This June marks the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in Greenwich Village. In honor of the watershed moment, New York City officials announced Wednesday that the city will pay tribute to transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera with a monument. The statue — one of few dedicated to transgender leaders — will reside down the street from Stonewall Inn at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle.
Johnson and Rivera played pivotal roles in Stonewall Riots and were central figures in the gay rights movement. After the Stonewall Uprising, Johnson and Rivera joined the Gay Liberation Front and later founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970. Beyond their lifelong activism, the duo, who both self-identified as drag queens, were known as close friends and staples of Greenwich Village.
The proposed sculptures’ inclusion near Stonewall serves to address criticism that the current monument honoring the riots (erected in 1992 by George Segal in Christopher Park) fails to acknowledge the role that transgender women played in the landmark protests and the advocacy that followed.
“The L.G.B.T.Q. movement was portrayed very much as a white, gay male movement,” the city’s First Lady Chirlane McCray said in a recent interview with the New York Times. “This monument counters that trend of whitewashing the history.”
Conceived as part of She Built NYC, the new statues are to be included in the city’s bid to diversify gender representation in its public art monuments, which heavily skew male (less than 1% currently depict women). Johnson and Rivera’s monuments will join works dedicated to Shirley Chisholm, Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías and Katherine Walker. The finalized sculptures will be placed throughout the boroughs.
As reported by the New York Times, the search for the artist who will bring the statues to life will begin shortly, with city officials aiming for completion by 2021.
Top Image: Marsha P. Johnson, Joseph Ratanski and Sylvia Rivera. Drawing by Gary LeGault.