KEYNOTE SPEECH – CAPE TOWN PRIDE 2011
MELANIE NATHAN 03/02/2011
Greetings, comrades, lesbians, gays, queers, LGBTQI people, allies, and everyone in between. It is a great honor for me to be here tonight -thanks to my fellow bloggers, Marriage Equality USA MEUSA, and my family and friends back home in the US for their help and support.
Thank you Gareth Dallas, and his amazing Cape Town Pride team – thank you British Airways – you got me a long way in style -thank you Hotel Cape Royale, Victoria Junction, Protea, and to all sponsors of this fabulous gay pride event and most importantly thank you to every single one of you.
In 1965, in Port Elizabeth lived an eight year old girl. She lived in a nice house and never had to worry about anything. She thought everything was perfect in the world just as it was in her house and at her school where, each day, they sang a song everyday called Die Stem and another one “bless this house.”
The kids learned about history about how Jan Van Riebeeck was a hero for coming to the Cape in 1652 and she was taught that respect must be given to authority and the Prime Minister of her Country, South Africa and that is all she knew.
One day in the windy city, her mother went out; and the little girl stayed home from school with a bad cold. She listened to the radio – there was no TV – in those days. Suddenly the program was interrupted and a very serious tone reverberated alarmingly through the airwaves “DR VERWOERD IS DOOD – Dr VERWOERD IS DEAD! “
The Prime Minister had been stabbed while he was inside the Parliament – right here in Cape Town. The child was perplexed and yelled for her nanny.- who came running into the room to see what she screaming was about.
“Dr. Verwoerd is dead,” repeated the child, looking for comfort. A smile crossed her nanny’s face and the next thing a wail – or rather a chant llalalalalal – and a dance of joy.
That child was me and how incongruous that dance seemed and her nanny was Mrs. Violet Zinto, of blessed memory.
From that day on I knew something was not right – here and with this world – with this place and my life changed forever.
Something triggered for me – in that moment… but I never knew it would lead to this day…
Little did I know that moment was the beginning of the end… for apartheid – as its architect lay without breath in his House of Iniquity and that the very same HOUSE would one day pass a constitution that would go to the ultimate form of inclusion, for full equality; to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
There was a big struggle ahead to rebuild that place of ‘law making’; and much sacrifice followed and when Madiba (Nelson Mandela) was released came the new promise and a new constitution – one that guaranteed there would never be discrimination again in South Africa – and – it became the first ever country to boast a rainbow people – because in NO other country is that term used for NOT ONLY LGBTI. But in SA it is used for everyone.
SA is the only country which has earned a rainbow flag with an SA Flag embed-design attached as its LGBT Symbol of freedom and equality- that waves a reflection of that significant truth.
I have come a long way to talk to you tonight. From those days in Port Elizabeth then to San Francisco and now back here to Cape Town. Through my own journey over the past 25 years and my multi-national experience – I have come qualified in my heart to bring you a message – it is about you about your importance here in SA, here in Africa and here in the world.
I live in San Francisco – where we like to think we are ground zero for the gay struggle around the world – – – – and I may seem to interfering – but I am asking for help – your help.
Little do they know in SF and they should know – that this place right here- SA – is the real ground zero – It is because of your fight against the oppression of an entire nation, joined together, that this is the only country on this continent and one of very few globally to have sexual orientation and gender identity protected in its constitution.
I am here to remind you that not even the United State of America can boast such an accomplishment.
But it is HOW you live that accomplishment that becomes the real achievement.
The real triumph will come when people in South Africa accept all people unequivocally as equals and realize that gay people are normal people who having been born to enjoy love as a human right -we – want nothing more than our right to pursue happiness free of fear, safely with equal opportunities in every arena.
With this Constitution – you are charged with a hefty responsibility – here in South Africa, AND in Africa AND in the World.
You must demand enforcement and respect for those rights you now own.
Here is an example:-
In April 2010, I was contacted by Ndume Funda of Luleke Sizwe, after my online News Magazine presented a story about the rape of Millie Gaika – I wrote Millie and Ndumie’s story for a year- they were suffering greatly – 15 women in 2 room flooded shack about to be evicted – all rape victims – and I prefer to say survivors – rapists who insulted our lesbian sisters by the denial of their being “ I will fix you and make you a real woman.”
Look at me brothers and sisters – I am a lesbian and I am woman- I don’t need any help with that thank you!
Through these stories on my BLOG I begged for attention. My cousin visited Ndumie and the women in Gugu and when she got home from that visit she contacted me in the US and she said “Mel, it is worse than you expected.”
I contacted organizations in South Africa and I received no response – Millie sat injured physically – her body saved; yet emotionally – her soul mortally wounded ; While she may have had opportunities to reach out and accept help – her further victimization endured through a system that had no way of providing the resources in a sensitive or conclusive fashion.
So I started writing to the SA Consul in the US and to Minister Radebe here in SA – I asked – Min. Radebe – How many women must endure a gang rape and then years later another even more brutal rape only to hear your silence; how many woman can stand up and testify at a trial when she and her supporters are there under threat without police protection? How many women must get on the same bus as her perpetrator who is out on $6.00 bail to go to court to testify; how many MORE must endure the brutality without the government stepping in and educating the public that (SHOUT) – RAPE AND VIOLENCE IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AND THAT CORRECTIVE RAPE IS A HATE CRIME THAT must be OUTLAWED IN THIS COUNTRY with harsh sentencing ? …… and your continued silence- Members of this Government….
