The following was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Songs.
America’s issues with systemic racism are partly due to a failure to recognize past atrocities. This reality is highlighted in “Atlantic,” the new tune by acclaimed Canadian rapper Haviah Mighty.
In 2019, Haviah Mighty’s debut album “13th Floor” won the Polaris Prize, an award that goes to the best Canadian album based on artistic merit. She was the first hip-hop artist and black woman to win. The exceptional album touched upon many themes related to blackness and social injustices.
These are themes that she continues to explore with “Atlantic”.
“This concept that we can’t escape is so disgusting, and the reason they say, ‘money is the root of all evil.’ Specifically, the Atlantic Ocean was used as a vessel of support for these wicked practices, at the expense of my Black ancestors,” Mighty stated.
“We were forced to come to the Americas to make this idea of value stronger, bigger, better, with very little benefit. Now we are the ‘bottom of the barrel’ in the Americas, a disposition I explore with the lyrics ‘Never seen Atlanta, but we travel the Atlantic.’”
“The singing vocals at the beginning, and especially the end, are to represent our ancestors crying out—a reminder that they were so strong, so resilient, and still here, keeping us empowered. Our history is with them, and if we talk to them, learn from them, do our research, we will be stronger,” Mighty added.
As that statement indicates, Haviah Mighty accomplishes two powerful objectives with her poignant tune. First, she makes the link between capitalism and systemic racism. If you can justify viewing someone as a lesser being, it becomes easier to exploit them for profit.
Secondly, she highlights the importance of listening to one’s ancestors and explores that primarily from a black perspective—how black people learning about their ancestors can have an empowering impact.
But there is also a lesson for white people as well. We can learn from our ancestors, even if that means the uncomfortable acknowledgment that we have personally benefited from systems of oppression.
We will never progress as a society if we continue to whitewash the past.
Listen to “Atlantic” by Haviah Mighty: