Aboriginal blues musician and Elder, Marlene Cummins, was racially abused outside a popular bookstore in Newtown, Sydney over the weekend – adding that neither booksellers nor the general public came to her assistance during the incident.
In a video posted to Facebook on Saturday night, Cummins explained that while busking outside the Better Read Than Dead bookstore – as she has done for some time – she was verbally attacked by two men and one woman, who heckled the saxophonist in a manner that was “full on, disrespectful and racist”.
She claimed that while bookshop staff witnessed the incident, no one came to her help until after it had already happened, when one staff member came outside to apologise to Cummins.
In another video, Cummins speaks directly to staff inside the bookstore, saying, “I’m out there playing beautiful music to the masses, and you let these idiots, these racist, redneck, white people abuse me.”
The 66-year-old musician and activist, who has spent decades fighting against injustice, went on to point out the “contradictory” nature of the store’s progressive image given their inaction.
“You sell books here, Eddie Mabo. It might interest you to know that Eddie Mabo helped me get my first saxophone,” she said. “You have no idea what it’s like to be Aboriginal in this country and experience racism on a daily basis.”
“You’ve had launches of people who write good books about this sort of behaviour,” Cummins added. “And yet, when something happens, right under your noses, you do nothing.”
“Being anti-racist is an action word.”
The bookshop has since issued a statement on their social media, apologising for their lack of action during the incident.
“Last night, an Elder of the local Indigenous community was racially abused out the front of our shop. We condemn the actions of these people in the strongest possible terms. We have the deepest respect and support for the local Indigenous community, we share your outrage that she was treated in this way, and we recognise that we could, and should, have done more to help,” the store wrote.
“We should have been proactive in addressing the incident, and on this occasion we failed. Our deepest and sincerest apologies. As a community, we owe a duty to care to one another. This means offering support, assistance, and protection when we see injustice in front of us, and stepping up immediately when situations arise.”
The store said they would be reviewing the incident with staff this week, and implementing training in regards to conflict resolution and racial abuse, in order to “take prompt and appropriate action” in the event of a similar situation in the future.
“Now, as ever, is the time to be engaging in these conversations, to be accountable, and to do better.”
You can see the full post from Better Read Than Dead below.
Considered one of the country’s foremost Indigenous blues performers, Cummins has released two albums – most recently 2014’s Koori Woman Blues.