Community Gathers to Honor Marsha P. Johnson, Bayard Rustin

Qween Jean delivers a speech near a Trans Flag at Washington Square Park.
Donna Aceto

The local queer community assembled on August 24 to remember the lives of Marsha P. Johnson and Bayard Rustin, two pivotal queer figures whose legacies have continued to live on decades after their deaths.

Marchers celebrated what would have been Johnson’s 75th birthday and marked the 33rd anniversary of Rustin’s death on that day in 1987. Strategy for Black Lives led the organizing effort alongside Breathe, Starr, Black on Pride, the Descendants, Qween Jean, Queer March, and Gays Against Guns New York.

The crowd participates in a moment of silence at Washington Square Park.Donna Aceto

The event kicked off at Rustin’s former residence at 340 West 28th Street in Manhattan before proceeding to Washington Square Park. The march concluded with a birthday celebration for Johnson at Christopher Street’s Pier 46. 

Trans icon, civil rights leader remembered at their former homes on August 24

A smaller crowd helped kick off the march from Rustin’s former residence, but at Washington Square Park the group grew in size by a couple hundred individuals. Folks sang happy birthday songs and held moments of silence as they honored a pair of notable icons of the past.

The event also shined a spotlight on racism and police brutality facing Black Americans.

Rustin, who played an important role in the civil rights movement and navigated fierce homophobia that impacted his career, died at his Manhattan home of a perforated appendix 33 years ago. It has been 28 years since Johnson, a veteran of the Stonewall Uprising, was found dead in the Hudson River less than a week after the city’s Pride March in 1992. 

Randy Wicker, who joined queer rights activism in the 1950s and lived with Marsha P. Johnson, dons a shirt acknowledging the lives of Black individuals killed by police.Donna Aceto
Many in attendance pay tribute to Marsha P. Johnson’s love of colorful, floral headdresses.Donna Aceto
LGBTQ activist Brendan Fay holds a piece of art featuring Marsha P. Johnson and her role at Stonewall.Donna Aceto

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