What was once thought to be destroyed after sustaining water damage while inside a storage facility, a piece of the OG Rainbow Flag — undeniably the single-most defining symbol of queer solidarity and of the LGBTQ civil rights movement — was rediscovered in 2019; a portion of that same flag now sits inside a glass display box in the GLBT Historical Society Museum.
Pride month is in full swing. After a year marked by predominantly virtual affairs, June of 2021 is shaping up to be a somewhat normal pride with in-person events (and even IRL Pride parties slated for the tail end of this month). In addition to the smattering of Pride Flags outside of Harvey Milk's former camera shot at 575 Castro Street Tuesday, the original pride flag itself found its way back to San Francisco this week.
Believed lost for over 40 years, the original rainbow flag has finally come home to San Francisco! Donated by the Gilbert Baker Foundation, the flag will be formally unveiled at noon tomorrow, June 4 at the GLBT Historical Society Museum. Read more: https://t.co/8ZXqecAUTp #Pride— GLBT Historical Society (@GLBTHistory) June 4, 2021
At the present, if you visit the GLBT Historical Society Museum, which recently reopened to the public, you'll come across a portion of the recovered flag behind a glass display.
“It’s a statement that we exist and that we’re part of the community,” said Terry Beswik, the executive director of the GBLT Historical Society, to the SF Examiner. “The beautiful thing about it is that it’s a rainbow. There are no words, it’s not a symbol of violence, it comes from nature.”
The Pride Flag's adopted meaning and design have been tweaked over the years. But through all its iterations, the flag still remains an evergreen beacon of hope and resilience for the community.
Back in April, the GLBT Historical Society received an archival donation: a section of one of the two first rainbow flags raised on June 25, 1978, in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza at the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade.
Today we celebrated the reopening of the GLBT History Museum in the Castro. Another great step as we recover from the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/rH6R4okLPi— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) June 4, 2021
Existing as the centerpiece of the museum’s exhibit dedicated to the flag, The Rainbow Flag: The Original 1978 Flag, is that exact same textile, splayed in a relaxed fashion.
“People all around the world, it’s San Francisco they look to, the birthplace of the flag when they look to find that symbol of hope,” said Charles Beal, a longtime friend of Gilbert Baker — the man responsible for designing and constructing the first-official Pride Flag — and the president of his foundation, the Gilbert Baker Foundation. “We thought that though it’s only a fragment and can only be in a museum, the original flag should be right here in the Castro, where it was created.”
Gilbert Baker's 1978 original Rainbow Flag is back in the Castro! pic.twitter.com/p48yL9uJZ7— Rafael Mandelman (@RafaelMandelman) June 4, 2021
City officials like Mayor Breed and other local notables were in attendance at the exhibit’s grand unveiling Friday, each of them overjoyed that the flag has found its way back home in San Francisco.
For more information on the flag, including the exhibit dedicated to its return, visit glbthistory.org/rainbow-flag.
Image: Twitter via @WendyLRouse