24th annual Joburg Pride “going back to our roots”
by Kokeletso Legoete
26 October 2013, Johannesburg
Johannesburg Pride took place in Sandton. In 2013 the Joburg Pride Committee announced that it was to shut its doors, however, a new Pride committee was formed and continued to organize despite criticism about racism and corporate sponsorship. “We actually went back to our grass roots; we found the original Pride constitution of 1990 that was used to base the Pride committee,” said Kaye Ally, project manager of the Pride organizing committee. Reclaiming Pride seems a contested political battle in Johannesburg. On 5 October, the Johannesburg People’s Pride reclaimed the original route of the 1990 march through the city.
Gabriel Hosaain Khan, queer activist expressing his anger for the chosen location of Pride. Photo by Legoete Kokeletso.
The gay and lesbian Pride first took to the streets on 13 October 1990. The march was organized and planned by politicians and activists; Simon Nkoli, Bev Ditsie and members of Gay and Lesbians Of the Witwatersrand (GLOW). Since then, Pride has been an annual event hosted the first weekend of October, but no group seems able to re-create that moment to its fullest, it remains divided.
In early 2007 a nonprofit company was formed with new Pride organizers. However, the event seems to have lost the intentions of the first Pride, the politics behind the initiation of the event in the first place. The event became less political and more of a celebration. Pride movement is, was and is supposed to be, a call for gay and lesbian equality and recognition of diversity in South Africa.
At last year’s Pride, a group of black lesbian and heterosexual women from the 1in9 Campaign interrupted the parade, asking for a moment of silence to acknowledge those whom we have lost as result of homophobia and hate crimes in the country. Their plea for a moment of silence was denied and thus actually revealed the coatings of separation within the LGBTIQ community, when they were told to “go back to your Lok’shin”. The incident clearly revealed that even though we are in the same struggle for sexual-difference-acceptance and freedom, the matrix of dominance still prevails, leading to the organizing committee’s resignation as a response to the incident.
The Johannesburg LGBTI community got together after the resignation of the organizing committee and saw to it that the political Pride should be brought home. To accommodate those who have never had a voice representing their actual struggles and for the people to have representation through the committee that they chose, know and share the same struggles. Within the past few months, a Pride parade that went back to the route of the first ever Pride was initiated - “Johannesburg Peoples Pride”.
“Who are you to represent what our struggles are? Why didn’t you involve us? We are activists but we weren’t involved… true, Johannesburg is dangerous and unsafe, but if we don’t reclaim our space then what are we doing?” These are the words of Gabriel Hosaain Khan, a queer activist from Gay And Lesbian memory in Action (GALA). Clearly community involvement wasn’t considered when the 24th Pride was planned. According to Kaye Alley, Pride was moved back by a month and the venue changed from Newtown to Sandton due to criminal activities in Newtown and Alley assures that Sandton is safer as a venue. It is a private sports club, and is therefore secure.
“Going back to our roots” - ironically our roots have brought us back to Sandton, I am not sure how that happened. Pride was supposed to have a focus on hate crimes, corrective rapes and struggles faced by the LGBTI community. Nkoko, a queer activist from Johannesburg, asked, “How is that relevant in Sandton?”
“This looks like some private gig”, “Fuck Sandton”, “Who are the organizers anyway” were questions that one would hear from time to time from the marchers. When Nkoko was asked why he came to the event, his response was “I am here to witness the way in which this community is evolving and where it is going.” One would expect chants and actions that clearly make a statement of LGBTI people reclaiming their space or the fact that they find Pride in their sexual and gender difference. A silent march it was indeed.
The fact that we were not seen marching, especially because of the silent march, obscured the aim of the whole event. As Gabriel Hosaain Khan further asked, “Who are these people speaking on our behalf... we weren’t invited… who decided that this is okay? Why this kind of Pride?” Kaye Ally answers to the question of separations and divisions, “Yes, there is a division in our community but as Johannesburg Pride we have always advocated that Gauteng is big enough to accommodate more than one Pride, we have no issues with any of the other Prides.”
Joburg Pride festivities. Photo by Kutlwano Khali.
Despite the confusion and misunderstandings about the tradition behind and politics of Johannesburg Pride, we had fun, met new people and enjoyed the event activities. However, we require dialogue and courage to address the divisions that reside within the Johannesburg LGBTI Community. Let’s see what 2014 has up its sleeve.