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
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