The first pride march in South Africa was held on the 13th of October in 1990. It was organized by GLOW, Gay and Lesbian Organization of Witwatersrand, which was an organization formed by a group of black activists. Many of you may have heard of the quote, “I am black and I am gay. I cannot separate the two into secondary or primary struggles. They will be all one struggle.”, but do you know the person who said it? Simon Nkoli was the chairperson of GLOW at the time and he did so much for the queer movement as well as fighting against apartheid.
Pride is more than just rainbows and parties – It’s about remembering those who fought for us to be where we are now. It’s about celebrating how far we have come as a community and fighting to go even further. These past few years it has become increasingly clear to me just how few people know about South African Pride, because of all the rainbow washing done by businesses and corporations during international pride (June). Pride has become yet another money-making scheme that people have taken advantage of. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be excited about going to pride parties, but if that’s all you think pride is then yes, it’s a problem.
We should not forget why pride in SA started. It wasn’t just some party for fun, it was a march, a protest for queer rights and a stand against apartheid. Pride then was about fighting for something the queer community needed and now it’s about “what makeup look am I going for”. Where is our sense of community? There are still many people, queer people, who cannot be themselves because of queerphobia. We have come a long way in terms of laws and policies but what about the people? These laws are useless if queer people are still suffering from the same issues and systems of oppression.
What’s the point of celebrating pride if it doesn’t help anyone, if the people who are suffering from queerphobia cannot attend these pride events, if we aren’t celebrating real queer history and culture? There is still so much to fight for and still so many people who need help. So, the next time you decide to attend a party that will probably profit non-queer people instead of going to events that will help the queer community, I hope you feel some ounce of regret because in this day and age ignorance cannot be bliss.
With that being said, here is a link to a documentary called SIMON & I, that I feel is an important piece of queer history in South Africa, I hope you’ll watch it and remember those who made pride in SA a possibility.