New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to rename a Brooklyn state park after Marsha P. Johnson on Saturday in a speech at a Human Rights Campaign gala. Calling on New York’s progressive leadership, Cuomo made promises of support for LGBTQ issues.
Marsha P. Johnson is a queer icon and pioneer. One of the leaders of the revolutionary Stonewall Riots, she was a black transgender activist, prostitute, and drag performer. A key part of the gay liberation movement born in Greenwich Village, Johnson fought for equality, recognition, and safety. Her efforts sparked growing activism from the LGBTQ+ movement.
Cuomo emphasized that the East River State Park would be the first to be named after an openly gay figure in New York. He spoke strongly about rising hate crimes, stating, “While we are winning the legal battle for justice for the LGBTQ+ community, in many ways we are losing the broader war for equality.” He reinforced New Yorkers to stand in the face of bigotry against racial, sexual, and religious minorities. It was a call for acceptance and inclusivity honoring a trailblazing activist that was discriminated against in all aspects. Johnson was a racial minority, queer, gender non-conforming, and economically disadvantaged. Her struggles opened new paths for resistance against bigotry.
The honoring of her legacy shows progress and is a step in the right direction for better public representation of diversity. But Johnson’s activism still holds resounding truth today, her words remind us of that the fight is not over.
“As long as gay people don’t have their rights all across America,” she once said, “there’s no reason for celebration.”
Sources: NBC News 2/2/20; New York Daily News 2/1/20; LGBTQ Nation 2/2/20