Maine Man Who Made 900-Foot Flag to March in Boston Pride Parade 2019

The River of Pride Flag Blackstones 2006

By Dustin Wlodkowski

Click the link below to be taken to NBC Boston 10 to watch the interview.

A Maine man will be responsible for a big part of Boston’s Pride Parade — 900 feet of it to be exact.

That’s the length of the “River of Pride” flag, sewn together by Bishop McKechnie of Augusta.

For more than 10 weeks, McKechnie has been busy sewing, eight hours a day, to get the flag ready for Saturday.

“It’s a labor of love, we’ll just say that,” McKechnie explained.


He first had the idea to make an extremely large flag 13 years ago when customers at Blackstone’s, a well-known Portland bar, asked if they could be on the bar’s pride parade float.

“The clientele would come in and ask to be on the float,” he said. “It dawned on me [to] come up with something that would make the parade longer.”

That’s how, with limited sewing experience and support from his husband, David Hopkins, McKechnie created his first River of Pride flag with a length of 700 feet.

“This was my solution for people who felt unseen or unheard,” he explained.

As McKechnie put it, for the first time, anyone who didn’t belong to an organization or group with a float in the Portland Pride Parade could now belong to a new open-door group with no bar to entry.

A few uses later, the giant rainbow banner became 900 feet long and was used over and over in the Portland Pride Parade until 2017.

After a one-year hiatus, a friend put McKechnie in contact with Boston Pride.

The Massachusetts group jumped at the opportunity to use the flag made of a special shiny silk fabric, which McKechnie says has the price tag of “a nice car,” altogether.

A 200-foot Unity Flag will also make its way to Boston.

The separate flag sewn by McKechnie is meant to include people who don’t feel represented by the rainbow, like individuals who are non-binary.

“Some may feel they’re such a small sect inside the rainbow,” said McKechnie. “I created a brand new flag for those people.”

The Unity Flag uses all different kinds of swatches sews into one flag and has a multi-colored infinity symbol at its center.

It also has room for new colors to be added by anyone who feels they need a color not in the flag to be represented.

Having one of his epic flags in the Boston Pride Parade has been a dream of Bishop’s since the inception of his project that Hopkins said resulted in at least one “intense” needle accident.

But McKechnie, the one who actually had a needle go through his thumb, has never held one of his flags in a parade before.

That will change on Saturday.

“I’ll be marching in Boston. It’ll be my first time picking up the flag,” said McKechnie, who eschewed any type of title like “artist” or “creator,” saying it distracts from the togetherness he’s trying to foster.

“The flag doesn’t get its way down the parade route,” he said. “You make that happen.”

To clarify a few details from this news story:

The first 125 feet was sewn by Bishop and friends in 2006 along with 2007 to 2008 the addition 775 feet was added. The next 750 feet was sewn by Bishop alone in 2019. The 10 weeks included the 750 feet of The River of Pride Flag and 200 feet of The Unity Pride Flag.

‘Door, please!’: Sarajevo to host Bosnia’s first-ever LGBTQ pride parade

The River of Pride Sarajevo to host Bosnia’s first-ever LGBTQ pride parade

Sarajevo will host Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first gay pride parade on September 8, according to the country’s LGBTQ activists.

A group of 15 committee leaders of the initiative Bosnian-Herzegovinian (BiH) Pride March told members of the press the planned march will be a protest against inequality and the lack of equal access to public spaces for the LGBTI community.

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer.

“BiH finally gets its Pride March, a protest against inequality and violation of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer persons,” said Branko Ćulibrk, an activist and member of the organising committee of the first BiH Pride March.

“It is a fight against violence and a demand for access to public space equal to that of all other citizens who can organise protests.”

BiH is using the reference “Door, please!” as a slogan for the pride march.

The group says this expression is often heard in public transportation across Bosnia and Herzegovina. It also refers to opening the door of the proverbial closet that LGBTQ people are said to come out of.
The Organising Committee of BiH Pride March held a press conference today to announce the first BiH Pride March which is to take place on 8 September 2019 in

Activist Lejla Huremović said at the press conference that BiH is not only fighting for LGBTQ freedoms but for the freedoms of all persons and groups subjected to violence and who are excluded from society.

Huremović emphasized that LGBTQ persons in Bosnia are exposed to discrimination and violence on a daily basis, in their families, schools, public institutions and on the street.

Being gay in Bosnia and Herzegovina remained a crime until 1998 and no public pride events have taken place before now due to security concerns.

According to the NGO Amnesty International, social exclusion and discrimination among the LGBTQ community remains widespread in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The NGO says Bosnian police continue to fail in investigating acts of violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Although being gay is no longer a crime, households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

According to a 2015 poll by the Sarajevo Open Center (SOC), 51% of LGBTI people experienced some variety of discrimination.

