West Hollywood’s photogenic rainbow crosswalks on Santa Monica Boulevard will be getting some new stripes to reflect racial diversity, and at least one will be painted to honor the transgender community.
The existing walkways, first painted in 2012, feature six stripes, reflecting the version of artist Gilbert Baker’s LGBTQ Pride Flag that has been used most frequently since 1979. Those rainbow crosswalks will be repainted with two new stripes, one black and one brown, to call attention to the importance of LGBTQ+ people of color.
Amber Hikes, a queer, Black social justice activist and the ACLU’s chief equity and inclusion officer, worked with officials in Philadelphia on a campaign to add additional stripes to the Pride flags on display in that city, and was among the advocates for expanding West Hollywood’s rainbows.
“The symbols we use, the representations we highlight, matters. It matters to people who have not always seen themselves in West Hollywood,” Hikes wrote in a statement reported by Q Voice News. “Updating your flag proclaims that Black lives more than matter. You’re saying that queer Black and brown representation is who we are, that Black and brown trans lives are precious and ought to be celebrated, that centering the leadership and voices of those who are impacted is the only way we will arrive at collective liberation.”
For some in West Hollywood leadership, the devastation that the pandemic has wrought on communities of color in particular added to the importance of the redesign.
“The reality is, during this pandemic, the mortality rate for Black and brown lives is absolutely higher than every other person and it is incumbent upon us as the progressive city that we are to do everything that we can to recognize Black and brown lives,” city council member Sepi Shyne said at a meeting on Monday.
At least one crosswalk will also be painted in the pastel colors of the Transgender Pride Flag, designed in 1999 by artist Monica Helms.