By Maya Mirsky | SAN FRANCISCO – Alvin H. Baum Jr., a philanthropist and activist known as Al to his friends and admirers, died March 28 at home in San Francisco. He was 90.
“Al lived a full, rich life,” his husband, Robert Holgate, told J. “Through his example of giving, he taught many how to live, love and give back,”
As a philanthropist, Baum was a generous donor to Jewish and LGBTQ causes, the arts, civil liberties, and a host of other causes and interests. In 2019, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation awarded Baum its Robert Sinton Award for Distinguished Leadership, and a J. profile at the time painted a full picture of his background and his longtime activism on multiple fronts.
Born into an affluent Jewish family at the height of the Great Depression, Baum grew up mostly in Highland Park, which in the 1930s was emerging as one of Chicago’s most prosperous Jewish-identified suburbs. He went to Harvard University as an undergrad and again for law school, then spent two years in the Army, in Berlin, during the Korean War.
Upon his return, he visited San Francisco to see how he liked it; at the time, he was living his life as a closeted gay man. He came out publicly in 1975, when he was in his 40s and living in San Francisco. It was a momentous step and not really planned.
“You know they say, ‘When you’re drowning, your whole life passes before your eyes?’” he said in an interview with OUTWORDS, an LGBTQ history archive, in 2017. “Well, it was like that. But I had been telling people, friends, that they should come out. And I wasn’t. I said to myself, ‘You have to be willing to do it yourself or you’re just being hypocritical.’”
From there he became an activist, working with the ACLU and Lambda Legal and many other organizations. Also, he worked as a city planner and attorney for many years and then, late in life, began a third career as a therapist, getting a degree from UC Berkeley in social work. In later years, with his husband, whom he married in 2014, he devoted himself to philanthropy.
Baum served on the boards of many organizations, including S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the ACLU of Northern California, and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. He also founded the Federation’s gay and lesbian task affinity group. He was a founding member of the New Israel Fund, and has been an active supporter of LGBTQ senior organization Openhouse. In 2014, he served as grand marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade, accompanied by Holgate.
Baum was a longtime member of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. Holgate said details of a celebration of Baum’s life and a shiva would be forthcoming.
Maya Mirsky is a staff writer for J. The Jewish News of Northern California and is based in Oakland.
The preceding article was published by J. The Jewish News of Northern California and was republished by permission.
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Hate: The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church remembered
Sixty years after four little girls were killed in the bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church, at 10:22 a.m., the church rang its bells
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It was a quiet Sunday morning in Birmingham—around 10:24 on September 15, 1963—when a bomb made from dynamite exploded in the back stairwell of the downtown Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Minutes before a white man was seen placing a box under the steps of the church.
The blast killed Addie Mae Collins, 14; Carole Robertson, 14; Cynthia Wesley, 14; and Denise McNair, 11 injuring 20 more and left the sister of Addie Mae Collins, 12-year-old Sarah Collins Rudolph, suffering from not only the loss of her sister, but her eyesight as well.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation notes in the agency’s history of the event that the bombing was a clear act of racial hatred: the church was a key civil rights meeting place and had been a frequent target of bomb threats.
Addressing the American people on Monday, September 16, 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:
“I know I speak on behalf of all Americans in expressing a deep sense of outrage and grief over the killing of the children yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama. It is regrettable that public disparagement of law and order has encouraged violence which has fallen on the innocent. If these cruel and tragic events can only awaken that city and State–if they can only awaken this entire Nation–to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress before more lives are lost.
The Negro leaders of Birmingham who are counseling restraint instead of violence are bravely serving their ideals in their most difficult task–for the principles of peaceful self-control are least appealing when most needed.
Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall has returned to Birmingham to be of assistance to community leaders and law enforcement officials–and bomb specialists of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are there to lend every assistance in the detection of those responsible for yesterday’s crime. This Nation is committed to a course of domestic justice and tranquility–and I call upon every citizen, white and Negro, North and South, to put passions and prejudices aside and to join in this effort.”
The FBI’s account of the aftermath and investigation
At 10:00 p.m. that night, Assistant Director Al Rosen assured Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach that “the Bureau considered this a most heinous offense…[and]…we had entered the investigation with no holds barred.”
And we backed that promise up. Dozens of FBI agents worked the case throughout September and October and into the new year—as many as 36 at one point. One internal memo noted that:
“…we have practically torn Birmingham apart and have interviewed thousands of persons. We have seriously disrupted Klan activities by our pressure and interviews so that these organizations have lost members and support. …We have made extensive use of the polygraph, surveillances, microphone surveillances and technical surveillances…”
By 1965, we had serious suspects—namely, Robert E. Chambliss, Bobby Frank Cherry, Herman Frank Cash, and Thomas E. Blanton, Jr., all KKK members—but witnesses were reluctant to talk and physical evidence was lacking. Also, at that time, information from our surveillances was not admissible in court. As a result, no federal charges were filed in the ‘60s.
It has been claimed that Director Hoover held back evidence from prosecutors in the ‘60s or even tried to block prosecution. But it’s simply not true. His concern was to prevent leaks, not to stifle justice. In one memo concerning a Justice Department prosecutor seeking information, he wrote, “Haven’t these reports already been furnished to the Dept.?” In 1966, Hoover overruled his staff and made transcripts of wiretaps available to Justice. And he couldn’t have blocked the prosecution and didn’t—he simply didn’t think the evidence was there to convict.
For its part, the FBI noted that in the end, justice was served.
Chambliss received life in prison in 1977 following a case led by Alabama Attorney General Robert Baxley. And eventually the fear, prejudice, and reticence that kept witnesses from coming forward began to subside. We re-opened our case in the mid-1990s, and Blanton and Cherry were indicted in May 2000. Both were convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison. The fourth man, Herman Frank Cash, had died in 1994.
