The Gilbert Baker Foundation proudly presents the

Storyteller series

MEMORIES OF GILBERT

In every country where the flag has flown, LGBTQ people have been encouraged to break down their closet doors and fight for equal rights. The Foundation wants to hear your story. TELL US how you have been personally affected by the Rainbow Flag in the form at the end of the page.

the stories

In 1985, New York City Pride, aka Heritage of Pride, took over the pride march and rally. Our challenge: How do you get 200+ different groups to march together? The answer was to unify them under the Rainbow Flag. HOP was key in bringing the Rainbow Flag to NYC, at a time when the movement was more focused on the pink triangle iconography. We added rainbow balloon arches over Columbus Circle. We festooned Fifth Avenue and Christopher Street with Rainbow Flags. Long before the ‘93 March on Washington, HOP used the rainbow image to help bring an overall vision and message to the pride march. 

Franklin G. Fry

Organization Chair 1990-1993, Heritage of Pride

The last time I saw Gilbert was January 19, 2017, at a newsstand on Columbus Circle. Ever the vibrant provocateur, he was posing in striped pajamas he’d made to emulate garb of gay holocaust victims. The occasion was Trump’s inauguration. Grateful for our serendipitous reunion, we hugged like it would be the last time. “I love you so much,” he said, as he often sweetly did to friends. “I love you back. I want pajamas like those.” After he died, I passed the same newsstand. The sky in front of me was a paler blue; the stars to be less bright.

Robbie Tucker

Writer and Editor at large

The Rainbow Flag always struck me as a symbol of beauty and diversity, evanescent yet durable as a symbol. While I was not a close friend of Gilbert’s, I got to know him through social media where we were friends since 2008. His wit and good humor matched his enormous symbolic contribution to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and freedom. His sudden death was a shock but he leaves behind a global legacy as we carry on our fight for our freedom. Long wave the Rainbow!

George M. Carter

Founder/Director, Foundation for Integrative AIDS Research

I could deny him nothing. Gilbert would call me to invite me to an action he was passionate about. I knew I was going to do whatever he was asking: the Russian Embassy to protest Putin’s atrocities, Federal Buildings for infractions against LGBT existence, etc. Just before the Windsor marriage case was heard, Gilbert called. “Can you do m a favor?” This time, I took a giant blue banner to DC for the rally! It was HEAVY and took 30 PEOPLE to hold it! I got it there and it was in every article about that rally!!! Of course, it was. I miss you, Gilbert.

Cathy Marino-Thomas

Emeritus Board President, Marriage Equality USA

After the Prop. 8 defeat in 2008, I came out of activist retirement to help organize pro-marriage protests in New York. Gilbert, who’d recently moved to the city, also started showing up at our actions with custom-made banners. They were huge — 4 feet high,  and wide enough to span a Manhattan avenue — because Gilbert knew how to create visuals that TV cameras couldn’t miss. That’s me in the photo in front of one of Gilbert’s banners, “NEW YORK LOVES GAY MARRIAGE,” for our protest at the city’s Marriage License Bureau on Valentine’s Day 2009.

Brian Zabcik

Veteran Activist, ACT UP/New York to Queerbomb/Austin

It was probably 1979 or ‘80 when I was living in Brooklyn. I was called to the door by Jimmy, just back from Pride in San Francisco. Jimmy was eager to show me what he described as the “Gay National Flag.” He was so excited, so full of pride and enthusiasm, he could barely stand still. The flag did for Jimmy what it has done for generations of young and old alike: It has served as a beacon in public gatherings, a source of inspiration for LGBTQ people, and a banner of support for allies to convey their commitment to equality.  Some time later, I came to know Gilbert Baker. The more I got to know Gilbert, the more that it was clear that his Rainbow Flag achieved his deepest and dearest aspirations.

Ginny Apuzzo

Founding President, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center

When I first met Gilbert and started to talk with him, I remember thinking that the Rainbow Flag flowed from him as naturally as his infectious warmth. The rainbow was always within him, and the colors and meanings they would come to represent in the outside world are brilliant reflections of Gilbert’s soul.  He was born with it. He never claimed ownership to this iconic symbol because how can you own something that you are born with and did not acquire? It’s like holding a moonbeam in your hand. The colors and the meanings just shine from his soul, as priceless and altruistic as my dear, departed friend.  I miss him and his gifts.

Hal Moskowitz

Friend and Activist

Gilbert was a passionate advocate for LGBT+ rights – and for other human rights too. We shared a picket line in San Diego in 2008, outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel. It was a joint LGBT+ and labor union protest against the owner’s funding of anti-gay lobby groups and the hotel’s low wages and poor working conditions for employees. Gilbert’s Rainbow Flag flew proudly alongside the union banners in solidarity. Gilbert believed that human rights are universal and indivisible. His ideals and politics motivated him to stand alongside all downtrodden people — and I was proud to stand alongside him.

Peter Tatchell

Veteran Activist, www.petertatchellfoundation.org

I met Gilbert Baker at the book party for my first novel, A Really Nice Prom Mess (Simon & Schuster) in June 2005. We decided to throw a prom-style event to celebrate the release and Gilbert showed up in his best, glittery finery. It was my first time meeting him and, for such an important historic figure, I was struck by how charming, funny and friendly he was— i.e. the perfect prom date! It was a huge highlight of this magical night to have the creator of the Rainbow Flag attend. 
 

Brian Sloan

Writer/Filmmaker, briansloan.com

Gilbert and I became family years earlier when we met after his move to N.Y.C. and months before his mile-long Rainbow Flag would be unfurled at the Stonewall 25 Anniversary Celebration. We met in his new and evolving “Raise the Rainbow” sewing workshop on West 16 Street. I stopped by to volunteer my services and simply offer another pair of hands on a day of a snowstorm. I stayed long into the excitement of that last weekend in June!  

I am proud to have been a part of this history and grateful to have met my dear, dear friend Gilbert. I knew the colorful celebrity and activist Gilbert — but also and equally wonderful, the quiet and very gentle person who I was most close to. Gilbert, peace, dear brother.

Richard Ferrara

Veteran Activist

In 2004, I was part of the 25th anniversary Key West “Sea to Sea” Rainbow Flag celebration. Over four months, Gilbert created a 6,700-foot-long by 16-foot-wide 8-color flag. It was built in 25-foot sections!  The flag had to be unfurled from the truck in the background and was carried by 2,200 volunteers across Duvall Street from the Gulf to the Atlantic. This photo includes Guy Allred, Scott Seitz, Gilbert Baker. Pieces of the flag were later shipped now to 120 Pride Organizations globally. These sections have been included in Marriage Equality marches and so many more. I have never seen something bring people to tears of joy as much as this flag has done for the world. Thank you Gilbert. We miss you.

Scott Seitz

Founder, SPI Marketing

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