This past Saturday saw a first for my home town. Almost 20 years into our new democracy, Port Elizabeth still had not had a Pride parade or Pride event, in fact it was sometimes a pit-stop for travelers on their way from somewhere else, to Pride events being held - well, somewhere else. All that changed last Saturday, when the very first Nelson Mandela Bay Pride was held - and I was so very proud!
I was proud that so many people made the effort to turn up, not just from NMB, but from all over the country, and even from elsewhere too. I was proud that there was no drama - there were no protests, no fights, no rude signs, no conflict - just a carnival spirit of family, fun and celebration.
I am proud of being who and what I am - and proud to say that in my own small way, I was involved. As part of the organization that backed and organized NMB Pride, the Eastern Cape Gay & Lesbian Association (ECGLA), and the associated NMB Pride Committee for 2011, it was so awesome to see the outcome, and it was so wonderful that it all worked out so well for all concerned. Looking back at the preparations, I have to say it was quite a ride.
This was our first one ever, and although many had attended other Prides around the country - and even around the world, and although we had organized smaller events in the past - NOTHING prepared us for the sheer volume of work, arrangements, complications and pressure involved in starting this all from scratch.
Initially we planned a small parade, with a party planned at St George's Park - but our event clashed with other arrangements at the park, so we decided on Parliament Street instead. We planned on the conservative side, expecting about 100 people in the parade, with maybe 1000 in total at the street party - and what a surprise we had!
The event was an amazing success, and there were many pleasant surprises all round, with over 700 people participating in the parade alone - and with 2000 joining us at the bright, colorful carnival in Parliament Street! It was truly wonderful and rewarding to experience so many smiling, happy people of all ages, colors, sexes, races, cultures and orientations together in one place!
I don't really have words to describe it, so I'm hoping the pictures included in this article will help convey how amazing this was for us all. Everywhere I saw shiny happy people, dressed in all sorts of wonderful gear, smiling, laughing, arm-in-arm, holding hands, singing along to the bands, celebrating our togetherness, our diversity. This was heritage day in South Africa - and what better way for us to celebrate OUR heritage? There were people of all the colors in the Rainbow Flag there - as well as some that were there to show their love and support for their friends, partners and relatives, and to celebrate with them. There was a local Christian group handing out supportive material, and carrying a banner in the parade that proclaimed "Would Jesus discriminate?". Fantastic! Even the hobos were dancing in the street!
Many people expressed to us their joy at attending their first Pride event in their hometown, and their pride at seeing the turnout at this first NMB Pride festival. This made it extra special as a first event!
A big thank you to the NMB Metro, the NMB Tourism Office, the friendly folks from the SAPS who kept an eye on things, our Red Cross friends and the safety officer for being on standby in case of accidents, the traffic officers who secured the route for our parade and performed the road closures, and the clubs, restaurants and other venues that held fringe events and after-parties and which were also open during the event in Parliament Street, as well as along the parade route in Stanley Street.
Thanks to everyone behind the scenes who held down the fort - our fearless Marshalls, our cleaning staff who ensured that we left Parliament Street the way it was, the photographers who saw the entire event through a camera, and the DJ's and stage managers.
Thanks also to our bold, beautiful and brave participants in the Prince & Princess contests around the Eastern Cape and the King & Queen of NMB Pride final, our wonderful and talented performers who practised themselves hoarse, our fantastic event MC's, and our special guests from "Huge" SA Gay Flag in Cape Town.
Also, a word of thanks to the newspapers, magazines and TV and radio stations that gave us coverage for the event, as well as to all the businesses who sponsored prizes as well as the use of their venues for NBM Pride!
Thank you also to ECGLA's supporting organizations - the PCRD, MAGI Fund and HIVOS for your patience, support and encouragement - and our affiliate bodies, Masipume, PFLAG, Without Prejudice, PE Bears, PE Lesbians, Eloquor Knights, SA Leather Men. Thanks also to Rev Ken for hosting the "Born This Way" NMB Pride service Sunday morning.
Last but not least, thanks to the members of the NMB Pride Committee, for their work as volunteers, their energy, suggestions, brain-storming, enthusiasm, talent, selflessness and committment to making the first NMB Pride a resounding success! And to everyone, everywhere who came to NMB Pride 2011, thank you for coming, thank you for sharing the weekend with us! Kudos to you all!
Keep your eyes open for news of NMB Pride 2012!