GAG Mourns Our Friend Gilbert Baker: Creator of the Rainbow Flag
Gilbert Baker, inventor of the iconic rainbow flag, died today.
The Pulse nightclub massacre occurred last year on June 12th. New York City's Pride March was exactly two weeks later. GAYS AGAINST GUNS was formed the week after the massacre by a few friends on Facebook who didn't want to simply change our profile pictures and move on. We were united in sorrow over the lives that were lost, and we committed ourselves to doing whatever we could to ensure that our slain LGBTQ family members hadn't died in vain.
Since Pride was imminent, it made sense for us to participate in the march. Certain people, particularly Corey Johnson, who donated his parade contingent to us, really stepped up to help realize our vision of making an impact on the crowd. Also, at the very first GAG meeting (which spilled out of our room at The LGBT Center into the hallway) Cathy Marino-Thomas approached me. I'd never met her, but she has such a strong energy and presence that I immediately understood her words would had gravitas. She volunteered to help in any way she could, and we took her up on her generous offer, not even really knowing what we needed or what she could do for us.
After that first meeting we only had a little better than a week to decide (and execute) what our Pride contingent would look like. We knew it had to be both mournful and celebratory, but that's obviously not an easy balance to strike.
Before GAG had ever met, Tigger Ferguson conceived of having 49 people dressed in white, veiled, and silently representing each one of the people who were murdered. He offered to stage this indelible piece in tandem with us, and the impression it made on everyone who saw it was so powerful as to be life changing. I can personally say that it changed my life forever. And it made the cover of The New York Times the following day, enshrining it into the DNA of GAG.
Tigger had given us our contemplative statement, but we still wanted to bring feelings of joy and gratitude. We had a sense that, from the day after Pulse and onward, we weren't only living for ourselves but also for those who had been taken much, much too soon. During the second meeting, Cathy told the group that Gilbert Baker had offered to hand-sew a rainbow banner for us, which would stretch all the way across Fifth Avenue.
That was the answer - we had our joyful totem! On that Sunday morning of Pride, Gilbert found our newly-formed band of sorrowful revelers in the queue, and he unfurled the GAYS AGAINST GUNS banner for the very first (but no where near the last) time.
Close to one thousand people marched with us. We vogued and we cried, we sashayed and we charged down Fifth Avenue, all the while holding Gilbert's banner - a symbol of hope and pride in defiance of hate and fear. A beautiful banner that was made in haste, but also with so much love.
How can we ever thank you, Gilbert? Every time we break out that banner, we will send that love right back to you. Holding it during one of our many direct action campaigns, it functions both as a frontline on the battlefield of gun violence prevention, as well as a symbol of our unique voice in this fight. It is our armor and our sword. We will never forget your generosity, which you graced us with on that very first day. It's hard to believe you're gone- we saw you only two weeks ago at a meeting. Know that you will always be a part of us and the work we do. Know that we will always hold you in our hearts.
.-Kevin "Mother GAG" Hertzog, Co-Founder of Gays Against Guns