I was uptown and I didn’t get downtown until about two o’clock, because when I got downtown the place was already on fire. And it was a raid already. The riots had already started. And they said the police went in there and set the place on fire. They said the police set it on fire because they originally wanted the Stonewall to close, so they had several raids.” – Marsha P. Johnson
In this rare and informative audio the details of that fateful night on June 28, 1969 come from Johnson’s own mouth and puts many of the rumors and folklore of the Stonewall Riots to restonce and for all.
Ever since Roland Emmerich’s trailer for his fictionalized re-telling of the Stonewall riots has been released there has been many arguments of white-washing, acts of vandalism and the passing around of folklore as history that is not true. Much of this centers around trans-activists Sylvia Riveria and Marsha Johnson and their involvement in the actual raid and riots itself.
So far we have heard: Marsha was in the bar to celebrate her birthday, Marsha was outside the bar and ripped up a parking meter and used it as a battering ram and Marsha threw the first brick. Whe have heard: Sylvia was inside the bar (even though she was 17 and had no ID), Sylvia was outside throwing pennies, Sylvia threw the first heel, and so on.
My late uncle Bob Kohler was a Stonewall veteran; he could never actually place either Sylvia or Marsha at the bar. And in light of the recent developments I went to a source that many trans activists cannot dispute Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Miss Major is a community leader for transgender rights, with a particular focus on women of color and serves as the Executive Director for the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project and was actually in the Stonewall Inn meeting with a girlfriend when the bar was raided. In her past interviews I noticed that while mentioning that Sylvia and Marsha were both important figures in LGBT history (which they are) that she never really placed them at the bar itself.
So I asked Miss Majors straight out. Were either Sylvia Rivera or Marsha Johnson at the the Stonewall Inn when it was raided or when the riot started?
Her answer was no.
Now the Stonewall Inn is not and was not a large bar. And Miss Major has placed Sylvia at a rally afterwards but cannot place her or Marsha at the bar that night or the melee directly afterwards. There is no doubt that both Sylvia and Marsha were involved in the three days of rioting afterwards but no witness has ever been found that place them at the Stonewall Inn at the time of the raid or immediately following the riots. Even Marsha P. Johnson had said herself many times that she was the one who told Sylvia about the raid after it started and things were well underway. The only person that ever claimed that Sylvia was in the bar was Sylvia herself. And that was 15 years after the fact and and at a time when she was trying to raise awareness for her group S.T.A.R (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). Anyone who is alive today who actually knew Sylvia could tell you that while she had good intentions she was a bit…….”emotional.”
Now both Sylvia and Marsha did a lot for trans street kids and all street kids in general L, G, B, and T and they deserve respect and credit in our history for that. But the rumors, and folklore must stop. No individual, no certain group of people started the Stonewall Riots. It was ALL of us who did. Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, Straight, Black, White, Hispanic and so on. Everyone took part and honestly those who do try to claim credit or a certain individual and group are just as bad as Roland Emmerich.
Our history is not well documented and very fragile. Lets try to keep it truthful and keep personal agendas out of it.
David France reporter, author and documentary filmmaker best known for his book and ACT UP/TAG documentary How To Survive A Plague is facing accusations of theft and historical misrepresentation in his latest NETFLIX release The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.
Transgender activist, filmmaker, and writer Reina Gossett has accused France of stealing work from her to create his investigative documentary saying that France saw a grant application video she made about Johnson, decided he would make the movie, then erased her work from public records and used it himself.
This week, while I’m borrowing money to pay rent, David France is releasing his multimillion dollar Netflix deal on Marsha P. Johnson,” Gossett wrote on Instagram. “I’m still lost in the music trying to #pay_it_no_mind and reeling on how this movie came to be and make so much $ off of our lives and ideas.
David got inspired to make this film from a grant application video that @sashawortzel and I made and sent to Kalamazoo/Arcus Foundation social justice center while he was visiting. He told the people who worked there — I sh/*t you not — that he should be the one to do this film, got a grant from Sundance/Arcus using my language and research about STAR, got Vimeo to remove my video of Sylvia’s critical ‘y’all better quiet down’ speech, ripped off decades of my archival research that I experienced so much violence to get, had his staff call Sasha up at work to get our contacts, then hired my and Sasha’s ADVISOR to our Marsha film Kimberly Reed to be his producer.
France responded to Gossett and Mock on Twitter, saying he had a long friendship with Johnson, and claiming that he’d cleared the matter with Gossett before proceeding with the film. He also added that he supported Reina ‘s work.
After viewing The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson and as an LGBT historian who knew both Marsha and Sylvia Rivera who is also featured in film another disturbing problem is France’s insistence to leave out certain key points of Marsha’s life which could have attributed to her possible murder. including: Johnsons diagnosis as schizophrenia and on-going mental problems, details of her family situation and home life, her HIV status, and also her hospitalizations and arrests for prostitution and theft, thus sanitizing his piece and Marsha herself.
