The outrage behind the name of the Miss Universe Jamaica’s costume was met with a lengthy social media explanation, opposed to an apology, which is what many Jamaicans were hoping for. A tweet from the Rose Hall Jamaica Twitter page is what ignited the fire that has yet to be tamed.
“If you missed our costume reveal last night of our Miss Universe Jamaica,” the page wrote. “Miss Universe Jamaica’s Costume Name: Annie Palmer – Legend of Rose Hall. Iana Tickle Garcia is rocking this!”
As we previously reported, it is unlikely the costume and its’ intricate adornments is what people are taking issue with. Or even 19-year-old Iana Tickle Garcia, who has been crowned Miss Universe Jamaica and is seen wearing the costume in the photos tweeted. Instead, it is the costume’s name, “Annie Palmer – Legend of Rose Hall.”
The tourism website Jamaica Travel And Culture explains that Annie Palmer was a white woman, who was labeled the “White Witch of Rose Hall.” Her name alone is not only triggering to Jamaicans, but also takes them back to a time of anger, hurt, and pain. The site adds that Palmer “was an accomplished practitioner of Haitian Voodoo and during her reign at Rose Hall murdered three husbands and countless slave lovers. Her reign of terror was ended when she was murdered by one of her slaves and a ritual was carried out to banish her spirit from earth. However, it is rumoured that the ritual was not carried out correctly and that Annie still haunts the Rose Hall estate.”
The Miss Universe Jamaica Organization’s mediocre attempt to remedy their insensitive misstep came by way of a lengthy Facebook post. However, the post appeared to serve as an explanation, rather than an apology or acknowledgment of accountability.
“With this year’s costume, we never sought to glorify slavery, nor promote witchcraft or any of the folk tales Annie Palmer has been accused of, instead, what we sought to do, as have the pantomimes, books and articles written about her, was to just tell the story of another part of Jamaican history without endorsing, glorifying or celebrating her deeds or the atrocities of slavery, and hopefully, the conversations resulting could lead to teachable moments for these same young people we were targeting, especially those who have no interest in history taught the traditional way,” the post said in part.
The organization continued, “Obviously, we have succeeded in this mission, as more people are now talking about this aspect of Jamaican history and we hope they will now be motivated to engage in further research in the topic to have a greater understanding of our past.”
Miss Universe Jamaica has also come to the defense of Garcia. “Iana Tickle Garcia, our reigning Miss Universe Jamaica has been viciously attacked on social media for wearing the costume, while representing the country abroad. This is unacceptable…She is being bashed, demonized and vilified. This is not the action of a civilized people and Iana does not deserve the abuse she has been receiving,” the organization added.
While the organization has indeed opened up the conversation about Jamaican history, the fact remains that those affected are questioning why the organization is “so often accused of colorism and misogyny.”
“This is not an apology. Stop patting yourselves on the back. The only discussion we’re having is why your organisation, so often accused of colorism and misogyny, is still so tone deaf as to present a costume like this as somehow representative of Jamaica,” one Facebook user wrote on the organization’s page. “The costume was glamorous. Do not attempt to insult us by somehow implying that you were not glamorizing someone whose claim to fame is torture and murder during Jamaica’s darkest period. Not to mention this is the same girl who conflated being ugly with not being of fair complexion. Please, get real or just gtfo.”
Another comment said, “Costumes for these events are usually celebratory and they tend to bring pride and joy to a people. If they do not do that, do not insult the people by calling them uncivilized, simply because they voice their concerns. It’s fine to accept responsibility and promise to do better next time. It’s not entirely her fault, but being the educated and confident young lady she is, she should/could have voiced her concerns.”
The jury is still out on whether or not the organization will allow this to be a teachable moment. However, the 2019 Miss Universe pageant airs tonight from Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. The broadcast will appear on Fox at 7 p.m. EST.