Marsha P (Pay it no mind) Johnson was a Black transgender activist and a beloved figure in the 2SLGBTQIA+ movement. On the evening of June 28th at The Stonewall Inn, a popular hang out spot for the gay community, was the day that the community fought back against the brutality of the police, known as the Stonewall Uprising or Stonewall riots. This event in history was the catalyst for the 2SLGBTQIA+ civil rights movement. It was rumored that Marsha was the first one who threw a cocktail that sparked the riots, but she later states in a podcast with her and Johnson Wicker (there is also an episode transcript) that the riot was already happening when she got there. A year later on June 28th, 1970, the first gay pride parade took place in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We owe Pride to Black trans women who fought back that pivotal day in history at the Stonewall Inn.
Marsha was a selfless charismatic human and drag performer, who devoted her life to fighting for transgender and gay rights. She founded STAR in 1970, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, along with her best friends and fellow legendary transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, to provide a safe place for homeless and transgender youth. These two were prominent and outspoken activists in their community and led the way at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions.
Netflix has a documentary called “The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson”, however Black transgender filmmaker Reina Gossett has accused the director David France of stealing her her ideas and research. Please do not support this Netflix documentary. In an article from the Washington Blade Reina states, “This kind of extraction/excavation of Black life, disabled life, poor life, trans life is so old and so deeply connected to the violence Marsha had to deal with throughout her life.”. Please head to reinagossett.com to watch "Happy Birthday Marsha!" a film written and directed by Reina and Sasha Wortzel.
For a more in depth look at Marsha's life and the Stonewall Uprising, check out the documentary Framline Voices - Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson, directed by Michael Kasino. Frameline is a media arts 2SLGBTQIA+ non-profit organization.
Here’s the synopsis:
This feature-length documentary focuses on revolutionary trans-activist, Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson who was a Stonewall instigator, Andy Warhol model, drag queen, sex worker, starving actress, and Saint. With her final interview from 1992, director Michael Kasino captures the legendary gay/human rights activist as she recounts her life at the forefront of The Stonewall Riots in the 1960s, the creation of S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Sylvia Rivera in the ’70s, and a New York City activist throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. Through her own words, as well as in-depth interviews with gay activist Randy Wicker, former Cockettes performer Agosto Machado, Author Michael Musto, Hot Peaches founder/performer, Jimmy Camicia, and Stonewall Activists Bob Kohler, Danny Garvin, Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt, and Martin Boyce, Marsha’s tale lives on.
How Can We Show Up For Our Black Trans Community?
Read "From Words to Action: Showing up for Black Trans Women" for resources for learning and how you can donate to Black trans led organizations.