As Pride month draws to a close and corporations prepare to pat themselves on the backs and wrap their rainbows in mothballs for another year, a diverse group of likeminded individuals took to the streets to champion the cause. 

Last Saturday, at the crack of dawn, the Napier’s walkways still dusted with the sparkle of the previous night’s Matariki celebrations, the inaugural Twin Cities Pride Hikoi launched from the Soundshell with karakia and waiata and a whole lot of joyful determination.

Fifty-three years ago, in the summer of ’69, New York streets erupted with a spontaneous protest movement highlighting the plight of those who did not conform to heterogenous sexuality and gender norms. Their fight for gay liberation became the Pride movement. The intervening years have seen the queer clamour for inclusion expand to a whole month of celebratory action across the globe. 

Stonewall was significant not just because it championed LGBQTIA+ visibility, but because of its racial diversity at a grassroots level. On the back of the civil rights movement, key leaders such as Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera highlighted intersectional discrimination and marched for equality for all. 

This is the spirit in which local group, Tautoko Takata, came together, with the support of both branches of Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, to march between the twin cities ‘fighting discrimination with perspiration’. The event was the brainchild of takatāpui powerhouse, Paris Sciascia-Brown. She challenged her friends to undertake twenty-one minutes of physical exertion for each day of Pride month as an act of positive activism. A twenty-one kilometre walk was the exercise’s obvious conclusion, coinciding nicely with the distance between Napier and Hastings. 

What began as a supportive endeavour amongst friends ballooned as more people showed interest. Sciascia-Brown enlisted the help of Te Taiwhenua and local sponsors to create a fully-fledged event, the first of many.

A band of rainbow bedecked activists, all glitter and fluff and sensible shoes, embarked from Napier in the early morn, gathering participants and momentum as they travelled. By Clive the group had doubled and were met with further reinforcements and refreshments at Waipatu Marae. A wide range of ages, genders, races and persuasions were represented, from tots pulled along in wagons to elderly allies. Passing vehicles honked their horns in support — including a gratifying number of the high-vis wearing tradie contingent. Families stepped on to their lawns to smile and wave. The group intersected with a fleet of bass thumping vehicles displaying the Tongan colours, jubilant despite their recent rugby defeat, and an exuberant exchange of pomp and flag waving ensued. 

Our local New Zealand Police’s Diversity Liaison Officer showed face, her plain clothes regalia softened by rainbows, taking the opportunity for positive community engagement. St Andrews’ Reverend Jill McDonald, known for her work in social justice, was also conspicuously present in her clerical collar, sending the message that, at least in her faith, god’s love is universal. One of her parishioners described her motivation for marching thus. “I’m walking for inclusivity, not just for gender and sexuality but for culture. I think we need to listen to indigenous people.”

A block from the hikoi’s Clock Tower conclusion, the group were met by fabulous drag queen Amanduh La, our master of ceremonies for the festivities that followed. At least seven feet tall in heels and feathered headdress, she infused the occasion with both sparkle and dignity. 

The Clock Tower Mall was taken over by Te Taiwhenua tents, and kai was served to those who walked farthest first. The speeches were celebratory and aspirational – eliciting commitment to continue the event from both organisers and sponsors, as well as an extended invitation to join the International Pride celebration in Wellington next year. 

They were also cautionary, reminding us that activism and allyship extend beyond a single event, but need to be brought into our daily actions. For Paris Sciascia-Brown and the Tautoko Takata whanau these twenty-one kilometres are just the first of many steps on the road to promoting equality, loudly and proudly taking up space, free to be just who they are.

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1 Comment

  1. Well written Rosheen.
    Thank you Baybuzz for hearing the. Voice of the silent communitties.
    It is the media that plays a huge role in cohesiveness and inclusion

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