Google has marked the end of pride month today (June 30), with a Google Doodle (above) celebrating the life of Marsha P. Johnson.
A Google Doodle is the artwork featured on the search engine’s home page. When not featuring the regular Google logo, the company uses it to highlight notable lives, birthdays, events or anniversaries.
In a statement, Google said, “Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Los Angeles-based guest artist Rob Gilliam, celebrates LGBTQ+ rights activist, performer, and self-identified drag queen Marsha P. Johnson, who is widely credited as one of the pioneers of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States.”
It said it was honoring her today to mark the one-year anniversary of Johnson being posthumously honored as a grand marshal of the New York City Pride March.
Google has also donated a hefty $500,000 grant to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute to support black transgender women during the health crisis. It follows a donation earlier this month of $2.4million to the Trevor Project and around 70 other LGBTQ organizations.
Marsha P. Johnson was an influential figure on the New York City LGBTQ scene. Born in 1945, she was a participant in the Stonewall uprising of 1969.
Johnson, according to her family, began wearing dresses from an early age. She identified in different ways throughout her life, including as a gay man, drag queen and transvestite. Although the term transgender was not commonly in use while she was alive, Johnson embraced her gender non-conformity and is now celebrated as a trans pioneer.
Along with Sylvia Rivera, Johnson played an early, leading role in the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) group in 1970. The friends were also involved in the fledgling Gay Liberation Front. Both advocated for the plight of homeless and disadvantaged youth, along with sex workers.
She adopted the name, Marsha P. Johnson, with the P standing for her motto: “Pay it no mind.” She would often quote this response when asked about her gender identity.
Johnson died in 1992 in mysterious circumstances. Police found her body floating in the Hudson River, near the infamous Greenwich Village piers. Although authorities ruled her death as suicide, some believe others could have been involved.
You can find out more about her life through the award-winning documentary, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, on Netflix.
“This year, for Pride, we focused on the history of Pride, early movement leaders, and the importance of solidarity,” said Google spokesperson Michel Appel to The Advocate. “As one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ+ movement, Marsha P. Johnson challenged the world to acknowledge the intersections of Black+ and queer identity. It’s important to remember her work as we look towards all of the work we still have to do for equity, justice, and equality under the law.”
Elle Hearns, founder and Executive Director of The Marsha P Johnson Institute, welcome the Google Doodle and donation, saying, “I hope the collaboration between The MPJI and Google.org will serve as an opportunity for the world to interrupt its own fixation on transphobia and fear of redistributing wealth to communities that need it most. This is life-long work. Black trans women have always been here and will continue to be.
“The MPJI’s collaboration with Google is a bold action. It shows there are entities that trust Black trans leaders and follow the necessary steps in showing their commitment in supporting Black trans liberation.”
Clicking on the illustration takes users through to Google search results on Marsha P. Johnson, led by her Wikipedia page.
Johnson’s legacy and the recognition of her life have continued to grow in the decades since her death. She and Rivera feature on a large mural in Dallas, Texas: The largest trans-themed mural in the US. Officials in New York City last year announced plans for a permanent statue of the pair.
Before moving to New York City in her teens, Johnson was raised in the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Residents there have recently started a petition to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus with one of Johnson. At the time of writing, the petition had secured 48,000 signatures of its 50,000 goal.