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Memorial planned for Gilbert Baker

by Cynthia Laird

Gilbert Baker talked about the rainbow flag during a 2012<br>appearance in San Francisco. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Gilbert Baker talked about the rainbow flag during a 2012
appearance in San Francisco. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Community leaders have announced that a public memorial for rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker will be held Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m. at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street.

Mr. Baker died March 31 at his home in New York City of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. He was 65.

Tom Taylor, a longtime city resident, said that gay public officials such as former state Senator Mark Leno (now a mayoral candidate) and District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy will speak.

Singer Connie Champagne will also perform, Taylor said, adding that Bay Area Reporter society columnist Donna Sachet will be part of the celebration of Mr. Baker's life.

Others are also expected to talk about Mr. Baker's life and contributions to the LGBT community, Taylor said.

Taylor and Richard Gutierrez, who is helping with the memorial, are asking that if people have digitized old photos of Mr. Baker that they would like to share for a video montage, they can be sent to Gutierrez at

Cleve Jones, a gay man and AIDS activist who was a close friend of Mr. Baker's, told the B.A.R. that in the late 1970s, there were conversations in the community about the need for a symbol.

Eventually, Mr. Baker thought of the flag idea, and Jones said in the summer of 1978, he helped Baker dye the fabric for it at 330 Grove Street, the site of San Francisco's old LGBT community center.

"We made quite a mess, and Gilbert created the first two flags," Jones said.

One flag had eight colored bars, and the other had eight bars with tie-dyed starbursts, somewhat resembling an American flag.

The flags were "raised on two enormous flagpoles in United Nations Plaza. I remember that quite vividly," Jones said.

The more common rainbow flag has six colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

Over the years, Mr. Baker created many special versions of the rainbow flag, including one a mile-long to mark the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

His explanation for why he chose a rainbow design is simple.

"It fits us," Mr. Baker explained in 2012. "We're all the colors, all the sexes, all the genders. Infinite people. Infinite colors."

According to Mr. Baker's biography, the rainbow flag is in the public domain, as are all flags, and he did not profit from its usage as a commercial product.

Today, the rainbow flag is a widely recognized symbol of the LGBT community.


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