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Activism & Action

LiisBeth’s #IWD2020 March Playlist: Marching On, Each for Equal

Image of rap star Haviah Mighty, black woman, singing.
Haviah Mighty wins the 2019 Polaris Music Prize for 13th Floor | Photo by HipHopCanada
Here are 10 new songs for us to march to on Sunday, March 8, for International Women’s Day. I believe that working towards equality is a balance between doing our own inner work and taking action in the world. We must be able to honour our pain and the learning we still need to do, and also look outwards to see where there is injustice in our communities and step forward proactively.

The artists below are each striving for equality in their own way, using their platforms and voices to help us all learn and grow. We are each here to contribute to that greater purpose. Let this #IWD2020 be an inspiration for us on how we can march forward, and what direction we are heading in.

Bikini Kill, “Girl Soldier”

Bikini Kill, known for pioneering the Riot Grrrl movement, was one of the first all-female bands in punk to speak out against abuse and misogyny. “Girl Soldier,” truly an anthem to march to, points to the irony of men fighting overseas when there is a war happening on our own homes against women, women’s lives, women’s bodies, women’s rights. Seen here in a live video from the early ’90s with “Turn Off Your TV” draped behind them, Bikini Kill inspired a revolution and called us all to action. 2020 sees them reuniting in a world that just might be ready for their message.

Haviah Mighty, “In Women Colour”

Brampton rapper Haviah Mighty made history in 2019 when she became the first female rapper to ever win a Polaris Prize. The opening track to her album, 13th Floor, cuts hard to the truth of how racist and misogynistic our world (let alone the music industry) still is. She tells her powerful story, how none of it could break her, and now as she breaks boundaries with her art, she is changing the landscape for Black women in this country.

Backxwash, “F.R.E.A.K.S”

Rising Montreal rapper Backxwash identifies as queer and a witch—two communities that have historically been broken through hateful, patriarchal culture. F.R.E.A.K.S is an anthem to all the incredible people existing in the margins of society who are changing our culture by showing up unapologetically. Historical change has always come from queer and marginalized communities, pushing the restricted boundaries of normalcy and redefining identity. Today we celebrate all the amazing freaks.

Riit, “qaumajuapik”

Riit, a Juno-nominated and rising artist from Nunavut, is an embodiment of the slow but real change beginning to happen in the music industry. Her Inuktitut lyrics and throat singing speak of her experience growing up in the Northern Territories, and the strength she has found as a woman through much of it. “qaumajuapik,” the first video from her 2019 album, landed her on many incredible shows and festival lineups, a massive hurdle for an artist living in such an isolated population. Making space for voices like Riit’s is the reason our individual actions matter.

Tei Shi, “Alone in the Universe”

Colombian-born singer Tei Shi often sings on themes of love and loss but her 2019 anthem “Alone in the Universe” is a song for us to march to. If there is a God, and if she is a woman, she’s dropping the ball, Tei Shi proclaims. She follows it by promising to speak up for the sake of others, where she hasn’t been able to speak up for herself. It’s a powerful reflection on the isolation of being a woman, and the importance of taking action on behalf of ourselves and others.

Lido Pimienta, “Eso Que Tu Haces”

Lido Pimienta returns this April with her first album following her 2017 Polaris Prize win, titled Miss Colombia. “Eso Que Tu Haces” depicts the magnificent colour, warmth, and dance tradition of San Basilio de Palenque, the first place of refuge for those fleeing slavery in the Colonial Americas. Her magnetic voice and storytelling has begged Canada for years now to be accountable to continued racism in the country, and this song is no different as she sets a boundary around what can be considered a “loving action,” and what is false.

Sudan Archives, “Glorious”

This video is Black Girl Magic personified as Brittney Parks imagines her own prayer to God in the style of old oral tradition hymns. Inspired by Aisha al-Fallatiyah, the first woman to ever perform in Sudan, “Glorious” prays for money, a foundation of life in our world. It is a stunning and raw nod to intersectional equality—if we want an equal world, we have to understand that it takes marginalized genders, races, and identities that much more effort to get what they need to survive in it.

