The Pride Flag in Gwinn Community Schools
Where are the Adults?
In 2021 St. Petersburg Florida middle school students scuffled over pride flags at lunch. Muskegon City Hall in Michigan will cease to fly any flags, including the Pride Flag during Pride Month when they previously did, along with all other non-government related flags after the Court ruled it was a free-speech violation by Muskegon City Hall to deny a request to fly a Christian flag. Rockford school board candidate Craig Ladyman of Grand Rapids shared a swastika shaped pride flag on Truth Social. He had this to say about his candidacy on Facebook:
From Texas to Ohio to Boston and Michigan, Pride flags are being labeled political. Fearful parents are making complaints. Students are getting into confrontations and the students that need these symbols public are losing out. You might be a student caught in the middle of this, know that adults are often wounded children lashing out from their own dark corner of hell.
Since this is a blog about art let’s get into the art part.
What is this Terrifying Pride Flag that the Youth Must Be Saved From?
It is an utterly terrifying rainbow.
Which is infinitely better than the up-side down pink triangle from WW2 concentration camps where 100,000 gay prisoners were held and an estimated 65,000 were killed. That was one symbol used by the Gay Community prior to the Pride Flag. The first Pride Flag was created by Gilbert Baker, flag maker and artist, during the Harvey Milk era. (Harvey Milk, the openly gay politician and martyr). The original 8 flag colors stood for: pink = sex, red = life, orange = healing, yellow = sunlight, green = nature, turquoise = magic + art, indigo = serenity, and violet = spirit.
Who was Gilbert Baker?
Gilbert Baker, born in 1951, grew up in Kansas. He stood out in his conservative community for having interests in fashion. He joined the army and faced homophobia. When Gilbert was stationed in San Francisco he found the counterculture movement. In 1978, with encouragement from Harvey Milk and help from friends, the first Rainbow Flags were flown for San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade. Following this Baker’s career as an artist and flag creator took off.
Why Do We Care?
In the Gwinn Community School’s Mission and Vision statement they declare they will provide a safe, supportive environment while instilling compassion. How is this accomplished with Board Members treating a marginalized group’s Flag symbolizing joy and liberation as Political propaganda meant to indoctrinate their children? I’ll tell you, it doesn’t create a supportive environment. Faculty may not feel they need to hang a Pride Flag to be supportive of students, but why then have classrooms been decked out in posters and symbols forever. Because symbols have power. They have the power convey a thousand ideas in line and color. The Pride Flag cannot be allowed to be brought down to the level of political flags like the Gadsden Flag, also spotted in the Gwinn Schools.
The difference? I cannot believe I’m comparing the two. The Gadsden Flag, the Don’t Tread On Me Flag, originated with the Revolutionary War. More recently though, it’s been associated with Libertarians, the Tea Party Movement and militias. It has always been a political flag, though it’s symbolism has changed drastically in the last years as the alt right terrorists adopted it. However, without looking it up, I knew none of this, I was under the impression it came along with the Civil War because it’s often the same people flying the Confederate Battle Flag. The original meaning of the Gadsden Flag would be in some conflict with the Confederate Battle Flag. All this pales in light of anecdotal information that the Superintendent of the Gwinn Schools recklessly compared the Pride Flag to a Nazi Flag. A flag, a political propaganda flag, under which tens of thousands of people suffered and died for being gay.
Which is to say the Adults in the Gwinn Schools are not being the Adults in the room. Throwing the word inclusive around doesn’t make it so. Removing Pride Flags and labeling them as political is detrimental to the groups they were created to help, especially elevating the Flag to the same category as Nazi, Gadsden and the Confederate Battle Flag.
When I watch these videos, I see and hear a board divided by politics. I ask what is in the interest of the students, not what is easiest for the board and the faculty?▪️
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