People / Resolutions

Who was Marsha P. Johnson?


In recent years her name has come up more frequently in the mainstream each June when pride month takes place. We recently wrote about how she was at the forefront of the Stonewall riots, one of the leaders of the movement, and among those who threw the first brick, but who was Marsha P. Johnson?

Marsha P. (which stands for 'pay no mind') Johnson was a Black transgender gay liberation activist living and working in New York during the time of the Stonewall riots. Johnson was one of the founding members of the Gay Liberation Front, and went on to be co-founder of the STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a political collective that provided housing and support to homeless queer youth and sex workers in New York City with her dear friend and fellow Stonewall leader, Sylvia Rivera.

Marsha P. Johnson, being a Black transgender woman who was also a sex worker living in poverty, was not only a person living at the intersections of marginalized groups but a person living at the intersections of marginalized groups while risking her safety by campaigning for the rights of those among those intersections.

Johnson became a key figure in the events that followed the police raid on the Village gay bar the Stonewall Inn on 28 June 1969. In the days following the raid,23-year-old Johnson and others led a series of uprisings in protest at the raid, which in the years following morphed into the Pride parade, the celebration of gay liberation we know today.

Decades later, New York City made the decision last year to erect a statue in Johnson and Rivera's honour which is set to be revealed in 2021 in Greenwich Village nearby the famous Stonewall Inn bar. Johnson was found dead in the Hudson river in 1992, and her death was ruled as a suicide despite suspicions from close friends. Johnson was known to be living with mental illness and was open about her struggles while working to protect the lives and rights of her LGBTQI+ community.

Marsha P. Johnson is immortalized in history as one of the front liners of Stonewall, a global hero to LGBTQI+ folks everywhere, and a reminder of our ability to celebrate our rights today. In 2020, as we watch a global uprising against racial inequality take hold, and witness the brutal murders of Black women and Black Trans women, Marsha P. Johnson serves as a reminder of what Black and Indigenous LGBTQI+ folks who have come before us have done for our community, in her words "No Pride For Some of Us Without Liberation For All of Us".

Image source: @interviewmag