Marking the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, 60 years later
Birmingham NBC News affiliate WVTM-TV 13 reported that the 16th Street Baptist Church rang its bells in honor of bombing victims 60 years later at 10:22 a.m. and read the victims’ names out loud in remembrance.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was the keynote speaker Friday during the commemoration service at 16th Street Baptist Church 60 years after the bombing that killed four girls.
In her remarks, Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, standing at the pulpit in the historic church told those gathered for the commemoration services,
“Today we remember the toll that was paid to secure the blessings of liberty for African Americans and we grieve those four children who were senselessly taken from this earth and their families robbed of their potential,” Jackson said.
”The work of our time is maintaining that hard-won freedom and to that we are going to need the truth, the whole truth about our past,” the Justice said noting that while the American nation should celebrate the advancements that have been made since 1963, there is still work to do.
Jackson said she knows that atrocities “like the one we are memorializing today are difficult to remember and relive” but said it is also “dangerous to forget them.”
“If we are going to continue to move forward as a nation, we cannot allow concerns about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth or history. It is certainly the case that parts of this country’s story can be hard to think about,” she said adding, “Yes, our past is filled with too much violence, too much hatred, too much prejudice, but can we really say that we are not confronting those same evils now? We have to own even the darkest parts of our past, understand them and vow never to repeat them.”
Birmingham church bombing survivor speaks out 60 years later:
‘Fagots Stay Out:’ Protest at Barney’s Beanery 53 years ago today
Rocco interviews Morris Kight, founder of the California chapter of the Gay Liberation Front and a young Rev. Troy Perry
By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The Academy Awards Museum recently featured three short films by trailblazing Los Angeles-based filmmaker and gay rights advocate Pat Rocco (1934–2018) last week, courtesy of Outfest UCLA Legacy Project at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Films featured were “Sign of Protest” (1970), “Meat Market Arrest” (1970), and “We Were There” (1976).
The short film “Sign of Protest” documents a February 7, 1970, gay liberation march outside Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood, protesting a famous sign that read “Fagots [sic]–stay out” which hung proudly over the bar.
Rocco plays the role of neutral reporter on the scene in this activist interpretation of a newsfilm, interviewing the bar’s owners and patrons, as well as the protestors, and allowing their comments to speak for themselves.
Rocco is shown speaking with the daughter of the bar’s owner, who states nonchalantly that the sign has been up since 1959 and was originally accompanied by many more (since removed). She further states that the sign is part of the restaurant’s history and will not come down unless Barney’s is legally mandated to remove it.
Rocco then goes over to the sign posted above the bar and interviews customers about their opinion of it, which is largely positive.
Next, Rocco joins the 50 protesters outside and interviews Morris Kight, founder of the California chapter of the Gay Liberation Front, the organization that spearheaded the picket and a young Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Church, who reiterates many of the comments heard from other protesters that the sign is offensive and should be taken down as a civil rights violation.
He also mentions a June 26, 1964, LIFE Magazine article about Barney’s Beanery and the controversial sign where the owner says homosexuals should be shot.
For those who missed on the big screen or wish to revisit it, the short film is available on YouTube, however, view at your discretion due to language some may find offensive.
Trailblazing Los Angeles-based filmmaker and gay rights advocate Pat Rocco (1934–2018) began his moviemaking efforts as a creator of queer male erotica in the late 1960s. When the public’s appetite shifted to hardcore, Rocco pivoted to documenting moments of LGBTQ protest and collective joy in his adopted city, often appearing on camera as an always gracious (and meticulously coiffed) interviewer of his many subjects.
Whether out in the streets capturing a demonstration of Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood against their defamatory anti-gay signage (Signs of Protest), on the scene of an escalating situation with law enforcement at a gay bar (Meat Market Arrest), or capturing LA’s energetic early Pride parades (We Were There), Rocco’s films always culminate in moments of hope and a spirit of liberation that feel akin to Varda’s own joyful yet always inquisitive Weltanschauung.
Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.
The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.
Marking slavery’s end, a historic event now marks a Federal holiday
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free”
GALVESTON, Tx. – In the early summer of 1865, on a clear crisp June morning, the lead elements of the Federal Army of blue-coated soldiers of the 13th Army Corps occupied the island city of Galveston, Texas on Monday the 19th.
Led by Union Army Major General Gordon Granger, who had recently taken command of the Department of Texas, the 13th Corps was tasked with enforcement of the emancipation of slaves in the former Confederate state.
The bloody civil war had ended officially with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia commanded by Robert E. Lee to Commander of Union forces, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
The warfare between the last elements of the Confederate and Union troops however, dragged on for another month or so culminating in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, which was fought on May 12 and 13, 1865. The fighting occurred on the banks of the Rio Grande east of Brownsville, Texas on the Texas-Mexico border some 400 miles Southwest of Galveston.
It took approximately another two weeks for Confederate Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner to surrender his command of the Trans-Mississippi Department (which included Texas) to Union Major General Peter J. Osterhaus on May 26, 1865.
General Granger was then tasked with implementing the order to free enslaved African Americans.
Once Granger’s Federals had taken control of the port city, he and his command staff headed to Union Army Headquarters located at the Osterman Building, once located Strand Street and 22nd Street.
It was there that General Order No. 3 was first publicly read out loud to a gathering of now newly freed Black Americans and other citizens of the city.
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Sadly it would take nearly two years before all of the enslaved African Americans would actually be freed in Texas by white plantation owners and others who simply didn’t tell them or defied Federal authorities.
In 2014, the Texas Historical Commission placed a subject marker at the corner of 22nd and Strand, near the location of the Osterman Building, where General Granger and his men first read General Orders, No. 3.
While many Black Americans across the former Confederate States would celebrate their freedom granted by The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Sep. 22, 1862 during the height of the war, in annual celebrations still others yet would annually mark the date of passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by Congress on January 31, 1865, which abolished slavery in the United States.
