New York has honoured the memory of the late Marsha P Johnson, LGBTQI activist and a leader of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, and dedicated a park to her – the first state park in the country to be named after an LGBTQI person and a trans person of colour.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement on Monday, which would have been Johnson’s 75th birthday, that the East River State Park in Brooklyn will now be known as Marsha P. Johnson State Park. Johnson, died in 1992 at the age of 46, and the cause of her death remains unsolved to this day.

“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,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul recalled New York’s importance as the “birthplace of the LGBTQ rights movement with the Stonewall Uprising more than 50 years ago.”

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 Johnson, who was 23 then, was a leader of the Stonewall Uprising and led marches in the days after the New York City police raided the Stonewall bar on June 28, 1969. The bar patrons and the community fought back in what is considered the birth of the modern LGBTQI civil rights movement. Johnson co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with friend and fellow transgender rights activist Sylivia Rivera. Johnson was a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front, an activist with ACT UP.

Johnson’s body was found floating in the Hudson river in 1992 and the case was initially closed as a suicide by the police. Friends and family had for years claimed the death was suspicious. In 2002, the police reclassified the cases as “undetermined” and in 2012 reopened the investigations as a “possible homicide.”

The waterfront park in Brooklyn is spread over seven acres and State Parks has set up two public art installations at the entrances designed to reflect Johnson’s style – she was known for adorning herself with a crown made of fresh flowers. Other plans for the park include an education centre, signages, another Marsha P Johnson art installation, an outdoor gallery commemorating the LGBTQI rights movement and other infrastructure upgrades.

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 The park dedication was welcomed by activists and LGBTQI politicians. California state senator Scott Wiener said the dedication of the park affirms “the critical role she played for our community.”

The upgrades on the park are part funded by grants from New York Assembly Member Joseph Lentol.

“Marsha P. Johnson was a pioneer for the LGBTQ community and her story must never be forgotten. From the Stonewall Uprising and beyond, her activism helped to pave the way for equal rights for the LGBTQ community. Renaming the East River State Park in her name will honor her legacy and tell her story for generations to come,” said Lentol.

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