Solidarity Statement for Pride Events coming up in South Africa from the Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL]

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When attending Pride, whether for social, political or both reasons, we cannot forget the simple fact that being able to hold and participate in a Pride event is in itself an indication of how far we have come as  movements and people concerned about women’ rights and about social justice based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The freedom to express our sexuality and our gender  in a continent and a country where the persecution of people that challenge gendered structures of being, loving and existing, should never be forgotten. Diversity should be celebrated. Differences should be celebrated. We should be celebrated. We celebrate today  for those who cannot live and love openly. We celebrate to remind ourselves that the struggle for our freedom and safety is far from over.

The Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL], is a formation of more than 30 organisations in 19 countries in Africa committed to advancing justice for lesbian and bisexual women and transdiverse people. We are passionate feminists, activists, human rights defenders, lovers, sisters, mothers, brothers, aunts, uncles.

Whilst we believe that there are complex discussions waiting to be had about the language of “pride” and the implications of such namings, the purpose and history of Pride events should never be forgotten. Like many other calls for justice, the need for a Pride march came from a space of deep oppression and neglect. The world around us did not include us and in fact openly rejected us. Little acknowledged, represented or reflected the diversity that we lived and felt in private and behind closed doors. To the wider world there was no room for ‘otherness’ and difference of this kind. Our expressions, feelings, fears and anxieties were kept behind closed doors, where the silence soon became unbearable, and we decided not to just speak out, but scream out our presence.  Pride marches in Gauteng were born from a deep sense of inequality. The same inequalities that creates a ‘them’ and an ‘us. When we march for Pride we march for all these issues and structures of inequality. Race, class, age and [dis]ablity are the basis of exclusion. We are committed to Pride marches that break barriers and push boundaries, provoke deep and lasting change for our society as a whole. Pride events should reflect this.

We look forward to Pride as a space for inclusion, difference and a recognition of intersectionalities, a space for engagement and celebration. Pride events should be a place where ‘us’ and ‘them’ come together and find a ‘we’ with a commonality of purpose, of being and of co-existing whilst confronting the basis of the inequalities, oppressions, violations and discrimination we face as people. Pride events that diminish feminist values belittle and distort the true meaning of why we march, why we act and why we work to advance social justice.

With the arrival of Pride season in the Gauteng area of South Africa, we at the Coalition of African Lesbians [CAL] are working with the organisers of the following Pride events in September and October 2013:

EPOC Pride: The Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee was formed in June 2009 by a small group of LGBTIs who had the desire to make a positive change from severe Hate-Crimes affecting LGBTIs within Ekurhuleni. EPOC then undertook the gruelling and challenging task of organising the Ekurhuleni Pride March in a period of 3 months. And what a success it was, we were able to march the streets of Kwa-Thema and celebrate our uniqueness and self-pride. EPOC comprises of 13 hard-working volunteers who have worked hand in hand towards the fight of liberty, equality and non-discrimination against LGBTIs. This will be EPOC’s 5th year of organizing this Pride event. EPOC Pride will take place on the 21st of October, 2013.

SOWETO Pride: SOWETO Pride is a political project initiated by FEW in 2004 with the aim of creating and making political and social space for black lesbian women to celebrate our sexuality and our humanity. Pride has grown in numbers over the years. The Project, as a political act, brings together our community and our ideas and messages and articulate these both amongst activists from various movements, to surrounding communities in SOWETO, and to the broader public through the media. It is an act of courage and resistance, an act of open public display and a key moment in the year for increasing the visibility of all the identities of this community. SOWETO Pride is also, importantly, a social space where black lesbian women and the broader LGBTI community and women’s rights movement come together, [re]connect and have fun in a safe space. This will be SOWETO  Pride’s 10th year of organizing activism and building LGBTI awareness. SOWETO Pride will take place on the 28th of October, 2013.

•Johannesburg People’s Pride: The first Pride of its name, the Johannesburg People’s Pride aims to produce an event that is based on anti-racism, anti-capitalism, anti-sexism, anti-ableism and the positioning of LGBTIAQ struggles within broader socio-political and economic contexts and struggles in South Africa and globally. The Johannesburg People’s Pride will take place on the 5th of October, 2013.

CAL encourages all our members, friends, affiliates and partners to support these Pride events and to show solidarity in the struggle for social justice for all people.

We wish everyone a safe, engaging and thought provoking Pride experience!

[CAL] Secretariat

19th September, 2013

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