The monument hasn’t been commissioned yet, but LGBT rights activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson will be honored for their organization that helps homeless gay youths and their leadership in the 1969 Stonewall rebellion.
The monument, which will be installed in Greenwich Village, is part of a wider program to diversify the public statues and monuments. In a country like the United States, where most monuments are to white men and oftentimes to racists, that’s going to be quite a feat.
Currently, there are over 1,000 monuments in New York City alone, and most of them are dedicated to dead white men. There are around 145 statues honoring historical male figures spread across the five boroughs but you can count on one hand the number of historical females represented — there’s Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and, most recently, Harriet Tubman. Sylvia and Johnson will be a welcome addition.
The monument will be paid for out of $10 million allocated for new public artworks and be only a block from the Stonewall Inn, according to the Washington Post.
Rivera and Johnson were also both champions of transgender rights and the rights of those with AIDS, though they died before the term “transgender” was even well-known. They founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in 1970, a group that advocated for homeless gay young people.
Both women were familiar with life on the streets. They led difficult lives and were often homeless themselves.
Johnson died mysteriously. It was originally ruled a suicide when her body was pulled from the Hudson River in 1992 but was later changed to drowning from undetermined causes. Rivera died from liver cancer.
Johnson died at age 46 and Rivera died in 2002 at age 50.