Last week’s Durban Pride culminated in a parade and celebration in the city centre on Saturday with close to a thousand people taking part.

According to Nonhlanhla Mkhize, one of the organisers from the Durban Lesbian & Gay Community & Health Centre, the event was the largest LGBTI Pride in the city since 2005. Durban is South Africa’s third-biggest city.

“It was a great success! If you consider the doubts we had at the beginning – would Durbanites really embrace a celebration like this – we’re very excited that it happened the way it did.”

Mkhize told that in recent years the city’s LGBTI community had retreated into the closet in part due to a spate of hate crimes in 2007 and also because of the region’s conservatism.

“Durban is located in KZN which prides itself in being very cultural and traditional. People in leadership positions in the Indian and black communities keep sending us that message. We’ve had the Zulu king saying that being gay is un-Zulu,” Mkhize said.

She noted that considering the large Indian community in the city, there were particularly few Indian participants in the celebrations.

The week-long Pride included a LGBTI flag raising ceremony, a book fair, a school debate on bullying, film screenings, a Mr and Miss Gay pageant, and a picnic at the botanical gardens.

Representatives from the DA, the ANC and Amnesty International participated in some of the events.

“In spite of the rainy weather, people went the extra mile to embrace this LGBTI celebration – even though many were heterosexual,” said Mkhize.

On Saturday, a city councillor representing the mayor took part in the parade and spoke at the festivities outside the city hall.

Despite this, Mkhize said that the city was not overly supportive of the event.

“The municipality gave us a hard time when it came branding Durban as a gay city. The afternoon before the parade we were told that we might have to move the event because a Miss India SA event at city hall had to take priority.

“They showed that it’s not something that they want to promote or raise the flag for,” she said.

Mkhize is nevertheless upbeat about the future of Pride in Durban, revealing that plans are already in motion for next year.

“This journey has begun and Durban pride is going to be an annual event. The main challenge is to get it as inclusive as possible for all people,” she said.

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