Well as some of you may have heard, at the beginning of the month we took a trip northeast to Johannesburg for the 23rd Joburg Pride Parade and celebration!
To avoid any run-ins with airplane barf bags, we took a bus. A 19 hour bus. A 19 hour CHRISTIAN bus ride (see below). Luckily we both enjoy road trips and this bus was particularly luxury…double-decker with seats that recline 150 degrees, foot rests, movies, a journey that took us through breath-taking mountain ranges (cue Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”) and farmland…and what better way to get acquainted with the rest stop food options of a foreign country? Now, about that Christianity: They said a prayer over the intercom before each trip and all of the movies, music videos, and movie/music reviews they played on the trip were Christian - reminding us of the fact that the apocalypse is nigh and the witchcraft of Julia Roberts is the devil’s work. This is all laid out on their site and everyone who travels with them knows the deal, but apparently some still complain (says their CEO). Now we’ve had our fair share of Christian upbringing and knew what we were getting into so we were smart: we brought headphones. iPods & N8s, TedTalks & WireTap.
However, every now and then I’d find myself watching bits of the movies, though I was listening to something else. The movies that caught my attention were Hallmark’s “Safe Harbor” & a SA movie called “Hopeville.” I liked these movies didn’t look like Last Supper reenactments and were family friendly, rather than beating you over the head with the Bible. The movie/music reviews however are PRICELESS. Here are two of my faves: “Mirror Mirror” & “Braveheart”.
Pride: We entered pride behind two queens walking bowlegged in their heels, sinking into the grass. When they changed into birkenstocks within the first five minutes, needless to say, we were nervous for what we were about to behold. However, we were quickly (and happily) swept up in the movement of the parade. Literally. One of the biggest differences between prides we’d experienced in the US and Joburg Pride was that anyone who wants to participate can - no temporary fencing separating marchers from observers. Instead we walk together, stepping to the side to observe and picking up somewhere else along the line, sparking impromptu conversations with fellow marchers, hopping on floats when too tired, and weaving our way through traffic, interrupting busy intersections, disrupting flow. For us, it felt much more public, a group of people choosing to move together, rather than a parade contained, put on display for ourselves, and dismantled at the end of the route. This is not to romanticize. As in the US, there are frequent critiques of the Pride Parade, which recently moved its route from the gristling downtown of Johannesburg to the polished, fenced suburb of Santon often walking by a scant handful of observers and concrete wall. This year’s theme, “Protect Our Rights,” seemed almost in direct response to such critiques of pinkwashing, celebrating rather than protesting, and the segregation that results from relocating to an upscale neighborhood. Still, we really took heart in being able to participate, join in, and take a stand for ourselves - for a community, but also actively as a part of a community.
This tension played out this year around the One in Nine campaign - a movement to recognize the violence towards black lesbians throughout the country (and the exclusion of this group from such community events as Pride). Their protest set up a blockade of bodies to stop the parade and get it’s message out there. Unfortunately due to lack of communication with the Pride Committee, their action was mostly met with confusion and, sadly, disrespect, which has since blown up as a recent controversy in LGBT politics here. For an interesting, complex video on the matter with footage of pride see: here. But, we also recommend you follow up that viewing with a look: here.
The parade culminates in a huge gathering in Zoo Lake Park, where we congregate for the afternoon and into the evening watching: queens onstage LIVING for Celine Dion’s “River Deep, Mountain High” (is it ‘96? Love it!!), found new musical love in Flash Republic , eating, getting tested, you know. The event is like a free, open-air after party that anyone can attend. Perhaps for this reason, Donnell and I remarked how diverse the crowd was not only racially, but also in body types, gender expressions, and age as well. Our friend later commented that the notion of Joburg pride as an exclusive, white event was finally undone this year.
After the party it’s the after party. And after the after-party it’s the Fireman’s Ball. One of the largest after-after parties, the Fireman’s Ball involves neither firemen, nor a ball. Discuss amongst yourselves. This year’s “ball” was held in an underground car park (which was much ‘cooler’ than it sounds) and boasted Swedish Super Star Ola live. We had no clue who this guy was and apparently none of the South Africans did either. It was a great party. We had fun. We’re tired of writing now and you’re probably tired of reading. Now, look at our fun pictures.
Love from here,