A public meeting held on Sunday in a failed effort to set up a new Joburg Pride board saw vast disagreement within the LGBT community on how to save Africa’s biggest LGBT event.
Around 50 people attended the meeting, including members of the public and representatives of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) and One in Nine, the organisation that controversially disrupted last year’s Pride parade.
The organisers of the gathering at Melon restaurant in Melville welcomed attendees on arrival with a request that those interested in being part of a new board put their names forward as nominees.
The meeting was opened by Monique Walker who began to explain the function of each of the positions on the board. She affirmed the importance of ensuring that the new board be democratic and transparent, something she said was lacking among the previous organisers.
Questions were, however, asked by some of the participants why it was assumed that a board or company needed to be set up in the first place. While some supported the idea of continuing to run Pride along a similar commercial or corporate basis as before, others passionately argued that this was not the only option that should be considered.
There were also requests that an explanation be given as to what went wrong with the previous board. Comments were made that an understanding of the history and the context of past events was required before electing a board.
Walker explained that she had written to the previous board asking that a representative attend the meeting but that she received no response. She also noted that there was little time left to organise a Pride event this year.
Others replied that, nevertheless, there was a need to re-assess what the community wanted from Pride before proceeding.
A representative from FEW also noted that the attendees of the meeting were not representative of the wider LGBT community and that it would not be correct to vote in a new board on this basis.
Walker countered that she had personally invited all community organisations to attend and, despite being told that they would be there, many had not arrived.
It was pointed out to Walker that public transport on Sunday was a particular problem for those without cars and that a more central venue for the meeting could have helped in this regard.
There were more heated debates about the route of Joburg Pride, whether it should be a celebration or a protest and various other issues. A number of attendees walked out, and at one point a frustrated Walker was on the verge of abruptly closing the meeting.
She later wrote on Facebook: “I cannot believe I had to experience such horrid behaviour today!! It’s shocking to see that there are those that think swearing, screaming and shouting are ok in meetings.”
She further commented: “I have to ask forgiveness from Fulvio and Tanya [previous Joburg Pride organisers] for saying they [were] wrong! After seeing what I did today, I don’t blame them for never inviting anybody in.”
Kwezilomso Mbandazayo from the One in Nine Campaign told Mambaonline.com that she felt that “it was a very weird meeting. I guess the campaign welcomes that the meeting was halted”.
She also countered Walker’s view of the gathering. “I did not see any rudeness or shouting. All I saw was dissent, which is perfectly acceptable; unless what they wanted was for us to rubberstamp their plans,” Mbandazayo said.
She added: “We cannot accept a situation in which Pride goes on as business as usual. We need to fight about it and contest it…”
The attendees ultimately voted to schedule a new meeting and to draw up a new agenda for that meeting which would see the context and issues surrounding Pride being addressed before deciding on a structure or body to organise the event.
It was agreed that the meeting be held on Saturday 20 April at Wits University in the afternoon. Mambaonline will inform you once more details have been confirmed.
Mbandazayo said that she believes that scheduling a new meeting was “useful” and encouraged everyone to attend it.
Meanwhile, One in Nine, along with FEW, will host their own public meeting on the future of Joburg Pride on Saturday 13 April at the House of Movements (123 Pritchard Street) in the Joburg CBD, at 11am.
Last week, the Section 21 company that had organised Joburg Pride over the past seven years announced that it was shutting down and would no longer put on the event.