In a first for the city, Johannesburg could see more than one Joburg Pride event taking place this year.
At a meeting on Saturday, a group of around 85 people interested in an alternative, non-commercial pride met for the third time to discuss a way forward.
This comes as another group announced last week that it would be putting on its Joburg Pride event on 28 September in Newtown, on a more commercial basis.
The alternative meetings were initiated and have been facilitated by feminist socialist group One in Nine and the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) and have resulted in a vision document for a more political, democratic and representative pride event.
Saturday’s meeting aimed to begin to implement this vision document. The participants were divided into groups to assess the document and to suggest additions or revisions.
The document was generally accepted, although discussions continued around issues such as sponsorship. While the vision document rejects corporate sponsorship, there was debate about the practicality of this.
It was explained that many companies and corporations use their support for LGBTI rights as a way to deflect attention from their negative actions in other areas. Some, however, questioned if it was not possible to be more strategic or subversive in the use of this kind of sponsorship.
The issue of legitimacy was also raised, with some participants wanting the city to offer its exclusive backing to their event. Others felt that there should be an opportunity for anyone to hold a pride event that reflected their experiences.
One speaker at the meeting expressed her anger that the other pride group had gone ahead with its plans without consulting or coming to an agreement with the second group.
“It’s like they are saying ‘fuck you, we don’t care about your issues and we will continue anyway,’” she said,
“I don’t think we reached conclusion about participation in other [pride] events,” One in Nine’s Carrie Shelver told Mambaonline. “It was a mixed response; some want to know what they are doing and engage with them and others said we should stay away from them. I don’t think there was consensus about that.”
The group took the stance, however, that the any steps taken should be about more than just holding an event. “People are seeing it more about movement-building,” said Shelver. When asked if this could mean that the group could still put on a pride march, she said that this could well happen.
“It’s really premature what form it could take. It could include elements people associate with pride marches – but it could also be something completely different and unique,” she said.
“There’s a sense of putting something together that shows our creativity and imagination and it doesn’t have to be the same thing as we’ve had in the past. It could be a massive art exhibition on buildings in the city, or it could be a series of poetry event.”
Decisions on what this pride movement will ultimately involve will come out of a process involving a working committee that was formed at the meeting after volunteers were asked to come forward.
“We got a massive list of about 22 names,” said Shelver. “The working committee will begin planning a series of events – and another pride [march] is possible from that. The committee will refine this.”
She stressed that the committee and its decisions would be “open, transparent and accountable,” explaining that its meetings will be accessible to the community.
One of the criticisms of previous pride organisers was that decisions were often taken behind closed doors.
“The meetings will be totally open – not for people to disrupt the meetings but they can observe and there will be a space for them to bring their questions forward.”
“It’s a completely open process and we want to make sure that every person’s voice is heard and the space is a safe one to participate in. And it would be great for people to participate,” Shelver said.
She urged interested people to attend the working committee’s first meeting on 18 May. For more information contact Shelver on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gauteng region will be brimming with LGBTI events this year. In addition to the two Joburg Pride groups planning their events, Soweto Pride and Ekurhuleni Pride (to the east of the city) are expected to take place as usual. The first-ever Pretoria Pride event is planned for 7 September.
A Joburg Mardi Gras for the LGBT community was also announced last month, but organiser Samantha Durkin, who participated in Saturday’s meeting, has insisted that it will not attempt to ‘compete’ with Joburg Pride.
A possible conflict may arise, however, from the more commercial Joburg Pride group’s scheduling of its event on September 28; the same date that Soweto Pride is set to take place. Traditionally, the two events have been held one week apart.