We might as well talk about it . . . the elephant on the flag pole outside of Philadelphia City Hall . . . because everyone is talking about it in private but very few are willing to express their view in public.
Let me just say from the start, I, like many diverse people I have spoken to, do not like it for many reasons, but I’ll get to that shortly.
For those unfamiliar with the controversy here in Philadelphia, let me fill you in. It appears that the office of LGBTQ+ affairs made a unilateral decision, with zero input from the community at large, and apparently in secret, negotiated and planned the altering of the international symbol of our community, the Rainbow Flag, by adding a black and brown strip to represent LGBTQ+ people of color.
This seems to have been a goal of Amber Hikes, the Director of LGBTQ+ Affairs, since she took the leadership of the office over from Nellie Fitzpatrick. Hikes posted a comment on Facebook on June 7 that reads, “tomorrow is the launch of a project I’ve been working on since I set foot in the Office of LGBT Affairs three months ago. Tomorrow afternoon, Philadelphia will be the site of the world debut of a brand-new Pride flag and we’re raising it at City Hall!”
From an article in the PGN we learn that the idea of this flag came from the Philadelphia-based advertising agency, Tierney, who approached Hikes and the Office of LGBT Affairs with the new design.
So, the first question arises, who had the idea first? Hikes claims it has been a project she has “been working on since I set foot in the Office of LGBT Affairs three months ago.” But the PGN states that Tierney approached Hikes with the idea of the new flag. We can’t have it both ways. Either Hikes had the idea first and brought it to Tierney, or Tierney was in communication with Hikes prior to her official appointment.
Hikes, with approval from Mayor Kenney, took our internationally recognized symbol of LGBTQ+ inclusiveness and racially politicized, and ultimately polarized what was a symbol of the totality of our community.
Hikes responds to the objections to the added strips with the following, “If the recent conversations regarding this symbol demonstrate anything, it’s that CLEARLY, we have so much work to do as a community. A quick reminder to white LGBTQ folks who still struggle understanding the importance of highlighting racial inclusion in our modern queer movement: Making intentional efforts to include historically marginalized communities doesn’t oppress or disenfranchise majority communities. You understand that argument when it comes to your LGBTQ identity so try applying it here.”
If this was a white only disagreement with the added strips then perhaps Hikes has a point, however, I have heard and read many comments from people of color who strongly disagree with what the City of Philadelphia has done to our community flag.
Hikes believes that “this symbol will usher in a new wave of deeper inclusion, unity, and solidarity. With more color and more pride,” but this doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
I hear great division over this, and the lack of respect shown to the community at large by failing to get input from the larger constituency does not look good for Hikes. In her role to represent all the members of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+, she “promised accountability, transparency, and accessibility when I took this job and I plan on keeping all my promises.”
Well, we are holding you accountable for your actions! Why was the decision to racially politicize the symbol of the LGBTQ+ community not transparent to the larger community?
Hikes, in her role as Director of the Mayor’s office of LGBTQ+ affairs, with probable good intentions, has forced a new symbol on our community in the form of a racially charged flag rather than the inclusive symbol of the Rainbow Flag, which represents all LGBTQ+ people, not just the white members as proponents of this new flag would have us believe.
Hikes, and those who plotted to change our community flag for their own political reasons, should be ashamed of themselves, and I question whether Hikes can lead to community as a whole, or will she unilaterally push her own political agenda. I guess time will tell.