Flags fly for motorists

Mike Dinoffria, Berkeley Daily Planet
Friday June 14, 2002

No, that is not an embassy or a United Nation’s chapter on the southwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Parker Street. But the flags from around the world that hang above the sidewalk there could give that idea. 

Philip V. Hull is the man behind the rotating display. A couple of years ago Hull installed a flag pole at his residence to showcase some of the flags from his extensive collection. Deciding that one flag pole would not do justice to the 100 or so flags he has collected over the past 15 years, he installed 12 more along the outer fence of his yard.  

The result is a colorful tribute to the cultural richness and diversity of the people of Berkeley.  

Even the most knowledgeable world-traveler might be stumped by some of the featured banners. The current lineup includes the flags of Hawaii, New Zealand, Nepal, Papa New Guinea, Whales, Palestine, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Lebanon and the European Union.  

Hull, a psychology professor at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, is a world-traveler, himself. His collection consists in largely of flags representing nations where he spent a significant amount of time because "the people were good to me." Hull has quite a few to choose from in this category. Former residencies include Jordan, Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Fiji, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia, Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.  

He flies the flags to draw awareness to oppressed people including East Timor, in the past, and is currently displaying the Palestinian flag. The latter has drawn the ire of some passers-by. Hull finds it surprising that "even in Berkeley it is dangerous to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.” But he will continue to do so. Recently Hull bought a Kwanzaa flag that he plans to fly next year during Kwanzaa’s holiday. 

Some of the flags he chose based purely on the artistry in the flag. He particularly likes the Welsh flag, the design of which features a dragon. He lists the flags of Papa New Guinea, Fiji and the Costa Rica as among his favorites.  

Hull credits Joseph Charles as inspiration for his efforts. Charles, who recently died, became well-known for waving at commuters during rush hour traffic while wearing his trademark bright yellow gloves. Charles’ death this March was lamented by the community, who came to know him as “Waving Man of Berkeley.” Hull hopes that now his display will ease commuters in a similar way.  

Flag day is approaching on June 14. It marks the anniversary of the day in 1777, when Congress formally adopted the Stars and Stripes as the national flag. An American flag is not among Hull’s current display. When asked if there will be one on Friday, Hull replied that he is undecided. You will have to drive by to find out.