Lido Pimienta Speaks Out About "Overt Racism" at Halifax Pop Explosion

"I am deeply touched by HPX's apology — they know they have a long way to go to balance things out"
Lido Pimienta Speaks Out About "Overt Racism" at Halifax Pop Explosion
Photo: Rick Clifford
Last week, Halifax Pop Explosion issued an apology over a volunteer interrupting a performance from Lido Pimienta with what was called "overt racism." Now, the 2017 Polaris Music Prize winner has responded to the controversy.

As the festival's apology noted, "a white HPX volunteer along with several other white people in the audience reacted to Lido Pimienta inviting 'brown girls to the front' of the venue with overt racism. This volunteer was removed by Lido herself."

Further details of the volunteer's actions have not been disclosed.

Response to Pimienta's request on social media found some alleging "reverse racism." The festival's statement read, "we will not accept this behavior and neither should you... Be responsible for your friends — talk to them and support them as they move towards unpacking their racism. People of Color deserve safe spaces and it is your responsibility to help. It is also ours."

Now Pimienta has addressed the whole controversy to Billboard, saying, "I never asked white folks to leave my show, I would never do that. I never ask men to leave my show, I ask them to share the space in a more significant manner as an act of love and solidarity with people who, outside of the music show bubble, have to constantly justify their existence to the world."

Pimienta also went into much more detail about the incident. Find some excerpts from the Billboard piece below, and read the entire story here.

On why she started asking people of colour to move to the front of the venues while performing:

I started asking men specifically to go to the back of the room because in my 15+ years of attending shows, both on stage and in the audience, men make it unsafe for me to be in such spaces. 

From the audience's point of view, [men] for the most part will not think twice before they put themselves right in front of you. I am a short woman, so I always have to show up very early to be able to enjoy the music, to see the acts... From the stage point of view, I noticed how most men who plant themselves at the front, they tend to overpower ME. Their presence usually at my own show is a threatening one and I have had men grab me, grab my hands, grab my waist, scream "TE AMO MAMACITA." My show is all about high energy and high feminine power, so I can see for some men, my energy reads "sexual" and they feel like my show is FOR THEM, when in fact, my show if anything, is for WOMXN.

When I started asking womxn to the front, I noticed how white women were usually at the front and brown girls would be behind the white girls, a bit more shy, a bit more restrained. Even at HPX, I had to call out a few black girls who were "too shocked" and felt I was "putting them on the spot" by saying, "Girl come to the front! This is for you!" As an immigrant, as an Afro-Indigenous person, as an intersectional feminist, as a mother and all of the other signifiers that qualify me as "other," I understand what it is like to not see yourself in the media, to not see yourself in institutions and to not see yourself represented or reflected at a music show, because the "artist of colour" (and I put that in quotation marks because even that term is extremely problematic), we don't get to see each other at that level.

My being on stage in an otherwise mainly white folk artist bill, in Nova Scotia, a province famous for the segregation and mistreatment of African Nova Scotians, was not meant to be an act of HATE AGAINST WHITE PEOPLE. It was meant, as it has always been to me, [as] an act of love for the children of these African Nova Scotians, the children of Somalian refugees who ended up somehow in Halifax, and for the children of the many immigrant and migrant folks who, just like my mother, one day arrived in Canada with a specific narrative but the same story of "hoping for a better future." But still for us, the children of these immigrants, it is still quite strange, the act of enjoying ourselves uninterrupted by a white person who feels threatened by our presence.

This is why I do what I do, because I understand the feeling of oppression and exclusion. I never asked white folks to leave my show, I would never do that. I never ask men to leave my show, I ask them to share the space in a more significant manner as an act of love and solidarity with people who, outside of the music show bubble, have to constantly justify their existence to the world.


On how other audiences have reacted to the crowd request in the past:

Ninety percent of people who attend my shows and get the "Lido Pimienta reconfigures the room" experience LOVE IT. The outpouring of [comments like] "thank you for allowing me to see how brown folks at [these] shows are clearly a minority" outgrow the comments of hate. I would like to give you my twitter password so that you can see the racist comments and then the counterparts who will shut them down. It is a beautiful thing!

On the festival's direct apology following the incident:

I did not expect any comment from the festival whatsoever. This is not the first time I've had someone disrespect me, my band and my fans, but I have never had the venue, the bookers or any organizers in which acts of violence against me happen ever apologize. So I am deeply touched by HPX's apology — they know they have a long way to go to balance things out, but at least they called themselves out and I hope this doesn't end here but moves past the noise. I have a few ideas; I will probably share when I have time with them. We are all in a complicated and painful time, but we're on a necessary path, unlearning patriarchal western "civilization" ways. If we don't speak up, we will never e v o l v e.