Fierce

Adele’s Bantu Knots Spark Conversations About The Barriers Of Cultural Appropriation And What’s Worth The Upset

If you thought nothing else about 2020 could surprise you anymore, you clearly haven’t seen what’s up with Adele.

Over the weekend the “Hello” singer posted an image of herself to Instagram that quickly found itself under scrutiny. In the photo, Adele is seeing wearing a Jamaican flag bikini top and Bantu knots in her hair. The caption for the post reads “Happy what would be Notting Hill Carnival my beloved London.” A series of flags from Great Britain and Jamaica end the caption.

Adele’s photo appears to be an attempt at cultural appreciation gone off the tilt.

According to Newsweek, “The Notting Hill Carnival is a popular annual event that’s significant in Black British culture, and it takes place during the Sunday and Monday of the country’s August Bank Holiday weekend. The carnival that began in 1966 has taken on a Caribbean flavor since 1976, but it was canceled this year because of COVID-19.”

The cancellation of the event hasn’t kept people from participating in the event virtually in their own ways however. Certainly, it didn’t hold Adele back. The singer wore the traditional African hairstyle that according to NaturallyCurly.com, has been around for over a century. “Bantu” is a term that describes hundreds of African tribes that spoke the “Bantu” language. It does not, however, belong to any one group of people in particular.

Still, it’s easy to understand why Adele’s decision to wear the look has drawn some criticism and brow raises.

In recent years, conversations about cultural appropriation have become commonplace on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Cancel and Callout Culture have led users to become up in arms whenever a person seems to appropriate the culture of another group. The ire of these hypercritical cultures often seems to know no difference between people who are well-meaning and those who are just intending to be mean.

And while it is true that the misuse and misrepresentation of minority cultures can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and even be seen as an exploitative form of colonialism, in Adele’s case many are wondering whether this is the case.

“All this crying about silly things is getting boring now mind, remember when black people had real issues to fight for…now they get triggered by a white woman’s hairstyle,” one user wrote in the comments section of Adele’s post.

“If 2020 couldn’t get any more bizarre, Adele is giving us Bantu knots and cultural appropriation that nobody asked for. This officially marks all of the top white women in pop as problematic. Hate to see it,” journalist Ernest Owens commented about the image.

“WE LOVE SEEING OUR FLAG EVERYWHERE!!!!” one person wrote in the comments. “This made me smile. It shows the impact my little island has on the whole world. How influential we truly are.”

Still, some have been quick to remind others that while yes Adele’s post is odd and problematic the singer has long been an ally of black people.

She has paid tribute to Black people and Black artistry in appropriate ways. Let’s give her a chance to do it again? After all, as the carnival’s executive director, Matthew Phillip pointed out to The Guardian over the weekend, the event has particular significance this year.

“For more than 50 years carnival has been a statement that Black Lives Matter,” Phillip pointed out. “That’s normal practice for us, it’s not something that we’re just jumping on now because of the current global climate and what’s going on. Carnival has been making these statements for 50 years… In a year when people have been protesting against the treatment of black people, I think this is a good way of showing that we have something to contribute, something that is positive.”


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This Brand Is Being Called A ‘Culture Vulture’ After Being Accused Of Gentrifying Latino Cooking

Culture

This Brand Is Being Called A ‘Culture Vulture’ After Being Accused Of Gentrifying Latino Cooking

Granddriver / Getty Images

As a kid growing up in a Latino household, pretty much everyone had a giant molcajete for grinding up spices and making salsas, or a tortilladora for whipping up homemade tacos and quesadillas. And as staple of pretty much any Latina home, they weren’t that expensive either.

Well, one online company has taken all of that and flipped it upside down to try and make a very hefty profit by bringing ‘artisan crafted’ products into people’s homes – helping them experience a ‘cultural journey.’

The store’s outrageous prices for such traditional kitchen items is generating tons of criticism alone from people calling them ‘culture vultures’ and accusing them of gentrifying Latino cooking and cultural appropriation.

Verve Culture is being called a ‘culture vulture’ for taking traditional Latino cooking tools and selling them at insanely high prices.

Credit: MiComidaVegana / YouTube

Verve Culture – an online store dedicated to bringing “you on a cultural journey” – is facing a series of complaints after profiting from traditional cultural products. The company sells typical products in the preparation of three traditional cuisines at very high prices: Mexican, Moroccan, and Thai.

In the case of traditional Mexican products, the company sells orange and lemon juices; accessories for making chocolate, blown glasses, and molcajetes. And at insanely high prices: a molcajete for $60, a tortilla press for $60, a Mexican chocolate set for $80, and a “Mexican hand juicer” for $15.

The company is obviously profiting off of traditional products of a culture that is too often denigrated – or on the other end of the spectrum, fetishized. Brands are no stranger to appropriating traditional cultural items to boost sales but this particular instance seems to have hit a major nerve with shoppers.

Like, for real?! A molcajete for $60 USD?!

