The Pride Flag in Gwinn Community Schools

Where are the Adults?

We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that.

Gilbert Baker

The rainbow flag is a symbol of freedom and liberation that we made for ourselves.

Gilbert Baker

When I was young, they thought I was from outer space. I was the only gay person they probably knew, and they struggled with that. Everybody knew I was gay. They just didn’t want to talk about it.

Gilber Baker

The reason the rainbow flag endures is because people own it. It means something to them.

Gilber Baker

When I fell in love, all the shame and guilt I carried with me for years suddenly vanished

Gilbert Baker

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:

“While COVID exposed a great deal of the shenanigans going on in schools, there are still many who don’t understand the extent of how the political and sexual agenda is being pushed down from the very top and pulled through with the help of some activists in schools. Parents need to know their children are in danger! Between social media influences and activists who play “teacher” in schools, these children are influenced to accept the agendas pushed down under the guise of “equality” and question genders and sexuality at a very young age! Pair that with the fact that these activists can have conversations with your children about gender confusion/pronouns/etc, and they are never required to tell you about it! Who is the parent here? Children are also being taught revisionist history which has changed historical events to align with critical race theory and create more victims and oppressors in our children based on race – instead of just teaching the facts, addressing the horror of the events and recognizing that the topics covered were a different time in history and we are not guilty of the sins of our ancestors. But we can use the important lessons learned to unite and to move forward and ensure these events or actions never happen again…and that my tax dollars are not being used to take away the innocence of our children by exposing them to a provocative sexual agenda at a young age.”

Craig Ladyman, Rockford school board candidate

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?

Visibility saves lives.

Through a safe and caring environment with supportive community partnerships Gwinn Area Community Schools provides a challenging and personalized education for every student.

Gwinn Area Community Schools will prepare our students to be productive global citizens while instilling honesty, loyalty, perseverance, and compassion.

Mission & Vision Gwinn Area public Schools

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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Oops! That’s mine. All images on this site belong to Taryn Okesson©️