Refugees in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia celebrated Pride this month with nutritious, festive meals organized by the human rights advocates of the African Human Rights Coalition.
Melanie Nathan, executive director, the U.S.-based AHRC, congratulated donors, organizers and refugee community members for the work on the AHRC Pride Meal.
This account of the multi-location event is based on the Nathan’s blog post, “Historic LGBTQI Refugee PRIDE From Kakuma to Makeni to Dzaleka”.
Locations for the Pride Meal were:
- At a shelter in Nairobi, Kenya;
- In 50 separate small groups in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya;
- In Dzaleka Camp, Malawi; and
- In the Makeni Transit Center, Zambia.
For safety, people celebrated remained in separate small groups, private venues and secure compounds.
More than 600 LGBTQI+ refugees took part in the Pride meals.
The day included a Pride Zoom call that connected people in the United States, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with people joining the celebrations in many languages, including English, French, Luganda, Arabic and more.
Nathan, who is a South Africa native, described the attitude of refugees at the Pride meal:
“We wanted to celebrate PRIDE. To create a festivity our AFRICAN way. We had to take serious account of the fact that we are refugees in hostile host countries, which criminalize us in the same way as our countries of origin. We are surrounded by our fellow African refugees who demonize us for our sexuality and gender identity.”
“The safest way to express our PRIDE and participate in global PRIDE MONTH, turned out to be a way we could embrace our own culture. A way we could tell AFRICA and the WORLD – ‘PRIDE is AFRICAN’ too and there is nothing UN-AFRICAN about us and our SOGIESC [sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics]. …
“We expressed our PRIDE through traditional feasts. We found so much joy and excitement in the preparation of this day, from choosing the goats and chickens to all the preparation. All of this was a much needed boost to our morale. …
“We proved that we can have a safe PRIDE in these environments if we invested in self security. We proved that PRIDE is AFRICAN, and that no-one can tell us LGBTQI+ Africans are UN-AFRICAN. We also proved our resilience and our refusal to give up who we are. At the same time we cannot forget and express that our day-to-day lives are so hard, and our futures are uncertain. We all long for the day that we can be free to fully express ourselves without limitation or worry about basic safety.”
Participants expressed their thanks to AHRC staff and supporters, staff and contractors of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, and donors, in particular the advocacy group All Out and Dream Out Loud Films.