A popular waterfront park in New York City has been renamed after pioneering LGBTQ rights advocate Marsha P. Johnson, making her the first LGBTQ person and transgender woman of color to have a New York state park in her honor.
The announcement came from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday, which would have been Johnson’s 75th birthday.
“Too often, marginalized voices that have pushed progress forward in New York and across the country go unrecognized, making up just a fraction of our public memorials and monuments,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Marsha P. Johnson was one of the early leaders of the LGBTQ movement, and is only now getting the acknowledgement she deserves. Dedicating this state park for her, and installing public art telling her story, will ensure her memory and her work fighting for equality lives on.”
Johnson, who died in 1992 at age 46, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, as well as HIV/AIDS treatment, and was a prominent leader in the monumental Stonewall Uprising of 1969.
She also helped establish STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries), a New York City shelter for young LGBTQ people who had been rejected by their families.
The Williamsburg, Brooklyn park, which was previously known as East River State Park, will celebrate the dedication with a series of facility improvements and public art celebrating Johnson’s life.
The art — some of which will reflect the colorful flowers Johnson loved to wear — will be installed on two long parallel historic gantry foundation walls, creating a large outdoor gallery.
Other improvements will include a new park house and education center and upgrades to park furniture.
Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River in 1992, and her death was initially ruled a suicide, despite objections from those who knew her. An investigation into her death was reopened in 2012, but remains unsolved.
She remains a prominent figure within the LGBTQ rights movement, and was the subject of a Netflix documentary in 2017.
"Marsha wasn't just about trans or just about gays — she was about change for everybody," her nephew, Al Michaels, told PEOPLE in 2017. "She was just so kind, such a big heart."
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