An Apology

To Namila Benson

HEY HEY – a personal note and very much needed apology, from me, Elly.

We proposed a bunch of panels for BIGSOUND this year, on behalf of LISTEN. One of those included a panel about race, so when BIGSOUND put up their program and we were happy to see that they had included a panel about race and racism in the music industry. I made the below post on the LISTEN page, which Chloe then shared on her own FB page. We gave ourselves a big pat on the back.

Namila Benson, then commented on Chloe’s post, saying she had also proposed a panel about race to BIGSOUND, and that in fact, the panel blurb and title that BIGSOUND is using, is word for word what she had proposed. There I went thinking, “Great! We both proposed one!”.

Namila, if you don’t know her, is one of the most hardworking, wise and passionate women working in the Naarm (Melbourne) music community. She broadcasts, speaks, educates and moderates integral conversations about race, culture, decolonisation and more, and she works tirelessly to provide crucial platforms for women of colour to share their stories through the arts.

I didn’t think about the fact that our post on LISTEN was then directly taking credit for Namila’s words. It was there and then that I should have amended the LISTEN post to reflect this. I didn’t.

I am a white person, and this mistake flies in the face of a shameful history of white feminists appropriating ideas and experiences when it suits them, and being either blind or willfully ignorant to the needs, work, labour and pain of the women of colour around them. I’m ashamed to have not only been complicit in this type of thing many times in my life, this time I am 100% responsible for it.

This morning I heard that Namila had taken the time to call this total stuff up out on her own FB page. I am grateful that she did this because it made me realise what I’d done, but it’s just totally not good enough that she had to in the first place. That I didn’t respond better when the issue first arose.

I am really sorry. I’m sorry to Namila for putting her in a position where she had to point this out, at first kindly and patiently, and then now, again. And I’m sorry to all the POC who probably witnessed this and thought “Jesus, here they go again”. I also want to recognise that some Facebook apology posts don’t even scrape the surface of the kind of frustration, hurt, and anger that this kind of behaviour by white people causes in the lives of people of colour.

I have written to Namila personally, and written a public apology on my own Facebook page as well as here on the LISTEN page. If anyone has any further suggestions for how to rectify this massive error and be better accountable to the broader POC community, I’m here.