To recognize Black History Month in 2023, SOCAN asked several of our Black members to write a piece about whatever they choose. Here’s what JUNO Award- and Polaris Prize-winning R&B/hip-hop/reggae singer-songwriter Haviah Mighty has to say.
I’m not a big fan of self-proclamation, so disclaimer: I don’t think I’m the future of the world. In fact, while a lot of this is influenced by my experience as an artist, almost none of this is inspired by my own historical achievements.
My achievements speak for themselves – and I’m grateful for them – but what they’ve done, in this context, is put me in conversations and rooms alongside high-accomplishing Black creatives, many of them from Toronto… and there are a lot! My experiences have led me to being introduced to Black entrepreneurs in film, makeup, fitness, cooking, literature, plush toys, fashion design, and music, of course!
And then, as I’ve engaged in international travel, interviews, and networking opportunities, I started to notice those familiar faces and initiatives outside of the Canadian network, beyond the landscape in which I found it: artists from the U.S. wearing local fashion design pieces, or promoting local makeup products, or enjoying local foods – not only eating from major corporations – when visiting the city. I’ve seen, on major and minor scales, the increase of these individuals seeping into the fragments of my social media, TV, events; these spaces are not only impactful to Canadians, and the overall artistic expression here, but are being felt internationally, more than I can ever remember.
So, how is this impacting the world? How are Black creatives from Toronto, and neighbouring areas, changing things in places where they don’t live? Well, it depends on what constitutes “impact” to you. We live in a society that’s innovative and forward-thinking, but also functions on outdated thinking in many sectors. The artists and creatives here, and their peers, followers, and fans, are the cultural movement. They dictate what’s trendy, what’s popularized, what’s liked, and loved, and dismissed. And those things are then spread, shared, and become our reality. That’s the impact. That’s the foundation of who we are.
When someone creates global empathy because the song, movie, or photo they created has forced millions to think about an idea differently, or care about a concept more… That is impactful.
When your work and creativity inspire someone else to find their own, anywhere in the world… That is impactful.
When your output generates money, that you can then use to assist or fund others in need… That is impactful.
And when you share your knowledge and skills with others, there’s no telling whom you’ll help, educate, and positively push along the way.
Cue my own experience: I sometimes toggle with the conflicting idea that art doesn’t save lives, because more tangible skills like heart and brain surgery, that’s what technically save lives. Right?
Maybe – if we lived a life where only tangible things had any merit or impact on us. But not when we factor in how infused Black entrepreneurship is in global entertainment – it’s in your movies and TV shows, all streaming platforms; it’s in your literature and in commercials; it’s in sports, and in your streets and at your local corner store, and graffitied on that alley by your house. And if not directly in anything you’re exposed to, the art you do consume, or the books you do read, they’re likely influenced by it. So, we realize that it’s not even an argument whether Black Toronto Creatives are impacting the world.
It’s a given.