Canadian rapper Classified releases powerful #MMIW video titled ‘Powerless’

Vincent Schilling

Classified raps about young indigenous women who suffer at the hands of men in authority, particularly religious leaders

Vincent Schilling

Indian Country Today

Classified is an award-winning hip hop artist from Nova Scotia that has recently dropped his latest song and video titled ‘powerless’ based on the plight of sexual abuse and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, MMIW.

In the video, Classified raps that he is part-Native and speaks about young indigenous women who suffer at the hands of men in authority, particularly leaders in the religious world.

In the first verse, Classified speaks to this abuse:

She wonders why nobody hears her cry

The footsteps in the hallway have her terrified

Scared as she looks into his staring eyes

He crawls into her bed and she just lays there, almost paralyzed

Feelin' powerless

She feels so powerless

She closed her eyes and hides under the covers

As her father tried to touch her

He took advantage of her, took all her innocence from her

She tried to explain to mother, but she said she don't believe it

Nobody wanna talk about it

'Cause this don't happen to good people

This don't happen to good people

At the age of 17, she finally went to the police

Charged him for the crimes he did

And finally took him off the streets

Then at the trial, she had to relive it all again

Understand, explaining how this man took her life within

Abused for 9 years, he got 4 months in the bin

She got a life-long sentence, he got slap on the wrist

It happens all too much, but too many keep it 'hush-hush'

How these kids suppose to trust us?

Man, don't let em feel powerless

Classified then goes on to explain his Native connection in the song stating, “My grandmother was part-white and part-Native.”

Shout out where my birthplace is, and to the First Nations

And to the people making the best out of the worst cases

Too many unanswered questions and open murder cases

Without a voice how are we supposed to encourage changes?

My grandmother was part-white and part-Native

In fact, my high school was part-white and part-Native

Personally connected, I've met people who've been affected

They've been asking for some help, but they been continually neglected

How many more of these indigenous women have to go missing

Before somebody will listen? Huh?

We need to change the conditions, maybe it's blatant racism

Maybe there's hate in the system, but we gotta fix it

Cause the people feel powerless

And the mothers feel powerless

And the fathers feel powerless

In addition to the powerful lyrics, Classified teamed up with First Nations female dancers from the Mi'kmaq community. The dancers are silent in contrast to the song who move in unison in a forest adorned with red dresses in tribute to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Among the dancers were three young indigenous girls, Eleven-year-old Summer Sylliboy, her best friend and cousin, Jaici Syliboy, 11, and Lesha Tabor.

In the video, Summer Syliboy danced and told the CBC that she thought about her cousin, Tanya Brooks. Brooks was from Millbrook First Nation and was found murdered outside a Halifax school in 2009. Her case is featured in the video.

In addition to images of Tanya Brooks, other images of MMIW are shown as signs held by their family members.

In a recent interview on CBC, Luke Boyd — who's known as Classified — said he was nervous about writing a song with a painful message.

Classified said the video, produced with Grammy-nominated director Andy Hines, "is the kind of stuff that makes a difference."

"It might sound corny but I feel like I'm doing something right," he said.

In addition to the original version, Classified also released an acoustic version of the song to benefit the SeaStar Child and Youth Advocacy Centre.

The goal of SeaStar is to decrease trauma and improve outcomes for children.

“We see the impact that SeaStar has for children and families every day. Together, we can make sure that no child feels ‘powerless’ because of what has happened to them” said Dr. Amy Ornstein, medical director of the IWK’s Suspected Trauma and Abuse Response Team, in a news release.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling