Thu | Nov 21, 2019

Kanye’s Sunday Service website pulls Jamaica-branded apparel - Grange says Gov’t was never asked for permission to commercialise nat’l emblems, Crawford OK with West cashing in on Emancipation Park performance

Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 12:17 AMCorey Robinson - Staff Reporter
Members of the Sunday Service choir wearing shirts bearing the Jamaican Coat of Arms performing at Emancipation Park in New Kingston on Friday night. Clothing bearing Jamaican symbols such as the national flag and coat of arms have gone on sale at the Sunday Service website, www.sundayservice.com.

As concerns mounted throughout yesterday over American rapper Kanye West’s Sunday Service Choir’s improper use of Jamaica’s national symbols and emblems on apparel being sold on its website, Culture Minister Olivia Grange last night said she had demanded that the items be removed.

Grange addressed the matter in a late-evening statement, but subsequent checks of the Sunday Service website revealed that while items bearing the national flag had been removed, some showing the coat of arms remained.

“I noticed Kanye West and members of his choir wearing similarly emblazoned items during their special performance in Kingston last night, but I was not aware at the time that the costumes were being sold online,” Grange said.

“We neither received a request for nor did we give permission for our national symbols and emblems to be used for a commercial manner or otherwise. I have since requested that the items be withdrawn, and the vendor has agreed to do so.”

The minister noted that a committee set up, when she was previously culture minister, to devise strategies to deal with proper use of national symbols and emblems would be re-established to continue the work.

But earlier in the day, Opposition Spokesman on Culture Damion Crawford downplayed the concerns about the use of the national symbols.

Jamaicans had taken to social media to voice their concerns after T-shirts bearing the Jamaican flag or the coat of arms became available for purchase online for up to US$200, or J$27,200.

Caps bearing the images were reportedly sold for US$60, just over J$8,000.

“I don’t think anything about it. I just think the branding just signifies that this is the Jamaica leg of the concert,” said Crawford yesterday afternoon.

“Some people would want to make noise about cultural appropriation and call on the Government for action, but, personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” he added, arguing that Jamaica stands to benefit from the concert.

“I think Jamaica benefits from him coming here in terms of public relations. We are going to get prime-time mentions, and remember the winter and tourist season starts in about 20 days. So people are making vacation decisions, and he (West) has influence,” he added, noting that the T-shirts only highlight the ‘Jamaican leg’ of the concert.

“Based on how the branding was used, I don’t think the intention was to make a sale by using Jamaica’s image,” Crawford continued.

Yesterday, several Instagram users continued to question West’s motive for the impromptu concert, which reportedly cost the artiste US$1 million to put on.

“SMH, exploitation at its best,” said Instragram user simply_247 in reaction to an article about the items going on sale.

“Lol. I was just waiting for it. One million ain’t anything to these people. He going to make some of that back,” wrote Mar_rio_mar.

“People of Jamaica, wake up this all about money stop feeding into his shirts,” offered queenserenityandbeilzesshop.

“Hmmm so that was the one reason he came,” said brownnhuntley.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com