new music: benjamin booker and mavis staples demand action on new single “witness” #soundcheck

March 10, 2017

There’s an important distinction between witnessing something and bearing witness. An innocent bystander is someone who sees something awful and keeps walking, but to bear witness is to take action; to take responsibility for what you’ve seen. With that in mind, Benjamin Booker has enlisted soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples on the first single from his forthcoming new album. The song’s chorus asks “Am I going to be a witness? Just going to be a witness?” Booker holds himself to account, asking himself what he’s doing to fight the wrongs he sees around him. It’s part call to action, part call to introspection; demanding that we all question ourselves, and never let ourselves become complacent, innocent bystanders. It doesn’t hurt that the song rules too.

“Once you find yourself in another civilization you are forced to examine your own.” —James Baldwin

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK contributor