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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

She Built NYC: Mayor de Blasio, First Lady McCray Announce Monument Honoring Pioneering Trans Activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

New York City Hall Press Office Photo

NEW YORK –– Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray announced the next She Built NYC monument will honor pioneering transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, key leaders in the Stonewall Uprising that sparked the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the U.S. The proposed location for the monument is in Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, a prominent public space in the heart of neighborhood landmarks that were essential to LGBTQ history and advocacy, including the Stonewall Inn and St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“Transgender and non-binary communities are reeling from violent and discriminatory attacks across the country. Here in New York City, we are sending a clear message: we see you for who you are, we celebrate you, and we will protect you,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This monument to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will honor their pioneering role in the fight for human rights in our city and across the world.”

“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,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “From their leading role at Stonewall, to their revolutionary work supporting transgender and non-binary youth in our city, they charted a path for the activists who came after them. Today, we correct the record. The city Marsha and Sylvia called home will honor their legacy and tell their stories for generations to come.”

“I’m proud to honor these two trailblazers, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who changed the course of history for the LGBTQ community. Not only was their bravery felt in New York City, but their fight for equality inspired change across the nation and around the world. When people walk around this monument, they will be reminded of the courage of these women and of the need to keep fighting for equality for all. Thank you to the She Built NYC committee for making this monument the first in the world in honoring transgender people,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“I am happy that NYC has once again shown why it's the greatest city in the world by honoring the history of all of its people and leading the way for unity and understanding,” said Marsha P. Johnson’s nephew, Al Michaels.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera founded STAR, renamed Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries in 2001, a housing and support organization for homeless LGBTQ youth and sex workers; they were also leaders in the Stonewall Uprisings and lifelong advocates for LGBTQ rights, particularly around racial and economic justice for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness and poverty. In addition to Johnson’s and Rivera’s work and advocacy for LGBTQ, homeless, and HIV positive youth - and particularly young people of color who were marginalized by broader LGBTQ rights efforts in the “Gay Liberation” movement - they were also pioneers in early efforts to further disability justice efforts, particularly around ensuring meaningful access to affirming healthcare for all people.

The proposed location for the monument is in Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, located at Sixth Avenue and Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. This location will be finalized upon further discussion with the community. It will be the first permanent, public artwork recognizing transgender women in the world.

The artwork will be funded as part of $10 million Mayor de Blasio allocated for the creation of new public artwork following the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers. The Commission recommended addressing the general lack of diverse representation in the City’s collection of public art by expanding the collection to be more inclusive of the many communities that have lived in and contributed to New York City. DCLA has launched an open call for artists who want to be considered as designers for the monument honoring Johnson and Rivera, available here.

The announcement comes at the beginning of Pride Month, which this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. The City expects 4 million visitors to celebrate WorldPride in New York City this year.
A monument honoring Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera was recommended by the She Built NYC committee convened to evaluate the public nominations and advise on actions. “Their fierce determination and commitment to coalition building have made New York City, the nation and world more just and fair,” the committee wrote.

“Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were defining revolutionaries for transgender rights and racial justice here in New York City and across the country,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, Commissioner and Chair of the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “This memorial honoring their legacies could not have come at a more prescient time – as the federal government rolls back protections for transgender people and violence toward transgender people grows nationwide – our city is celebrating our trans communities and doubling down on our commitment to protect them. The NYC Commission on Human Rights protects all genders, gender identities, and gender expressions and aspires to uphold our city to Marsha and Sylvia’s vision.”

About She Built NYC:
She Built NYC is part of the initiative, which was launched last spring by First Lady Chirlane McCray and former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen to make New York the best city in the world for women to succeed. She Built NYC began with an open call asking the public to nominate women, groups of women, or events involving women that significantly impacted the history of New York City.

Through the portal, the public submitted nearly 2,000 nominations. Ninety-eight percent of respondents said they would like to see a woman honored who was committed to social reform or justice. The most frequently used word in the submissions was “first,” followed by “leader” and then “advocate.” An advisory panel with individuals representing a broad range of expertise and backgrounds helped refine the public submissions list and provided recommendations to the City.

In November 2018, Shirley Chisholm was announced as the first woman who would be honored under the new initiative, and artists were selected to design her monument in Prospect Park last month. Earlier this year the City announced four more women who will be honored with public monuments throughout the City. The artwork commemorating Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be the sixth monument commissioned under the initiative.

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