Meet the Harlem Renaissance dancer who made sure lesbian history wasn’t forgotten

The River of Pride Mabel Hampton

Harlem Renaissance dancer, domestic worker, archivist, philanthropist, early lesbian activist; in her lifetime, Mabel Hampton was many, many things.

Born in 1902 in Winston- Salem, North Carolina, Hampton was just two months old when her mother died from poisoning, and she was sent to live with her grandmother. Tragically, her grandmother died in 1909 when Hampton was just seven years old, and she was forced to relocate to New York City, to live with an aunt and uncle in Greenwich village.

New York did not initially turn out to be a haven for Hampton. She ran away from home within a year of arriving, after being poorly treated by her family and raped by her uncle.

“My aunt went out one day, and he raped me,” she would later recall. “I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to leave here.’…So this day, I got tired of that. I went out with nothing on but a dress, a jumper dress, and I walked and walked.”

Hampton walked to a playground where Bessie White found her and took her under her wing. White took Hampton into her New Jersey home and refused to return her to an abusive situation. Hampton lived in White’s house until she was 17-years-old, when White passed away.

On her own at 17, Hampton was falsely accused of prostitution and spent two years in Bedford Hills Reformatory in Westchester County. She was put back in jail after neighbors told police she was attending women’s parties in New York City. After being released a second time, Haptom stayed in a community of women and worked as a dancer in Brooklyn’s seaside resort, Coney Island, for a women’s troupe.

Hampton spent the 1920s dancing in all-black productions and private parties with stars like Jackie “Moms” Mabley and Ethel Waters. She danced in a chorus line at Harlem’s Garden of Joy nightclub, which catered to a primarily gay and lesbian clientele. She eventually became an actress at the Cherry Lane theater.

The artistic, cultural, and political setting of the Harlem Renaissance gave Hampton access to an entire gay and lesbian community. Her recollections of New York’s lesbian parties in the late 1910s and 1920s would provide a window into gay life in New York City, and recount the terms lesbians and queer women used to refer to themselves. In her recorded oral history, Hampton said the women of her time used to identify themselves as “bulldykers and ladylovers, studs and butch.”

When the Great Depression hit, and the Harlem Renaissance ended, Hampton worked as a domestic, cleaning the houses of wealthy white New York City families. When asked why she traded the chorus line for work as a cleaning lady, Hampton replied, “I like to eat.”

In her essay, “Excerpts from the Oral History of Mabel Hampton,” Joan Nestle, with whom Hampton would co-found the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City, wrote that Hampton was asked on many occasions “When did you come out?”

Her usually brusque answer was, “What do you mean? I was never in!”

To the dismay of her friends, Hampton dressed in masculine clothes most of her life. Her appearance adversely impacted her efforts to find better employment, but she was knowledgable and persistent, and never stopped trying to find middle-class positions. She registered with the United States Department of Labor only to be told, “We will get in touch with you as soon as there is a suitable opening.”

In 1932, Hampton met Lillian Foster, whom she later described as “dressed like a duchess.” Decades later, Foster recalled, “Forty-four years ago I met Mabel. We was a wonderful pair. I’ll never forget it… We haven’t been separated since in our whole life. Death will separate us. Other than that I don’t want it to end.”

The two referred to themselves as “Mabel and Lillian Hampton.” They let the rest of the world assume they were sisters, which allowed for displays of affection and afforded some recognition of their intimate relationship.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Foster came from a southern background, like Hampton, but also belonged to a large family. She worked her whole life as a presser in white-owned dry cleaning shops. Years spent laboring in poorly ventilated rooms filled with chemical fumes took its toll on Foster’s health, but together she and Hampton created a household that was a warm and loving environment for their diverse community of friends.

Hampton and Foster got through their early years together with home businesses, rent parties, and the help of friends. Hampton did daywork for a local family and spent her free time surrounded by lesbian contemporaries and working in the community.

She volunteered for the New York Defense Recreation Committee collecting cigarettes and refreshments for Black soldiers at the Harlem USO and served as an air raid warden. Despite her meager earnings, she contributed to the Martin Luther King Memorial Fund and gave to LGBT organizations.

When a fire destroyed their apartment in 1976, Hampton and Foster came to live with Nestle and her partner Deborah Edel in Brooklyn until they could get a place of their own. The residence would also become the home of the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

After 46 years together, Foster died in 1978. Suddenly alone, but surrounded by the support of her friends in the community, Hampton remained active and involved in issues important to her. She marched in the first national gay and lesbian civil rights march in Washington, DC, appeared in the films “Silent Pioneers” and “Before Stonewall,” and spent her final years helping to catalog the lives of Black lesbians in the 20th century with the Lesbian Herstory Archives.

Hampton died peacefully on October 26, 1989.