Yet on Galveston Island, the tradition of marking their first learning of The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Lincoln with General Granger’s General Orders, No. 3, was the benchmark for ongoing annual celebrations and as the years went by as the Black Americans from the Lone Star state migrated ever Northward, it would be that seminal moment that ultimately would lead to the creation of a federal holiday and recognition some 156 years later.
One observer also wryly pointed out that the June anniversary was seasonally tied to better weather than the other two dates and more conducive to celebrations and large gatherings, hence its popularity in being established as the federal holiday.
Information and photographs provided by the National Archives, the City Of Galveston, Galveston Historical Foundation, the Library of Congress, and State of Texas, Texas Historical Commission.
50 years ago Atlanta’s nascent gay rights movement marched
“It was mostly about feeling good,” said Phil Lambert. “That we’re not a bunch of sick people. That we’re not the problem.”
ATLANTA, Ga. – This Sunday, exactly fifty years ago to the day on a bright Sunday morning, about a hundred brave gay and lesbian Atlantans from the Georgia Gay Liberation Front, unfurled a lavender colored banner made from a bedsheet with the intertwined symbols representing male + male, female + female with the a raised fist of defiance and the words ‘Gay Power’ emblazoned on it and they marched.
The group inched its way up Peachtree Street to a soundtrack of chants, kazoos and a tambourine.
Mindful that stepping off the sidewalks could get them arrested — the city of Atlanta had turned down their request for a permit and the police were closely watching for jay-walkers — the marchers stopped at every corner until they were given the crossing signal, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the average estimated crowds in attendance at Atlanta Pride is upwards of 300,000 plus. But at the time the Journal-Constitution noted, even in the city that had just birthed the civil rights movement and was home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., LGBTQ rights was considered a radical issue that the Georgian liberal political establishment, including many Atlanta progressives, wanted to stay away from. At that time, gay sex was still illegal under state law, and the American Psychiatric Association characterized homosexuality as a mental illness.
For those GAGLF Atlantans who participated in that first pride march on June 27, 1971, the event was a turning point, a moment when, for the first time, they could publicly celebrate a part of themselves that society had long demanded they keep hidden.
“It was mostly about feeling good,” said Phil Lambert, a Vietnam veteran who was in attendance. “That we’re not a bunch of sick people. That we’re not the problem.”
Read the entire fascinating story: 50 years ago, Atlanta’s gay rights push took to street for first time
LGBTQ rainbow flag was born in San Francisco, but its history is disputed
On that day in June 1978, it felt as if the rainbow had always been a symbol for the LGBTQ community, it just hadn’t revealed itself yet
By August Bernadicou (with additional text and research by Chris Coats) | NEW YORK – Many enduring symbols that establish an instant understanding and define a diverse community are intrinsically linked with controversy, confusion, and ill-informed backstories dictated by vested interests and those who told the story loudest. The LGBTQ rainbow flag is no different.
While it was the work of many, the people who deserve credit the most have been minimized if not erased. Gilbert Baker, the self-titled “Creator,” screamed the story and now has a powerful estate behind his legacy. Before his death in 2017, Baker established himself as the complete authority on the LGBTQ rainbow flag. It was his story which he lived and became.
While there are disputed accounts on the flag’s origins, one thing that is not disputed is that the LGBTQ rainbow flag was born in San Francisco and made for the Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.
For all of human history, rainbows have mystified and inspired. A greeting of light and serenity after the darkness and chaos of a storm. They have symbolized hope, peace, and the mysteries of existence. For a moment, we can see the invisible structure, the “body” of light, made visible. A secret revealed, then hidden again.
Though it may seem like a modern phenomenon, rainbow flags have waved throughout history. Their origin can be traced to at least the 15th Century. The German theologian, Thomas Müntzer, used a rainbow flag for his reformist preachings. In the 18th Century, the English-American revolutionary and author, Thomas Paine, advocated adopting the rainbow flag as a universal symbol for identifying neutral ships at sea.
Rainbow flags were flown by Buddhists in Sri Lanka in the late 19th Century as a unifying emblem of their faith. They also represent the Peruvian city of Cusco, are flown by Indians on January 31st to commemorate the passing of the spiritual leader Meher Baba, and since 1961, have represented members of international peace movements.
Now, the rainbow flag has become the symbol for the LGBTQ community, a community of different colors, backgrounds, and orientations united together, bringing light and joy to the world. A forever symbol of where they started, where they have come, and where they need to go. When many LGBTQ people see a rainbow flag flowing in the wind, they know they are safe and free.
While the upper class and tech interests rule the city now, in the 1960s and 70s, San Francisco was a wonderland for low and no-income artists. The counterculture’s mecca. By the mid-1970s, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood that had once been a psychedelic playground of hippie art, culture, and music had fallen into disarray. Hard, dangerous drugs like heroin had replaced mind-expanding psychedelics. Young queers and artists needed a new home, and they found it in the Castro.
Lee Mentley (1948-2020) arrived in San Francisco in 1972 and quickly fell in with the oddball artist and performers in the Castro neighborhood, donning flamboyant, gender-fucked clothes, performing avant-garde theater, and creating their own clubhouses. He was on the Pride Planning Committee in 1978 and ran the Top Floor Gallery on the top floor of 330 Grove, which served as an early Gay Center in San Francisco.
Lynn Segerblom (Faerie Argyle Rainbow) was originally from the North Shore of Hawaii and moved to San Francisco where she attended art school at the Academy of Art. Her life changed when she found a new passion in tie-dye and rainbows in the early 1970s. Entrenched in the free-loving technicolor world of San Francisco, in 1976, Lynn legally changed her name to Faerie Argyle Rainbow. She joined the Angels of Light, a “free” performance art troupe where the members had to return to an alternative, hippie lifestyle and deny credit for their work.
