Pride Flag Series: Black and Brown Stripes

Welcome back folks! This is the blog series where we delve a little deeper into the meanings behind the different flags that represent the many identities in the LGBTQ2S+ community. Remember our last post in November where we talked about the Trans flag? I know November feels like forever ago. Well we’re back, and we’ll be posting about a new Pride Flag on the first Friday of each month! So buckle in, this one’s gonna be a good one.

Did you get a chance to check out the mural in the new Pride Centre in Z211? Or, have you seen the rainbow crosswalk in front of Riddell Library? Both have something special about them. You guessed it, this week, we are talking about the new Pride flag with the brown and black stripes. Since we painted the mural in the new Pride Centre, we have gotten a few questions about what it means, and why we chose it so here it is! The answers to all your burning questions.

This flag includes the “traditional” pride flag colours—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple—with the addition of black and brown stripes added to the top above the red. Now, before we talk about this flag let’s rewind for some context.

Date: June 28, 1969
Location: New York

“Homosexual relations” and wearing fewer than 3 articles of “gender appropriate” clothing are illegal. Despite the overturning of the liquor laws prohibiting serving liquor to queer folks in 1960, gay bars are still frequently raided by police, and queer folks constantly fear arrest. There are also high rates of bar owners working with police and local gangs, but gay bars are still filled every night likely because they are one of the only places that queer folks can express themselves, in relative safety.

In the early morning of June 28, 1969, police raid the Stonewall Inn and arrest 13 people. Instead of dispersing, however, patrons and neighbours gather outside the bar. After one particular display of violence by a police officer, the crowd begins to throw anything they can find at the police. This riot sparks a six-day protest against police violence, fronted by two trans women of colour who were present at the Stonewall Riot, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

The Stonewall Riots mark the first of what we now call the Pride Parades. Present-day Pride Parades are times of celebration, yes, but they are at their core a remembrance of the people who fought before us for queer liberation. It is important to highlight that trans women of colour were some of the leading forces of the liberation because today, trans women of colour face the highest rate of violence in the community.

Next Stop: 1978, San Francisco

Before now, the symbol for the queer community was a pink triangle, a symbol that originated during World War II to target and imprison the queer community. After years of fighting for queer liberation, artist and activist Gilbert Baker believed the community needed a new symbol—one that was made by the community, accurately represented the community, and was a vision of hope instead of a memory of violence.

Baker came up with the idea of a rainbow. Keep in mind this is the ’70s. Flower power is in full swing and hallucinogenics were a large part of queer culture. However, the rainbow is also a symbol of hope, a natural image of the clearing after a storm. Baker says, that although the idea seemed to make total sense, he was very intentional about what it represented.

Baker originally created a flag with eight colours, not six. The colours included pink, red, orange, yellow, green, baby blue, navy and purple. They each represented a different thing.

The symbol of the rainbow is only widely adopted after November 17, 1978, when Harvey Milk, a prominent gay figure and activist, is assassinated, and demand for a symbol of hope is at its peak.

After the boom in demand, however, the flag was modified. To keep up with demand, and because availability of pink fabric was too low, the pink stripe was dropped.

Another adaptation followed, because seven colours didn’t seem to work visually. Light blue and navy were replaced with a single blue stripe which would serve to represent harmony.

Flash forward to the 1980s.

The whole world is experiencing the AIDS epidemic.

The queer community, in particular is facing mass death and is bring denied health care. Politicians are refusing to acknowledge the impact. So, as an act of solidarity and remembrance, some groups added a black stripe to the bottom of the flag to represent those who lost their lives to AIDS. The addition was made with the suggestion that once there was a cure, the stripe could be ripped off and burned.

*Enters time machine and comes back to the present…*

Now that our Whovian adventure is over, you can see that there have been many adaptations to the flag and there continue to be. In Brazil, just this last year at the Love Fest, a flag with the pink stripe and a new white stripe was flown to represent the community’s gender diversity.

The flag that is painted on our Pride Centre wall, which includes the black and brown stripes, is one of the many new flags being flown. It was first flown in 2017 in Philadelphia as part of a campaign called More Colour, More Pride, a campaign aimed at recognizing non-white LGBTQ2S+ communities as part of the broader Pride movement. The campaign and flag were created by Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs (run by Amber Hikes, a queer woman of colour) in partnership with a local marketing agency. The black and brown stripes are representative of the historical and continual work by, and under-representation of, queer people of colour (QPOC). It memorializes QPOC throughout history who were left nameless in their death because of their identities. It also honours the leaders and activists who fought and/or continue to fight for QPOC’s rights.

To us, this revised flag expands the representation of the flag to better match the queer community and celebrates inclusivity and intersectional diversity. We chose to paint this flag on our new Centre wall as a reminder that change is often for the better, and we need to continue to strive for inclusivity. We remember the people who have worked and continue to work hard to fight for the rights of our community.

For more information on More Colour More Pride, you can watch this YouTube video.

A summary of this information is also framed on the Pride Centre Mural wall for anyone who may come into the space with questions.

 

The author of this series is Eddy Robinson, your Pride Centre administrative assistant who loves to casually write, talk anything queer and make subtle Doctor Who references in random conversation. If you enjoyed this, give it a thumbs up in our @SAMRUPride Facebook group. If you are interested in contributing to part of this series, contact Eddy, the Pride Centre Administrative Assistant in Z211 or at pridecentre@samru.ca. The series will post about a new flag each month on the first Friday!

 

Sources:

Stonewall riots

https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/the-stonewall-riots

Violence against trans women of colour

https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2018

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/22/epidemic-violence-transgender-people-experienced-stonewall

First Pride flag

https://gilbertbaker.com/rainbow-flag-origin-story/

https://gilbertbaker.com/rainblow-flag-color-meanings/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag_(LGBT_movement)

New Pride flag

https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/13/health/new-pride-flag-colors-trnd/index.html

https://morecolormorepride.com/

Opinion pieces

https://www.advocate.com/commentary/2017/6/15/if-you-hate-new-pride-flag-youre-problem

https://www.advocate.com/pride/2018/6/08/will-everyone-feel-included-artists-new-pride-flag

Other sources: www.newprideflag.com