Michael Petrelis hopes to also receive donations of other Pride themed items in time for their LGBT celebration.
On a recent trip to Cuba, San Francisco LGBT activist Michael Petrelis noticed something missing in their gay community, Pride flags. He would like to change that and has started a project called Arcoiris Para Cuba/Rainbows For Cuba asking communities to donate their gently used or unused flags and Pride items.
Petrelis says he spent just over two weeks in Cuba and the lack of rainbow flags was a bit alarming. “I saw only four of them on display,” he said. “One was at the queer beach Mi Cayito. It was tattered but still waving proudly. But on the final day of my visit, it was suddenly missing.”
His hope is to bring all of the donated items with him when he returns to the country ahead of their version of Pride. He says rainbow flags are a universal sign of unity and hope; without them, the Cuban queer community is at a loss. He asking the community to contribute to the cause in an effort to bring the glorious colors of Pride to Cuba.
“Funding is needed for the purchase of thousands of light-weight, high-quality rainbow flags, wristbands, necklaces and other jewelry, and stickers. My plan is to distribute gratis to LGBT persons and allies in Havana.”
Petrelis wants to ship some of the items ahead of his next visit, bringing more with him personally in a large piece of luggage up to the allotted 22-pounds.
“The flags will be there in time for May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, (IDAHO) which features a massive march in Havana, preceded by a week of lectures, parties and film screenings.”
Cuba does its best to educate citizens on HIV/AIDS. Petrelis being a co-founder of ACT UP, prevention and education are close to his heart. While in Havana he met with officials at Centro Nacional de Prevencion de las ITS/VIH/SIDA and toured the community acting as an unofficial ambassador between countries.
“I engaged with owners and workers at gay-friendly cafes, bars, a bike rental shop and other businesses. I chatted with many everyday LGBT Cubans,” he says Arcoiris Para Cuba/Rainbows For Cuba will build on his initial outreach.
His budget for this project is $1,500 which will include other Pride accessories including rainbow flag themed jewelry, and other items including capes, hats, scarves, and stickers. He has set aside $200 of that budget for shipping and handling expenses.
George F. Ridgely, Jr. of San Francisco Pride has already promised to donate some retired flags that were used along Market Street during SF Pride, "I love that you are doing this," said Ridgley. "I really want to hear stories of Cuba when you return."
As Pride season begins in the United States and rainbow flags line the streets, it's easy to forget that other LGBT communities in less fortunate countries can't be as colorful.
“It’s crucial to provide Rainbow Flags to Cuban LGBT people, strengthening our connections with them and supporting their community. Consider supporting this solidarity effort. Please make a donation today.”
To donate to this cause or more information on how you can help, click HERE.