Shortly after the original rainbow flags were flown for the last time, both Lynn and Lee moved out of San Francisco. Lee moved to Hawaii and Lynn moved to Japan. When they returned, they were shocked to see how their contribution to history was becoming a universal symbol. They remain passionate about defending their legacies and giving a voice to the mute.
LEE MENTLEY: “One day in 1978, Lynn came to 330 Grove with a couple of her friends, James McNamara and Robert Guttman, and said we should make rainbow flags for Gay Day to brighten up San Francisco City Hall and Civic Center because it’s all gray and cold in June. We thought that it sounded like a great idea.”
To get over the first hurdle, money, the young artists went to Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of San Francisco, California, for help.
LEE: “There was no actual funding for it. We contacted Harvey Milk and another supervisor, and they asked the city if we could get a little funding. They found some leftover funds from the previous year’s hotel tax, and we got $1,000.”
LYNN SEGERBLOM: “I remember having a meeting where I presented the idea of making rainbow flags. I had some sketches. At that meeting, there was just a handful of us there, and I remember, and even my friend assured me, that Gilbert Baker was not at that meeting. I don’t know where he was, I didn’t keep track of him, but he was not at the meeting where I suggested rainbow flags. We decided, yes, rainbow flags sounded great.”
The committee approved the rainbow imagery and made the decision to make two massive 40’ x 60’ foot rainbow flags to be flown at the Civic Center along with 18 smaller rainbow flags designed by different, local artists, to line the reflecting pool putting rainbows into the grey sky.
For the two large flags, one would be an eight-color rainbow starting with pink and including turquoise and indigo in place of blue, and the other a re-envisioning of the American flag with rainbow stripes which became known as Faerie’s flag.
Gilbert Baker’s name on his memoir, Rainbow Warrior, it says “CREATOR OF THE RAINBOW FLAG,” leaving little debate that Gilbert claimed full ownership for the concept and design of the legendary symbol. He never denied Lynn or James MacNamara’s involvement in the flags’ construction and speaks briefly and fondly of them and their talents in that same book.
LEE: “We didn’t need one person saving our ass, and it certainly wouldn’t have been Gilbert Baker. He was no Betsy Ross. He was a very good promoter, and I give him all the credit in the world for making the rainbow flag go international. He did a great service, and he was a very talented, creative man, but he could never have done all of the work by himself; no one could have.
We never considered ownership. There was never this big ownership debate until Gilbert started it. Because AIDS hit us so fast after this, most of our leadership either went into HIV activism or died.”
LYNN: “The story is that a white gay man did all of this by himself, but, in fact, that is not true at all. He just promoted it. For that, though, he should be given great love.”
Making the two original rainbow flags was no easy feat. With a limited budget and limited resources, the group had to improvise and figure it out as they went along. While Lynn had dabbled in flags before, a project of this scope and importance was far beyond her comfort zone.
LEE: “The community donated the sewing machines we used. We asked people at the Center if anyone would like to volunteer. All sorts of people from all over the country helped us with the flags, over 100 people, which, to me, is an amazing story. That’s where it came from. It came from regular artists who wanted to have fun and make something pretty for gay people.”
LYNN: “The Rainbows Flags were hand-dyed cotton and eight colors. I made two different types. The one with just the stripes and then the American flag one, which I designed myself. There was a group of us that made them, James McNamara, Gilbert Baker, and myself. Originally they were my designs. I was a dyer by trade, and I had a dying studio at the Gay Community Center at 330 Grove Street.”
LEE: “People would come and help as long as they could. Then, somebody else would come and help as long as they could. We opened up the second floor of 330 Grove to people who came to be in the Parade and march. People came in and made posters, banners and did art stuff.”
LYNN: “We made the flags on the roof because there was a drain up there. There was a wooden ladder that led up to the roof. The hot water had to be carried up to the roof because we didn’t have hot water up there. We heated it up on the stove in pots. We put the hot water in trash cans on the roof.”
LEE: “We had trash cans and two by fours, and we had to keep agitating the fabrics in the dye. Since they were in hot water, they had to be poked and agitated for hours.”
LYNN: “We had to constantly move the fabric in the dye, so the dye penetrated the fibers that weren’t clamped tight. We had to make sure there would be blue, and it wouldn’t just be white on white or white with a very murky, pale blue.
After they were washed and dyed, they went through the washer and dryer. Then, we ironed them. If the fabric stays out too long, once you take it out of the water, if it sits on itself even for just a few minutes, it starts to make shapes.”
LEE: “Lynn’s flag, the new American flag, was a similar rainbow, but it had stars in the corner. I have photographs of that flag flying at gay events in San Francisco at City Hall and Oakland.”
LYNN: “I always liked the American flag. I thought, oh, wouldn’t that be nice? I knew with some luck I could make it.”
LEE: “I thought the one with the stars was more interesting because it symbolized a new flag for the United States.”
LYNN: “For my American flag, I decided to flip the order of the colors, so pink was at the bottom and purple was at the top in an eight-color spectrum. That was intentional. I wanted them to be different.
I made the stars with wood blocks and clamps. I got the white fabric and washed it, and folded it a different way. When I was making it, it looked like a big sandwich. The bread would be the woodblocks, and the fabric was in between. We immersed the whole flag in dye and swished it around. I wasn’t sure if it would come out right because it was the first time I did that fold. I was lucky. It worked.
I sewed lamé stars into one stripe with leftover stars from my Angels of Light costumes. On one side of the blue stripe, there was a star with silver lamé, and on the other side, there was a star with gold lamé.
I got all these ideas because I worked with these mediums on a daily basis: paint, dye, fabric, and glitter.”
LEE: “We worked for weeks dying fabric, shrinking fabric, and sewing fabric.”
LYNN: “We worked on them for seven weeks. I was worried that we weren’t going to finish on time. We worked hard and long hours. Towards the end, we decided we didn’t have time to go to the laundromat, so we started rinsing them on the roof and wringing them dry. We also ran out of quarters. We draped them off of the Top Floor Gallery’s rafters, and they drip-dried. They looked great. They were beautiful.”
Until that day, the pink triangle, used by the Nazis to label homosexuals in their genocidal campaign, was the most commonly used symbol for the LGBTQ movement, a symbol in solidarity with our fallen ancestors. But the triangle came from a place of trauma, it was a reminder of the storm while the rainbow was the hope that came after. The promise of brighter days ahead.
On that day in June 1978, it felt as if the rainbow had always been a symbol for the LGBTQ community, it just hadn’t revealed itself yet.
LEE: “We went out, flew the flags, and blew everybody’s fucking minds. People were blown away. The flags were so beautiful. They were waving warriors. The biggest ones were 40’ by 60’ feet. The Parade marched through the flags to get to Civic Center. We instantly proclaimed that this was our symbol. It wasn’t planned. It was organic.”
LYNN: “It was just what I wanted: a touch of magic, a touch of glitter, and a little bit of Angels of Light.”
LEE: “We weren’t creating this huge symbol. We were decorating Civic Center. We weren’t thinking of marketing our entire futures. It was an art project.”
LYNN: “We looked at the rainbow flags as a work of art, and we wanted them to be beautiful and unique. After the Gay Parade, the flags were a big hit. People loved them. Everybody loved them.”
In the pre-technology world, people and property could just disappear. There were no surveillance cameras. Lynn didn’t even have a phone.
Even though no one could have known the flag would become an eternal symbol for a worldwide community, it was clear even then that they were a piece of history to be coveted.
In his memoir, Baker hypothesizes that the Rainbow American flag was stolen shortly after it was hung up on the front of the Gay Community Center for Gay Freedom Day in 1979. He suggests it might have been a construction crew working on the new symphony across the street and in a homophobic act, stole the flag and buried it in cement.
LEE: “Later in 1979 or 1980, you can find it somewhere in the minutes for a Pride Foundation meeting, Gilbert came to us and asked to borrow the two large flags, and we agreed. We never saw them again.”
LYNN: “I went to work one day at 330 Grove, and Gilbert came in and said that the two 40’ by 60’ flags had been stolen.”
Images published in the San Francisco Chronicle, videos of the march, and other widely distributed photographs only add to the mystery. They show both the classic rainbow flag of eight stripes and the American revision flying at the Civic Center on June 24, 1979 and not at the Gay Community Center.
As for the original eight-stripe flag, there are even fewer answers. In his memoir, Baker says that while they were taking down the flags from Civic Center, he was hit on the head on knocked out. “When I came to on the muddy ground,” he says “I saw people all around me hitting each other and screaming obscenities. They were fighting over the rainbow flags, pulling on them like a game of tug-of-war, tearing them.”
LYNN: “It would have taken more than one person to carry the flags. It took three people to carry one folded-up flag for the Parade, and we needed a van. They weighed a lot, and 330 Grove did not have an elevator. Whoever stole them had help—one person could not do it on their own.”
LYNN: “Before the rainbow flag missing, Gilbert came to one of my workshops. He wanted to watch me dying fabric all day and see how I did everything.
I was like, oh yeah, I’ll show you, come in.
I said, here, put some gloves on and do it with me.
He was like, oh, no, no, I don’t want to get my hands dirty.
He was only trying to figure out how I did the dying.”
LEE: “Gilbert went to these places like MoMa and told them these outrageous stories about how he made the rainbow flag all by himself. He said this about the flag he donated. When you look at it, you can tell that it was bought at a craft fair. It flat out wasn’t one of our flags. It was polyester.”
LYNN: “It was polyester, it wasn’t the same size, and it wasn’t hand-dyed. My flags were different. The rainbow flag at MoMa was a beautiful flag inside a frame, but it wasn’t an original, not from 1978, not even a piece from 1978. I was hoping, oh, my God, maybe this is a piece of it.”
LEE: “It wasn’t even the original colors. MoMa said they were original flags, but they weren’t. It was a commercially produced rainbow flag with a primary color rainbow. The plaque cited Gilbert donating it as an original flag.”
LYNN: “I read online that Gilbert Baker said he named me “Faerie Argyle Rainbow,” a complete lie. Bethany the Princess of Argyle named me. I chose the name Rainbow because I was known as a rainbow artist.”
LEE: “Even Lynn’s driver’s license said her name was “Faerie Argyle Rainbow.””
LYNN: “In 1976, I filled out a form at the DMV, and my name became Faerie Argyle Rainbow. Back then, they didn’t ask you for a birth certificate. The employee just said, “This is your name now,” and gave me a driver’s license that said Faerie Argyle Rainbow.
It all sounds crazy now, but back then, it wasn’t.”
LEE: “I had my arguments and fights with Gilbert Baker because he claims he came up with the rainbow flag. If you go through all of his different interviews, you see that his story changes over and over and over again. He even said Harvey Milk came to him and asked him to create a symbol for the movement. No—I read that, and no such thing happened.”
LYNN: “Just look at his interviews. His takes on what the colors in the rainbow flag mean are all in his head. The rainbow represents everyone, no matter what gender or race you are; that’s how I looked at it. Rainbows are in nature and beautiful. People love them, and I love them. I knew they would be great color healing.
Gilbert assigning meaning to each color is ridiculous. I think anyone could make up what each color means. If I wanted to, I could do the same. It wasn’t what I was thinking. I was thinking that rainbows encompass everybody, the whole group, unity.”
LEE: “I have tried to convince people that the rainbow flags were made with tax-payer dollars. We made them as a non-profit.
Not even Gilbert owns them. I have always thought that anyone who sells anything rainbow should give a portion of the profits to homeless gay youth. We need to take care of our own kind because no one does. The whole concept of taking care of gay people has disappeared.”
August Bernadicou is a 27-year-old gay historian and the President of the LGBTQ History Project Inc. Chris Coats is an editor and producer.
Together, they produce the QueerCore Podcast and will shortly be releasing an episode that is the definitive story on the rainbow flag featuring Lee Mentley, Lynn Segerblom, and Adrian Brooks.
August Bernadicou is presenting a Pride event in NYC this year that all folks are cordially invited to attend- its virtual;
Here is the link for the event: https://www.lgbtqhp.org/pride-protest
Anti-LGBTQ activist Judith Reisman dies at age 86
There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles
Editor’s note: Judith Ann Reisman was a vocal opponent of women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and known for her criticism and condemnation of the work in sexual studies of Dr. Alfred Kinsey. Reisman, a prominent conservative, has been referred to as the “founder of the modern anti-Kinsey movement.” New York-based LGBTQ journalist, activist and blogger Joe Jervis covered her for over a decade on his widely popular blogsite Joe.My.God.
By Joe Jervis | Longtime JMG readers will recall Reisman’s anti-LGBT claims as a regular feature here going back a decade or so. There was the time she appeared on the Liberty Counsel’s radio show to declare that all gays are inherent pedophiles:
We know that pedophilia, which was the original Greek they say it’s ‘love of’ but of course it isn’t, it’s ‘lust for’ boys. And there’s a strong, clear, cross-cultural, historical reality, people don’t want to do deal with, but the propaganda has been loud and strong to deny the fact, the aim of homosexual males and now increasingly females is not to have sex with other old guys and get married but to obtain sex with as many boys as possible. That’s the reality.
There was the time she called for a class action suit against groups that advocate for safer sex:
The reality is that condoms are manufactured and approved every day for natural, vaginal sex, not anal “sex.” They are not effectively designed to protect from disease those people who engage in sodomy. Such a lawsuit should target the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Planned Parenthood and a myriad of teachers and school systems, too many to count, that have taught that anal “sex” (traditionally termed “sodomy” or “buggery” under British-based legal codes) as not so different than natural coitus. Due to the lies that have told, people who practiced sodomy are under the tragically mistaken notion that a condom is effective protection from disease.
There was the time she went to Jamaica to advocate for keeping homosexuality criminalized:
American Religious Right leaders Mat Staver and Judith Reisman are scheduled to be featured speakers at a conference in Jamaica this weekend hosted by a group that has been working to preserve the country’s criminal ban on consensual gay sex. The annual conference, hosted by the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, will focus on how “[c]ontemporary society has become increasingly hostile to the traditional definitions of marriage and family” and Staver.
There was the time she blamed the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on a rise in reported sexual assaults in the military:
Why is the best-kept military secret that most soldierly sexual assaults are now definitively homo, not heterosexual, male-on-male sexual exploitation? While men are statistically more loathe to report their sexual victimization than are women, 10,700 male soldiers, sailors and airmen in 2010 actually reported their sexual assaults. What this means is not totally clear, since men are cannot technically be raped, despite the term being regularly used in the recent hearings on the matter.
There was the time she compared activists against school bullying to Hitler Youth:
Both the GLSEN youth and the Hitler Youth were trained to be revolutionary leaders of the brave new world order. GLSEN school clubs and their teacher sponsor/trainers are now funded by major corporations and by some state funds. GLESN’s Day of Silence and “GAY ALLY!” pledge cards for kindergartners and other children (left) are direct assaults on traditional parental, American values. German children’s literature historians document Hitler’s pioneering ban of both the Ten Commandments and biblical stories from Nazi school texts in favor of coarse and violent tales that ridiculed religious believers and their values.
There was the time she was condemned by the Anti-Defamation League:
Holocaust analogies generate headlines and get attention, they do little in the service of truth, history or memory. When [Peter] LaBarbera and Reisman suggest that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are “demonizing [Christians] like the Nazis used to do to the Jews,” they undermine the historical truth of the Holocaust as a singular event in human history that led to the murder of six million Jews and millions of others. Holocaust comparisons are deeply offensive and trivialize and distort the history and meaning of the Holocaust.
And let’s close with this notation from Rational Wiki:
Reisman is a supporter of Scott Lively and his completely insane screed, The Pink Swastika. She has claimed that she believes that a homosexual movement in Germany gave rise to the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. She enthusiastically and unconditionally endorses criminalization of homosexuality, despite the fact that homosexuals were were one of the Nazis’ target groups for annihilation. Reisman has claimed that the homosexuals employ recruitment techniques that rival those of the United States Marine Corps to transform innocent children into raving homosexuals.
Reisman, passed away on Friday, April 9, 2021, two days before her 86th birthday. From the magazine of the far-right John Birch Society:
Like Judith the Biblical heroine, Dr. Reisman was fearless and stood against the great powers of the world in our time. When her countrymen were ready to surrender to the mighty Assyrian army, the Biblical Judith, trusting in God, walked into the enemy camp — and walked out with the head of Holofernes, the Assyrian general, thus saving her people. Likewise, Judith Reisman repeatedly, over the past several decades, strode into many hostile enemy camps around the world — colleges, universities, legislative bodies, media outlets — to speak truth to power and to expose vile works of darkness.
Joseph “Joe” Jervis is an American blogger and writer based out of New York City. He is the author of Joe.My.God., a personal blog which, since he first posted on April 27, 2004, has primarily covered LGBT news and opinion.
The preceding article was originally published at Joe.My.God and republished by permission.
The Bay Area Reporter turns 50- Congrats from the Los Angeles Blade
The Los Angeles Blade congratulates the publisher, editor, and staff of the The Bay Area Reporter on its Golden Anniversary
SAN FRANCISCO – An important and critical voice for the LGBTQ+ community in Northern California turns 50 this Spring as the venerable LGBTQ+ newspaper, The Bay Area Reporter, commences its fifth decade of service to San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.
Not unlike the beginnings of the Los Angeles Blade’s sister publication, The Washington Blade, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, the Bay Area Reporter traces its roots to an ad hoc distribution- in B.A.R.’s case atop cigarette machines in the city’s gay and lesbian watering holes.
Since then according to Michael Yamashita, a gay man who has been the paper’s publisher since 2013, the paper has never missed an issue deadline — not even when threatened by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.
The Los Angeles Blade congratulates the publisher, editor, and staff of the The Bay Area Reporter on its Golden Anniversary of service to the LGBTQ+ community.
Read B.A.R.’s own coverage of its 50th here: https://www.ebar.com/index.php?id=303476
LGBTQ ally New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland confirmed by Senate as Interior Secretary
“It’s exciting to be able to see someone like myself (native) in such an influential role within the administration”
WASHINGTON – New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland was confirmed Monday in a 51-40 vote by the Senate, becoming the first Native American to serve in a presidential cabinet as the fifty-fourth Secretary of the Interior.
The vote to confirm was along party lines, however Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, (SC) joined three other Republican Senators, Lisa Murkowski, and Dan Sullivan, (Alaska) and Senator Susan Collins, (ME) in voting to confirm Haaland.
A member of the Laguna Pueblo tribal nation, Secretary Haaland will oversee the management and conservation of federal land holdings including national parks and monuments as well as the nation’s natural resources. She is the third resident from the State of New Mexico to hold the post and the first woman in addition to her historic confirmation to President Joe Biden’s Cabinet as a Native American.
In her role as Interior Secretary overseeing 70,000 employees, making it one of the largest federal government departments, she will lead agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies that manage lands, waters and coastal areas.
Haaland will also oversee the the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education and the Bureau of Trust Fund Administration. The Bureau of Indian Education has come under fire from advocates and lawmakers for what is generally perceived as its failure to adequately address issues that affect Native American students in the past decade plus.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors also issued a statement lauding their fellow Pueblo member’s confirmation the Arizona Central reported.
“This confirmation is a defining moment for Indigenous peoples not only in the United States but around the world,” said the council’s chairman, Wilfred Herrera, former governor of Laguna Pueblo.
Indigenous peoples are the first stewards of the lands, waters and living beings, Herrera said, and predicted that Haaland’s leadership will provide “a long-overdue opportunity to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and help our nation swing the pendulum on our most pressing indigenous and environmental justice issues.”
As a member of the U. S. House, Haaland was a committed ally of the LGBTQ community. In May of 2019, Haaland was awarded the prestigious Vanguard Award by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The Vanguard Award is given to an outstanding ally who uses their platform to further LGBTQ+ equality.
Accepting the award she stated; “Everyone deserves to love who they love and be who they are without facing discrimination or violence. I truly believe that, and I’m honored to receive the NCLR’s Vanguard Award. It means I’m doing the right thing for my daughter, the amazing LGBTQ community in New Mexico, and everyone who has fought tirelessly for equality.”
When she was running for office in 2018, Haaland was asked by the NM Political Report during a Q&A session with candidates for U.S. House:
NMPR: Please describe how an LGBTQ person in your life has affected your worldview.
Deb Haaland: “That would be my daughter, who is a lesbian. Sometimes I think about how I have this beautiful, wonderful lesbian daughter who I adore, and who I want to have every opportunity for success. But quite frankly, I would feel that way about any member of the LGBTQ community, because I just feel that every single American, regardless of where they are, what community they belong to, deserves to have opportunities to succeed.
I took a tour one time of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, and it’s a shame that a lot of members of the LGBTQ community have found it very difficult to find housing, find employment. That’s a community that really needs all of us to step up and treat them with respect, dignity and equality. That’s something I would really like to change in our society.”
NMPR: What are your priorities when it comes to addressing needs and concerns of LGBTQ people, including those in rural and tribal communities?
Deb Haaland: “A lot of times it might boil down to understanding. … For me, I have a lesbian daughter who would be everywhere I go, I talk to her every day on the telephone if I don’t see her in person. I think some people don’t have the breadth of understanding that they should when it comes to the struggles of members of the LGBTQ community.
It’s up to people like me, up to people who do understand that community, to make sure we’re finding ways to bridge those gaps so that we can have a more accepting society.”
Haaland introduced the Elder Pride Act in 2019 to address a lifetime of discrimination that has resulted in less financial security, more social isolation, and specific healthcare needs for older LGBT Americans. The Elder Pride Act amends the Older American Act to address the needs of older LGBT Americans and make necessary investments to support them.
Haaland also raised transgender issues at the State of the Union in 2019 inviting local advocate Bunnie Benton Cruz, Chair of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico board and Mara Kiesling the Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). Haaland’s office coordinated a Transgender Awareness training for staff on the Hill which was administered by the NCTE.
Haaland was also Vice Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, a group of lawmakers that serves as a resource for Members of Congress, their staff, and the public on LGBTQ+ issues at the federal level. The caucus works toward the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and well-being for all regardless of sexual orientation of gender identity and expression.
The Blade reached out to Running Bear Ramirez, a leader in the San Manuel tribe of Mission Indians in Southern California and one of the Yuhaaviatam people for his reaction to the news of Secretary Haaland’s confirmation.
“First off to have a Native American running the Department of the Interior is something I never would have thought would happen. Representation matters and there is no better person I could think of to run the department then a native person,” Ramirez said adding; “It’s exciting to be able to see someone like myself (native) in such an influential role within the administration.”
Karen Ocamb leaves LGBTQ press for Public Justice advocacy
I hope to come up with creative thinking to keep bending that arc towards justice for all
WEST HOLLYWOOD – After three decades of reporting about the LGBTQ community, veteran journalist Karen Ocamb announced Tuesday, March 9, that she is joining Public Justice, a national nonprofit progressive legal advocacy organization that has been fighting for civil rights, environmental protection and consumer and workers’ rights for more than 35 years.
Public Justice is now expanding the depth and breath of its impact litigation to specifically include fighting injustices hindering full LGBTQ equality.
“I’m very excited to explicitly serve the cause of justice in this next stage of my life,” Ocamb, who starts her new job at the end of March, tells the Los Angeles Blade. “My favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ It’s promise of hope for progress has always buoyed me when I have feared for this country. I never thought it could apply to me personally, as an individual, as well.”
After spending the 1960s as a student against the war in Vietnam, fighting for civil rights and exploring the counter-cultural movement, Ocamb joined CBS News in New York and learned to be a journalist under the mentorship of such icons as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Bob Schiefer. Her final job for the network was producing the 1984 Olympic coverage for CBS News affiliates at TV City in Los Angeles.
Free to pursue her social justice passions and discuss her opinions, Ocamb volunteered on the ballot campaign for West Hollywood cityhood. It was during this time that her friends started dying of AIDS. By the late 1980s, serving as a quasi-healthcare worker was not enough and Ocamb returned to journalism, this time freelancing for Frontiers News Magazine and other gay press publications.
The AIDS crisis was her entry into the movement for LGBTQ liberation and equality. She has worked in LGBTQ and independent media since then, culminating in her position as news editor and reporter for the Los Angeles Blade.
Ocamb says she was recruited to the Media Relations position by Steve Ralls, with whom she worked when he served as communications director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and Immigration Equality.
“I was shocked when Steve reached out to me. Usually, reporters are remembered for the stories or products they produce, not the relationships with their counterparts. I think it’s so cool that Steve not only remembered me but suggested that I could assist these progressive attorneys in highlighting intersectionality and helping too-often forgotten people and communities better understand how Public Justice cases will help them,” says Ocamb.
“Public Justice’s litigation and advocacy impacts a diverse array of communities, and we increasingly see our work as being at the intersection with other movements for justice,” Steve Ralls, Director of External Affairs for Public Justice, tells the LA Blade. “Our Title IX litigation and advocacy, for example, also helps to advance LGBTQ equality, especially for transgender students.
The Public Justice Food Project, which advocates for a more sustainable and just food system, partners with rural community advocates to battle the scourge of industrial agriculture. And our advocacy on behalf of workers, including and especially essential frontline workers, helps to build and maximize the political and organizing power of Black, Indigenous, people of color and immigrant communities. And of course, there is significant overlap and meaningful engagement within and across each of those constituencies, too.”
As Public Justice’s case docket expands, the organization recognizes that their engagement with allied communities must also deepen and expand in meaningful ways, as well.
“Karen’s incredible career and her connections at the intersection of so many vibrant movements made her the perfect choice for helping Public Justice introduce our work within the communities we are serving, and hope to serve, and to use the media to help advance our shared goals,” Ralls says. “When I began working on the campaign to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ Gallup reported that 48% of Americans favored lifting the ban. By the time the law was gone, that number had grown to 89%.
That change in public opinion and subsequent change in the law was, in part, due to the power of storytelling. Few people in our community know how to shape and tell the stories of those battling injustice more eloquently or powerfully than Karen. We’re extraordinarily excited to add her talents to the Public Justice team.”
With the volatile and changing nature of media in today’s environment, there’s a possibility that Ocamb may not disappear completely from the LGBTQ press. “I still have to learn the ropes of my new job,” says Ocamb. “But given the economic difficulties faced by minority media in producing stories impacting their communities, perhaps I can write about the work these incredible progressive Public Justice lawyers are doing and provide that content to regional outlets as a free public service. I hope to come up with creative thinking to keep bending that arc towards justice for all.”
Remembering Bill LaVallee, 12 Step Stalwart and Raconteur
Gone, but never, ever forgotten
WEST HOLLYWOOD – “I have always been as authentic as I can be, even when it didn’t go over well with others,” reads a quote posted at the top of Bill LaValle’s Facebook page. That authenticity was always casually dressed in humor and humility with a flare of insight when needed.
His funny and sometimes meandering stories about his beloved family, his treatment of rhinestone Hollywood gossip like secret uncut diamonds — he’d been an 1960s actor who kissed Elizabeth Taylor — and his deep gratitude for loving friendships with Carrie Fisher and so many others made Bill LaVallee immanently lovable, huggable and a favorite raconteur wherever two or more gathered.
LaVallee was born on June 13, 1943 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, died March 7 in Los Angeles, and spread joy, love and sometimes snarky grace in between. He saved countless lives as an almost five-decades-long Eskimo for those seeking recovery from alcohol and substance abuse.
LaVallee also helped people die during the desolate days of AIDS. After spiritual guru Rev. Sandy Scott established late night visitation rights at local hospitals, LaVallee brought a few sponsees and an AA meeting to dying gay men in need of solace and love from their family of choice. Sometimes the well-meaning troupe would forget the Big Book and through inappropriate giggles, scour their memories for the words most professed to know by rote. Sometimes the meeting turned into a death watch with tears, laughter, stories and punching the bolus if such an end-of-life request was well-known.
Bill LaVallee’s generosity of spirit extended to Project Angel Food, for which he had volunteered at its inception in 1989. He later became a beneficiary while living at the L.A. LGBT Center-run Triangle Square Apartment complex.
On July 18, 2019, LaVallee received the 12,000,000 meal made and delivered by Project Angel Food, delivered by Reality TV star Lisa Vanderpump with PAF executive director Richard Ayoub.
According to a Facebook post from his granddaughter Cassidy Em: “Bill LaVallee began suffering strokes last year which ended him up in the hospital and over the last few months he had to get a stint in his heart and last week he fell and when he went into the hospital they had to do emergency brain surgery to remove pressure and drain fluids. I went to see him on Friday and everything was just a big questions mark. And now he’s gone.”
Gone, but never, ever forgotten.
Karen Ocamb is an award winning veteran journalist, the former news editor of the Los Angeles Blade & a longtime chronicler of LGBTQ+ lives in Southern California.
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