I recently fell down the YouTube rabbit hole and came across a great, hour long documentary about Marsha P. Johnson. I’d known her impact from studies in college, but there’s a power in hearing her own voice tell her story. For those of my friends who aren’t familiar with Marsha P. Johnson, let me give you the highlights.
Marsha Johnson was born Malcolm Michaels, Jr in New Jersey in 1945 and became a famous fixture in the gay and trans communities in NYC. Throughout her short life, she was a gay activist, trans activist, drag queen, key participant of the Stonewall Uprising, AIDS Activist, sex worker, and artistic model to Andy Warhol. Her philanthropic work directly helped gay and trans young people on the streets in NYC. She co-founded the STAR organization, and worked as an organizer for AIDS advocacy with ACT UP. Her life was turbulent and dynamic, and was ultimately cut short in 1992 under questionable circumstances. But her legacy is undeniable.
Often I try to synthesize the lives of amazing women into 500 word articles. But in doing so, her story is transmuted through my lens of the world. It is so much more important to hear, read, see individuals own their own lives in their own words. I want her own voice to echo. Though it is through a lens, Michael Kasino and Richard Morrison’s documentary “Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson” provides insight into her life, supported by an extensive interview she gave only ten days prior to her death. I highly recommend you spend an hour and learn about this fascinating, trailblazing, powerful woman and the work she accomplished. And the work left undone for the rest of us to carry on.
If you are interested in reading about her life, Out History has a great article on her life, as well.