During a recent Pride Month kick-off in Philadelphia, the campaign More Color More Pride, a movement to recognize nonwhite LGBT communities within the broader pride movement, unveiled a pride flag with an additional black and brown stripe to represent LGBT people of color.
The original pride flag from Gilbert Baker had eight colors — pink and turquoise alongside the six colors that make up the current design. Pink was removed because the dye was difficult to obtain, and turquoise was removed thereafter to give the flag an even number of colors, the six we know now.
Each of the current colors has its own symbolism: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for art, and violet for the human spirit, according to Slate News.
The black and brown stripes that the “More Color More Pride” campaign added to the flag represent people of color in order to make the pride flag more inclusive. It is meant as a symbol for LGBT people of color, much how the trans and bisexual flags represent their respective parts of the LGBT community.
The campaign was created by Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs and local advertising agency Tierney, and the flag was revealed at Philadelphia’s City Hall.
“We’re proud to host this celebration for the community to come together not just for Pride, but also to reinforce our strides towards combatting discrimination within our community, honor the lives of our black and brown LGBTQ siblings, and uplift our shared commitment to diversity and inclusion within our community,” Amber Hikes, the executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, said.
According to Hikes, Philadelphia is the first city to publicly recognize racial discrimination within the LGBT community. The city’s own Gayborhood has faced multiple instances of racial discrimination within the past year — leaked video footage showed a nightclub owner using a racial slur, and there have also been instances of discriminatory dress-code policies at the local gay bars, according to CNN.
The city of Philadelphia has created this campaign and flag to begin combating discrimination within its LGBT community.
“I’m proud to join the LGBTQ community in the fight for justice, equality and stand in solidarity with all members of the LGBTQ community,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.
The new flag has already sparked much conversation — and argument — over the presumption that the original flag already included colors to represent diversity.
“The Stonewall Riot … started on the backs of working-class African American and Latino queers who patronized that bar,” Reverend Irene Monroe, founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights group said. “Those black and brown LGBTQ people are not absent from the photos of that night but have been bleached from its written history.”
The Pew Research Center administered a survey in 2013 that showed 34 percent of LGBT respondents identified as nonwhite. According to Hikes, the majority of critics to the “More Color More Pride” flag were white gay men.
“White people do not know what racism looks like, because that is not the definition of racism,” Hikes said.
When this flag was unveiled as a symbol of racial equality in a community that has not always been racially inclusive, Hikes said there was an immediate response, both in support and in criticism.
“Right off the bat, [this flag] has absolutely started a conversation, certainly in this city and beyond,” Hikes said.
Other iterations of the pride flag, such as the transgender and bisexual flags, have received much less criticism.
“The fact that two stripes have triggered the online and offline responses that it has, it just proves that there is entrenched racism and anti-blackness [in the community,” Philadelphia’s Black and Brown Workers Collective Abdul-Aliy Muhammad said. “This is real, this is lived, and this is felt by us on a daily basis.”
Charley Beal, a longtime friend of Baker — the designer of the original rainbow flag who died in March — said that the new flag should be taken as an independent symbol.
“I encourage it, and I think people who know Gilbert would,” Beal told NBC news. “The only thing we would ask is that other people would not take it and put Gilbert’s name on it, because they didn’t do it in consultation with him, and he didn’t do it.”
A spokeswoman for Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs said that the new flag should be seen to represent “additive inclusion” and was not created to be a replacement to the existing flag.
Since its initial release, redesigns of the “More Color More Pride” flag have popped up online and at pride rallies that offer a clearer breakaway from the original design.
“The spirit of this flag is not a departure from the original principles, but we hope that adding black and brown to our community’s strongest symbol will serve to recognize the contributions people of color make every day in the LGBTQ+ community,” the spokeswoman said in an email.
Hikes said that since the flag’s unveiling, many LGBT groups across the nation have reached out to her and the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs for permission to use the flag in marches and pride events.
“The rainbow flag is the single most recognizable icon for the LGBTQ community,” a video for the campaign says. “It’s a symbol for everyone to rally around. Yet communities across the country are divided. People of color have been marginalized, ignored, and even intentionally excluded.”
The video continues, “We say that we’re inclusive. We celebrate it. Now it’s time to go further. To broaden the horizons of our community. To change our iconic symbol. It’s just a start, but it’s a start.”
For more information on the “More Color More Pride” flag and campaign, visit MoreColorMorePride.com.