Diversity and Resilience: North West and Free State Celebrate Pride


Mahikeng Pride and Free State Pride were held just two two days after Human Rights Day (Photos: North West Tourism / Mzwandile Eric Sokoyi – Mzwandile Productions)

Members of the LGBTIQ+ community in the Free State and North West celebrated their sexual and gender identities with the Free State Pride and Mahikeng Pride events, both held on Saturday 23 March.

Significantly, these commemorations took place just two days after South Africa marked Human Rights Day.

Free State Pride 2024: Commemorating Resilience

Free State Pride was held at the Visitors Information Centre in Bloemfontein. Organised by Free State Rainbow Seeds, it was a vibrant celebration of diversity and resilience within the LGBTIQ+ community.

Thabiso Chaka, Free State Rainbow Seeds Programme Manager, highlighted that the event aimed to honour those affected by hate crimes and hate speech while celebrating the daily struggles and diversity of queer individuals.

“It’s been 30 years into democracy but queer people of the Free State and South Africa at large are still experiencing homophobia and hate crimes,” Chaka told MambaOnline. “It is important for us to come together and embrace ourselves with no bounds or fear.”

Free State Pride 2024 (Photos: Mzwandile Eric Sokoyi – Mzwandile Productions)

Despite facing funding challenges, the event saw a turnout of approximately 300 participants, exceeding expectations.

The event featured speeches, education sessions on LGBTIQ+ issues, and entertainment by DJs, poets, Amapiano vocalists, hip-hop artists, and drag lip-sync dancers. A particularly poignant moment was a candlelight commemoration ceremony.

“The commemoration was very intimate and meaningful. It not only showed respect for those who have been killed by homophobia but was also a reminder to those who are persevering through it that they are strong and we stand as a unit against these painful acts,” said Chaka.

Mahikeng Pride 2024: A Platform for Visibility and Solidarity

Mahikeng Pride, organised by North West Gay Umbrella, provided a vital platform for visibility, advocacy, and solidarity within the LGBTIQ+ community in the province.

Lorraine Fleming, Gay Umbrella Stakeholder Liaison and Communication Officer, emphasised the event’s aim to celebrate diversity, raise awareness about LGBTIQ+ rights, and promote social change.

“Mahikeng Pride serves as a way for the community to come together, show resilience, demand equality, and foster a sense of community and support in the face of adversity,” said Fleming. “It is a way to amplify voices, educate others, and work towards creating a more inclusive and accepting society.”

The 2024 Mahikeng Pride March (Photos: North West Tourism)

The event witnessed approximately 450 participants and featured a Pride march, followed by a picnic. There was also a community fair featuring local LGBTIQ+-owned businesses and organisations, cultural performances, live music, and DJ sets, with personality Bujy Bikwa as the host for the event.

“The highlight has to be seeing how everyone came together,” said Fleming, “especially parents of the LGBTIQ+ community coming together to give support and offer free hugs to participants that were present on the day.”

Challenges and Importance of Pride

Both Pride events faced funding challenges, limiting certain activities and logistics. However, they were deemed a sucess in bringing together the LGBTIQ+ community and underscored the importance of Pride in South Africa.

Despite legal progress, discrimination, violence, and stigma persist within the LGBTIQ+ community. Pride events serve as powerful reminders of these ongoing struggles while providing avenues for individuals to celebrate diversity, honour LGBTIQ+ history, and push for continued progress towards equality and acceptance in society.

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