Why Marsha P. Johnson Is Being Remembered During Pride — And Police Brutality Protests
Though it is honored frequently during Pride festivities, Johnson’s legacy as a Black advocate for transgender rights, who fought against police brutality, is particularly pertinent amid the recent wave of protests across the country.
The start of Pride Month has converged with both the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide demonstrations protesting police brutality, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.
Though June is typically a time of celebration and parading in the streets, Pride events around the world have been cancelled to slow the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, civil unrest has erupted around the country as people demand police accountability and justice for Floyd, who died after being choked by a Minneapolis police officer.
To galvanize people to act against racial injustice, while also celebrating the history of Pride, many online are asking people to remember Marsha P. Johnson, a Black advocate for transgender individuals whose actions helped ignite the LGBTQ+ rights movement. Though it is honored frequently during Pride festivities, Johnson’s legacy as a Black LGBTQ+ activist, who fought against police brutality, is particularly pertinent as protesters around the U.S. (and world) desperately call for an end to systemic racism and attacks on Black communities by law enforcement.
Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, threw the first brick at the stonewall riots & Stormé DeLarverie, a black butch lesbian, threw the first punch. these BLACK women risked their lives to fight for lgbtq+ rights so please fight for theirs. without them there would be no pride pic.twitter.com/DNK8bsT881— best sapphics in the world (@bestsapphics) June 1, 2020
Because Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, and countless other LGBTQ+ people had the courage to stand up for their rights, we now celebrate #PrideMonth. Those pivotal events showed what we know to be true to this day: no one should be left to fight alone.— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 1, 2020
Johnson, who died in 1992 at the age of 46, was a prominent LGBTQ+ civil rights defender and one of the central figures in the Stonewall Uprising — a movement that took off after a group of LGBTQ+ individuals stood up against a police raid at New York City’s Stonewall Inn in 1969. Johnson also co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a political collective that also provided housing for queer youth and sex workers experiencing homelessness, with fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera.
Since conventional Pride festivities aren’t on this year's calendar, many are encouraging others to celebrate instead by revisiting the history of the movement, which Johnson and other LGBTQ+ women of color helped start.
Protests led by Black & Brown activists including Sylvia Rivera & Marsha P. Johnson gave us #Pride. The violence against our Black, Brown, Trans, & Immigrant communities must end. #BlackLivesMatter #NoBodyIsIllegal #TransRightsAreHumanRights #LoveIsLove pic.twitter.com/gY51NFDdJP— Sara Ramirez (@SaraRamirez) June 1, 2020
Johnson’s legacy is also being used to inspire people to stand up against racial injustice in the U.S., which has once again been underscored by the deaths of innocent Black victims of police brutality.
happy pride month! we must remember it was marsha p. johnson, a black trans woman, that made where we are today possible. the first pride was a riot and so we must stand with #BLACK_LIVES_MATTERS and protestors just how they stood with us. nothing will change if we don't pic.twitter.com/XDBkxtJhFj— 𝐣𝐞𝐬𝐬. ☆ (@LESBIANROBlN) May 31, 2020
Today marks the beginning of Pride month. As we seek to commemorate 50 years of our history, we must remember that the first Pride started as a riot led by people of color who sought an end to police brutality and oppression. We stand with #BlackLivesMatter - pic.twitter.com/OY0xz9AWYM— LA Pride (@lapride) June 1, 2020
The queer community owes a debt of gratitude to the Black and brown trans women who started a riot at Stonewall in 1969. If you're happy to celebrate Pride but have a problem with riots in MN, go sit down and be quiet for a while.— Kate Cochrane (@katebcochrane) May 28, 2020
To reaffirm the city’s support of the LGBTQ+ community, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in February that he will direct the State Parks Commissioner to rename Brooklyn’s East River State Park after Johnson. Chirlane McCray also launched She Built NYC in 2018 to introduce more statues of women to the five boroughs, and said that a monument to Johnson and Rivera would go up near the Stonewall Inn sometime in 2021.