Black mural artist gets back to work after hateful attacks in Vancouver's West End

·3 min read

Friends and supporters of a prominent Afro-Asian artist are rallying around her after she says she was repeatedly harassed and verbally assaulted by a man complaining of noise in Vancouver's West End.

Pearl Low was painting a large mural on Aug. 4 in an alley behind Davie Street when she says a white man came up to her and verbally attacked her because of sounds coming from a hydraulic lift she was using to reach out-of-the way parts of her large mural.

"He then proceeded to call me a stupid bitch," Low wrote on Twitter. "He really felt OK yelling at a young Black woman, crouched on the ground painting flowers."

It wasn't long before the community and Low's friends flooded her with online love, support and offers to protect her, many adding #blacklivesmatter.

Vancouver Councillor Pete Fry tweeted that if the man visits her again, Low should "refer him to me."

"So I can explain why he shouldn't disturb an artist at work in service of our city (and don't be a racist/mysoginist)," wrote Fry.

Oscar-winning artist

Low's art appears in a short film called Hair Love that won an Academy Award for best animated short film in February. She is also an illustrator and was recently hired for a project by Dreamworks, an animation studio owned by Universal Pictures.

Her work is part of the Vancouver Mural Festival, which kicks off Aug. 18. This year, 60 murals will be painted in nine neighbourhoods.

Pearl Low/Twitter
Pearl Low/Twitter

The festival's director of engagement says artists get regular safety check-ins from staff on days they are painting — but Low had recently been assigned dedicated staff who stayed with her.

"My concern is her safety," said Adrian Sinclair. "It's been three days straight with this resident of the West End. He yelled at her in this intolerable way and stuck around for too long."

Sinclair said during the five-year run of the festival, artists and organizers have occasionally had noise complaints, but nothing like what Low has endured.

"She's a Black-identified artist who has to deal with racism on a daily basis, so this has led to her not feeling safe in public space."

On Thursday, Low was asked on Twitter if she had reached out to police to report the incidents.

"I'm Black and I don't trust the VPD," she wrote.

Shortly after that, Low said she needed to take a break from painting for a few days because of the harassment.

On Saturday morning, she was back on her lift, putting the finishing touches on her mural — and getting another wave of online support.

Later in the day, however, video was posted to Twitter showing the man returning once again — and a woman can be heard saying, "Don't mess with her again. You owe her an apology," as he walked back inside a building.

By early evening, Low tweeted: "I'm safe, the mural is done and I am so glad."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of.