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Meet the Leader of South Africa’s Old School Pride Activism

Growing up in 80s Soweto, Beverley Ditsie was immersed in the struggle against apartheid. But she knew racial oppression was only part of the fight – and organised the first Pride march in Africa. On her 16th birthday, Ditsie decided to have a coming-out party. One of her friends there told her about Simon Tseko Nkoli, the gay anti-apartheid campaigner. The pair became close friends, with Nkoli becoming Ditsie’s mentor. She loved exploring his bookcase, which she describes as a treasure. Through it, she learned about other black lesbian activists such as the US writers and thinkers Audre Lorde and Barbara Smith: “My world was being cracked wide open.” The pair, together with Linda Ngcobo, founded the Gay and Lesbian Organization of Witwatersrand (Glow). The organisation, and particularly Nkoli, was instrumental in enshrining protection for the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa’s new constitution. It was the first country to do so. In 1990, the group decided to organise a Pride march – which had never been done before in South Africa, or indeed in Africa.