More than 200 people were in attendance Thursday to celebrate the unveiling and raising of a new rainbow flag at the north apron of City Hall. The flag includes the addition of black and brown stripes to symbolize the racial diversity of the LGBT community.
Director of LGBT Affairs Amber Hikes confirmed the addition of the black and brown stripes to PGN earlier this week. Philadelphia-based advertising agency Tierney created the new flag to celebrate “More Color More Pride.” The agency and the Office of LGBT Affairs developed a website (morecolormorepride.com) where individuals can download the flag for free and add the artwork to items such as T-shirts and posters.
“There’s no justice for any of us without justice for all of us.”
Hikes led a moment of silence for Gilbert Baker, the creator of the six-color rainbow flag who died in March.
“When [Baker] described the flag, he talked about this iconic image and he talked about the transient nature of it. I’ve always been struck by this idea of a steadfast and loyal symbol that can still grow and shift and change as its community grew and shifted and changed. That’s a beautiful image.”
Hikes added that she was proud of Baker’s vision and legacy as the community took a step forward. She noted how some community members have been asking members of the Office of LGBT Affairs why the additional colors are needed.
“I’m going to answer with one question, actually,” Hikes said. “What story did they tell you about Stonewall?”
Hikes said all she heard was “the community fought back.”
“You know who they didn’t talk about?” Hikes said. “They didn’t talk about the drag queens. They didn’t talk about the sex workers. They didn’t talk about the folks that existed on the margins and who have always been willing to put themselves forward to push us for our collective liberation. They didn’t talk about that.”
Hikes noted to the audience that trans women of color — Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — threw the first bottles, which the audience greeted with applause and cheers.
“I want to say their names because it’s important to note that the most marginalized among us then and now were willing to put themselves forward. They were the ones that said, ‘Hell no. Nope. Not on our watch. Not here. Not tonight.’ They started it and the country followed suit. So today and on all days, we are going to honor black and brown trans women who continue to carry this community on our backs and continue to move us forward in the right direction.”
Hikes added that this history was erased and continues to be erased in present narratives.
“I want you to know that we will no longer tell stories about this beautiful LGBT community without telling them about all of us. We are more. So we will do more. We will be more, with more color and more pride."
“This flag says, ‘We see you. We honor you. We love you. We celebrate you. You are not just one of us. You are us,’” Hikes added.
Hikes led a chant, “There’s no justice for any of us without justice for all of us.”
“We will continue walking together because we didn’t come this far to only come this far,” Hikes said. “So let’s go further with more color and more pride.”
Hikes invited key community members who have worked to promoting racial justice to help raise the flag. They included Lee Carson, David Fair, Abdul-Aliy Muhammad, Shani Akilah, Rue Landau, Alexander Velez, Ernest Owens, Casey Cook and Deborah Johnson.
Allies and honoring the late Gloria Casarez
The ceremony also included performances and speeches from the city’s LGBT community and allies. Mayor Jim Kenney was one of those allies.
Kenney noted the strides the city’s LGBT community made, including the establishment of the Office of LGBT Affairs as a permanent fixture of city government in 2015 and the community’s thriving business district.
“Despite this, [in] this neighborhood — which was designed to be a safe space for all members of the LGBTQ community regardless of race, skin color, religious beliefs, etc. — when discrimination occurs within those boundaries, it goes against its very nature,” Kenney said. “Too often, people of color in the LGBTQ community have been marginalized, ignored and even intentionally left out of the conversation. We must change that and we must start here.”
Hikes also honored former Director of LGBT Affairs Gloria Casarez, who died from breast cancer in 2014.
“Gloria loved these flag-raisings and she has been in my heart as I have been planning this program and bringing these people together,” Hikes said.
Hikes said she selected performers whom Casarez respected: The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus (PGMC) and Wordz the poet emcee. PGMC performed two songs — P!nk’s “Perfect” and “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway musical “Rent” — while Wordz performed his single, “See Ya Later.” Wordz’s song included snippets of Casarez’s speeches and will be included in the upcoming documentary, “The Gloria Project.”