New York City community activists, organizers and artists mounted the first ever statue of a transgender person and participant of the Stonewall Riots in Christopher Park early Tuesday morning. The plastered statue of Marsha P. Johnson celebrates transgender rights, Johnson’s birthday, and follows over 150 new legislative proposals limiting the rights of transgender people across the country, said in a press release.
Out of 800 total monuments, NYC Parks hosts only seven other statues of historical women. In 2019, The Mayor’s Office announced plans for a statue of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera on the corner of Seventh and Greenwich Avenue, but after the pandemic hit, the plans were indefinitely stalled and an artist was never picked, said the press release.
The New York City activists took action into their own hands and erected the statue themselves: “We cannot stay idle and wait for the city to build statues for us. We must create representation by and for our own communities,” said Eli Erlick, sculptor coordinator in a press release.
Behind the plastered sculptor by artist, Jessi Pallotta is the Gay Liberation monument by George Segal. Controversial in its 1980 inception, the monument recently came under fire when it was painted black to contest Black and Latina erasure of the LGBT movement, said the press release.
Pallotta’s placement of Marsha is purposeful.
“At a time when we are taking down statues, I think it is just as important to collectively consider what is put up in public spaces, the process that is used to erect statues and reimagine the function of monumental work,” said Pallotta in the press release.
Johnson would have been 76-years-old today, born August 24, 1945 in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The “P” in her name stands for “Pay It No Mind.”
Johnson didn’t throw the “first” brick at the Stonewall riots outside the Christopher Inn in the Village on June 28, 1969 but she was a participant. In 1970, Johnson collaborated with tireless transgender activist Sylvia Rivera in co-founding STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), which provided shelter and food to LGBT homeless youth and paved way for the modern Gay Liberation Movement of the time, while bringing awareness to the epidemic of homeless transgender youth and Transgender Rights.
Johnson participated in the Stonewall riots which are widely considered the beginning of the modern queer and transgender movement. In the 80s and 90s Johnson worked with ACT UP (AIDS Coaltion to Unleash Power) to combat AIDS and the government’s lack of action. Johnson was a Black, trans sex worker, a survivor, and a Warhol muse, Johnson’s legacy is indispensable to New York as we know it, said the press release.