Symbols might not be the most important part of activist movements, but they give permanence to the most enduring ones. For LGBTQ+ activists throughout the decades, one symbol rises just above the others: the rainbow flag.
But the flag didn’t come from nowhere.
It was the brainchild of activist Gilbert Baker, a U.S. army veteran and drag performer who created the first flag himself. Not in conception — he literally sewed it together.
In the process, he became an icon himself. On Friday, his friend Cleve Jones shared that Baker had passed away. And the internet has responded with an outpouring of gratitude and love for Baker’s life and legacy.
Among the tributes: people sharing what the rainbow flag’s stripes mean:
Others shared what Baker himself said about the flag’s symbolic power:
And others shared images of Baker with his creation:
The Museum of Modern Art in NYC acquired Baker’s original rainbow flag, which he made in San Francisco in 1978, in 2015. In an interview with the museum, he explained why he chose to create a new symbol for the LGBTQ movement:
Read the entire interview here. Rest in power, Gilbert.