Austra, “Risk It”

Austra returns this year with new music after four years when we last heard “Future Politics,” a plea for a more equal, utopian world. “Risk It” is a call to action that can be interpreted in our love lives, our political lives, or both (since there’s really no separation in the end, is there?). As we march to the beat of this song, we can contemplate risk as an essential part of growth and change. There are places where we all need to risk it in our lives in order to see equality grow in the world.

Black Belt Eagle Scout, “Indians Never Die”

This song is a beautifully haunting comment on our Earth and the Indigenous communities that have cared for it over many generations. Colonial violence is still painfully active and destructive in the 21st century, and we are each responsible for our part in ensuring that the land we live on and the individuals who continue to care for it do not waste away. Perhaps the physical earth can be part of our vision for equality, too.

Vagabon, “Every Woman”

Do not be deceived by the gentle strum of this song. In the lyrics lives a war cry, a proclamation that Laetitia Tamko is not afraid of the battle that women face every day to exist and be free. There is a solidarity in her lyrics as we understand the importance of every woman coming together in the name of equality. We may be tired, but there’s a ways to go still before we sit down.

Related Playlists

You can also find all our playlists on Spotify under LiisBeth.

Allied Arts & Media Our Voices

Listen Up! July Playlist for Feminist Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship and transformative work is hard, socially, financially, and personally. There are surprises and mind benders at every turn.  To succeed, you sometimes have to get out of your comfort zone. This reality makes LiisBeth’s summer playlist ideal listening for feminist entrepreneurs.

If you’ve somehow found yourself suddenly lost, cursing the heavens, or just looking for some emerging artist music that challenges you, aids reflection, and inspires, then take a deep breath, turn off your phone, close the curtains in the middle of the day, turn up the volume, and steep in the incredible force of raw, powerful, creative female energy.

This playlist is curated exclusively for LiisBeth by Urbanology’s Sadé Powell.


The Sorority ft. Leila Day, “Ladies Night”

For this past International Women’s Day, these ladies of The Sorority from the 6ix got together for a good ol’ fashioned ladies’ night. The video pays tribute to the original 1997 song of the same name by Left Eye, Angie Martinez, Missy Elliott, Da Brat and Lil’ Kim. In this version, rappers Haviah Mighty, Keysha Freshh, Lex Leosis, and pHoenix Pagliacci deliver bar after bar of solidarity with all women, Muslims, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Denai Moore, “Does It Get Easier?”

In her most recent video, Jamaican-born, London-based songstress Denai Moore uses her sweet, soothing voice to ponder one of the many questions we ask ourselves as we crawl through everyday obstacles: “Does it get easier? Does life get easier?” Moore addresses both the good and bad aspects of life while rejecting neither. The visuals juxtapose images of different family relationships with that of Moore’s own family to portray how similar we really are.

Jorja Smith, “Beautiful Little Fools”

There’s a line in the book The Great Gatsby in which the lead female character, Daisy, talks about her daughter: “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” It was this line that inspired UK singer Jorja Smith to challenge that testimony through music. In “Beautiful Little Fools,” a video released on International Women’s Day, Smith addresses the social limitations that are placed on women every day.

Willow Smith, “Female Energy”

At 13 years young, Willow Smith plays within the atmosphere of her female energy as she makes the transition from childhood to womanhood in this psychedelic music video. Now at age 16, Smith has clearly shown growth into the realm of neo-soul in contrast to her 2010 pop debut with “Whip My Hair.” Mature well beyond her years, Smith demonstrates that the understanding of self doesn’t have to come later in life.

Junglepussy, “ME”

If there was a way to put a selfie in video form, “ME” would be it. However, it’s not only the surface image that you see; it’s what leads up to the selfie and makes up its beauty without the need for filters. The Brooklyn-bred Shayna McHayle better known as Junglepussy illustrates herself as carefree and unapologetic as she sways from a tire swing in the forest, stars in her own infomercial, and becomes the life of an underground party. McHayle even takes time to pay homage to some of her biggest inspirations such as Erykah Badu, Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim.

