At the Nelson Mandela Park we can choose between a monthly pass or a day ticket, with a discount if you have a “city pass.” Once inside, we immediately run into the big stage, where two young Genders in a sexy short dress entertain the audience with a great dance show.
Sometime later, I recognize Collin Edson, who’s hosting. I know him, as a few years ago we performed at the Kwaku Festival with the Nuns for my foundation. He announces alderman Rutger Groot Wassink, who is there to present the Mikel Haman Award.
“Remember the past, create the future,” is this year Pride’s theme.
Three activists are called to the stage: Gloria Wekker, Anne Krul, and Lionel Jokhoe. These activists were ground-breaking, each in his or her own way. Lionel, the man who led the Surinamese Gay Organization SUHO, wins, and in his short speech he concludes that he strives for GLBTI+ to include an extra H for Hetero, because when parents are asked what they would think if their child would be gay, most say they would rather not have a gay child, which is something that has to be tackled still. This statement is followed by the audience joining in a big cheering.
When somewhat later I have a refreshing Parbo beer behind the podium with Collin Edson, he tells me that it is important that we learn from history and apply these lessons to the future. Mikel Haman (1963-2018) was the activist who came up with the idea to organize a Pink Sunday at Kwaku. Mikel was an HIV and gay activist and the figurehead for the Surinamese-Dutch GLBTI+ and HIV community. He was a spiritual father to many who were HIV positive, and did not dare to go to a doctor. Those people were straights, bisexuals and gays. Collin says that he learned from these activists by fighting racism and inequality.
“I myself am on the board of the Black Queer & Trans Resistance collective. We fight for equality. Also, same-sex marriage is an issue on Curaçao. The youth of the Surinamese Hindustani community are having a hard time, with the highest suicide rate. Yet, there is change: Look at the performances at Kwaku. There are many young people of all colors who are participating and opening themselves up to their communities. Have a look later at Kiki, which is a smaller version of Danceball. "
"It originated in the United States, where younger GLBT people were left to their own devices. They were taken care of by activists who gave them a home. This led to House groups, led by a father or mother of the House. House of Omni and House of Vineyard are examples of this.
They give young people the opportunity to be themselves and work towards a better future. By dancing, you are working through the misery. These Houses were sort of the birthplace of Vogue dancing.”
Moments later with my friend Wendy, I walk past the food stalls. It is a colorful spectacle, with only happy faces. We decide to go for Surinamese “Bara with Bakkeljauw” (soft and airy legume snack with fish). When I want to take the first bite, a voluptuous Surinamese asks if I have eaten it before. She looks at me with a big smile, and her colorful clothing makes an impression. “It is the first time, yes,” I tell her. “Take some sauce with it,” she says, and gives me a bottle. She smiles and disappears into the crowd. Later, I see two men kissing and women walking hand in hand. The atmosphere is great, and it seems that anything is possible, which is currently largely on the shoulders of Theo Heskes, who is responsible for the programming.
The tent where the Kiki spectacle is held is bursting out of its seams. Yet we manage to get a spot with a good view of the dance competition. The geometric and stylized movements of the arms and the rest of the body in particular, bring silence to the spectators who are watching with their mouths open. They give the participants a great applause. They are young people, around twenty I guess. Also, at other stages, I mostly meet young people. When we get back to the big stages later, I bump into Collin again and he tells me that, in many ways, young people are more active nowadays.
“When they are around thirty-five years of age, a certain curiosity surfaces. They come to me and talk to me, wanting to organize sustainable activities. They are people who are committed to bringing people together. Just as with the Kiki dance, there is a tendency for GLBTI people to become more active in the black community. There is still a lot to do nowadays, so we can use all the help we can get. The bi-cultural community is coming alive, look around you.”
We both laugh and I toast with my Parbo beer, because “Parbo bierie brokko man please young.” Pink Kwaku truly is recommended.
photos Jan Katgert