Rainbow flag creator dies

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Gay activist Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag, died on March 31 at his home. He was 65.

A self-described “gay Betsy Ross,” The New York Times reported, that Baker hand-dyed and stitched together eight strips of colored fabric into a rainbow flag.

The worldwide iconic flag has become a symbol of solidarity for the LGBTQ community and was created prior to the assassination of openly gay City Supervisor Harvey Milk who had asked Baker to create an emblem to represent the movement and to be used at a gay Pride parade on June 25, 1978.

“We stood there and watched and saw the flags, and their faces lit up,” Cleve Jones, a friend and fellow gay rights activist, told the Times. “It needed no explanation. People knew immediately that it was our flag.”

The original flag had eight bands, but was simplified to six colors for mass production. In the attic of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco, Calif, Baker and volunteers filled trash cans with dye and fashioned the pieces together into flags, the Times said. It has served as the dominant symbol of the LGBTQ gay Pride movement and in the advocacy for civil rights and inclusion. It has been translated into countless items, from Pride products to organizational logos. Since it was created, it was never trademarked by Baker. Jones said that it was Baker’s gift to the world, the Times added.

More recently, he had been working to create 39 nine-color flags consisting of the original eight and a ninth one in lavender to represent diversity and to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the first rainbow flag, the Times said. He was also created flags for “When We Rise,” the ABC mini-series depicting the LGBTQ rights movement’s birth and rise.

An 18,000 linear yard rainbow flag stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo Credit: Rob O’Neal/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO

On June 15, 2003 in Florida at that year’s Key West PrideFest, a special 25th anniversary edition of the banner was unfurled on Duval St. A mile-and-a-quarter in length, it was dubbed the “Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag,” because it was stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and was carried by 3,000 volunteers from the LGBTQ and straight community. Baker assembled the piece at his workshop there that year. He had been approached by County Commissioner Heather Carruthers and resident Gregg McGrady after they learned of Baker’s desire to do something to commemorate the milestone and thought it would be great to have a rainbow flag span from one coast to the other, Carruthers said. All in all, the flag consisted of 18,000 linear yards of nylon in the original eight colors.

“The thing that sold it for me, in terms of committing to do it, was when I found that the city’s motto was ‘One Human Family’,” Baker had said, referring to the motto adopted by the Key West City Commission in 2000 and later by the Florida Keys County Commission, to express an accepting attitude toward all people.

In an interview in 2008, he remarked that the strides made in the LGBTQ fight for equality amazed him.

Baker was born on June 2, 1951, in Chanute, Kansas and served in the U.S. Army from 1970-1972. He was stationed in San Francisco, Calif. and remained there after his honorable discharge. Afterward, he became an activist for the gay rights movement. After the creation of the flag, he went to work for a flag manufacturer who supported his idea of mass-producing the rainbow flag, but later abandoned that to pursue a career in art and design.

info: nytimes.com. fla-keys.com.

Church hosts African descent conference

SARASOTA, Fla. — Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has announced that its 2017 People of African Descent, Friends and Advocates Conference, “Grounded in Love,” will be held from Aug. 3-5 at the Crowne Plaza, 200 N. 4th St., in St. Louis, Mo.

MCC of Greater St. Louis will serve as the host for the three-day event.

The conference theme “reminds us that when we are deeply rooted in love for God, for ourselves and for one another, change can truly happen! … [It is] our guiding principle. … Our time together … will lead and inspire us all to live out loud our commitment to be a truly inclusive people,” organizers shared.

Reaching beyond the boundaries of race, gender, sexual orientation, class and culture, the conference’s hope is that attendees will have “a genuine desire to know and understand just what it means to be black” in MCC and beyond.

Clergy can earn nine Continuing Education Units from their attendance.

Early bird rates are $150 until April 28 ($200 until the July 31 closing) and registration is available online. Seniors over 65, those receiving SSI benefits and students can attend at $100. The day rate is $100. Room rates are $125 and registrants are urged to secure a room early. Call 844-808-0295 or visit bit.ly/2ojchQa to learn more.

Vendors and sponsors are also needed. Visit padconference.mccchurch.org/sponsors to find out how to participate.

info: padconference.mccchurch.org.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.