FKA twigs, “M3LL155X”

The five-song visual EP titled “M3LL155X” (pronounced “Melissa”) is accompanied by four hypnotically beautiful videos layered with complex themes about domination, submission, femininity, and fluidity. It is undoubtedly a world created by American singer-songwriter and producer FKA twigs, a woman who is often misunderstood and simplified. In “M3LL155X,” FKA twigs shows us just a piece of who she is, but she doesn’t make it easy for anyone to label or define her.

Janelle Monáe, “Cold War”

American singer Janelle Monáe gets up close and personal in the visual for “Cold War,” a moving single that was shot all in one take. Shortly after the minute and a half mark, Monáe gets emotional while mouthing the words, “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me.” Before performing the song at the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, she explains that the lyrics depict a time when she didn’t feel empowered being an African-American woman. She closes by stating that she hopes the song will inspire other women and young girls to find their power.

Laura Mvula, “Phenomenal Woman”

Laura Mvula whisks us away to the beautiful district of Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, South Africa, where the streets are vibrant and alive with colour. Mvula bellows from the depth of her diaphragm, “You are a phenomenal woman!” while surrounded by some pretty fierce, fly ladies grooving to the sound of her voice and the powerful words of her song. In a press release, the British singer had this to say about the track: “We are the givers of life, we are the children bearers, the nurturers, the heroines. We are extraordinary in our ordinariness. We fly, we fight, we are ‘Phenomenal Woman.’” The song was initially inspired by a poem of the same name written by the late Maya Angelou.

Jessie Reyez, “Gatekeeper”

Jessie Reyez’s “Gatekeeper” is a short film that takes us behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a woman in the music industry, you know, the not-so-glamorous part that’s riddled with misogyny and sexism. For Reyez, it’s been a jarring reality.

Kehlani, “Bright”

R&B singer Kehlani Parrish was shocked when her project “You Should Be Here” was up for Best Urban Contemporary Album in 2015 even though it was actually a mixtape. The song “Bright” stood out amongst its peers as not being a song about falling in or out with a significant other, but about falling in love with yourself.

Additional playlists from LiisBeth:

A Cure for Chaos: A Playlist to Feed Your Heart and Mind

Our Voices Systems

Not Your Incubator's Entrepreneur (And That's Your Loss)


