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  WINDY CITY TIMES

New York monument to honor trans activists Johnson and Rivera
2019-05-29

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New York — Today, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray announced that 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 US. 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.

"For decades, the monuments in our public spaces have told a very limited story about the people, groups, and values that make New York City great," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. "Today, we take a big step toward addressing this problem. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were once-in-a-generation trailblazers who fought against racism, sexism, and transphobia to show us the path toward a stronger, better, fairer, more inclusive society. This groundbreaking public artwork in their honor will tell people here and across the world who these inspiring women were and what they did for the city they called home."

"From opening doors for underrepresented communities to supporting gender parity in our public spaces, making New York fairer is the underpinning of our work," said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. "Activists Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were trailblazers who worked tirelessly to raise the visibility of the transgender community. We are proud to honor their legacy and lasting contributions with this permanent monument."

"I would not think of a more fitting way to recognize the beginning of this historic Pride month than acknowledging the contributions of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riviera in this way," said Chris Frederick, Executive Director of World Pride. 'Their contributions have been long overlooked and their place in history will be there for all to see when they come to pay their respects to all the LGBTQIA+ individuals who sparked the modern gay rights movement at the Stonewall uprising. As we prepare for millions to come to New York City for Stonewall 50 and WorldPride we are thrilled that Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are part of She Built NYC project," concluded Frederick.

"During an era far less progressive than today, Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera risked their lives fighting for LGBTQ+ rights," said women.nyc executive director Faye Penn. "Their enduring legacy spearheaded New York's evolution into an even safer and more accepting place for people of all gender identities. Marsha and Sylvia embodied what makes our city great and stood up for those who had no champions of their own. A monument to their contributions will serve as an important reminder that all identities are celebrated in our city."

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera founded STAR House, a housing and support organization for homeless LGBT youth and sex workers; they were also leaders in the Stonewall Uprisings and lifelong advocates for transgender and LGBTQ rights. In addition to Johnson's and Rivera's work and advocacy for queer, homeless, and HIV positive youth - and particularly those of color who were marginalized by broader LGBTQ rights efforts - they were also pioneers for what would be called "disability justice."

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 one of the first monuments honoring trans people anywhere 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 diverse and 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 [DCLA Submittable link TK].

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.

She Built NYC is part of the women.nyc 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 women.nyc 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.

—From a press release


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