I was a walking through the Castro yesterday with my good friend Matt. I passed by a storefront window and saw this picture being placed there.
I immediately went to my phone to search the news and saw the headlines. Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag, passed away in his sleep at his home in New York. He was 65 years old.
I met Gilbert in person in February 2017 during the screening of “When We Rise” at the Castro theater. We were standing in line to get in and there he was walking down the street saying hello to everyone. I remember his big smile and how happy he looked. I’m grateful to have had the chance to give him a hug and to thank him for all the work he did during his life that’s made my life today so much easier.
When I started the LGBT studies program at Napa Valley College, I reached out to Gilbert online and ordered one of his hand painted rainbow flags. I thought it would be something special to share with my students.
When it arrived, I’m knew right away that it was too small to share in a classroom, so I reached out to Gilbert again and asked him to sign a full-sized flag for me and he enthusiastically agreed to do it. When I share the flag, its history, and its meaning with my students, seeing that it was signed by Gilbert makes the moment for them all that much more real and special.
Gilbert did hundreds of interviews over the years telling the story of the flag and its meaning. Here are two I think are especially good to share.
In 2012, Gilbert’s friend and fellow activist, Cleve Jones, sat down with him at the GLBT Museum in San Francisco to talk about the flag.
The rainbow flag is a powerful symbol of pride, visibility, and identity. It signals a welcoming and safe place. It’s become such a powerful symbol that in some countries, like Russia, merely displaying it can land you in jail.
For me, Gilbert Baker and the rainbow flag are inspiration for the work I do. I only hope that I can give as much to making life better for others as Gilbert Baker and his work did for me.
This page is dedicated to Gilbert Baker and all the meaning he gave to his rainbow flag. Thank you Gilbert for this amazing gift to our world.