News Briefs: Castro biz group launches flag donation program

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday October 11, 2023
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The new giant rainbow flag flies at Castro and Market streets September 29 as members of the U.S. Navy band prepared to perform in Jane Warner Plaza when they were in San Francisco for Fleet Week activities. Photo: Warner Johnson via Castro Merchants Association<br><br>
The new giant rainbow flag flies at Castro and Market streets September 29 as members of the U.S. Navy band prepared to perform in Jane Warner Plaza when they were in San Francisco for Fleet Week activities. Photo: Warner Johnson via Castro Merchants Association

The Castro Merchants Association has announced the new Rainbow Flag Donation program whereby the giant rainbow flags that fly at Harvey Milk Plaza at Castro and Market streets will be given to a nonprofit group when they are retired.

The most recently retired flag is being donated to the Stonewall National Museum, Archives, and Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The flag was taken down September 29, ahead of the Castro Street Fair, and dedicated in memoriam to the late U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who had passed away earlier that day at the age of 90.

These giant flags were designed by the late Gilbert Baker, who co-created the first rainbow flag in 1978 with friends Lynn Segerblom, a straight ally, and James McNamara, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1999. Since then, Baker, who died in 2017, has been credited with turning the rainbow flag into a worldwide symbol of LGBTQ rights. The flag at Harvey Milk Plaza is considered an art installation, and the merchants group is responsible for replacing the flags as they become worn.

Terry Asten Bennett, a straight ally who co-owns Cliff's Variety and is president of the merchants group, promoted the new program in a news release.

"The rainbow flag is not just a piece of cloth but a beacon of resistance and inclusion," Bennett stated. "With this program, we hope to seed these values in places where they are most needed. Through every flag we send out, we are extending the spirit of the Castro neighborhood — a spirit of community, collaboration, and resilience."

Florida, of course, is home to some of the most anti-LGBTQ laws in the country, spearheaded by anti-LGBTQ Governor Ron DeSantis, now a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Representatives of the Stonewall museum stated that they are appreciative of the effort.

"The Rainbow Flag Donation program reminds us that everyone is welcome under this flag," stated Robert Kesten, executive director of the museum. "Stonewall National Museum, Archives, and Library is such a place, and we look forward to being the new home of this precious symbol of Pride and community."

The merchants association stated that those eligible for a retired flag must be nonprofit organizations, schools, museums, artists or other similar institutions or individuals. Recipients also must have a mission aligned with promoting LGBTQ+ rights and fostering diversity, equality, and inclusivity, the release stated. Applicants must also express a clear vision of how they plan to use the flag and be responsible for shipping costs.

Requests can be sent to the Castro Merchants Association at [email protected]

Since the new flag was just installed, it is not known when it will be retired.

SFMTA update on Church and Market intersection

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will hear a service update about the J-Church Muni Metro line and bicycle safety improvements at its stops at the Church and Market Street intersection at the Tuesday, October 17, board of directors meeting. The board is expected to vote on the items.

Specific to the intersection is proposed legislation to approve the bike pathway, but not yet the final design for it, according to an email announcement. Also still pending is the design of a proposed transit plaza at the busy location.

It's part of the J-Church Safety and Accessibility Project that will also see changes to the San Jose Avenue Corridor, including transit and pedestrian safety improvements that will be discussed and voted on at the meeting.

The meeting takes place at 1 p.m. at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place.

For more information on the J-Church project, click here.

Grayson elder confab coming up

The 10th annual Howard Grayson LGBTQ Elder Life Conference will be held Saturday, October 21, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Openhouse, 75 Laguna Street in San Francisco. Conference convener Sue Englander stated that the event, which is free, will be in-person and online.

Health updates include information from Teresa Palmer about Laguna Honda Hospital, the city's long-term care facility that has recently been the subject of federal investigations; Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF will discuss the status of public health after COVID; and Alejandro Martinez from Openhouse, the LGBTQ senior services agency, will talk about long-term HIV survival and its issues. There will also be information about how to get involved this year for the city's 2024-25 HIV/AIDS budget. Paul Melbostadt, a gay man and attorney, will provide information on elders and their rights, especially regarding conservatorship.

Entertainment will include performer Tookta Jamaporn, an internationally known Thai folk singer, and comedian Karen Ripley.

Lunch will be provided for the in-person gathering.

The conference celebrates the life and legacy of Grayson, a longtime member of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and labor activist, who died alone in a hospital in 2011. His death troubled many and underscored the challenges of aging in the LGBTQ community, Englander noted. The Milk club started the conference in 2012 in Grayson's memory.

The Openhouse site is wheelchair accessible and ASL interpretation will be provided.

For more information, contact Englander at [email protected] or (415) 902-9358.

The YouTube streaming link is here.

Queer electeds among those on USF panel

Bisexual state Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose) and queer Sunnyvale City Councilmember Alysa Cisneros will be among the speakers at a panel Tuesday, October 24, at 7 p.m. hosted by the University of San Francisco and KQED.

The panel, made up of some of the Bay Area's youngest elected officials, will also feature Alexander Walker-Griffin, the mayor of Hercules.

The three will share their visions for the region's future with KQED politics correspondent Guy Marzorati and USF student fellow Caitlin Kennedy.

The event takes place at the public broadcasting station's event space known as The Commons inside its headquarters at 2601 Mariposa Street in San Francisco. Admission to the in-person event is $10; free for students with valid ID. There is no cost to watch the livestream.

The event is presented in conjunction with Conversations for the Common Good series from the Leo T. McCarthy Center at USF, which is supported by the Walter and Elise Haas Fund and by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

To register, go to

Marin Pride event

The Spahr Center, Marin County's LGBTQ community center, will hold the Marin Pride festival Sunday, October 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at Stafford Lake Park, 3549 Novato Boulevard in Novato.

A news release stated that the event is free for all ages and will celebrate LGBTQ+ arts, culture, community, and history of Marin.

"We shouldn't have to leave our home to feel proud of who we are. You can cross either bridge or travel north and there are Pride events everywhere. Marin deserves Pride too," stated Pamela Chavez, the Spahr Center's new director of community outreach, referring to the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges that people can take to get to Marin County.

Marin Pride will feature entertainment and programming for all ages, including a main stage with a variety of LGBTQ+ performers, as well as outdoor activities. Community members are encouraged to attend with their chosen families and dress in their proudest and most colorful attire.

"Pride is all year long," stated Joe Tuohy, who started in May as executive director of the Spahr Center. "The LGBTQ+ community exists outside of June, and we are excited to celebrate Marin Pride with our community in October."

Marin isn't the only North Bay community celebrating Pride. As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, Russian River Pride in Guerneville will take place this weekend, with a parade set for Sunday, October 15. For more information, click here.

For more information on the Spahr Center and Marin Pride, go to

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