Thursday, October 12, 2017

Freedom Flag Over the Stonewall: Rainbow Flag to Fly Permanently in NYC

 I see Ken Kidd every week at Judson Memorial, our quirky, Broadway tunes singing, Sanctuary supporting, arts adoring church.  A week ago Ken stood up during the prayers and concerns part of the service to talk about his work to have the LGBT Freedom Flag flag fly permanently over the Stonewall National Historic Monument.  It would have been the first time the flag had flown over federally funded land.  The National Parks Service were great about it, noted Kidd. But then thing things got weird. A few days before the ceremony on National Coming Out Day, October 11th, he got a call saying the flag pole the flag was flying on was actually  18 inches away, and not technically federal land. They were backtracking.

“This is completely just mean-spirited bigotry on their part, to find a technicality to pull out of what they had already agreed upon and worked on for a week," noted Ann Northrop. 

But the ceremony would go on as planned, setting up a conflict. 

Rise and Resist showed up in force, bringing their signs. Members of ACT UP and Occupy, as well as cohorts of queer activists dating back decades were there to make sure everything took place as planned and no one backed down.

Arriving I saw my friend Steven Love Menendez was there waving the rainbow flag, with the words peace in the middle of it.  He used to bring the flag to every Occupy event.  He brought it to our world naked bike rides.  Its a core symbol of the resistance movement.  He's there to remind us queer people are part of multiple struggles, extending from the anti-war movement to efforts to remedy our broken democracy.

The flag means you are welcome.  It says, whoever you are, you can come here and be who you are, explained Ken in a testimony to Gilbert Baker, the designer of the rainbow flag.  Its a reminder of a time when being queer meant coming out as who you really are.  Everyone can and should do this.


When I arrived Michael Petrelis, the ACT UP legend, who lead the effort to raise the rainbow flag over the Stonewall Monument, was speaking.  Let your freak flag fly, he declared.   We all need to be ourselves. 

This really was our revolutionary war, Ken Kidd, dressed in a pink suit, told a reporter.  It needs to be remembered as such.

My friend  Johnathan Morpurgo offered me one of his Tahrir scarves, introducing me to Vino Vinehaus.

Jay and Virginia from Rise and Resist stood with signs. 

Jay Blotcher was doing press.

We talked about Gilbert and the ongoing struggles.

As the event wound down, everyone lingered chatting, sharing plans, conspiring, snapping selfies and doing more media.

Its like a cocktail party, smiled Jay before we took our selfie.

BS with bad hair with Michael and Jay, my old heroes.
Was I OK Ben, asked Ken as we were leaving. 

You could have done no wrong in that beautiful pink suit.

Riding back to Brooklyn, where my students had been celebrating national coming out day, felt relieved the flag was there.  It is a symbol of a struggle, still in progress for a more democratic union, that lives up to it creed that everyone really does have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It reminds everyone this is a joyful liberating expression of our culture.  Its something everyone can embrace.

I hope it is always stays there.

The Rainbow Flag, the international symbol of LGBT liberation and pride, will be unveiled in a special ceremony on Wednesday, October 11 at 12:00 Noon at the historic Stonewall National Monument Christopher Park NYC, where, thanks to the efforts of activists, it will now claim a permanent home. This historic event marks the first time that the LGBT flag waves over federally-funded land, under the permanent stewardship of the National Park Service.
Stonewall National Monument is located in Christopher Street Park in New York’s Greenwich Village. The park is on the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue South.
The event will be emceed by Gay USA television co-host Ann Northrop. Performers will include Telly Leung, who plays the title role in Disney’s Alladin Broadway and Cantor Steve Zeidenberg of Congregation Beth Simcha Torah. Speakers will be Leslie Cagan, an organizer of the 1987 March on Washington for LGBT Rights, National Park Service’s Chief of Interpretation, Education and Visitor Services Barbara Applebaum, Kiara St. James, Executive Director of New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and LGBT and AIDS activist Michael Petrelis who spearheaded this initiative.
“It is a victory for our Community to have these symbolic colors flying majestically over our Stonewall, designated as a National Monument by President Obama, even as our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are under attack by the current regime in power,” said Michael Petrelis. He went on to say, “As we gather today, we are reminded of another October 11, thirty years ago, when the names of our fallen comrades were symbolically celebrated on another national monument – the AIDS Quilt -- during the reign of another President who waged an attack against us.”
October 11 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the historic 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian Gay Rights--when the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt was unfurled on the National Mall. The date also marks the annual National Coming Out Day, a day celebrating the idea that all members of the LGBTQ community should be able to live their lives openly, honestly, and with pride.
The flag, which was originally designed by the late artist and activist Gilbert Baker, consists of six stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The flag is typically flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as would appear in a natural rainbow.
Support for the ceremony is being generously provided by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS helps men, women and children across the country and across the street receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance.
Gilbert Baker died in New York City on March 31 at the age of 65. Memorials to the internationally known activist were held across the globe in subsequent weeks.
The Stonewall Inn was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

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