TUNES // Oumou Sangaré – Bene Bene

Post by Misha

One of my favorite things about listening to a song that I can’t understand on a lyrical level is how the spirit of the music never fails to leave its mark on me.

 

Recently I attended a panel called “Hashtags Into Action,” focused on turning social media activism into on-the-ground action. The subject of callout culture came up; are callouts helpful? how do we respond? how do we support healthy dialogue?

When one of the panelists, activist Ashlee Marie Preston, was asked what she made of the phenomena of activists ostensibly on the same side of an issue calling each other out for relatively minor infractions, she said, “That’s what untreated PTSD looks like.”

It was one of the most compassionate and helpful takes on the subject that I’ve ever heard.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that most marginalized people have had to deal with being bullied, assaulted, harassed, condescended to, underestimated, stereotyped, misgendered, and or generally disrespected throughout their lives, and that this carries with it a legacy of trauma. To have that trauma reactivated by a member of one’s own “team,” so to speak, whether through ignorance or carelessness, is often even more painful than when it comes from someone you’d expect to be cruel, because it feels like a betrayal.

And don’t get me wrong, I’ve been called out before. And it sucks. The first thing I wanted to do was shout into the void: “But it’s not my fault! I didn’t know! It’s a misunderstanding!” But the callout was never about me, or my intentions. It was about someone feeling the sharp pang of a long history of mistreatment because of something I said or did.

Callouts are an imperfect way of asking each other to be better. To not be part of the problem. And they are a painful, important opportunity for both growth and healing.

Bene Bene, by Malian activist and artist Omou Sangaré is bottled struggle and triumph. It’s beautiful and combustible, and it reminds me why anger and healing are equally important.


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Oumou Sangaré is a celebrated Malian singer-songwriter who built her early career on unapologetically advocating for the rights of women and protesting against practices like arranged marriages and polygamy through her music. Bene Bene is off her new album Mogoya (“Today’s People”), which is her first record in eight years. Buy it here. Get tickets to her upcoming summer Europe tour here.

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