After much speculation about the future of the event, details for Johannesburg’s Lesbian and Gay Pride Heritage Week, which will be celebrating its sixteenth anniversary, have been announced. Under the auspices of community groups, co-ordinated by Paul Tilly and supported by the new Heartlands entertainment node (which is set to open on August 5), Pride 2005 seems set to go ahead.
This ‘Sweet Sixteen” will take place over a week-long festival from 17 to 24th September, which traditionally culminates with the Pride March and Mardi Gras. The theme for this year is: “Pride – Sweet Sixteen: the Right to Be, the Freedom to Express”, and significantly, this year, Heritage Day falls on the Saturday, 24th, the day of the Pride March.
Following on from the process which the Equality Project set in motion (which faltered when the organisation closed), the organised LGBTI sector, consisting of OUT from Pretoria, Forum for the Empowerment for Women and Behind the Mask, has facilitated a number of public consultative meetings to advise and involve interested stakeholders of the progress of Pride logistics.
“It is our belief that bringing Pride back to the inner City and linking key historical, political and cultural places such as Constitutional Hill, Newtown and the Nelson Mandela Bridge will elevate the profile of our messaging and our engagement with diverse audiences and other sectors,” said Joburg Pride Co-ordinator, Paul Tilly. “More significantly, our ultimate objective for years to come is to establish key public and private partnerships to maximise resources. It is important for Pride to engage with the rebirth and modernisation of sub-Saharan Africa’s financial capital and we need to ensure that Joburg Pride is an annual event on the City calendar.” he said.
“Secondly, it was a financial consideration. Pride is not an entity on its own that has access to any public funding. Historically it has always derived its income from the LGBTI sector and commercial sponsors. This year, the new Gay Heartlands in Braamfontein has committed an approximate amount of R500 000 to the Mardi Gras after the march,” said Paul Tilly.
This year’s Pride march will start off in the square at 15h30 outside the Constitutional Court at Constitution Hill chosen for its significance, both for the impending same-sex marriage case and because of the link to the world’s first Constitution to enshrine the right to sexual orientation in its Bill of Rights.
“The words ‘human dignity, equality and freedom’ in the handwriting of current presiding constitutional judges, are inscribed on the Constitutional Court’s roof’s concrete beams and is an ideal backdrop from which to launch what is the biggest gathering of lesbian and gay people on the African continent,” said Paul Tilly.
The parade will then continue into town towards the cultural precinct of Newtown, and then traverse the Nelson Mandela Bridge, which is in itself symbolic of linking a great divide. The March will culminate in the street party and Mardi Gras at the new Gay Heartlands in Braamfontein. “Heartlands has indicated their willingness to host and part sponsor the culminating Mardi Gras which will enable us to ensure that there is no cover charge: thus making the event open to a broader audience,” said Paul Tilly.
The Pride committee has engaged with key players such as the Constitution Hill Precinct, the Johannesburg Development Agency, Johannesburg Tourism Company and Johannesburg Metro Police Department in respect of various logistical considerations with regard to the March such as road closure, demarcation, bomb-sweeps, SAPS, and emergency services.
The week preceding the march is dedicated to a variety of dialogue, workshop and cultural based initiatives which will primarily be centred at Constitution Hill. “We are trying to ensure that we engage all aspects of the lesbian and gay community and appeal to as diverse an audience as possible, “said Paul Tilly.
Once the City and Metro Police have approved the specific details of the march and the programme of events for the week preceding it have been confirmed, they will be made available on the Pride website and via a poster and flyer campaign in mid August. Email enquires can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org