IPR is featuring some of the many LGBTQ+ pioneers and modern-day heroes to celebrate Pride month.
Simon Nkoli was born in Soweto, Gauteng, on Nov. 26, 1957. He was one of four children in a family that experienced poverty and segregation in the Apartheid state. His family would often need to hide from police to avoid prosecution.
As a college student in 1980, Nkoli joined the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), a group that fought for equality and democracy in the Apartheid state. However, when he came out and shared his sexuality with the members of COSAS, it led to complications within the group. Ultimately, he was able to remain a member.
He later became a member of the Gay and Lesbian Association of South Africa (GASA), but found that the group was predominately white and held racist views. Members of this group refused to support him on racial issues, which Nkoli felt were essential for GASA to address.
As a result of the discrimination he faced from both groups, he founded the Saturday Group, the first Black gay group in Africa. He was arrested in 1984 for treason but continued to fight for gay rights while imprisoned. Upon his prison release in 1988, he founded the Gay and Lesbian Organization of the Witwatersrand (GLOW), which organized South Africa’s first Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade in 1990.
As a leading figure in the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality, Nkoli ensured that the 1994 South African constitution included protections for LGBTQ+ citizens. Nkoli died in 1998 at the age of 41.
Simon Tseko Nkoli – Nominee — The Legacy Project
Simon Nkoli — South African History Online