Gilbert Baker Forever In Our Hearts!!
April 29, 2020
Gilbert Baker gave our community a beautiful rainbow flag and worked tirelessly for many years to advocate for the LGBTQ2+ community starting in the early days of the Pride movement in San Francisco. The rainbow flag has become an international symbol of hope and acceptance that translates into any language.
Artist and advocate Gilbert Baker leaves an enduring legacy to the Rainbow Community. He certainly made an impact on Vancouver Pride as our Grand Marshall and enduring friend.
In 2008 Baker was chosen to be Grand Marshal as LGBT Rights Hero. We were blessed to have him gift our Pride celebration with his warmth and effervescence. Baker was routinely requested to appear at Pride events which he often declined. Not only did we enjoy his appearance but Baker presented Vancouver Pride with a section of the historical Rainbow Sea to Sea flag; which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the flags creation. Gilbert’s gift and legacy will live on in Vancouver every year as this flag continues to make appearances at official Pride events.
DailyXtra interviewed Gilbert on July 29, 2008. He had the following to say in this quote from the article:
Baker stresses the importance of visibility tools. “Flags represent ideas,” he says, “and rainbows have been used cross-culturally and historically as symbols of hope. They are magical.”
The first pride flag was hand dyed by Baker featuring eight colours symbolized different things: hot pink (sexuality), red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), turquoise (magic/art), blue (serenity/harmony) and violet (spirit.).
In 1978 Gilbert Baker’s flag made its debut in the San Francisco pride parade in June. Harvey Milk died later that same year in November which sparked more recognition for the community. The city then adopted the flags in 1979 which hung vertically on Market Street, not the Castro. Baker revised his work to remove the colours hot pink, turquoise, and indigo and adding in royal blue. The 6 colour iteration we recognize today was created in part because Hot Pink and Indigo were difficult to reproduce through commercial printing methods.
Vancouver Pride used Gilbert’s original vision in creating the Legacy Awards in 2013. Community members were nominated in 8 different categories aligning with the social value associated with each colour. That same year Vancouver Pride Society worked with the city of Vancouver to create a unique public art installation featuring the 8 colour rainbow flag at the crosswalks of Bute and Davie.
Born in Kansas, Baker served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972. He was stationed in San Fran during the beginning of the gay rights movement where he met Harvey Milk. After his honorable discharge, Baker taught himself to sew and created banners for gay rights. In 1994 he moved to New York City for the remainder of his life. NYC medical examiner’s office said the 65 year-old Baker died in his home of hypertensive heart disease.
In tribute to Gilbert Baker, please share what the rainbow flag has meant to you on our Facebook page.