Gilbert Baker Passed Away
SAD SAD DAY IN GAY HISTORY
Gilbert Baker, a self-described “gay Betsy Ross” who in 1978 hand-dyed and stitched together eight strips of vibrantly colored fabric into a rainbow flag, instantly creating an enduring international symbol of gay pride, was found dead on Friday at his home in New York City. He was only 65.
Cleve Jones, a friend and gay rights activist who confirmed the death, said that Mr. Baker had a stroke several years ago but had not been sick recently.
As the gay rights movement spread from San Francisco and New York in the 1970s, Mr. Baker was often asked by friends aware of his creative talents to make banners for protests and marches. His creations, like others during that time, often included the pink triangle, which protesters had claimed as an icon after its initial use by the Nazis to identify gay men in concentration camps during World War II.
Before a gay pride parade in 1978 in San Francisco, Harvey Milk, a city supervisor and gay rights leader who was assassinated that year, joined others in asking Mr. Baker to create an emblem to represent the movement.
Mr. Baker, with help from volunteers, filled trash cans with dye in the attic of the Gay Community Center in San Francisco and pieced together the first flags, unveiling them in the parade on June 25, 1978.
“We stood there and watched and saw the flags, and their faces lit up,” Mr. Jones said in a phone interview on Friday. “It needed no explanation. People knew immediately that it was our flag.”
The first flags had eight colors, each stripe carrying its own significance: pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for peace and purple for spirit.
“A flag translates into everything, from tacky souvenirs to the names of organizations and the way that flags function,” Mr. Baker said in an interview in 2008. “I knew instantly when I saw the reaction that it was going to be something. I didn’t know what or how or — but I knew.”
In recent weeks he had finished creating 39 nine-color flags — the eight original colors, plus lavender to represent diversity — to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the first rainbow flag.
Mr. Baker refused to apply for a trademark for his creation. “It was his gift to the world,” Mr. Jones said. “He told me when the flag first went up that he knew at that moment that it was his life’s work.”
Source – NY TIMES
I never got to meet Gilbert – we had been talking the last few weeks about his lavender addition to the flag and were supposed to meet and have drinks this summer in NYC…sadly, that will never happen. But I have a piece of the 25th anniversary flag, autographed by him, hanging proudly in my home. And will cherish it, as long as I live!