Others joined in the outrage and the more I wrote the more contact I received from the international community, wanting to help and it spread, viral – until Luleki Sizwe received money from a donor to move into a safe house.
Soon a Petition was put on the internet and something like 200,000 emails landed on the desk of Minister Radebe’s staff- resulting in an invitation to meet and discuss the imperative reforms. We have drafted some reforms which are necessary for survivors of these rapes and that is part of what we will pursue this month.
So you can see – this is a perfect example of having rights under the law – but not being protected through lack of solicitude, awareness, education and enforcement.
What good is a constitution if one cannot live in peace without fear of attack just because you are gay or lesbian or transgender or intersex. So you must all demand and you must all support each other – and you must show up in great crowds like we will do tomorrow/.
You must forge a path that shows SA can be a leader, and in order to do that – you cannot fear being out, open and proud. You are the soldiers on this the last frontier of acceptability. Tolerance of us in society, regardless of African Culture is not enough – we must be accepted.
In order for this to happen, it is absolutely imperative that you realize your place in AFRICA and in the WORLD. You have a unique duty – and the more you express that duty on the greatest level available to you, the more you will be accepted in your own Country.
YOU have to tell the world of the brilliance of the SA Constitution- not even the USA – which purports to lead the world has such inclusion – and the USA still discriminates horribly in its law, through the Federal Defense of Marriage Act which says marriage can only be between one man and one woman. If I fall in love with a South African and want to marry her and live with her in the USA – I cannot sponsor her for a green card – but straight people can. Here in SA you have that right!
Your rights under your Constitution are born from the hard learned lessons and the excruciating fight out of apartheid- you cannot let the people of SA , nor Madiba, nor the ANC of better memory down. So you must fight as well on an international level – you must show leadership in Africa and the world and you must tell President Zuma – that he is expected by the SA people to do the same.
From these I have four PLEAS – (as in requests!_)
Plea number 1 is for SA, Stop the Rape – educate, and support victims with government medical care, with encouragement and help to testify and with all the resources fitting those who endure horrendous pain and torture and legislate appropriate sentencing and bail;
Plea number 2 is for Africa, Stop the criminalization of Homosexuality in AFRICA – we are human beings who love each other and we are families; we are not criminals just because we fall in love with people of the same sex. We are not hurting anyone. Uganda stop the ‘Kill the Gays Bill.’ David Bahati get the hell out of South Africa, President Zuma take the lead and show that you have dignity and respect for your magnificent constitution – Tell Jon Qwelane to get the (F%CK) out of Uganda NOW!!!! He must back to South Africa and sit on the same porch and smoke whatever it is that has made him hate.
Tell Museveni that South Africa will pull all its private investment AND government AID until Uganda decriminalizes homosexuality, even as the law stands now. Show the world you believe in the message of the ANC and the new SA and that your Constitution is not a phony patronization of those who joined you in your struggle against apartheid.. That human rights will be protected at all costs – and are critical to the development of South Africa and Africa in the world.
Show some spine President Zuma – stand up for your people – all your people – stand up for Africa- be a leader – live your constitution.
PLEA number 3 Stand up for the World -with great respect – when you express loyalty to your country and your patriotism you are expected to uphold the constitution and then you are expected to deliver the message from a clean house… a house fully in order,. SA has that power because SA has the ALL TIME CONSTITUTION. Help us in America teach those that hate how to truly separate church and state – marriage equality is universal – come to us in pride to talk about your constitution and help us attain full inclusion in our Federal law…..
For you my friends I say again thank you for this incredible opportunity. Who would have thought I would have left an apartheid SA 25 years ago to come home to ask you to fight for equality for the WORLD?
Fight for the rights that you already own and unite as one gay movement – avoid the appeal of fragmentation in the name of ego because unless you do that you will not succeed –
First and foremost Be Gay – be lesbian – be out be queer be transgender, be bisexual – intersex be straight – just be who you are there is no shame there can only be gain and you OWN the right!!
I love you,
I love South Africa…
From the deepest place in my heart
By Melanie Nathan
Cape Town Pride celebrates yet another year of PRIDE and colorful is an understatement when the Mother City’s LGBTQI population take over the streets. Photos by Simon Deviant
By Melanie Nathan, 03/04/2012
Today thousands of rainbow people marched through the Streets of the magnificent Cape Town – flanked by its signature mountain – the magnificence of which belies any captured image. Table mountain endures beyond the snap shot, in the mind of any privileged visitor, as its flat table beacons the Mother City and the Rainbow Nation its embraces. This is a place flourishing with possibility, yet tainted unless it accepts its charge – the charge of a Constitution that screams: – ‘USE me I am the example for Africa and the World.”
With thanks to my friend Simon Deviant, photographer extraordinary, I am able to provide these stunning photos of the Mother City, and PRIDE 2012 Cape Town’s day of great joy.
A SIGN That Older Africans are Starting to Embrace Equality:-
Cape Town is a fantastic destination for Pride – Lets get the rest of the World here next year – watch out Sydney and San Francisco!
Last year I was sponsored by British Airways, Protea Hotels’ Victoria Junction, Hotel Cape Royale to be the keynote Speaker at South Africa’s Gay Pride. Here is my speech if you missed it then. Please note it is posted directly from my notes and has not been edited for posting. But here it is anyway! (See Below the Pictures)