photo by James McNamara

Lynn Segerblom, who chose the material and hand dyed each stripe of white cotton muslin for the original flags, will appear at a public panel at the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles on Sunday March 17, as part of a panel discussing the iconic international LGBTQ+ symbol that the flags have become since their creation.

She also announced this week that a GoFundMe® Campaign has been started for her to continue making similar gay flags for presentation to various LGBTQ groups as well as the headquarters of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and one for the Transgender Marshall of the LA Gay Pride parade in June. The link for her GFM campaign: https://bit.ly/2Ha62vR.

Originally called Faerie Argyle Rainbow at that time, and a member of the Angels of Light Theatre Company, Segerblom along with Gilbert Baker headed up the Decorations Committee for the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Committee, which produced the parade and celebration in San Francisco.

A call was put out to the artists of San Francisco to make flags for that year’s Gay Freedom Day celebration. Another friend James McNamara, a fashion designer, tailor and photographer, then joined Faerie (Lynn) and Gilbert, and the three of them joined together to create the Rainbow Flags.

With several years of experience tie-dyeing garments and preparing fabric for designers, the 21-year-old Segerblom spent weeks preparing the heavy cotton muslin and dyeing it in large trash cans on the roof at 330 Grove, a gay community center, washing and drying the panels carefully before and after dyeing them, prior to them being ironed and sewn together in a artist loft workspace behind the Top Floor Gallery.

The group of three friends, Segerblom, McNamara, Baker, at times living with one another, gathered others to help them out with the effort. Lee Mentley, one of two directors in charge of the Top Floor Gallery, which was housed inside 330 Grove, provided support and encouragement to the project. He also chaired the Eureka Noe Valley Artist Coalition, whose artists made up a bulk of the Decorations Committee.

It was a group effort with 30 artists helping out on the two larger 40’ x 60’ flags, as both Baker and McNamara sewed the panels together with only three Singer sewing machines that Segerblom, Baker and McNamara owned. Segerblom also helped with the sewing, once the dyeing was complete. In fact, historian Glenne McElhinney was one of those volunteers, rinsing the dyed fabric and helping to move the materials and finished flags about in her truck; she was excited to help since she had served on the parade committee the year before and decided to again volunteer, helping out with various preparations.

The two larger flags were flown in the Civic Center’s U.N. Plaza on Sunday June 25, 1978, a beautiful day, just months before Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone were assassinated that fall. The decorations committee artists also contributed approximately 18 smaller individual flags that were raised around the reflecting pool in the civic center area.  James McNamara and others photographed the flags that day.  They were then stored at 330 Grove for a few years, being flown on other occasions from time to time. Sadly, the original flags were not preserved, and are presumed lost over time and their location today, if any, is not known.

Afterwards, Lynn Segerblom spent about a decade in San Francisco, traveling to Japan frequently, learning the age-old Katazome technique that the Japanese use to dye their kimono fabric. Afterwards, she relocated to Los Angeles, where she still resides today.

Gilbert Baker, artist and activist, continued to create other rainbow flags and art projects in New York. In 1994, he created the mile-long Rainbow Flag carried that year in the New York Gay Pride Parade. Baker was honored two years ago when he died at age 65.  His memoir publishes later this year.

James McNamara, photographer and fashion designer, who had studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, returned to the East Coast living in New Jersey, where he died in 1999.

He left a wealth of images, mostly negatives and Kodachrome slides that he had taken at the time of the making of the flags. They show Gilbert, Faerie and himself (occasionally since he was most often found behind the camera) along with other friends, raising the flags and enjoying the parade festivities.
Via Press Release