An estimated five thousand gays and lesbians – and their friends and families – turned out for the 18th annual Joburg Pride Parade in Rosebank, Johannesburg, today despite the inclement weather.
“We’re amazed and humbled at the support that our community has shown towards the new Pride organisers,” said Tracey Sandilands, Chairperson of the Joburg Gay Pride Festival Company. “The fact that thousands braved the rain and cold to assert the importance of Pride shows that the event remains entirely relevant.”
Following a performance by Flash Republic on the main stage, the Parade, consisting of over 30 floats and vehicles, and led by the Joburg Metro Police Department, set out through the streets of Rosebank at 11.30am. And, as if on cue, the rain paused for the one and half hour duration of the Parade.
Vibrant displays of the gay rainbow colours were evident on numerous floats as participants walked the circular seven kilometre route. To the sound of thumping dance music and cheers from passers-by the Parade wound its way back to Zoo Lake. Placards and signs demanding equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were visible among the participants.
While the overall mood of the event was celebratory, the reality that many gays and lesbians are not safe in their communities was also highlighted by the organisers. A minute’s silence was held to mark the brutal murders of two lesbian women, Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa, in Soweto in July, as well as all LGBT victims of hate crime.
Speaking on the main stage, Sandilands made an impassioned demand for tolerance:
“Here today, in the midst of the partying and fun, we remember Sizakele and Salome and together we say ‘Enough’. No longer will we tolerate double standards and discrimination against our community, and we challenge everyone here to speak out against prejudice wherever they find it. It’s time to take our stand against the pockets of homo-prejudice that still exist in our society. It’s time to make our voices heard against hate crimes.”
There were a number of calls at the event for the organisers to host a future Joburg Pride Parade in Soweto, something which the Pride Board says could always be placed on the table. “Rosebank is logistically practical as a venue for an event of this size,” said Sandilands, “but we are an organisation run by and for the community and we urge all stakeholders to come forward and engage with us on their suggestions and needs for next year.”
Following the Parade, the determined crowd of revellers – along with the event’s MCs Elana Afrika, Nicole Fox and Poppy Ntshongwana from national youth radio station 5FM – continued to celebrate their Pride on the muddy fields of Zoo Lake Sports Club.
While a number of performers and events, including the Drag Race were cancelled due to the weather, this did not seem to affect the high spirits of the participants. Pretoria club Legend’s impressive rainbow coloured float, covered in balloons and topped by Mr and Miss Legends on a disco ball, was unanimously awarded the best float by judges Tracey Sandilands and Cape Town Pride Chair Ian McMahon.
With plenty of food, drink and entertainment – including the sounds of DJ Stuart Hillary – on offer the celebrations continued well into the late afternoon.
“Today was a tremendous success, regardless of the weather,” said an enthusiastic Sandilands, adding that, “Pride will be back next year – bigger and better!”