Shattering boundaries as a Black woman is nothing new for Haviah Mighty, and she does so again in her new music video, “Protest.” The vid features the Brampton MC spotlighting the Black Lives Matter movement through powerful imagery that showcases the ongoing fight for Black liberation. Arriving a year after the global BLM protests of 2020, Mighty and directors Kit Weyman and Chrris Lowe show that a music video is at its best when fueled by robust storytelling. In this case, it not-so-subtly brodcasts some historical moments to express that protesting is ever-evolving.
The video’s emotional performances and stunning costumes perfectly capture the lyrics, illuminating the visceral messaging within the fiery track. Each outfit choice was deliberate and meticulous, filled with rich symbolism, all the way down to Mighty’s nail art which spelled out ‘protest.’ It begins with Mighty sporting a white T-shirt emblazoned with a crimson target, to hit home the dark reality of marginalized communities being targeted by law enforcement. “[It’s about] feeling like you’re being targeted and feeling like the odd man out in certain spaces and feeling like you’ll be identified or recognized as someone who’s doing something wrong,” she explains.
“It’s really a paranoia and a fear, and I think it’s very much fueled by Black trauma.”
Dripping in history, “Protest” features several nods to the legacy of Black protest. In one scene, a runner breaks into a sprint while sporting an Africville jersey. It contextualizes the blazing verse’s subject matter of Black people being oppressed since Canada’s early days. “It represents the displacement that Black people experienced when they first came to this country,” she says of the reference to the once vibrant African-Canadian village. In another scene, Mighty is decked out in a sleek black outfit that serves as an ode to the Black Panther uniforms. “[It] is very in line with protesting from a historical standpoint. And I think this song is trying to represent protesting in the new age, in kind of unconventional ways, but also [acknowledging] the historical template for ways that we are familiar with, like the Black Panther movement,” she says.
For Mighty, the song is her way of protesting, by articulating the fear that stems from being othered. “It’s really a paranoia and a fear, and I think it’s very much fueled by Black trauma,” she says. “It’s just one of those things that I think needs to be broken down in layman’s terms like, I am fearful at a party and fearful that the cops might show up and then I’ll be the one that’s targeted. That’s the main issue and the main reason why, particularly [for] the Black community, why we protest.”
The song also allowed her to recontextualize her feelings around racism and injustice. In her other music she’s touched on similar themes, such as on her Polaris-winning album 13th Floor, which delved into the dismissed narratives of Black folks. On “Protest” and by extension, her next album, it’s about unpacking whitewashed myths to take a deeper look at the systemic issues at play. “I think that there’s this fake narrative that racism and white supremacy and these hierarchical standards that diminish marginalized communities, we pretend that they don’t exist here in Canada, because of the passive aggressive nature of how it’s showcased, and how it’s a little bit less in your face and direct in certain ways,” she says. “It’s so prevalent, and it’s just as prevalent here, as in the States, down to the history and the country being built on that racism. We just heard about 215 Indigenous children found in mass graves; our country is built on this racism. So I think that we need to start talking about very particularly what’s happening here.”
Mighty says that it’s important that the track speaks to Canadians and Torontonians specifically, because these are issues that hit her and those around her, hard. Her previous songs have ebbed and flowed around the American point of view, such as her impassioned track “Thirteen,” which talks about the 13th Amendment. The local perspective of “Protest” was intentional, to tie her experience to her community while still noting that it’s an issue that extends globally. The voice of UK grime MC Yizzy on the track adds an element of universality and stresses the harmful, far-reaching nature of racial trauma.
The song might be a taste of what’s to come from Mighty’s next album, but it is grounded in the current moment. “With this record, we’re talking about the now and it’s very much inspired by the now,” she says.