Gilbert Baker, LGBT Activist and Creator of the Rainbow Flag, has died.

Gilbert Baker, famed LGBT activist and creator of the iconic Rainbow Flag, has passed away.

According to his long-time friend and fellow activist, Cleve Jones, Baker passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday. He was 65 years old.

Baker was born June 2nd, 1951 in Chanute, Kansas. After his discharge from the United States Army in 1972, he opted to stay in San Francisco where he had been stationed. During this time he immersed himself into the growing gay-rights movement including forming key relationships with people such as Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones. After teaching himself to sew, Baker became know for crafting banners for both the gay-rights movement and the anti-war movement. However, his creation of the Rainbow Flag in 1978 would become his most famous.

The Rainbow Flag, as it appears today, has undergone many changes since Gilbert Baker’s original creation in 1978.

Creating an Icon

The original flag created by Baker actually consisted of eight colors with each color picked for specific symbolic meaning. Hot pink, to represent sexuality; Red, to represent life; Orange, to represent healing; Yellow, to represent sunshine; Green, to represent nature; Turquoise, to represent magic and art; Blue, to represent serenity and harmony; Violet, to represent spirit.

The flag first flew at the San Francisco Pride on June 25th, 1978. Baker explained it’s creation in an interview with CNN.

“We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that.”

Despite suffering a major stroke a few years ago, Baker was able to recover and continue his work. He created the flags used in the recent miniseries “When We Rise” and one given to former President Obama in 2009.

Mayor Ed Lee, of San Francisco, said in a statement Friday, “Gilbert was a trailblazer for LGBT rights, a powerful artist and a true friend to all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his friends and family. He will be missed.”

Cleve Jones said of Baker, “I’m still in shock; he was just the most amazing person. Funny and smart and fierce … One of the most compassionate people.”

His passing is undoubtedly devastating, not only to the LGBT community, but to the world as well. There is no word at this time on when Baker will be laid to rest.

 

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