Pride Power

New York just gave Marsha P. Johnson a birthday gift: Her own memorial park

Official state rendering of Marsha P. Johnson Memorial Park.

Officials in New York City celebrated the birthday of LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson this week by naming a city park in her honor. The distinction makes Johnson the first queer person and transgender woman of color honored by a park in state history.

NBC reports New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo personally dedicated the former East River State Park in Brooklyn as Marsha P. Johnson State Park on what would have been the activist’s 75th birthday. The state has also unveiled plans to restore facilities and install artwork dedicated to Johnson’s life, and to her contribution to queer history.

“Too often, the marginalized voices that have pushed progress forward in New York and across the country go unrecognized, making up just a fraction of our public memorials and monuments,” Governor Cuomo said in his dedication. “Marsha P. Johnson was one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ movement, and is only now getting the acknowledgment she deserves. Dedicating this state park for her, and installing public art telling her story, will ensure her memory and her work fighting for equality lives on.”

As part of the celebration, city officials have already installed two decorative entrances to the park displaying Johnson’s name and painted in bright colors. The color scheme reflects Johnson’s own love of and penchant for wearing bright flowers in her hair. Further plans for restoration include the construction of a new park house, murals depicting Johnson’s life, new furniture, pavements, and new fence installation.

Marsha P. Johnson is widely considered an early leader in the push for queer rights, and one of the first major transgender activists within the LGBTQ community. Though some sources erroneously state that Johnson started the Stonewall Riots, Johnson herself always maintained that while she did participate in the uprising, she was not present when the protests actually began. She died in 1992 at the age of 46 having drown in the Hudson River. To this day, friends of Johnson as well as investigators cannot agree on if she committed suicide or was murdered.