/ 27 September 2002

Pride in the suburbs

Gay and lesbian people of Gauteng take to the streets for the 13th time this weekend in the country’s original Pride parade. What began as a political act of defiance in a time when they were denied basic rights has turned into a cultural event sold to city dwellers as a moment to let go and have a good time.

This air of merriment permeates much of the media put out by the company Pride Communications, organisers of Pride 2002. In calling for participation a press release informs gays and lesbians they have “the power of choice”. In this instance the choice is to go to “your same old club”, or “a once-off spectacular party-of-all-parties”.

Previous years have seen what is basically a conscientising event being marketed as mass entertainment, something that serves the purpose of catering to the needs of a diversity of Jo’burgers. But this happy attack masks the serious side of the parade and its accompanying Mardi Gras. There is a perceived need to build the event’s profile in the realm of “big bucks”. This year has seen Pride Communications taking over the event in its entirety after the dissolution of the ad-hoc 2002 Pride Working Group.

The official Pride announcement has Pride Communications spokes-person Gary Bath quoted as saying: “Our main aim is to enhance corporate South Africa’s position in the gay and lesbian market, so that annual events, such as Pride, can be sustained, ensure steady growth and crucially maintain financial viability.”

So, this year gays and lesbians are marching for the right to have a good business plan and sound investment in their lives. Unlike previous years, this year the community won’t march through Johannesburg city and Hillbrow. Instead, the march will begin at Zoo Lake in Parkview and will meander to Rosebank then back to the lake. The organisers expect a crowd of 18 000 and “30 magnificent floats”.

This take to the suburbs marks a significant turn in the life of the gay pride event. With the move, and with Pride Communications, has come a bandwagon of mainstream support; the number of corporate sponsors is too long to list.

The radio station 94.7 Highveld Stereo has joined Pride as its media partner. The German cultural centre, the Goethe Institut, has come on board, as have the Parkview police and the City Parks department. Most importantly, the Gauteng Tourism Authority has embarked on what it calls “partnership-building” with Pride Communications.

The day of festivity begins at Zoo Lake at 9am. The parade takes off for Rosebank at 11am and will return at about 1pm. The day in the park will be spiced up with blessings by sangomas, drag acts and religious songs by the Hope and Unity Choir. Others include pop star PJ Powers, Wendy New and overseas visitors the USA Choir Guys.

The Abba extravaganza Bjorn Again shows at the Nelson Mandela Theatre at 9pm and after that the official Pride dance event happens at the Rand Club until dawn. But the highlight of the weekend is undoubtedly the Miss Gay Soweto pageant that takes place at the Johannesbur g City Hall onSeptember 27 at 8pm, which will feature dancers from North West, Somixi Mhlongo, Dr Love and a host(ess) of contestants.

For programme details go to www.sapride.org

Win Pride tickets

Two readers can each win a ticket to the Queen’s Ball, the stylish dance party for Gay Pride on Saturday September 28 at the Rand Club. Top international DJs will play alongside talented locals. The first two callers on Tel: (011) 727 7039 on Friday September 27 between 11.30pm and 11.45pm will be winners