the creator of the gay pride rainbow flag has passed away
Activist and artist Gilbert Baker created the original flag in 1978 to encourage other gay and lesbian individuals to be open and proud of who they were.
In 1978 Kansas-born, San Francisco-based, artist and activist Gilbert Baker created the most enduring icons of the LGBTQI+ movement when he sewed a rainbow flag. In the four decades since it has become one of the most recognised symbols in modern history. After a lifetime of activism, Baker passed away yesterday in his sleep. The announcement was made by his friend and fellow AIDS activist Cleve Jones on Twitter, he wrote: "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."
Baker learnt to sew as a drag queen in 1970s San Francisco when he couldn't afford to buy new clothes. Soon the hobby merged with the political activity around him as he became more involved with the gay rights movement. Speaking to MoMA in 2015 he noted, "My craft became my activism."
A friend of Harvey Milk during this time, the then 27-year-old was inspired by the politician's call for gay and lesbians to be open and proud. He created the bright flag to reflect that, commenting it was a "way of proclaiming your visibility, or saying, 'This is who I am!'" The first flag was made at his local gay community centre out of recycled organic cotton and natural dyes.
Originally the flag had eight colours. Pink represented sexuality, Red represented life, orange represented healing, yellow represented the sun, green represented nature, turquoise represented art, indigo represented harmony and violet represented spirit. It was later simplified to the six-stripe version we know today to make it easier to mass produce. Remembering that first design he said, ""I wanted to make it at the centre, with my friends — it needed to have a real connection to nature and community." The flag was raised for the first time at United Nations Plaza in June 25 1978, and has been proudly flown ever since.
Text Wendy Syfret
Photo via @CleveJones1