Thursday, October 13, 2011

Castro Biz Group Spits on Kameny;
Flag Creator = Benedict Arnold

(B.A.R. letters, July 3, 2003. Image credit: Larry-Bob Roberts.)

The man originally designed the rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker, fancies himself the Betsy Ross of the modern gay movement and to a large degree that designation applies, but he's also lately proved himself to be a Benedict Arnold.

In early September, the Bay Area Reporter ran a letter from Gilbert about the nine-month controversy over the rainbow flag and pole on public property at Harvey Milk Plaza. Excerpts from the letter:

This was never a community flagpole; it is there for one reason, to fly the rainbow flag. Now a blowhard bully with zero knowledge of the flag's history is determined to wreck a landmark work of art by making it a turf war and a posthumous popularity contest. One day it's Elizabeth Taylor the next day it's Ruth Brinker, perfectly nice heroes, but the flag should not be lowered for them or anyone else. It is a beacon of hope and symbol of liberation that should always be flown full staff 24/7, 365.

The Merchants of Upper Market and Castro people started this craziness when they allowed the leather flag to be flown there during the Folsom Street Fair. Nothing against leather folk or their flag but it does not belong there, nor does any other flag.

Nice of Gilbert to weigh in from Harlem, NY, about how San Franciscans should operate the flag and pole but he was suffering from amnesia when he penned his note.

The image above was snapped by San Francisco resident Larry-Bob Roberts, a local writer/activist/performer, while going through old BARs on recycled tree. The 2003 letter from Patrick Batt, who adamantly opposes current efforts to use the flag as living educational tool, shows the hypocrisy of Gilbert and MUMC:

It is true that Gilbert Baker and I have not necessarily always agreed upon the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro’s stewardship of the flagpole at Market and Castro, however, his request to fly the American flag as a result of the Supreme Court overturning the Texas sodomy law was inspired! Gilbert's instincts were right on and I'm happy that MUMC was able to participate.

So, it was okay to take down the rainbow flag in the summer of 2003 to mark the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, hoist the stars and stripes and stage a ceremony at the base of the flagpole. According to an Associated Press story at the time written by Lisa Leff, a true community collaboration took place:

Members of a local American Legion Post made up of gay men unfurled the American flag, then saluted and sang the Star-Spangled Banner, as residents marveled that a goal they had been seeking for so long had been realized.

Gilbert was all in favor of flying other flags at Harvey Milk Plaza before he was against it. Same goes for the control queens at MUMC.

Yesterday, my colleague Bill Wilson spoke with MUMC's president Steve Adams regarding our request on Tuesday to have the flag lowered to honor gay icon and extraordinary pioneer Frank Kameny, who passed away on October 11.

In keeping with Steve's commitment to pettiness and refusing to cooperate with street activists, he informed Bill that someone else had "beat us" in terms of being the first to submit a request to honor Frank, as if the request process were a competition. Steve said he had unilaterally already decided to lower the flag yesterday morning, without working with any activists or community leaders to stage a ceremony. There was no educational component, not even a simple notice on the MUMC web site, to make sure folks knew why the flag was flying at half-mast yesterday.

But as far as Steve was concerned, that didn't matter because for him the important thing was not give the appearance that the request Bill and I had submitted played any part in the half-assed lowering yesterday.

It's beyond insulting that MUMC refused, again, to cooperate with activists and friends of Frank to properly honor him with a properly-planned flag lowering, plenty of advance notice to the local community and press and bloggers about why the flag would fly at half-mast, and an effort made to educate younger lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people about Frank's life and legacy.

So the rainbow flag at Harvey Milk Plaza was quietly lowered yesterday, supposedly in honor of Frank, but it really was an act of MUMC spitting on Frank.

And who was the person who "beat us" in being the first to request the lowering? The answer comes at the end of the BAR's story today about Frank's passing:

Steve Adams, president of the merchants group that oversees the flag, said the request was made by flag creator Gilbert Baker.

WTF? The same guy who just last month was saying the flag shouldn't be lowered for anyone flips-and-flops, showing he has a political spine like an overcooked piece of organic spaghetti.

The harm MUMC inflicts on the community by allowing their president to act like a kindergarten sandbox bully engaging tit-for-tat behavior over the rainbow flag on public property, that should be a living educational that unites and doesn't divide, should be unacceptable to responsible members of the Castro and LGBT communities of San Francisco.

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