Transgender activists to be honored with monument in New York City

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

Stonewall Inn Becomes Monument

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two pioneering LGBTQ activists and leaders in the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, will be immortalized with a new monument in New York City. The monument, commissioned by She Built NYC, will be installed just a block away from the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City officials announced Thursday.

Rivera, who died in 2002 at age 50, and Johnson, who died in 1992 at age 46, were both drag performers and activists. Together, they founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a housing and support shelter for LGBTQ youth and sex workers, in 1970.

The news of the monument comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and just in time for Pride Month, which is celebrated each June.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are foremothers of the LGBTQ movement. It's time we honor them. #SheBuiltNYC https://t.co/4mNGlo7D6L

— Chirlane McCray (@NYCFirstLady) May 30, 2019

During the Stonewall uprising, LGBTQ activists fought back during a police raid of the popular gay bar in June 1969. Johnson and Rivera are both regarded as critical figures in the uprising, which unofficially marks the beginning of the modern gay rights moment.

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"When trans young people trying to find their place in the world come to the Village, they'll look up at a monument to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera," Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. "They'll see themselves, and their own potential to make history."

The monument is part of a larger initiative to increase the diversity of those represented in public artwork around New York City. While there is already a statue of two men in nearby Christopher Park to commemorate Stonewall, the abstract figures are painted white and do not represent specific people, and they leave out the transgender women of color who activists say were critical to the movement.

Artists can currently submit proposals for the new monument, which will be the first permanent public artwork honoring the legacy of transgender individuals, according to city officials.

"Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are undeniably two of the most important foremothers of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, yet their stories have been erased from a history they helped create," NYC first lady Chirlane McCray said in a statement. "Today, we correct the record."

The Stonewall uprising is commemorated during World Pride every June with marches across the U.S. and around the globe. "The city Marsha and Sylvia called home will not erase them," McCray said. "Our new monument will proudly remind the world that hate has no place in New York City."

First published on May 30, 2019 / 5:40 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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