This past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of New York City’s first ever Pride March, but instead of a peaceful demonstration, what unfolded instead were numerous instances of police retaliation against civilians in Washington Square Park. In the midst of ongoing global protests against police brutality, what appears to be the repetition of history is especially relevant because on Tuesday, Google paid homage to the self-identified drag queen and radical activist Marsha P. Johnson with a Google doodle. Johnson famously played an important role in the Stonewall uprising of 1969, wherein the Greenwich Village queer community rioted following a NYPD raid of the Stonewall Inn.
After the days of rioting following what happened at Stonewall, Johnson and her fellow civil rights pioneer Sylvia River co-founded an organization called STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) which was dedicated to providing resources to homeless queer youth and trans women of color. Given the flood of fundraising for disadvantaged members of the queer community and people of color in need that’s unfolded since the killing of George Floyd, it’s clearer than ever that Johnson specifically laid the groundwork for the kind of activism that continues to be extremely relevant today. Fittingly, last year, the city of New York announced plans for statues of Johnson and Rivera to be erected in Greenwich Village.
Google partnered with the Marsha P. Johnson Institute in order to create the doodle, which was was illustrated by the Los Angeles-based artist Rob Gilliam. “Marsha knew that the true key to liberation was intersectionality,” Gillam told Google. “The original pride movement pulled in participants from across the lines of class and race and sexuality and gender expression and united an entire community.” In addition to the doodle, Google is donating $500,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which works to end violence against Black trans women in the U.S. But as Johnson herself once said, a lot more work needs to be done before everyone is free: “As long as my people don’t have their rights across America, there’s no reason for celebration.”