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BHM: Marsha P. Johnson

February 22, 2019

During assembly on Friday, February 22, senior Harley King spoke about Marsha P. Johnson, an African-American transgender woman and LGBTQ rights activist. Here are Harley's remakrs:

In the early morning of June 28, 1969, at a bar called Stonewall in Manhattan, a routine police raid occurred. These raids were very common at this time and at bars like this one, as it was a gay bar, predominantly attended by LGBT people of color. One thing that would often happen in raids like this one would be that people wearing feminine clothing would be taken to the bathroom, and have their genitals checked. If the police determined these individuals to be male, they would be arrested, simply for wearing "gender inappropriate clothing.” This raid, however, did not go as the police had planned. As they began rounding people up to be arrested, a shot glass was hurled at a mirror by Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman and LGBT rights activist, as she screamed, “I got my civil rights!” This action sparked what would later be named the Stonewall Riots, a series of violent anti police brutality demonstrations that occurred at the Stonewall bar on that day. These riots are what essentially sparked the gay rights movement, and to this day, we march in honor of these riots, every year on their anniversary at the LGBT Pride Parade.  

Marsha P Johnson and her close friend Sylvia Rivera went on to found STAR, or the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, an organization dedicated to getting transgender homeless people off of the streets and give them places to stay. This was a time when trans people were often evicted simply for being transgender. Marsha P. Johnson herself experienced many periods of homelessness as a result of her trans identity and status as a black woman.

Not long after the 1992 Pride parade, Marsha P. Johnson was found dead in a river. The case was cold until 2012 when it was reopened, although it has not been solved, due to what many believe was negligence on the part of the police.

Marsha P. Johnson is widely considered the mother of the LGBT rights movement due to her not only starting and participating in the Stonewall Riots, but also forming STAR and helping countless LGBT people get off of the streets. It is safe to say that the LGBT rights movement would not be where it is today without her.

I have the right to pursue transgender related medical procedures safely and legally because of Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman.

I have the right to change my legal sex marker to male on my legal documents because of Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman.

I have the right to marry another man one day because of Marsha P. Johnson.

Her legacy is often forgotten in today’s LGBT rights movements, as we see very little representation of Black LGBT people in our government, LGBT rights organizations, and media. White LGBT people are extremely often the only faces of the LGBT community shown despite the movement being started by a Black woman, and Black trans women being extremely at risk for being victims of violence in this country. It is hard to gauge how often Black transgender women are murdered today due to lack of investigation, lack of reporting, and the misidentification of the victims as gay men, but the vast majority of of trans people who are murdered are Black.

Marsha P. Johnson was one of the many Black heroes throughout history who we often forget to include in our history lessons. She was the mother of the LGBT rights movement, and one of the many people responsible for the progress we have made as the LGBT community. Rest in power Marsha P. Johnson.