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Saturday, April 01, 2017

Gilbert Baker, LGBT rainbow flag creator, dies aged 65

from BBC News
Gilbert Baker's flag became a symbol of diversity and inclusion
Gilbert Baker, an artist based in San Francisco who created the rainbow flag as a symbol for the gay community, has died aged 65.
Baker,(r) with the then New York mayor in 2002, at one of teh many Gay Pride parades he attended
The San Francisco Chronicle said Baker died in his sleep at his home in New York on Thursday night.

He initially designed an eight-colour flag in 1978 for the city's gay freedom day, the precursor to the modern pride parade.

The rainbow flag has been raised in central San Francisco to honour him.

It is flying near Harvey Milk Plaza, named after America's first openly gay politician, a close friend of Baker before his assassination in 1978.

Baker's close friend Cleve Jones said on Twitter: "My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert Baker gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship."

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the screenplay for Milk, the biopic of the politician, tweeted: "Rainbows weep. Our world is far less colourful without you, my love. Gilbert Baker gave us the rainbow flag to unite us. Unite again."

California State Senator Scott Weiner said Baker's work had "helped define the modern LGBT movement".
The flag became a symbol of diversity and inclusion
"Rest in power, Gilbert," he said.

'A people, a tribe'

According to his website, Baker was born in Kansas in 1951 and served in the US army from 1970 to 1972, which stationed him in San Francisco in the early days of the gay liberation movement.

He was honourably discharged, taught himself to sew and began a flag-making career which would include creating designs and displays for several world leaders including the presidents of France, Venezuela and the Philippines.

Baker's original flag had eight colours, each representing a different aspect of humanity:

  • Pink - sexuality
  • Red - life
  • Orange - healing
  • Yellow- sunlight
  • Green - nature
  • Turquoise - art
  • Indigo - harmony
  • Violet - human spirit

Read more: The rise of the rainbow flag

--More at BBC.com

Following is a post from 'OZ' - The 'Other' Side of the Rainbow archives:

In 1978, Gilbert Baker of San Francisco designed and made a flag with six stripes representing the six colours of the rainbow as a symbol of gay and lesbian community pride. Slowly the flag took hold, offering a colourful and optimistic alternative to the more common pink triangle symbol. Today it is recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers, and is flown in lesbian and gay pride marches worldwide. In 1989, the rainbow flag received nationwide attention after John Stout successfully sued his landlords in West Hollywood, when they prohibited him from displaying the flag from his apartment balcony. Meanwhile, Baker is still in San Francisco, and still making more flags.

Rainbow Flag

Colour has long played an important role in our community's expression of pride. In Victorian England, for example, the colour green was associated with homosexuality. The colour purple (or, more accurately, lavender) became popularized as a symbol for pride in the late 1960s - a frequent post-Stonewall catchword for the gay community was "Purple Power". And, of course, there's the pink triangle. Although it was first used in Nazi Germany to identify gay males in concentration camps, the pink triangle only received widespread use as a gay pop icon in the early 1980s. But the most colourful of our symbols is the Rainbow Flag, and its rainbow of colours - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple - represents the diversity of our community.

The first Rainbow Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, who created the flag in response to a local activist's call for the need of a community symbol. (This was before the pink triangle was popularly used as a symbol of pride.) Using the five-striped "Flag of the Race" as his inspiration, Baker designed a flag with eight stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. According to Baker, those colours represented, respectively: sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art (or magic), harmony (or serenity), and spirit. Baker dyed and sewed the material for the first flag himself - in the true spirit of Betsy Ross.

The Original Rainbow Flag

Baker soon approached San Francisco's Paramount Flag Company about mass producing and selling his "gay flag". Unfortunately, Baker had hand-dyed all the colours, and since the colour "hot pink" was not commercially available, mass production of his eight-striped version became impossible. The flag was thus reduced to seven stripes.

In November 1978, San Francisco's gay community was stunned when the city's first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, was assassinated, Wishing to demonstrate the gay community's strength and solidarity in the aftermath of this tragedy, the 1979 Pride Parade Committee decided to use Baker's flag. The committee eliminated the indigo stripe so they could divide the colours evenly along the parade route - three colours on one side of the street and three on the other. Soon the six colors were incorporated into a six-striped version that became popularized and that, today, is recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers.

In San Francisco, the Rainbow Flag is everywhere: it can be seen hanging from apartment windows throughout the city (most notably in the Castro district), local bars frequently display the flag, and Rainbow Flag banners are hung from lampposts on Market Street (San Francisco's main avenue) throughout Pride Month. Visiting the city, one can not help but feel a tremendous sense of pride at seeing this powerful symbol displayed so prominently.

We are everywhere


Although the Rainbow Flag was initially used as a symbol of pride only in San Francisco, it has received increased visibility in recent years. Today, it is a frequent sight in a number of other cities as well - New York, West Hollywood, and Amsterdam, among them. Even in the Twin Cities, the flag seems to be gaining in popularity. Indeed, the Rainbow Flag reminds us that ours is a diverse community - composed of people with a variety of individual tastes of which we should all be proud.


This is The Wizard of 'OZ's Pride flag. I purchased it when I came out of the closet.  I have proudly carried it for celebrations, demonstrations and sadly, memorials.  It hangs in my apartment as a reminder of the costs my forebearers paid for my freedom to be me.
This is The Wizard of 'OZ's Pride flag. I purchased it when I came out of the closet.
I have proudly carried it for celebrations, demonstrations and sadly, memorials.
It hangs in my apartment as a reminder of the costs my forebearers paid for my freedom to be me.

So now you know!

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