Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera Are Finally Getting Monuments in New York

Image: AP

It’s almost Pride Month, which means soon enough, banks and $15 salad stores will bombard us all with rainbow-colored ads in an effort to market mortgage loans and acai bowls as essential to gay rights. But the city of New York, at least, is starting the month off with something meaningful: on Thursday, it announced plans to build a monument to iconic drag queens Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera in Greenwich Village, to mark their roles in the Stonewall uprising and their work championing transgender and gay rights.

The news coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and should further shine a light on Johnson and Rivera’s involvement in the fight for LGBT rights; Johnson is thought to have been integral to the group that clashed with police who raided the lower Manhattan bar, according to historians. In 1970, Johnson and Rivera also founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization to help young queer and trans people without the family support or financial means to support themselves.

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The forthcoming statue is a nice step in the right direction in terms of the public art in the city, as the New York Times notes. Currently there are four statues across the street from the Stonewall Inn, depicting two men and two women, which were erected in 1992 to commemorate the Stonewall uprisings. But these statues act as generic stand-ins for gay rights pioneers, rather than historic monuments to specific people, and they are also painted totally white, which seems to erase the vital contributions by black and brown people to the gay and transgender rights movements.

It’s an overdue monument to two of the most important people in the movement, and nice to see them finally get their due. Rivera once said “I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville, until I became a drag queen.” The memorial could be completed as soon as 2021, and community members are still being consulted on its exact location.

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