July 2017 has felt like a microcosmic lifetime.
Victor Chikalogwe, the director of the LGBTI Advocacy Program at PASSOP, sat down with Marie (a fellow intern from Denmark) and me during the first week of the month, and said he was willing and invested to move forward with my original proposal for a community-building event and fundraiser.
I thought to myself, “Victor, I have pushed this since early June. I appreciate the late enthusiasm, and willingness to trust and invest in my ideas and organizational abilities; but where have you been?!”
Before I could ask, he answered the question: He detailed some of the internal complications that PASSOP has faced over the past year, and communicated the need for more rigorous and precise auditing, record-keeping, and organization management. It then became clear that he had been working tirelessly on projects he had not shared with the interns up to that point; it also became clear that if he were to invest in (and invest PASSOP’s name in) an intern-organized and -managed project, he wanted interns he could trust and rely on.
I took a step back, thanked him internally for trusting me and saying he was willing and ready to move forward, and said, “I don’t know if Cape Town’s LGBTI organizations, nonprofits, businesses, academics, students, and refugees will be ready and able to contribute to or even attend an event that’s put into motion a month out. As we all know, work here can be slow; we wait on replies to emails for three weeks, sometimes. But I can do this in a month; I’m not afraid to walk into offices or knock on doors. PASSOP and our interns can do this in a month. And Victor, you could do this in a month. With your help, I think we can pull it off.”
“Dan this is no problem! Leave the organizations and NPOs to me. Let’s get started. Give me a sample budget and proposal by tomorrow.”
And so it began: Calculating costs and researching venues, food, lighting, sound, speakers, transportation, marketing, and other expenses. Attending stakeholder meetings of LGBTI NPOs to pitch my event and ask for attendees, support, and referrals for speakers and other organizations. Researching organizations, businesses, academics, student groups, newspapers, artists, authors, fashionistas, drag queens, and (other) leaders of the community, to make a 12-page-long invitation list. Designing and printing promotional posters and flyers, and walking and Ubering across the city to inquire, network, and post. Walking with Victor for last minute meetings at Triangle Project to ask the Health and Support Services Manager, Sharon Cox, to attend as an honored speaker. Looking up acclaimed and amateur South African artists and musicians, and trying to coordinate with their agents or “run into” them at late night poetry readings or theater performances. Developing task lists and schedules for the night of. Constantly messaging or emailing or cc’ing Victor to confirm, plan, and revise. Writing, managing, and figuring out different ways to promote the concurrent crowdfunding campaign, a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help support PASSOP’s LGBTI refugee program and clients.
All of this while trying to: manage whichever appeals and letters for permanent residence I was assigned or took on; maintain a social life with friends who were departing, or whom I would depart from in a few weeks; and getting some sleep while maintaining my new workout regimen (with my neighbor at my housing complex, a gay Ugandan refugee himself, as my trainer).
And yet the rigor and shared passion, encouragement, and support from most of the people I talked or networked with kept me going. A prime example is the owner of the venue that we were able to secure for this Colours of Cape Town event, Robert Mulders. A gentleman, a joy to work with, and someone that Victor had depended on before and someone whom we depended on very much this past month. He hosted us whenever we needed to meet, he brimmed with excitement at our ideas but kept a level head and helped us to take note of all issues, minor or major, and provided excellent recommendations for artists and musicians. Working with such a warm, generous, and pro-LGBTI and pro-human-rights business owner has been a much-needed change of pace, and I can only hope that more business owners look to him as an example in the future.