The first-ever statue of black trans activist and Stonewall trailblazer Marsha P Johnson has been installed in New York City near the Stonewall Inn to mark what would have been her 76th birthday. The city had been planning to create a monument in memory of Johnson since 2019 but the project was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak. As a result, LGBTQ+ activists decided to build and install the statue by themselves to honour Johnson.
Announcing the news on Instagram, sculptor Jesse Pallotta said that the statue is a “small way to say thank you to all the black trans women who have paved the way for my life, and the lives of other queers and sex workers, to live a safer and more authentic life.” They also noted that visitors are welcome to add fresh flowers to Johnson’s crown, as this was her signature accessory.
Project coordinator Eli Erlick explained the decision to create the statue to LGBTQ Nation, saying: “We cannot stay idle and wait for the city to build statues for us. We must create representation by and for our own communities.” Johnson was best known for her role in the Stonewall riots, but her activism efforts continued long after 1969. Alongside fellow activist Sylvia Rivera, Johnson formed the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries to provide vital resources and care for queer youth experiencing homelessness.
Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River on July 6 1992 when she was 46. The circumstances surrounding her death are still unclear, with some saying that she was murdered despite it being ruled as suicide.