A New Rainbow Peace Flag Continues Message of Unity

Jacqui Morton
Issue Date: 
November, 2019
Article Body: 

A reimagined version of the Rainbow Peace Flag, originally known as an international antiwar symbol, has become a familiar sight in many Natick neighborhoods and beyond, thanks to a group of open-hearted and generous residents. It was soon after a series of violent events around the globe and the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, in 2016, that Maggie Sky of Roots & Wings Yoga and Healing Arts first began distributing rainbow flags that she ordered online, sensing the need for a communal response to such horrific violence. “I thought I would just buy some and give them away,” she says. But as Natick residents hung the first box of 100 flags around town, they donated toward the cost of Maggie’s vision for a second box of 100 flags, which was distributed within two months of the project’s start.
As the meaning of the rainbow flag has grown beyond its message of peace, to symbolize inclusivity and the championing of rights for the LGBTQ+ community, it was sad that within just a short time of the flags’ initial distribution, one at the home of Cari and Lauri Ryding was vandalized while they were away on vacation. The response, of course, was that their neighbors, and many other Natick residents, expressed their commitment to an open an accepting community. And yes, more flags were needed. Maggie ordered them and neighbors began displaying them proudly. Within just days there were close to 50 flags on the streets around Cari and Lauri’s Strawberry Hill home, drawing more interest locally and an inquiry from WBZ.
“It can be a very sensitive thing when you are a minority in some way to do something visual at your home,” Sky says of the family whose story then went viral, shared by outlets such as CNN, the Washington Post, Upworthy, and the New York Times. “It took them some time to decide to hang that flag,” she says, “And after they decided they would talk about it publicly, we couldn’t order flags fast enough for all of the people that wanted to show their support.” It was then that Maggie teamed up with Ian Mevorach, Pastor at the Common Street Spiritual Center, which started collecting donations for the flag effort in an official way. Quickly, there were about 1,000 flags, hung by residents, schools, and businesses in Metro-West.
Around that time, Virginia Fitzgerald, a Natick artist, approached Maggie to discuss her desire to design a new rainbow peace flag for this initiative. The result was a beautiful flag and another distribution of 1,000 flags, and 1,000 more. And, there was some feedback from the community, that was heard and received by Maggie, Virginia, Ian and another member of the core group that is behind the communal response in Natick, Vicky Guest of the First Congregational Church. The feedback resonated with them, that the new rainbow flag was well… very white.
“The lettering of the word PEACE was white, and we agreed with what we heard; we needed a flag that more explicitly demonstrates diversity and eliminates whiteness,” Maggie shared. Virginia, with feedback from the group and other key community members, redesigned the flag once more, with an addition of four skin tones to the rainbow colors; the switch from vertical stripes to horizontal to eliminate any hierarchy; and PEACE in black lettering, not white. The current iteration was introduced in June of this year, and the project updated the popular magnets as seen on many cars around town as well.
Maggie reports that there has been more positive response than negative, though there have been further acts of vandalism in Natick. “For the most part it’s just cool to see people coming together. There have been neighborhoods that have said we want 40 flags,” she says, “We’ve received very powerful testimony as well – people writing to say they came out to their family, or chose to move to Natick, because of this flag.”
Through both designs, more than 6,000 flags and more than 600 magnets have been distributed. Maggie and her colleagues continue to be grateful for donations that make the ongoing distribution of each order of possible, now arriving in boxes of 1,000. Members of the community can visit https://chuffed.org/project/the-rainbow-peace-flag-project to show their support, get a flag, and learn more about the project.