Saturday 17th April 2010 bore witness to a quietly historical event, East London’s first LGBT pride march. Possibly it should have been better publicised and certainly, more national and provincial organisations should have been invited, should have been present.
The University of Fort Hare and the only local LGBT nightclub, Club Eden, were there and on the t-shirts too (thank you!) and the Eastern Cape Gay and Lesbian Forum was there. Here’s how it went …
A small crowd gathered at a UFH campus, everyone got free shirts (yay!) and most people had hand painted placards. There was a traffic police vehicle and several other police vehicles, ready to escort the little march and keep it safe. We made our way up Oxford Street – through the centre of the city and up to the civic hall. The songs were all struggle style songs, all in Xhosa and there was dancing all the way. One white moffie was overheard saying, “Wow, I haven’t toyi toyi’d since the eighties!”
Zamanguni, an EC Gay & Lesbian Forum stalwart, passed out free shirts to interested bystanders along the way and so the march had a bigger crowd on the return journey. Thembani
welcomed us, “… gay, straight, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses and t-shirt lovers … “ and said that everyone was welcome, we needed everyone on side. It’s so true.
There was a soccer match afterwards and Club Eden hosted a very lively and successful after party.
Alright, so the march went well, but what does it mean? It means that the LGBT population (I’m hoping they add the Q and I to that acronym next year) is a rather brave one. This is not an area noted for being overly liberal, despite all its struggle credentials. The fact that it wasn’t established, sponsored hugely and so on, also meant that it was a real old school grassroots event. A very African one too. One woman, born locally, told me she wept at the sight of the rainbow flag flying in front of “my civic hall.”
There was an absolute and strong sense of community, that we were all there for one thing – to beg the rest of society to stop discriminating against us, to stop attacking and killing us. This was not a complacent middle class crowd – it was thoroughly mixed – and thoroughly united.
Viva East London!