New York State will rename a state park in Brooklyn after Marsha P. Johnson, a pioneering Black trans woman activist who was at the forefront of the Stonewall Uprising.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the news during a Human Rights Campaign gala on Saturday. He says Johnson will be the first openly LGBTQ+ person with a New York state park named after her.
“New York State is the progressive capital of the nation, and while we are winning the legal battle for justice for the LGBTQ community, in many ways we are losing the broader war for equality,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo then explained that East River State Park in Brooklyn will soon become Marsha P. Johnson Park. He called her an “icon of the community.”
Johnson fought for queer and trans rights for decades, long before the fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights was an organized movement. A long-held rumor said that Johnson threw the first brick at Stonewall; however, she later clarified that she didn’t get there until 2 a.m.
In December, a researcher found the earliest-known recording of Johnson and fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera discussing their work in 1970. The interview aired on the podcast “Making Gay History.”
In the recording, Johnson discusses what Stonewall was truly about: “We just were saying no more police brutality. And we had enough of police harassment in the Village and other places. Oh, there was a lot of little chants we used to do in those days.”
After Stonewall, Johnson and Sylvia Rivera co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization that helped house and feed homeless LGBTQ+ youth and sex workers in Manhattan. Johnson was a fixture in the Greenwich Village scene, earning the nickname “Mayor of Christopher Street.” She died of undetermined causes at age 46 in 1992.
Johnson and Rivera were previously honored with a New York City monument down the street from Stonewall.