A few years back, I found myself on an auditorium stage at Toronto’s elite MaRS Discovery District looking out at a room full of professionals who were gathered to discuss how to encourage youth entrepreneurship in Ontario. I was 29, the co-founder, co-publisher, and editor of a magazine, and had already done dozens of speaking engagements. But when the host introduced the other speakers, I suddenly clammed up. They seemed way more sophisticated, accomplished, and deserving of the title “entrepreneur,” at least in the way it was being defined at this conference. They spoke about turning profits, full stop. Here I was, then just short of a decade in business, still struggling to secure enough revenue to print and distribute Urbanology Magazine, the quarterly publication I co-founded.
Somehow, I quelled my nerves enough to tell honest stories of my entrepreneurial journey, which was very different from the others. I talked about learning everything about business and entrepreneurship through trial and error; never really having a “business plan”; of driving overnight to New York and having to freshen up in the lobbies of fancy hotels before conducting high-profile celebrity interviews, then driving right back to Toronto because we couldn’t afford to keep the rental van a day longer, let alone stay in a hotel room. I even told the audience about the time a patron—an older, white man—approached our vendor booth at a hip-hop show, asked us if we funded our publication with “drug money,” and brushed off my response.
When the moderator opened the floor to questions, I had another opportunity to discover how very different my entrepreneurial journey was. A woman asked if my team had ever tapped into accelerators or incubators or approached any venture capitalists for support.
Huh? What? Come again.
My answer was short: no. But I did qualify it by explaining that we had no idea those types of opportunities existed. That may have been our fault. Where did we get off starting a business without researching the resources available to us? But as racialized people in our early 20s and coming from one of Toronto’s “priority” neighbourhoods, my business partner and I would not have seen ourselves as the ideal candidates for such support. Remember the question about the drug money?
To this day, that woman’s question plays over and over in my mind. Why hadn’t we been able to access the support of incubators, accelerators, and all the other fancy programs that had clearly benefited the other entrepreneurs on stage? Why hadn’t my many young peers who had started businesses tried to access them either? Why didn’t we think they were available to us?
This was the answer I came up with: Depending on where you live and what your lived experience is, you have access to certain stuff or you don’t. And if you don’t, you go about your life, not really considering “that stuff” as an option. You just run with your entrepreneurial spirit, trying to set everything up, doing the best you can.
But that brought me to this question: How do young women of colour entrepreneurs chart their journeys? Research from Canadian academic institutions, incubators, or government is of little help because it largely does not exist. Though Canada is an incredibly diverse country with more than 200 ethnic groups represented in its population, the specific experience of women of colour entrepreneurs remains uncharted terrain. By not acknowledging that the experience of a white woman entrepreneur may be different than that of a non-white woman, it effectively erases very real experiences.
To begin to understand my journey, and those of other young women of colour entrepreneurs, I sought them out and asked questions. Some I know well; others I know through my various networks. Some are side hustlers, nurturing a business alongside a family, a full or part-time job, or both; others are solopreneurs. Their businesses range from for-profit and non-profit to social enterprises and creative ventures. I don’t claim that their stories (or mine) represent the journey of all young women of colour entrepreneurs. We are not a monolith. Let that sink in. Factors like ethnicity, nationality, race, language, physical ability, sexual orientation, and socio-economic position—and the intersections of all those—matter. The type of business you start also matters. For example, I decided to publish a magazine, one of the toughest challenges anyone can take on in these times of crumbling media empires. Nonetheless, these women gave voice to entrepreneurial experiences that deeply resonated with me, echoing aspects of my own overwhelming roller coaster ride—ripe with joy, rewards, self-growth, frustration, anger, pain, sadness, and hopelessness.
But let me start with the passion.
Publishing a magazine is a continuous struggle. Honestly, what keeps me going is the type of content we have been able to create, and the voices we have been able to amplify. What keeps me motivated has nothing to do with profit margins or sales projections. It has everything to do with filling a void we saw within Canadian magazines and essentially making a small difference by bringing new voices and perspectives to the world.
Asia Clarke, the 27-year-old creative director and founder of Wild Moon Jewelry, told me that a similar passion drives her. As an arts entrepreneur, she says that making an income from something she pours her soul into “is a very fulfilling feeling.” And that having others appreciate or be inspired by her work is “really empowering.”
Clarke took environmental studies at York University, focusing on international development and sustainable development. While in university, she embarked on a spiritual journey—her academic interests, jewellery making, and starting her business became part of carving out her own identity. It was about “cementing my place in the world as a Black feminist,” she says.
