Marsha P. Johnson, the pioneering trans activist and Stonewall icon, has been honoured on the last day of Pride Month with a Google Doodle.
A Black trans woman, civil rights activist, drag queen and sex worker, Johnson is most well-known for her involvement in the 1969 Stonewall uprising.
Who was Marsha P. Johnson?
Having first gone by the name “Black Marsha” on the New York queer scene, she settled on Marsha P. Johnson, famously saying that the P stood for “pay it no mind”, her attitude to criticism over her gender identity and expression.
She was one of the queer folks who protested against violent police who had raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, assaulting and harassing queer people of colour for the simple crime of existing.
It’s often erroneously said that Johnson threw the first brick at Stonewall – however she has said that she didn’t arrive at the Stonewall until “the place was on fire… [and] the riots had already started”.
In 1970, she founded “Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries” otherwise known as “STAR”, with her friend Sylvia Rivera.
The organisation helped trans and queer youth who had been rejected by their families and left homeless.
Johnson dedicated her life to helping others in the queer community, despite suffering from mental health issues herself.
She was nicknamed the “Saint of Christopher Street”, after the street where the Stonewall Inn lived.
Sadly, Johnson died in 1992. Her death was ruled a suicide, however friends have long contested this.
Google Doodle drawn by a queer person of colour.
The Google Doodle, which shows Marsha P. Johnson colourfully dressed with Pride flags flying in the background, was designed by queer Los Angeles-based artist Rob Gilliam.
Gilliam said: “As a queer person of colour I owe Marsha so much.
“She was the catalyst for our liberation, the driving force behind the movement that has given many of us the rights and freedoms that we previously couldn’t even dream of.
“Marsha created a space for us in western society through her empowering bravery and refusal to be silenced.”
He said he hopes when people see the Google Doodle, they remember that Johnson advocated for the LGBT+ community to come together for a common goal.
Gilliam said: “Marsha knew that the true key to liberation was intersectionality. The original Pride movement pulled in participants from across the lines of class and race and sexuality and gender expression and united an entire community.
“Recent times have been extremely divisive, and it’s far too easy to fixate on what separates us as opposed to celebrating the commonalities we share. I think we could all be a little more like Marsha in that respect.
“Everyone has their own unique, powerful, vibrant identity— and when we embrace these differences, we take a step towards building stronger communities.”
As well as honouring Johnson’s life with the artwork, Google has committed to donating $500,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which “protects and defends the human rights of Black transgender people”.
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