Durban Pride 2015: What Does Democracy Feel Like?
Taking the microphone at Durban Pride, Foundation for Human Rights LGBTI Coordinator Virginia Magwaza shouted a question to the two hundred or so participants who had initially gathered at the Snell Parade Amphitheatre on the city’s North Beach:
“What does democracy feel like?”
“This is what democracy feels like!” The crowd shouted back in excitement.
So what was the feeling of being at Durban Pride?
Durban’s 2015 Pride march took place on a grey, drizzly afternoon on Saturday, June 27th. The area immediately surrounding the Sunken Gardens and Amphitheatre in Durban’s North Beach area was fenced off, primarily due to the sale of alcohol at the event. The event, only in its fifth year despite Durban’s presence as South Africa’s third largest city, was initially sparsely attended, although attendance later swelled to about 2,500 by the end of the afternoon. Durban’s event offered a marked contrast to many other pride events—the attendance was relatively small, and the event was markedly free of commercial branding and sponsorship. Entrance to the area was free and sale of kitschy gay paraphilia was at a minimum — indeed, the Amphitheatre offered far less rainbow imagery than any American’s Facebook feed 24 hours after the SCOTUS decision to allow gay marriages. Most of the affiliated stalls skirting the Amphitheatre were service-oriented, indicating the event’s primary relationship with the Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre. Participants could receive free HIV testing, learn about LGBT organizations, or pick up copies of the constitution and lists of their rights.