Why Everyone

Should Know


Marsha P. Johnson

  • 3 min read

The infamous event goes like this: On the night of June 28, 1969, in a pocket of New York’s West Village, a place deemed relatively safe—as safe as could be—for LGBTQ+ community members, police raided a gay bar. What most people know is that a brick flew through the front window, police got violent, patrons fought back, and thus was born one of the key catalysts to the gay liberation movement. 

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera Stonewall Netflix
The Stonewall Riot is a story that many LGBTQ+ folks are well acquainted with. It’s an origin story, the first punch of a fight that ultimately continues today in America. While this story is well known in LGBTQ+ circles, it has finally reached mass culture as a pillar of modern protests and civil justice. And… some details are getting lost in translation. While the story is told again this year, we must tell it in all its truth—and that truth is centered around black trans women. The protagonist is Marsha P. Johnson. 

Whether you’ve seen her picture floating around Twitter this month or not, now is the best time to learn about her life and legacy. First things first: That brick didn’t happen to fly through the window on its own. It was thrown by Marsha, a fixture of the Village and a regular at the Stonewall Inn. Not only do we have her to thank for the rights we have today, but her fierceness consistently resonates with modern protesters, and reminds us that no one should be left out of the fight for equity. 

Marsha graduated high school and moved to New York City with about $15 and a hope to finally feel like her true self. She adorned herself with flowers, lights and over-the top-clothes (welove a maximalist). However, like anyone that strayed from gender norms during this time, it was almost impossible for her to get or hold down a job. For most of her life, Marsha was a homeless sex worker. The word transgender hadn’t been created yet—and so neither was the notion to protect trans lives. Though times have changed significantly, transgender people, and especially black trans women like Marsha, are among the most at-risk individuals in America.

This is unacceptable, and we are dedicated to standing firm with our trans POC family, whether that’s through radical social movements or in times of dark oppression. This month, we’re partnering with the Marsha P. Johnson Institute in remembrance of her activism and in solidarity with black trans women. For every Proud Together Set sold, we will be donating 10% of our purchase to the Institute. 

According to the MPJI’s website, Marsha went by “Black Marsha” before landing on “Marsha P. Johnson”, the "P" which stood for ‘pay no mind’, which she would retort when asked about her gender. “So much of our understanding of Marsha came from the accounts of people who did not look like or come from the same place as her. As transness is now more accessible to the world, introducing the Institute to BLACK trans people who are resisting, grappling with survival, and looking for community has become a clear need.” 

This month, the Institute is aligning with Black Lives Matter like they always do—by providing a safe community for black trans people, and giving members special access to events, workshops and programming designed to empower and serve the black trans community. They were also one of the key orchestrators of the Brooklyn Liberation protest, aka the massive Black Trans Lives Matter protest outside the Brooklyn Museum, with over 15,000 in attendance.

The Institute works to defend and protect black trans people through dialogue and advocacy. Unfortunately, the fight isn’t over. As we celebrate Pride during the Black Lives Matter movement, the biggest social movement of its kindever, the MPJI is a strong reminder that Pride and black rights go hand in hand, pulling each other forward bit by bit.

If you can’t protest—and even if you can—now is the time to learn about her legacy, along with other activists like Sylvia Rivera and Storme DeLarverie, who were both integral to the Stonewall riot and its following revolution. Additionally, you can support queer activists in the current moment by donating and sharing resources that help push this massive social movement forward. 

Marsha said it best: “No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

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