This year, New York is kicking off pride month with the announcement that LGBTQ activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be honored with monuments commemorating their pioneering efforts in the fight for equality.
According to CNN, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office says the statues, which will be placed in the city’s Greenwich Village area, home of the Stonewall Inn, and the site of the historic Stonewall uprising, will be the first in the United States to honor transgender people.
The homage to these women of color will cost the city an estimated $750,000. Although the mayor’s office has yet to commission an artist to do the work, he or she will be paid out of the city’s $10 million budget allocated for new public artworks.
Confirmation of the decision was made Thursday, as the city of New York prepares to host its annual World Pride parade, which this year will also mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots 50 years ago.
“Putting up statues doesn’t change everything, but it starts to change hearts and minds,” de Blasio explained during a press conference. “We want to honor them because they lived their truth and they made history.”
“We need to remember them correctly,” said Matthew Riemer, co-author of We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation. “Yes, they were there for Stonewall, but that’s not it.”
To his point, Johnson and Rivera were both founding members of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, and helped create the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR House, as a refuge for homeless members of the LGBTQ community.
“Sylvia was a radical militant who would show up and would embody anyone’s oppression as ‘my oppression.’ She showed up for every fight,” said Riemer.
He also noted that Johnson was a fixture in the Village who was “always done up and known for having a hat made of flowers.” He explains she was considered to be a uniting force in her community and often used her charms to organize their efforts.
50 years after the Stonewall Riots, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will become the first trans women to be immortalized as statues in the US. Join @NYCMayor and @NYCFirstLady later this afternoon for the official announcement.https://t.co/vx9rWRF66p
— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) May 30, 2019