Weekends come and go. We sit back and witness the same things happen over and over again: We bitch; we cry; we moan; and then we bitch again about the lack of clubs or hangout spots that cater to the black gay community in Cape Town. Yet we do nothing about it.
In a recent article titled Reclaiming our Hood, Jeanine Cameron, television journalist and producer, wrote that “bad things happen when good people stand by and say nothing.”
Cape Town’s gay community is notoriously known for being overwhelmingly pale in its activism, its nightlife as well as its visibility. The lack of the black face and voice in the community is deeply worrying, and is possibly one of the reasons why homosexuality is often seen as a Western phenomenon.
During his February visit to Cape Town, an American friend of mine, who works for an international gay rights group, asked me where the black gay clubs are. I, of course, couldn’t direct him to any one club in particular because no such club exists.
A similar scenario occurred when a friend of mine recently moved to Cape Town from Jozi. He complained about the paucity of nightlife – or any entertainment for that matter -that’s targeted at the black gay population.
This has forced me to ask myself, and others, what is it that’s keeping us from creating those events for ourselves? We know what is missing, we know what we want and enjoy so why aren’t we doing anything about it? We are good people, we are a creative bunch and definitely intellectual, so why do we just stand by, say nothing and let “bad things happen”?
Black people have come a long way in South Africa. We have moved past the times when we were forced to be silent about the issues bothering us. We must rise from our comfort zones and put a black stamp in the struggle for gay rights.
“Let us vocally challenge the cultural beliefs that our very existence is unAfrican…”
Addressing the Pretoria Supreme Court in the Rivonia Trial in 1964, my hero Nelson Mandela said, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
This is the same ideal we must fight for. We must, together, challenge the hetero-normative ideals forced upon us. We must break away from the cocoons we have enclosed ourselves in.
Complacency in our way of life is one of the major causes of black apathy in the gay community, particularly in Cape Town. We sit back and let others do the work for us. We feel left out, yet we do nothing to make the situation better.
Looking at Cape Town Pride events, the majority of the participants are white. Where are the black gays and lesbians? Why do we allow ourselves to be invisible? Why do we sit ourselves in the back of the bus instead of steering it?
Let us be visible leaders in the struggle for gay rights. Let us vocally challenge the cultural beliefs that our very existence is unAfrican. Let’s feel proud to be the gay sons and daughters of the African soil.
The time has come for us to claim our space in this community. We need to be more visible and active in terms of gay rights. We need to create those opportunities we deem lacking in the sphere of entertainment. We need to take the bull by the horns and get more involved in the integration of both black and white spaces, and certainly in the creation of events that suit our tastes.
Vista is Media Co-ordinator for Cape Town’s Triangle Project.