Among some of the most outrageous priced items is a molcajete and tortillero set that goes for $60 USD. That’s literally 20 times more expensive than it should cost.

As someone who lives in Ciudad de México, and who does their shopping at local tianguis and mercados, I have literally bought the exact same set Verve Culture is selling. I paid $60 pesos for the set – not $60 USD – or about $3 USD.

Selling items like this at such inflated prices means Verve Culture is profiting off of the cultural and gastronomic identity of an entire country. So it’s no surprise that Mexican Twitter lit up in shock and anger.

The reaction on Twitter was swift and full of outrage.

A Tweet showing off the outrageously priced products and accusing the brand of “gentrifying Mexican kitchen cookware” already has 36,000 likes and almost 20,000 retweets.

Among some of the comments include one Twitter user who said “Take your site down. This is an insult to Mexican culture along with all the other cultures you’re profiting off. Our culture is not your home decor!”

Another user tweeted, “…not of them is brown so it should really be named stolen culture because they’re selling fancy versions of things traditional to Mexican culture. Having one is fine, profiting off of a minority or their culture is not fine.”

While at least one person pointed out that the people who craft these items have long been taken advantage of. In a tweet, she said “Culturally we’ve been taught that our incredible craft and culture are worth close to nothing for years now, I really wish we could just collectively erase this mindset but at this point it’s so deeply rooted that thinking differently even feels “wrong” most times.”

Many pointed out that if you want to respect a culture’s food, support actual locals and artesanos.

Shopping online from three women who are not from the communities they’re profiting off of, is now way to support that community. That should be common sense but that site seems to have many customers.

As one Twitter user pointed out, if you really want to support local trabajadores, you should be buying directly from them. Shop in your local flea markets, your Latinx-owned shops and markets, this is how you’ll best help artisans.

The company’s $60 tortilla press was even featured in a Buzzfeed article earlier this year.

In the article, the author points out that the “tortilla press is made in Mexico from old Singer sewing machines and other recycled irons! The cast iron should last you, basically, forever so it’s definitely worth your money.”

That’s all great but where is that money going? How much of the $60 is the Mexican, Moroccan, Thai artisan actually earning from Verve Culture’s sales?

So what is Verve Culture and what do they have to say about all of this?

According to their website, Verve Culture is “a women-run business spanning three generational groups from Baby Boomer, Gen X, to Millennial.” As founders, Jules and Jacquie are a mother and daughter team who have worked together for 27 years.

In the company’s about section, they go on to say, “We are in constant pursuit of life traveled fully.”

“Our vision is to explore the cultural richness of artisans and communities around the world – to educate and inspire, while honoring the traditions and heritage of their work.”

Despite these claims, Twitter has been loud and clear in its message: stop profiting off the backs of already underpaid and overworked artisans from around the world.

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Jussie Smollett Speaks Out For The First Time In Months About His Alleged 2019 Attack— ‘They Won’t Let This Go’

Entertainment

Jussie Smollett Speaks Out For The First Time In Months About His Alleged 2019 Attack— ‘They Won’t Let This Go’

Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty

In early 2019, “Empire “actor Jussie Smollett found himself thrust into the public spotlight of scrutiny after it was reported that he had been the victim of a hate crime. His original claim initially prompted public outrage and a flood of support from fans. Then, nearly three weeks later, the public was shocked to learn that Smollett had been charged with disorderly conduct and the false filing of a police report after it was determined that the attack had been staged. Worse? Officials suspected that Smollett himself had choreographed the entire attack from start to finish. In March of 2019, the actor was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report that claimed two men attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs at him.

Since then, the charges against Smollett have been dropped but his reputation remains tarnished. The court of public opinion has determined that he is a liar and fabricator. Ultimately he was dropped from his role on his show and he has remained relatively silent about the issue.

Now, a year after the alleged attack Smollett is speaking out about the controversy in a rare interview.

On Wednesday, the actor made an appearance in an Instagram Live conversation with author and activist Marc Lamont Hill. During the interview, Smollett addressed his ongoing trial calling the situation “frustrating, to say the least.”

“It’s been beyond frustrating, and I certainly am not going rogue,” Smollett explained. “I’m still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that, but I don’t really see, honestly, what staying quiet has really done, like, where it has gotten me. … It’s so much bigger than me.”

Smollett went onto share what the past year has done to him and shared that his legal team recently filed a motion against his indictment. The motion is set to be reviewed in court on Thursday. “I believe I have to give it up to God,” Smollett explained before adding that he thinks the legal motion will fall in his favor.

“They won’t let this go,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter — there is an example being made. And the sad part is that there’s an example being made of someone who did not do what they are being accused of.”

Addressing accusations that his original claims were all a hoax, Smollett said that “From the very, very beginning, it was set up to seem like I was lying about something or everything.”

Smollett claimed “there would be no reason for me to do this” and called the accusations “bulls—,” before adding that the “last thing” hew would ever want to do is “be portrayed as a victim.”

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