A call for a boycott of Johannesburg Pride for being “elitist” seemed to have little impact on the throngs who attended Africa’s oldest LGBTQ Pride event on Saturday
The day, which was chilly and overcast, began with a short march along Corlett Drive and around the Melrose Arch precinct and continued into the night with speeches and a range of entertainment.
As always, participants had access to food, drink and other stalls as well as HIV awareness, testing and counselling services courtesy of Health4Men and WeTheBrave.
Performers included a variety of drag acts and DJs as well as big-name stars such as rapper Cassper Nyovest and singer Tamara Dey.
One couple, Simone and Allison, used the event as a safe space to get engaged, as captured on video by Star reporter Nokuthula Zwane (see below). Surrounded by a small crowd, the couple hugged and kissed joyfully after the proposal was accepted.
A particular bone of contention for critics remains Pride’s up-market location. Some activists called for a Boycott ahead of the event amid claims that it is exclusionary, overly commercialised and targets wealthy white men.
The crowd throughout the day, however, grew considerably in size from the previous year and consisted predominantly of people of colour, said organiser Kaye Ally. “It was packed. It was the most diverse crowd I’ve ever seen going to Pride,” she insisted.
While the event has perhaps become less overtly political over the years, Ally believes that the organisers are meeting the needs and want of the broader LGBT community and it is the naysayers who are out of touch.
“We need to as a community learn to accept people’s choices and allow the community the freedom to choose how and where they want to express themselves,” said Ally. “It certainly was not a ‘white Pride’. I’m not saying it; the evidence speaks for itself.”
The event was attended by Frank van Dalen from InterPride, the International Association of LGBTI Pride Organizers, and Alley said she plans to work towards eventually hosting a World Pride event in the city.
The organisers also announced their intention to create Johannesburg’s first LGBT Youth Shelter, similar to Cape Town’s own Pride Shelter (currently the only such service in Africa).
Ally explained that there is a desperate need to support, empower and provide shelter for young LGBT people who are thrown onto the streets and abandoned by their families.
“A lot of youth are not getting the right education because they are being kicked out of Their homes and there is an increase in homelessness within the LGBT community. And no one is actually addressing that,” she said.
Ally added that the initiative was in the proposal stage and corporate funders and local government are being approached to make the shelter a reality.