Prior to 1978, the only emblem of the LGBT Community had been the “pink triangle,” a Nazi symbol of internment and extermination, until Gilbert Baker unfurled his Rainbow Flag in celebration of San Francisco’s Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day that June.
An honorably discharged army veteran, he became an activist and vexillographer designing flags and banners for various causes around the world including anti-Vietnam protests. In honor of “Stonewall 25,” Baker created a 30’ wide mile long Pride Flag carried by more than 5000 people in front of the United Nations, setting the world record for largest flag in 1994. To commemorate the flag’s 25th anniversary, he broke his own record in Key West with a Rainbow Flag stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean in 2003; afterwards sections of it were sent to be flown over more than 100 cities around the world. Gilbert Baker’s gift to the LGBT Community remains in the public domain and was recently honored with inclusion into New York City’s MoMa collection.
The announcement of Baker’s passing was made by friend and lifelong activist Cleve Jones on Facebook.
“I am heartbroken. My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me forty years of love and friendship. I can’t stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker.”
TheOUTfront mourns the loss of Gilbert Baker tonight but celebrates his work and the eternal gift of love he created and gave to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community. Whenever we see a Rainbow Flag waving proudly in the breeze, we’ll know that he is giving it life once again.
“Flags are torn from the soul of the people.” — Gilbert Baker