Sun, Apr 02, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Creator of iconic rainbow flag dies aged 65: activist


Gilbert Baker poses at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on Jan. 6 last year.

Photo: AFP

US artist Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag recognized around the world as a symbol of gay pride, has died, close friend and rights activist Cleve Jones announced on Friday.

Baker, who was 65, came up with the iconic eight-colored banner for San Francisco’s 1978 gay freedom day, a precursor to the modern pride festival, having taught himself to sew in his 20s. The flag has since had several revisions, with the most popular variant consisting of six stripes.

The former soldier was heavily involved within the San Francisco lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights movement, and was a close friend of murdered activist and politician Harvey Milk.

“I am heartbroken. My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me 40 years of love and friendship,” Jones wrote on Facebook. “I can’t stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker.”

He did not reveal the cause, but the San Francisco Chronicle said the artist had died in his sleep at his home in New York late on Thursday.

Jones urged San Francisco friends to gather for an evening vigil under a rainbow flag in the city’s Castro district.

The news prompted an outpouring of tributes and expressions of grief on social media.

“Rainbows weep. Our world is far less colourful without you, my love,” tweeted filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for the screenplay to the 2008 biopic Milk.

Baker, born in Kansas in 1951, served for two years in the army, according to his Web site, and was stationed in San Francisco just as the gay liberation movement was gathering momentum.

“I just talked to Gilbert last month. He gave us his best and the rainbow flag will be an even more treasured keepsake of our history,” wrote Robert York, a senior director at the National Quality Forum.

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