of that day before there was a statement of apology from the brand and its withdrawal!!!

We do not believe that the late apology is enough. This ad brings to light greater issues of the way that Africans are represented in media and how careless and flippant many media programmers are with African icons, legacy, and symbols.

We believe that this must be a teachable moment for the nation and corporate Trinidad and Tobago.

Some people are still asking: ‘what is wrong with the image?’

Allow us to illustrate: the image equates the raised fist, the symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power and African Liberation with a fried chicken leg—deriding these universally important efforts to expand human freedom by placing the iconic fist associated with them in the shadow of a spicy chicken leg!

Is the brand saying that Black struggle is equal to or subordinate to a drumstick? That Black Power is equivalent to consumption of fried chicken? That a Black Life is worth a dead piece of chicken?

The fact that the international slogan of ‘Black Power’ mocked in the ad was coined and popularised by a Trinidadian, Kwame Ture, is even more of a stain of shame on the ad.

Photo: A boy gives a raised fist salute as he and a friend sat on a statue in front of the New Haven County Courthouse at a demonstration of 15,000 people during the trial of Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins on 1 May 1970.
Both were acquitted.
(Copyright Stephen Shames/Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery)

Is the brand conscious of the American-born but now globalising stereotype that ‘Black People are obsessed with fried chicken and watermelon’—and that Black Life can be purchased with it?

Does the brand know that if such an ad were to find itself in American media it would be a death knell for its brand; and that the same fist might rise up against it with compensatory ramifications in the tens of millions of US dollars?

There are serious implications to the publication of images and the disrespect of ethnic groups. Brands with multi-million-dollar marketing apparatuses around them know this.

Destructive and debased stereotypes, which all people become targets of at some point, must be all be overturned.

One of the many battles that African People in particular have fought and continue to fight is the mobilization to project African Achievement, to make our representation in art and media more respectful, truthful, panoramic, and honourable.

Photo: US athletes Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) give a Black Power salute on the podium at the Mexico City Olympic Games on 16 October 1968.
Australian silver medalist Peter Norman is at left. Trinidad and Tobago’s Edwin Roberts finished fourth.
(Copyright AP)

The battle is to eliminate destructive and debased colonial stereotypes which repeatedly project our people as lazy, savage, evil, criminal, and ignorant. The battle is to ensure that Black dignity, Black heroes, heroism and even super-heroism become more commonplace in modern storytelling.

The recent #hollywoodsowhite movement highlighted this issue of representation; and has since seen major improvements in front and behind the camera and in boardrooms.

We cannot allow a major Caribbean corporate player to perpetuate demeaning images of African People at any time—and more so on a day that is sacred to us, when we pay homage to our ancestors whose sacrifice resulted in the freedoms we celebrate on Emancipation Day.

In light of all of this, we collected groups—the Emancipation Support Committee, the Kwame Ture Educational Institute, Rhodes Must Fall Caribbean, the Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago—along with design experts will engage Prestige Holdings Trinidad Ltd in discussions about reparative action for this insulting representation of our people.

Photo: KFC apologised for its controversial 2020 Emancipation Day advert.

The apology and removal of the ad is welcome but not enough. The real conversation must now begin.

The engagement will include a public, corporate, and advertising industry outreach component. We have to ensure that such a grievous error in representation is not made again.

About Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor
Want to share your thoughts with Wired868? Email us at editor@wired868.com. Please keep your blog between 300 to 800 words and be sure to read it over first for typos and punctuation.

Check Also

McIntyre: Kamla Persad-Bissessar: A Cautionary Tale—from pioneer to parody

The trajectory of Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s political career is a cautionary tale to any who would …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

11 comments

  1. Trini people don’t care enough to take action and this will soon be forgotten even if KFC somehow manages to flub its apology for the apology….and KFC sales will be as normal…probably the only restaurant that doesn’t need to worry about surviving Covid-19 – that’s more telling than a drumstick with the raised fist in the shadows.

  2. Tell These parasites to stopping shaming their ancestors and look into sustainable ways to build their community instead of looking for a handout at the expense of their own. Plus why not start telling people to stop buying KFC and see where that goes.

  3. How racist, hateful and disrespectful? No respect or empathy for african lives or history!

  4. Little known fact
    Peter Norman, the white australian bronze medallist from that iconic black power salute photo from the 1968 olympic games, had actually given the leather gloves to the other two medallists for the salute. On returning to australia, he was punished by being blacklisted for the rest of his life! THAT is how racist australia is…wonder why brad boyce migrated (fled?) there?

  5. I find it rather interesting that this article has not elicited any comments/reaction to date, in terms of either agreement or condemnation.

    Where are you, Messrs. E. Best and L. Liburd?

  6. Earl Best

    I tried to call Ralph Maraj for a comment but, even though I got no response from him, I find myself wondering what it is you people have with figures of speech and images. Did none of you do Literature in school?

    Maybe I should have called Phillip Alexander instead…

    Or the DOMA President…

    • Ralph was probably busy writing the express editorial when you called?

      • There was a similar situation with…

        H&M (Swedish multinational clothing-retail company) over two years ago with an ad of a young boy with melanin in his skin wearing a hoodie with the slogan “coolest monkey in the jungle”. They issued an aplogy.

        Starbucks, (American multinational coffeehouse) on June 10 cited in their company policy, employees were not allowed to wear BLM merchandise as it was too political and can incite violence. Conversely, employees voiced that the company allowed LGBTQ merchandise to be worn on the job. Two days later, Starbucks issued a statement that they will “stand in solidarity with our black partners, community and customers.”

        A few questions:
        Do we prefer covert or overt racism?
        Do we believe race is a social construct?

        Completely arbitrary:
        The problem here is NOT the corporations, it is us. Corporations will function how they deem fit. The onus is on us to be honest with ourselves and ask if certain products and services (offered by large corporations) are needed or are they for the sake of opulence? We have the power to mobilize and make decisions that engender “real” transformative change.