Lido Pimienta, a Colombian-Canadian singer, asked white audience members to move to the back of the concert hall and people of color to move to the front during her Halifax Pop Explosion gig at the Marquee Ballroom in Nova Scotia’s capital last month, Billboard reported.
While Pimienta’s request was nothing new — it’s often part of her shows — this time it apparently was met with some resistance, the magazine said.
A white female volunteer who was reportedly there to photograph the show — along with several other white audience members — reacted to the singer’s desire to get “brown girls to the front” with what festival officials called “aggressive” and “overt racism,” Billboard said.
The magazine said there were no details regarding the alleged racism at the Oct. 19 show.
What did a fellow performer report?
- Allie O’Manique, who shares management with Pimienta, said the female photographer refused to move from her spot near the front of the stage, the National Post reported.
- Nearby crowd members got angry at the photographer for refusing to move, O’Manique added.
- O’Manique recalled Pimienta “just kept saying, ‘Move to the back,'” the paper said.
- “Finally after saying it about 10 times — and the woman refused to move — [Pimienta] said, ‘You’re cutting into my set time, and you’re disrespecting these women, and I don’t have time for this,” O’Manique said, according the Post.
- Event organizers said the volunteer was kicked out of the concert and is no longer affiliated with the festival, the paper reported.
- Festival spokesman Trevor Murphy confirmed O’Manique’s account, the Post said.
What did festival officials say about the incident?
- The board of directors for Halifax Pop Explosion issued a lengthy statement blasting the white volunteer and apologizing profusely to Pimienta, Billboard noted.
- “We will not accept this behavior and neither should you,” a portion of the statement reads. “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.”
- “To Lido Pimienta: we are sorry that one of our volunteers interrupted your art, your show, and your audience by being aggressive and racist,” the statement also said. “We have so much respect for the art and music you create and the space you make for women, people of color, transgender, and nonbinary people. The way you interact with the world acts and provides a thoughtful example. You are a role model to us and many people in our community. We see it. We feel it. We hope you will work with us again.”
What did Pimienta have to say afterward?
- “I never asked white folks to leave my show, I would never do that,” Pimienta noted in an email Q&A with Billboard. “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.”
- She added to the magazine that she “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.”
- Pimienta added that “90 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!”
- Pimienta thanked the festival for its apology — sort of.
- “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,” she told Billboard.
- Pimienta added to the magazine that she wants “the white woman heckler at my show to apologize now.”
What else did O’Manique report seeing at the show?
- “There was a man standing behind me, an older man, who was referring to Lido as a racist because she was dividing the crowd,” she told the National Post.
- “I also saw two women fighting closer to me, yelling in each other’s faces and giving each other the finger,” O’Manique added to the paper.
What steps are festival officials taking in the wake of the incident?
- “The Halifax Pop Explosion has worked hard in the past year to learn what embracing anti-racism and actively being inclusive of People of Colour and 2SLGBTQ+ folks entails,” its statement also read, Billboard said.
- The festival will provide its team with “anti-oppression and anti-racism training,” the statement added, and is looking to offer a list of resources “to those who create unsafe and uncomfortable space at our shows and venues by demonstrating racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and other discriminatory behaviors, so they too can begin unpacking their discriminatory behavior. As a festival, we will also spend the next several months addressing ways we can make our festival spaces safer for women, POC, and 2SLGBTQ+ folks.”
How are others reacting to the controversy?
- After pushback on Twitter about her actions, Pimienta made her case:
- But others weren’t buying it: