PGN Exclusive: City’s new rainbow flag to include black and brown stripes

Amber Hikes, the city’s director of LGBT Affairs, said she teared up the first time she saw the new rainbow flag, which will be presented at City Hall Thursday. The new flag will expand on creator Gilbert Baker’s original design by including black and brown stripes to symbolize the LGBT community’s racial diversity.

“Seeing an image like this flag instills so much pride in me as a queer black woman,” Hikes said. “When I see the flag, I feel like I see myself.”

Tierney, a Philadelphia-based advertising agency, approached Hikes and the Office of LGBT Affairs with the new design.

Hikes said the extra stripes are “simple, but remarkable.”

“The new design is a symbolic representation of Philadelphia’s commitment to centering the experiences, contributions, activism and dedication of black and brown members of our community,” Hikes said. “To me, this flag says: ‘We see you. We honor you. We celebrate you. You’re not just a part of us. You are us.’”

For the flag-raising ceremony, Hikes said the office chose people of color as presenters and performers.

“I feel that when we celebrate Pride Month and the LGBT community at large, we focus heavily on the same voices, identities and experiences,” Hikes said. “This year, I want to celebrate people who are too often left out of our narratives. I’m really excited to use this event to highlight people of transgender and gender-nonconforming experience [and] highlight youth and people of color for their contributions to the LGBTQ-liberation movement.”

Hikes said she believes this flag is “historic on so many levels” and will expand beyond the city.

“This is not going to just be in Philadelphia,” Hikes said. “This is going to take the nation by storm. I believe that very deeply. This is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate not just Pride but also the community members whose voices and experiences that so often get overlooked. To me, this is a chance to stop saying ‘We’re inclusive’ and to actually begin showing it. More importantly, this flag is a step toward healing for our community and this genuine unity that so many of us are saying we want.”

Hikes added that, while the new flag won’t necessarily end racism and discrimination, its symbolism is “a massive step in that direction.”

“We as a country and as a community, we have a long road to keep those goals but this flag and this event is a start and a commitment.”

The inaugural Pride Month Kick-Off, which will include the unveiling of the new flag, will be held 3:30-5 p.m. June 8 in the North Apron of City Hall, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. The ceremony will include remarks from Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and Councilman Derek Green. Community members — including Kaleia Brown, Wordz the poet emcee, Denice Frohman and the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus — will participate in song, dance and spoken-word performances.