"I have a lot of love": Lido Pimienta releases statement about 'overt racism' incident at Halifax show

Pimienta says she wants to make oppressed people feel comfortable at her concerts.

Pimienta says she wants to make oppressed people feel comfortable at her concerts

"I love my audience. I love men. I love all women, and I am inspired by everyone, but I am not blind to the unsettling effects of colonialism and white supremacy," says Pimienta in a new statement. "I will not stop doing everything in my power to make oppressed people feel safe and show them the respect that they deserve at my shows." (Alejandro Santiago Photography)

Colombian-Canadian musician Lido Pimienta has released a statement after an incident at the Halifax Pop Explosion that has led to a fiery debate online.

The incident happened on Oct. 19 at Halifax's Marquee Ballroom. As she does regularly at her shows, Pimienta asked men to move to the back of the venue to allow more room for women up front, then invited women of colour and trans people to move to the front.

A white volunteer, who was reportedly photographing the show, reacted to Pimienta's invitation, arguing it amounted to "reverse racism." Other white audience members also expressed anger. The photographer, who was reportedly disrupting the show, was eventually removed.

Halifax Pop Explosion released a statement apologizing for the incident, saying, "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."

The response on social media has been fiery, with many supporting Pimienta, and others questioning the racial and gender divide. 

Now, Pimienta herself has released a statement clarifying her position.

In it, Pimienta talks about the harassment that comes part and parcel with being a solo female musician, and how many women and people of colour feel unsafe at concerts. 

"With this in mind, I made the decision to address this issue by rearranging the room to the best of my ability at the start of the show," she explains. "I started asking men to step back and for the women to be in front of them, as a tool for increasing safety in spaces for women, pregnant women, women of colour and Indigenous women (who, as statistics have shown in Canada, have a higher historical incidence of falling victim to sexual assault, rape, kidnapping and murder)."

Pimienta says the photographer was not in the dedicated media area, and instead pushed her way to the front of the stage and was screaming, "Why do you hate me because I'm white?" The band stopped the performance and had the photographer removed. 

"It had nothing to do with her skin colour, but because she brought violence to my show, in an area surrounded by people that have to deal with this kind of violence in their everyday lives. It's my duty to provide a safe space for my audience, and when that's violated, I do get involved," she says. 

"When I ask men to go to the back, I am not kicking them out, I am not telling them I hate them, I am simply inviting them to be part of a generous gesture to ensure that women are safe ... Men to the back and women to the front means 'let's make it safer here for women, and show some solidarity, and allow everyone to be a bit more relaxed in the space.'"

When she asks white women to let women of colour through, she is doing it to show that white women have an easier time navigating the world, because their skin colour affords them more advantages and a higher level of safety, she says. 

"When we make space for women of colour, we are saying 'we see you, we love you, we appreciate you' and allowing them to have a safe space from which to enjoy the show. This affects about 10 to 12 people at my shows in Canada, when it has been done in the past," she says. "This is meant as an opportunity to show them love, solidarity and compassion."

"I don't have all the answers, but I have a lot of love, and the courage to challenge a system that was built to put people like me down," she concludes. "That's where I'm coming from."

Here is Pimienta's statement in full: