On 20 June, LoAnn Halden, vice-president of communications for the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, moderated an EQUAL Africa webinar – part of Africa Travel Week – on unpacking the importance of Pride events as drivers of tourism and change, especially in the African context.
The webinar’s esteemed panellists included Aisha Shaibu-Lenoir, queer activist, cultural producer and founder of Moonlight Experiences; Michael Gladwin, founder of Afrigay Travel and AllStay LGBTQ+ Education; Rodney Otieno, co-founder and director of Policy Development and Membership for the Queer and Allied Chamber of Commerce Africa; and Nonhlanhla Mkhize, co-founder and executive director of The Durban Lesbian and Gay Community & Health Centre.
The panellists explored various crucial topics within the LGBTQ+ community, including how Pride events provide that push for countries – and the governments and businesses operating within them – to fully embrace the idea of inclusivity instead of ‘pinkwashing’ once a year in June.
“Pride events, like Durban Pride, are selling the concept of pride as not just a one-day activity but a year-long campaign and investment,” said Mkhize.
“It’s really important to think beyond the concept of ‘we welcome everyone’. We need to understand why we need to be inclusive and how we need to be inclusive – what we need to do in order to become truly inclusive. We can’t just say we are. We need to action it,” added Gladwin.
The panellists also highlighted the importance of allies in the fight for change, addressing how there’s often a ‘fear factor’ at play among many individuals, organisations and business owners who wish to support the community.
“LGBTQ is a very complex community, and sometimes people get scared. ‘What if I say something wrong? What if I mess up the acronym? Or what if I say something that offends you?’ That fear, again, goes back to education. We need to have open conversations with people who are open to being our allies, but don’t understand how to come into our world,” Otieno commented.
Despite the many concerns in countries like Uganda at the moment, it’s true that Africa has taken many great strides toward inclusivity, and each panellist is hopeful for continued progress across the continent in the future. Gladwin noted how much work is being done to bring the World Pride 2028 event and InterPride 2024 Annual General Meeting & World Conference to Cape Town, often seen as Africa’s LGBTQ+ beacon of hope.
“We need to create a global conversation, find the gaps and find the solutions. Let the conversation begin in Cape Town,” he said.
Shaibu-Lenoir concluded the webinar by reminding everyone of the foundation of these Pride events. “Anyone who wants to be an authentic ally must understand that queerness has always been political. Pride, in its foundation, is a protest. That needs to lead the way in Africa like it has in so many other countries.
“Pride is also a wondrous celebration, but we mustn’t forget that, at its core, it’s about change. Things can get better.”