The following was originally published on Ongoing History of Protest Songs.
America’s problems with systemic racism are due in part to a lack of recognition of past atrocities. This reality is highlighted in “Atlantic”, the new tune from the famous Canadian rapper Haviah Mighty.
In 2019, Haviah Mighty’s debut album “13th Floor” won the Polaris Award, an award given to the best Canadian album based on artistic merit. She was the first hip hop artist and black woman to win. The extraordinary album touched on many issues related to blackness and social injustice.
These are topics that she explores further with “Atlantic”.
“This concept, which we cannot escape from, is so gross and the reason they say, ‘Money is the root of all evil. “In particular, the Atlantic has been used as an aid to these evil practices at the expense of my black ancestors,” Mighty said.
“We were forced to come to America to make this value idea stronger, bigger, better, and with very little benefit. Now we are the “bottom of the barrel” in America, a disposition that I explore with the lyrics “Never seen Atlanta, but we travel across the Atlantic”.
“The singing vocals at the beginning and especially at the end are supposed to represent our screaming ancestors – a reminder that they were so strong, resilient and still here to strengthen us. Our story is with them and if we talk to them, learn from them, do our research, we will be stronger, ”added Mighty.
As this statement shows, Haviah Mighty achieves two powerful goals with her poignant melody. First, it makes the link between capitalism and systemic racism. If you can justify viewing someone as a lesser being, it becomes easier to take advantage of them for profit.
Second, she emphasizes the importance of listening to one’s ancestors, and especially examines it from a black perspective – how black people who learn about their ancestors can be an empowering influence.
But there is also a lesson for whites. We can learn from our ancestors, even if it means the uncomfortable recognition that we have personally benefited from systems of oppression.
We will never make progress as a society if we continue to whitewash the past.
Listen to “Atlantic” by Haviah Mighty: