Gilbert Baker passes on, but New Hope and the nation celebrate the legacy of his rainbow flag

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Matt Hanson, Vice President, and Dan Brooks, Founder went to pick up the new Rainbow Equality Flag for 2017
New Hope Celebrates members: Armando Martinez, Board Member Matt Hanson, Vice President, and Dan Brooks, Founder went to pick up the new Rainbow Equality Flag for 2017

March 31, 2017, saw the passing of the creator of the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker. His impact was palpable in the LGBT community and his death made national headlines in their media.

Baker lived in San Francisco when he began sewing banners for gay events. In 1978, he hand-stitched and dyed the first rainbow flag for the San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade. Harvey Milk rode under that flag in that parade just months before his assassination and the flag came to mind almost instantly as an obvious expression of diversity and acceptance, said Baker.

Originally, the flag had eight colors, including pink and turquoise; those colors had to be dropped when it was manufactured. The six colors represent red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunshine, green for nature, blue for serenity and purple for spirit. The rainbow flag has become one of the most recognizable flags worldwide.

New Hope Celebrates Rainbow Equality Flag to debut in 2017
New Hope Celebrates Rainbow Equality Flag to debut in 2017

Baker is also responsible for making the Key West rainbow flag, which stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean at Gay Pride each year in the Florida Keys. Sections of the Key West flag have traveled the country at many LGBT Pride events. New Hope has proudly displayed a section of that flag since 2004. In 2005, the larger 100-foot section was carried in the New Hope Celebrates Pride Parade.

Dan Brooks, who founded the New Hope Celebrates organization in 2003, said he was talking to a group of friends in New York City about New Hope and was shocked to learn they had not heard of it. Dan got to work and set in motion to create a unified LGBT group in town to host events and re-establish the LGBT destination that New Hope formerly was in the 1970s and ’80s.

With the help of the Borough Council and local retail owners, New Hope Celebrates was born. Dan chose the name to incorporate all the diverse people living there. The first festival was held in October 2003, followed by a second in May 2004. There were softball games, family activities, and big-name entertainment at New Hope-Solebury High School, among them Sam Harris, Lesley Gore and Varla Jean. There was a fair at The Raven and a shuttle around town. May 2005 marked the first year of the annual parade.

Pride Week in New Hope always began with the unfurling of the rainbow flag. This year marks the first time New Hope Celebrates will display its own flag. Made by Humphrey’s Flag Company in Philadelphia, the 100-foot Rainbow Equality Parade Flag was made possible due to the generosity of the Logan Inn in New Hope. It will be carried in this year’s parade by local LGBT youth organizations and then will tour the country.

“We hope that this flag, which has been a symbol to the entire LGBT community worldwide, will also serve as a reminder of New Hope’s remarkable history of acceptance and inclusiveness as it tours the country,” said Gordon Pulaski, NHC’s creative and marketing director.

New Hope Celebrates could not exist without the Board members and volunteers who are so passionate in what they do. President Jenn Wohl has been involved with New Hope Celebrates since the beginning. She is also the parade coordinator and a former vice president. She said New Hope Celebrates represents all the people of New Hope and unifies them as a community.

Vice President Matt Hanson said he joined New Hope Celebrates, “to make a difference in our community and ensure we promote diversity and equality.” Hanson continued, “It is important that the flag is here in New Hope to let everyone know our history of being a diverse, equality-driven town, and to keep that sense of community and pride front and center.”

Proudly on May 20, the Rainbow Equality Parade Flag will be carried in true spirit across the bridge from Lambertville, N.J., and into Main Street in New Hope, Pa., in homage to Gilbert Baker and all those who have fought for freedom, equality, and justice.

Find out more about the full week of LGBT events in late May at the organization website www.NewHopeCelebrates.com.