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How the Rainbow Flag Became a Symbol of LGBTQ Pride

- [Cleve] In many, many different cultures,

the rainbow appears as a symbol of hope, beauty, love.

In many ways the rainbow flag

might be more important than ever.

- [Narrator] Our story begins in San Francisco

in the late 1960s.

- [Cleve] Young gay men, lesbian women were arriving

from all over the country and all around the world,

many of them fleeing places where they were

experiencing incredible violence and repression.

- [Narrator] One of those men was Gilbert Baker.

- [Cleve] Everyone was aware of Gilbert.

He was extremely dramatic.

I think the operative word would be flamboyant.

- [Narrator] That's Cleve Jones.

He wrote this book.

- [Cleve] When We Rise, My Life in the Movement.

- [Narrator] Cleve and Gilbert met as two young activists

planning the 1977 San Francisco Gay Pride event.

- [Cleve] Back then it was called Gay Freedom Day.

We were all part of a circle of activists

who were talking about the need for a new symbol

that would connect us all.

- [Narrator] And one day, Gilbert told Cleve

about an idea he had come up with.

- [Cleve] He showed me the drawings he'd done,

and I saw the power of it right away.

- [Narrator] And each color had special significance.

One color meant love, another was--

- [Cleve] Honestly I think he kind of made that up

after the fact.

It came to him as he said "from the sky."

- [Narrator] With a team of volunteers including Cleve,

Gilbert sewed and dyed the flags in preparation

for Gay Freedom Day.

- [Cleve] When those first flags

went up these enormous poles,

and the wind took them and lifted them up

against the blue sky, it was really breathtaking.

Gilbert and I stood there and watched and we knew

that everybody that was there

was looking up at those rainbows and knowing

at that exact moment, this now would be our symbol.

To take this beautiful symbol from nature

and say this is the symbol of these people

who were called unnatural,

who were required to live in the shadows,

he really devoted his life not only to making flags

but banners.