The New Orleans-based musician Benjamin Booker will release a new album this year. It’s called Witness, and today Booker shared the titular track with along with an artist statement of sorts. The piece opens with a James Baldwin quote, and recounts Booker’s experience living in Mexico and witnessing US foreign policy and current events from an outsider’s perspective. He then reflects on his own experience of racism in America. Here’s an excerpt:
In college, if I got pulled over for no reason driving I’d casually mention that I was a writer at the newspaper and be let go soon after by officers who probably didn’t want to see their name in print.
“Excuse me, just writing your name down for my records.”
I felt safe, like I could outsmart racism and come out on top.
It wasn’t until Trayvon Martin, a murder that took place about a hundred miles from where I went to college, and the subsequent increase in attention to black hate crimes over the next few years that I began to feel something else.
Fear. Real fear.
Read the full piece here. Mavis Staples joins Booker on “Witness,” and you can listen to it below.
01 “Right On You”
03 “Witness (Feat. Mavis Staples)”
04 “The Slow Drag Under”
05 “Truth Is Heavy”
08 “Off The Ground”
10 “All Was Well”
Witness is out 6/2 via ATO.