NEW YORK CITY — Friends and family of the late Gilbert Baker will hold an activist march and rally against LGBTQ discrimination and bigotry in memory of the world-renowned artist who created the rainbow flag, the international symbol of LGBTQ pride. Baker, a lifelong LGBTQ and social justice activist, died suddenly Mar. 31 in his Manhattan home. He was 65.
The political march and rally “Raise the Rainbow!” will take place, appropriately, on Flag Day, which is Wednesday, June 14, from 6pm-9pm. It is a public event open to all. Attendees are invited to bring rainbow-themed banners, art pieces and protest signs.
The event begins with a rally at the Stonewall Inn, the bar whose 1969 riots sparked the modern LGBTQ movement. Speakers will celebrate the life, art and legacy of Baker through personal recollections, resistance speeches and Baker’s own political speeches.
At 8pm, participants will march the length of Christopher Street to Christopher Street Pier.
“Gilbert Baker belonged to all of us, and his sudden passing has been a shocking loss to millions across the world,” said event co-organizer and longtime friend Charley Beal.
“There is no better way to honor his work and his memory than to hold this march and protest, to fight the LGBTQ oppression of Donald Trump’s administration. We must continue Gilbert’s work, because the struggle for LGBTQ liberation is not over.”
The Facebook page for the event is: www.facebook.com/GilbertBakerMemorial. The website for Gilbert Baker is: gilbertbaker.com.
A celebration of Baker in San Francisco, his home for decades and the site of the creation of the Rainbow Flag in 1978, will happen Thursday, June 8, at 7pm at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.
Baker was born in Chanute, KS, on June 2, 1951. He grew up in Parsons, where his grandmother owned a women’s clothing store, and where he developed an appreciation for fabrics.
He served in the U.S. Army from 1970-72, which stationed him in San Francisco just at the start of the gay liberation movement. After being honorably discharged, Baker stayed in San Francisco, bought his first sewing machine and taught himself to sew. He began creating flags for civic and state events, most notably the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
The first rainbow flag had eight colors, each standing for something: Pink was for hot sex; red for life; orange for healing, yellow for sunlight; green for nature; turquoise for art; indigo for harmony; and violet for spirit. Eventually two colors were dropped - pink and turquoise - due to limited availability of fabric.
In 1994 Baker created a mile-long Rainbow Flag for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riot 1969 in New York City. The flag was 30 feet across and 5,280 feet long and carried by 5,000 people. It was unfurled in front of the United Nations before a crowd of more than one million.
It was the world’s largest flag before Baker broke his own record in 2003 with a new flag created for Key West Pride and to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the rainbow flag, that extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. For that flag, he restored the missing two colors.
Due to his creation of the rainbow flag, Baker often used the drag queen name “Busty Ross.”
Baker also created a series of Rainbow Flag-inspired paintings for galleries and museums internationally. The Rainbow Flag is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Most recently, Baker completed a new nine-color Rainbow Flag, adding a lavender stripe for diversity.
Gilbert Baker leaves behind mother Patricia Baker of Conroe, TX and sister Ardonna Baker Cook of Cypress, TX. l