South Africans are lucky enough to celebrate Pride twice a year. Each year, the month of June sees worldwide celebrations in honour of International Pride Month. The celebrations continue in Johannesburg for Johannesburg Pride in October. This is in commemoration of the first Pride Parade in South Africa.
On the 13th of October 1990, more than 800 people joined a march organised by the Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) in Johannesburg. It was the first Pride march held in Africa. The main purpose was to commemorate sexuality rights. To honor members of the community lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS, and create a platform for raising political concerns. Many of the participants wore bags over their heads to cover their faces, due to homosexuality being a crime at the time.
Among the speakers were late gay anti-apartheid activist Simon Nkoli, queer filmmaker Beverley Ditsie, gay Dutch Reformed Church minister Hendrik Pretorius, and Edwin Cameron, who went on to become the first gay and HIV-positive Constitutional Court judge.
Nkoli famously said at the march: “I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two parts of me into secondary and primary struggles. In South Africa, I am oppressed as a black person. And I am oppressed because I am gay. So when I fight for my freedom, I must fight for both oppression. All intolerance. All injustice.” To celebrate this historic first annual Johannesburg Pride event, October is celebrated as Pride Month in South Africa.
Since then, Pride marches have taken place across the country in places like Soweto, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein and Gqeberha. Pride seeks to advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights and calls for visibility, especially in aspirational communities.
Despite having constitutional and legislative protection of the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, there are different rules and laws within aspirational communities. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community continue to face stigma, prejudice, and violence, which puts their lives at risk on a daily basis.
LGBTQIA+ community members live in constant fear of threats and violence. This is why organisations such as Mama Black Foundation are so important. A queer-led non-profit organisation, Mama Black Foundation seeks to help and support Masiphumelele with food and hot meals. Additionally, they host queer-friendly events within their community. Most notably Heri-Pride, which creates awareness for those who identify within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Intended to be much broader than a typical Pride parade, Heri-Pride is an opportunity for the community to show visual support to those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. These acts of courage provide a safe haven for LGBTQIA+ individuals to embrace their authentic selves.
To maintain South Africa as a diverse and accepting society for all, we should prioritize LGBTQIA+ Pride events, especially within aspirational communities. These events provide a powerful platform for education and advocacy. Helping to dissolve prejudices and create a more inclusive and safe community.