Earlier in the month I wrote about the Jhb Pride and what a better way to end of my November than to write about the Chevrolet Feather Awards that took place last week (17 November 2016) at the Theatre on the Track in Kyalami. The Feathers, much like the Jhb Pride, were met with despairing disapproval from the majority of the Queer community. But is it fair to compare the two events? Are they equally exclusive events? Do they do more harm than good for the community and do they alienate a fragile healing community even more? It is not as black and white as many might think.

So many people in the Queer community feel that these awards are a celebration of heterosexual personalities at the expense of queer bodies. They feel that the ceremony is exclusionary and not as accessible to the queer community as it is to the hetero community. Many have complained of the nominees not being vocal or never availing themselves for the queer community though they have no problem being celebrated by it. These are all cries of the queer community at large and as sure as I am there are more, I think this about summarizes it.

Earlier this year I found out that because the Feather Awards are celebrating 8 years in existence, that they would be embarking on National dialogues that would be carried across the 8 provinces (Gauteng was excluded) to commemorate this. These dialogues would tackle issues that are faced by that certain area and I was lucky enough (through Cater for All) to host one titled; Building Bridges: Dealing with Violence against LGBTI. It was a great dialogue, facilitated well and it tackled the issue that the people in attendance were hungry for. This was the first time that I (and many others in my province) felt included in the process of these awards as the organizers came to the people and they listened. These dialogues became a great step for the communities to also be involved in the Feathers and the process leading up to the ceremony itself.

Of course more still needs to be done to ensure that maximum community achievement is reached. For instance there are 13 categories comprising of 3 nominees each. This year alone, more than 39 people were part of the whole night. There are so many projects that could be implemented using this platform as a catalyst. Task each winner with a queer driven project for example. Use the Bonang’s and the Black Coffee’s to make a stand against queerphobia, it should not just be enough that they win the awards, they must be part of a visible process. A series of adverts condemning queerphobia could be screened using these celeb allies as a build up to the SABC broadcast (wink, wink potential donors). Also, why not introduce community based awards? Get the queer community to motivate nominations on community builders or something to that effect, get the community involved so that they can also identify with these awards.

I have to admit I was a skeptic. I was vocal about my disapproval for many years and I too voiced my disdain on social platforms. Its only when you begin to work in the organizational and community based field that you realize how much goes on and how much one can do with filtered support and backing. Hence inclusion and transparency is what is needed, being open and honest about our shortcomings and having honest and open dialogues. With that said there are better ways to handle complaints. Making snide comments on social media is not one of them. It does little to unite and just further fuels people and causes more divisions. People are not jealous because they don’t get invites; people just need to understand.

The Dialogues went a long way in helping out in communities and I understand they are still new so many people might have missed this integral part of the Feathers. Of course the awards are the focal point of everything, and will remain as such because they have the most pull. The awards are the reason the dialogues are a possibility. If you have ever tried to get funding for an LGBTQI+ event you will know how tiring and almost impossible it is. The awards are the pull factor for many things to be a possibility.

I personally hope that the dialogues continue and they grow. It would be nice to go from provinces to cities. The participation, the reach, the endless possibilities.

Sivuyile Mtshemla



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