This year, a new flag was introduced in the LGBT community. It adds a black and a brown stripe to the iconic 6-color Rainbow Flag to represent people of color. Received by many as a positive new addition in the rich culture of LGBT flags, it also ignited debate. The colors of the rainbow don’t represent any specific groups, but already includes everyone in the community, critics underline.
The new 8-color rainbow flag was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 8 June 2017 as part of the campaign #MoreColorMorePride at a kickoff event at the beginning of the city’s Pride Month. The flag was created with the help of Tierney, a Philadelphia-based advertising and PR agency. Patrick Hardy, Executive Creative Director, explained:
“The rainbow flag is an iconic symbol of the LGBTQ community. In the spirit of Gilbert Baker’s original design, we believe that adding black and brown to this historic flag will fuel a continuing dialogue about diversity in a community that celebrates inclusion, and help to acknowledge the contributions people of color make every day.”
American artist and activist Gilbert Baker, who created the original LGBT Rainbow Flag, also known as the Gay Pride Flag, in 1978, died on 31 March 2017 in New York City, a little over two months before the introduction of the new Philadelphia Pride Flag.
Charley Beal, a friend of Gilbert Baker told NBC: “The stripes were not chosen for skin color. They were chosen to reflect the spectrum of color in nature”. Baker’s Rainbow Flag originally had eight colors which didn’t represent specific groups within the community but rather concepts such as life, healing, nature, magic, art, spirit etc. (The colors turquoise and pink were omitted around 1979.)
Read more about Gilbert Baker’s iconic Rainbow Flag here.
The new Philadelphia Pride Flag became a popular new LGBT flag in 2017 and was seen at Pride events in many cities around the world in June, July and August. However, the flag was also the cause of heated debate within the LGBT movement. Critics warned that the original Rainbow Flag shouldn’t be changed as it is an iconic brand and a powerful symbol of pride and inclusion for everyone in the community.
Amber Hikes, Director of the Office of LGBT Affairs at the Philadelphia City Hall, commented on the criticism in an interview with NBC:
“White people do not know what racism looks like, because that’s the definition of racism. The vast majority of critics are gay white men, a sector of the LGBT community that doesn’t necessarily understand the issues that LGBT people of color might face. There is a presumption among gay white men that the rainbow flag already represents everyone.”
Hikes also said about the Philadelphia Pride Flag: “It’s a push for people to start listening to people of color in our community, start hearing what they’re saying”. A 2017 report from the Philadelphia Commission on Human Rights pointed out that homosexual and transgender people of colour are more likely to experience discrimination in the city, also within the LGBT community itself.
Read more about 2017 in flag history: Mauritania’s New Flag.