Her business has taken her to places such as Trinidad, Dominica, and most recently, Ghana, where she facilitates jewellery making and entrepreneurship workshops for women who are former sex workers seeking new forms of income. Having a degree certainly helps, but she says it’s her entrepreneurial experience that shows employers her capability. “Having your own initiative, something that you can show others you really care deeply about, that you’re passionate about, really brings so much more opportunities your way,” says Clarke.
My own entrepreneurial venture has certainly opened doors for me. Though Urbanology has never paid my bills per se, it has led to jobs, teaching opportunities, paid speaking engagements, and freelance gigs.
And then come the challenges.
Clarke and I are from the same underserved Malvern neighbourhood in Toronto and confronted many of the same challenges on our entrepreneurial journeys. For years, she self-funded her handmade eco-friendly jewellery line while working part-time and attending school before landing her first grants from CUE, ArtReach, and the Ontario Arts Council. Clarke explains that in the traditional jewellery industry, families are often in it for decades, unlike her own experience. “Me, as a young woman of colour, daughter of Caribbean immigrants who really struggled to get a foot into Canada, I didn’t have those opportunities, or those support systems,” she says. She points out that being able to obtain a university education while living rent-free at home with her family enabled her to direct the money she made at a part-time job towards Wild Moon’s expenses—two privileges she had that other young women of colour entrepreneurs may not.
The challenge of securing startup funding is a reoccurring theme that comes up in my discussions with other young women. A recent report on the state of Black women entrepreneurship in the United States indicates that like all women, Black women face barriers such as a lack of startup capital, resources, and loans; gender discrimination; and children and family obligations. However, the report finds that these barriers for Black women “are compounded by the influence of race on social, human and financial capital.” This is despite the fact that “Black women entrepreneurs are among the fastest growing groups of women-owned businesses in the country with more than 1.5 million Black women business owners in the U.S.” according to Carla Harris, chair of the National Women’s Business Council, which co-commissioned the report. Despite the dearth of research available on Black women—or any women of colour—in Canada, anecdotal evidence would indicate similar challenges exist north of the border. As Clarke tells it, often intergenerational capital isn’t available to women of colour, making the concept of borrowing from friends and family less likely.
Lamoi, the 33-year-old founder of Signature of a Mango jewellery and spoken word artist living in Brampton, Ont., started out “later in life,” which left her on the sidelines of accessing funding and programming geared at entrepreneurs 29 and under. When she gave birth to her daughter in 2014, she quit her job to pursue a desire she had for many years: to work for herself. She decided to focus on building her business and developing her art, while being a stay-at-home mom. Although she says she has a “village” of people who help with her daughter, some members of her extended family have not been supportive of her entrepreneurial ventures, often urging her to return to a 9-to-5 job and “be part of the system.” Venturing into entrepreneurship can be powerful, she says, but without the support and startup cash to make it through, becoming profitable can be near impossible. “That’s why a lot of our businesses end up failing,” she says, referring to women of colour. “Not many people are in jobs where they can save up and quit their jobs, take care of their families, and start a business.”
There have been other challenges too. For Lamoi, managing her time and balancing motherhood with growing two small businesses has been tough. As daycare is expensive, she sends her daughter only once a week and she’s found it difficult to find reliable childcare at night when most of her spoken word gigs are booked.
Aisha Addo, 24-year-old founder of the Power to Girls foundation, a non-profit she started at 17 to “empower Afro-diaspora girls in the Greater Toronto Area and abroad,” and most recently, DriveHER, a ride sharing service like Uber but with a focus on providing safe rides for women, says she often feels like she faces a triple barrier: being a woman that’s young and racialized. Because of the latter two factors, she says potential investors in DriveHER have challenged her being a suitable choice as the face of the company. “As much as we encourage young people to dream big, when it comes to actually pushing them and investing in them, people are always hesitant,” says Addo, adding this reticence compounds for youth of colour. “Investing in people of colour is imperative, just for society in itself to thrive. The lack of these opportunities go on to create a whole lot of other social issues.”
Addo hit the nail on the head. In order to raise capital for DriveHER, Addo is utilizing crowdfunding, one of the recommendations put forth in the Black Women Entrepreneurs report. Twenty-one days into the campaign, her innovative venture has raised just $1,824 of her $25,000 goal. What gives? Ensuring that the startup ecosystem is welcoming, accessible, and inclusive—particularly to communities who are vastly underrepresented in it—is imperative. There is no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit and talent. Helping those entrepreneurs get a proper start so they can realize the full potential of their businesses, which, in turn, would strengthen their families and communities, requires making fundamental changes to the startup ecosystem. In part two of this article, coming later this month, I speak to women who are creating welcoming, safe, and supportive spaces and find out how they’re working to launch women entrepreneurs of colour, as well as hear about the mounds of work left to do.
Additional Reading