Saturday October 07, 2017

'It came from my badassery': Lido Pimienta unpacks her impromptu Polaris Prize speech

During her acceptance speech, Pimienta was flanked by her son, right, and her mother, who is out of frame. She said they both cried but she was able to hold back the tears.

During her acceptance speech, Pimienta was flanked by her son, right, and her mother, who is out of frame. She said they both cried but she was able to hold back the tears. (Chris Donovan/Canadian Press)

Listen 9:32

On September 18, Lido Pimienta delivered an acceptance speech to remember, surrounded by her mother, son, dancers and bandmates:

She had just been awarded the Polaris Music Prize for Best Canadian Album of the Year. Now that she's had time to process her surprise win, Now or Never host Ify Chiwetelu invited her to unpack her impromptu speech.

SPEECH EXCERPT: I don't have a speech prepared, I thought that my brothers A Tribe Called Red were going to get it, and I was going to come on stage with them because we worked together on We Are The Halluci Nation.

I was filled with shock, gratitude, just full surprise. If I actually would have prepared something, I wouldn't have said anything that I said! It was all an emotional response when I was up there.

SPEECH EXCERPT: I did not expect to be here, holding back my tears. My son cried already for me. Give it up for my son, Lucian Elias. Came out of my womb, 9 years old.

I know that I did that because, in this industry, women are not encouraged to be mothers. Men can have as many kids as they want in music and they can go on tour, and it's all good because the mom is watching the kids when they're away. That does not apply to me. Being a mother helps me be a better artist and helps me be a better manager of my time. Children of single mothers, we know how hard it is. My mother raised three of us by herself because my dad died of cancer when she was six years old, so I honour her and I honour my son, and I honour myself by recognizing that single mom life.

SPEECH EXCERPT: I don't really know what to say, perhaps the only thing that I can say is that I hope that the Aryan specimen who told me to go back to my country, two weeks after arriving in London, Ontario, Canada, is watching this.

I think this came to mind because my mother was there and my mom still lives in London and has to deal with an incredible amount of racism in her workplace. It was almost an homage to my mother. I wanted to give my mother that memory of we are oppressed, but we are also surviving and we are also winning.

SPEECH EXCERPT: I want to take the opportunity to thank my beautiful mother. This is my mom y'alls! For being so resilient and for enduring white supremacy in Canada in her work, when she goes to work and she gets told the same thing, to go back to her country. I have so much, I want to say so much.

The room got so quiet because, most of the people that are at Polaris don't have to face those things. In that moment it was sinking in that we have a lot of work to do.

It would have been great to say how children of immigrants, second generation, third generation, we become our parents psychologists, we become our parents financial advisors. You really have to become grown up really fast when you come to a new country and your parents are still learning the language. I wanted to somehow find the words to say that quick but I didn't because it was to overwhelming so I'm saying it now.

SPEECH EXCERPT: But, I just want to say thank you for the protectors of the land that we are standing on. Thank you for Cree, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, the real people of this country, thank you for allowing me to be a guest on your land.

In every show, if you go to my show, it's the first thing that I do. I step on stage, I do a little a cappella, I thank the original protectors of this land and the show must go on.

It is our duty as settlers to understand the true history of this country, and every conversation that we have on their land, needs to be had in acknowledgement of their struggle, their story, and their evolution as a people.

SPEECH EXCERPT: This album is not in English, this album is not in French. This album honours my brother who passed away in 2013. This album is about breaking up, this album is about getting back on your feet by yourself in the big city with your son and some drawings under your arm. Thank you very much.

I'm glad maybe, that I didn't prepare anything because it really came from the heart, and it came from my badassery.