LGBTQ+ Icon Marsha P. Johnson to Be Honored in New Jersey Hometown
New Jersey officials say they are clearing land in her hometown to erect the monument for the late trailblazer. The monument would be the first in the country to honor a transgender person, according to Union County officials.
LGBTQ+ icon Marsha P. Johnson will be honored with a monument in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. New Jersey officials say they are clearing land in her hometown to erect the monument for the late trailblazer. The monument would be the first in the country to honor a transgender person, according to Union County officials.
"Today, the family of Elizabeth native and LGBTQ+ Civil Rights activist Marsha P. Johnson was joined by Union County Freeholders and LGBTQ+ advocates to announce the future site of a public monument on Freedom Trail in the City of Elizabeth in Johnson's honor," the county wrote in a statement last week. "The monument is anticipated to be the first public monument in the State of New Jersey to honor a LGBTQ+ person and transgender woman of color.”
Johnson’s family still live in the town and officials say they met with them before announcing the plans. Johnson, who died in 1992 under mysterious circumstances, would have been 75 last month.
In August, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the first state park in America to be named after Johnson. Marsha P. Johnson Park, formerly East River State Park, in Brooklyn, New York, was officially named last week.
Last year, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that the city will be erecting a monument to Johnson and compatriot Sylvia Rivera in 2021.
“I am very pleased that these two women are going to be honored in this way,” Tom Duane, New York's first openly gay senator, told InsideEdtion Digital last year. “They basically gave their lives to this community and were special in so many ways.”
Johnson is said to have thrown “the shot glass heard around the world,” igniting the riots, according to historian David Carter, author of the book, “Stonewall.”
Johnson and Rivera were sisters in activism in the LGBTQ+ community of the 1960s and through their deaths. Together they founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, which was based out of Greenwich Village, to help young gay and transgender people in the city find shelter, food and a community.
On July 6, 1992, Johnson’s body was found floating in the Hudson River near the Christopher Street Pier. Cops immediately ruled her cause of death to be suicide, but friends, family and fellow LGBTQ activists believed that was not the case. Through the relentless work of activists and local politicians, her cause of death was later changed to “undetermined” by the NYPD.
In 2012, the NYPD reopened the case after more public outcry to get justice and closure into what really happened. The case was closed a year later but what happened remains undetermined.
Rivera died in February 2002 from liver cancer. She was 50 years old. In 2005, the corner of Hudson and Christopher Streets was renamed “Sylvia Rivera Way.”
A photo of Johnson and Rivera now hangs in the back room of the Stonewall Inn as a tribute to the two.
In 2016, President Barack Obama declared the Stonewall Inn a National and Historic Landmark.
“I’m designating the Stonewall National Monument as the newest addition to America’s National Park System. Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights. I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us. That we are stronger together. That out of many, we are one,” he said at the time.
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