NYC Monument Will Honor Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Groundbreaking transgender activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson are getting a monument in New York City.

The monument honoring them will be placed in Greenwich Village, a block from the Stonewall Inn, city officials announced today, the Associated Press reports. It has yet to be commissioned.

Rivera and Johnson were key participants in the June 1969 uprising against police harassment at the club, an event credited with jump-starting the modern LGBTQ rights movement. “This was started by the street queens of that era, which I was part of, Marsha P. Johnson, and many others that are not here,” Rivera said in a speech delivered in 2001.

They were also founders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, which assisted homeless LGBTQ young people, and were active in the Gay Liberation Front. They fought for inclusion of trans people and people of color in the LGBTQ rights movement, which sometimes sought to exclude them. Johnson was African-American, and Rivera was of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent.

The monument to them is also a part of an effort to diversify the commemorations of the movement. A statue by artist George Segal, installed in 1992, depicts two men and two women, painted white, and not identifiable as particular people. “Critics have said the sculpture excludes transgender women and women of color,” The New York Times reports.

Chirlane McCray, New York City’s first lady, spoke of the monument’s role in inclusion. “The LGBTQ movement was portrayed very much as a white, gay male movement,” she told the Times. “This monument counters that trend of whitewashing the history.”

Al Michaels, a nephew of Johnson’s, told the paper his aunt might be amused at the idea of a monument to herself, but she would be proud of the progress it represented in the recognition of transgender people, with New York was “leading the world into the future.”

Johnson died under mysterious circumstances in 1992. Her body was pulled from the Hudson River, and her death was initially classified as a suicide, but authorities later deemed it “drowning from undetermined causes,” the Times notes. Rivera died of liver cancer in 2002.


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