KC PrideFest 2019 has come and gone, but one voice in Kansas City’s startup community is advocating for a year-around symbol of LGBTQ+ support.
“I want something that’s going to be more permanent than a sticker on the streetcar,” said Brandon Love, referencing the recently unveiled KC streetcar that sports a wraparound rainbow design. “That’s the basis of ‘Rainbow Walk.’ It’s permanently saying, ‘The gay community is here to stay.’ We’re not just a bunch of partiers, we are people who have died and fought for rights.”
Love — founder of Crumble Co. and co-owner of Alchemy Bath Co., two Kansas City hygiene and aromatics companies — is the driving force behind Rainbow Walk: Love’s vision for a non-alcoholic, non-sexualized gathering point for area LGBTQ+ youth.
At the core of Rainbow Walk’s mission is advocacy for a rainbow-colored crosswalk, located in either the downtown or Crossroads areas, similar to projects seen in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and other large cities. In 2018, for example, San Antonio installed a six-color rainbow-themed walkway, according to Texas Public Radio, with $12,000 in funding from the city and $19,000 raised privately.
Love doesn’t want Rainbow Walk to be confused with just another pride movement; in fact, mainstream area pride gatherings are a source of frustration for the entrepreneur, Love said.
“Pride Month and the Rainbow Walk project … they are very unrelated, in my mind,” the 23-year-old entrepreneur said. “Pride Month has become very commercialized, and that’s fine. Capitalizing on something like gay rights is important for us to be normalized in the media — that matters. But outside of the sex, outside of the alcohol, outside of the parties, there still is a community of people who are coming of age and don’t need any of that in their life. They need love, they need communal activities, and that’s what I am trying to launch with the Rainbow Walk.”
While the concept is currently an organization-under-construction, Love is prepared for resistance; advocacy for similar projects in the past have been stonewalled, Love said.
“We’ve explored working with Mayor Sly James, and we’ve had emails read and ignored repeatedly,” Love said. “And then seeing [the city] come out with all this Pride Month stuff is annoying, because it’s all temporary — all for the month.”
Painting crosswalks in rainbow colors would violate guidelines set by the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), said Maggie Green, KCMO public works information officer.
Click here to further explore MUTCD details.
“KCMO would consider implementing any kind of crosswalk as long as it was approved by the [U.S. Department of Transportation,]” Green said. “However, based on current guidance from FHWA and MUTCD, rainbow colored sidewalks are unlikely to be approved, as the standard outlines only earth tone colors are permitted. Our goal is to keep the pedestrians safe and implement consistent traffic control devices used across the country.”
Jolie Justus, District 4 Kansas City Councilwoman and KCMO mayoral candidate, has expressed support for the project despite public works’ misgivings.
“It’s my understanding that individuals have reached out and been told that this violates certain uniform traffic regulations,” Justus said. “I’m confident that we can do this in such a way that is compliant with the best practices in uniform traffic safety. If there are issues that come up, I know we can get around them by working collaboratively to make sure that we are addressing safety and accessibility concerns. There’s no reason why we can’t do both at the same time.”
In San Antonio’s case, the rainbow crosswalk was constructed using colored plastic — a few millimeters thick and applied with heat. A white portion framing the rainbow used reflective material, which is required by law, according to Texas Public Radio.
As such avenues are explored, Love is considering startup-style ways to create community and spread awareness through such guerrilla activities as crosswalk rainbow chalk-bombing.
“I want a rainbow walk that is permanent, but until then, I would love to do chalk bombings where we have communities of LGBT youth — and anyone who wants to attend, really — chalk bomb these rainbow crosswalks across the city,” Love said. “We need non-drinking and non-sexualized activities that bring the gay community together.”
Check here for updates on Rainbow Walk’s progress.