Gilbert Baker, longtime LGBTQ activist, creator of the rainbow flag
June 2, 1951 - March 31, 2017
Part 1 — OutCasting episode 36
Part 2 — OutCasting episode 37
Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag, died unexpectedly in his sleep on March 31, 2017. The rainbow flag is an enduring, instantly and internationally recognized emblem of the LGBTQ rights movement, a beautiful gift that Gilbert gave to all of us.
We had the opportunity to interview him just a month before his death, on March 1.
Because we are a national program with guests from different parts of the U.S., many of our guests participate by telephone. But Gilbert wanted to meet and spend some time with our youth participants, and so he attended an entire session, talking with us long after we had finished recording his interview, talking about his own work in the movement and listening to the experiences of our youth. He was a powerful, irreverent, and often outrageous activist, but the side of him seen by our young participants was warm, unassuming, and generous. We're terribly saddened by his untimely death, and we miss him. Alex, the OutCasting youth participant who interviewed Gilbert, shares his remembrance on the May 1 edition of OutCasting Overtime. Have a listen. Alex also spoke at the NYC Memorial for Gilbert in June 2017. You can watch Alex's speech here and the entire memorial here.
Gilbert with OutCaster Alex in our studio, March 1, 2017
On a personal note, one of the things that makes OutCasting such a special project for me is the chance to connect our young LGBTQ participants and straight allies with history and with people who have lived lives of importance in the LGBTQ movement. For OutCaster Alex, who joined OutCasting just last fall, this was his first interview, and it — and Gilbert's generous presence at our production session on March 1 — created memories for Alex and all of the other OutCasters who were there that day. These memories will last forever.
What Gilbert gave to the LGBTQ movement will also last forever. One has only to look at the Google images page for Gilbert to see the joy, color, and power Gilbert gave to the movement. We can look at the White House on the night that President Obama had it lit in rainbow colors — Gilbert's rainbow colors. This was one of the most visually powerful political expressions of support for our community, occurring on the day the United State Supreme Court declared part of the anti-LGBTQ Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to violate the United States Constitution.
We are grateful we had the opportunity to interview Gilbert and saddened by the fact that this was his last known interview.
Here is a sampling of obituaries in The New York Times, The Advocate, NPR, NYC's Gay City News, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco's SFGate, and the BBC. The obituary in The Los Angeles Blade includes a picture of the mile-long rainbow flag Gilbert talks about in our interview.
Executive Producer, OutCasting
Gilbert with a group of OutCasting youth participants in our studio, March 1, 2017
Gilbert at a demonstration outside the Stonewall Inn, February 4, 2017
Gilbert with President Obama
The White House in rainbow colors
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