Marsha Johnson was a unique person. She was also a human being and had human problems and that is where France’s work misses the mark. It is not so much about the life of Johnson because so much is left out. TDALMPJ really more the story of Victoria Cruz from the New York Anti-Violence Project and her research of looking into Marsha’s death with an extrodinate amount of screen time given to the late Sylvia Rivera using footage that much of which was not vetted for accuracy.
Do I believe that Marsha P. Johnson was murdered? Yes I do. But with the amount of information purposely left out of France’s work I cannot come to the conclusion that his film comes to and if it was included it would shatter the narrative that he in a sense manipulated to achieve.
Marsha P. Johnson was an extraordinary person with a heat of gold who fought for all of the LGBT community’s civil rights. And while the archive footage in question is without a doubt fascinating and in my opinion the best part of this piece of work.
Crissle West — writer, comedian, and co-host of The Read podcast — popped by Comedy Central’s Drunk History this week to dutifully drain a few glasses of boozer and retell the story of the Stonewall Riots, and Marsha. P. Johnson’s involvement in it and got it all wrong, basically just telling the same tired trans-activists narrative lie of that fateful evening on June 28, 1969.
West’s version of the same old lies and rewriting of history by trans-activists with an agenda to steal Stonewall from the gay men and lesbians and put trans-people as the stars of this historical event when in actuality they were only a small part of the supporting cast.
FACT: Marsha Johnson was homeless because she had mental health problems. She suffered psychotic breaks and a multiple personality disorder. And while loved by many was actually banned from many of the gay bars in the Village.
FACT: She was not a customer at the Stonewall. She wasn’t inside the Stonewall. Neither was Sylvia Rivera. The only person who ever said Sylvia Rivera was inside the bar was Rivera herself and not one confirmed patron ever saw her of Johnson in the bar.
FACT: Johnson did not “spark” the riots. She did not throw a shot glass inside the Stonewall. No one did. And she did not give a speech. In her own words she was not near the bar when the riot started. There was no one person who “sparked” the riot, although the closest candidate would be a lesbian who resisted being hustled into a police car. A lesbian. Not a crossdresser. Not a transgender.
FACT: The Stonewall riots were 3 nights, not 2.
FACT: Gay youth did not have access to bars and dance clubs as the video claims. In fact, there was a group of homeless white and Latino gay kids living on the street near the Stonewall and they – not transsexuals or transgenders – were the ones who fought most fiercely.
FACT: The rioters were overwhelmingly gay male. They were largely white (reflecting the makeup of NYC in 1969), but there was substantial Latino and African American participation. There were only a tiny number of crossdressers at Stonewall, in the range of 2-4, and Johnson was the only transgender present. This is out of a cumulative 3-night crowd of 2000. There were far more heterosexual rioters at Stonewall than crossdressers or transgenders.
Transsexual activist Mariah Lopez has gotten the Manhattan D.A.’s office to assign someone to look more closely into the death of NYC icon and transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson whose body was found floating in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers shortly after the 1992 LGBT Pride March.
One of NYC’s best known and loved figures of the LGBT revolution Johnson was a leader in clashes with the police amid the Stonewall Riots and was a co-founder, along with Sylvia Rivera, of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in the early 1970s. She also was the “mother” of S.T.A.R. House along with Sylvia, getting together food and clothing to help support transgender youth and lesbian and gay kids both living in the house on the lower East Side of New York and at the piers on the Westside highway.
Police originally ruled Marsha Johnsons death a suicide. But Johnson’s friends and supporters said she was not suicidal, and a people’s postering campaign later declared that Johnson had earlier been harassed near the spot where her body was found.
Attempts to get the police to investigate the cause of death were unsuccessful until now 21 years later.
Ms. Lopez is also pushing for a permanent tribute statue of Marsha P Johnson by the Christopher Pier which would be a wonderful homage to one of NYC’s first and most loved Stonewall era icons.
Marsha P. Johnson was an African-American transgender activist and a popular figure in New York City’s gay scene from the 1960s to the 1990s.
One of the city’s oldest and best known “drag queens”, (which is what Marsha proudly reffered to herself as) Marsha sometimes worked as a waitress, but usually she worked the streets. She was known for helping other transvestites and street people and was regarded as one of NYC’s original drag mothers.
Marsha participated in clashes with the police amid the Stonewall Riots along with her friend Sylvia Rivera and both became co-founders, of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in the early 1970s. Marsha and Sylvia became the mothers of S.T.A.R House and together gathered food and clothing to help support the young queens living in the house on the streets of the lower East Side of New York.
Marsha was one of a kind. Once, appearing in a court the judge asked Marsha, “What does the ‘P’ stand for?”, Johnson gave her customary response “Pay it No Mind.” and the judge laughed and let her go. This phrase became her trademark. In 1974 Marsha P. Johnson was photographed by famed artist Andy Warhol, as part of a “ladies and gentlemen” series of polaroids featuring drag queens.
Masha P. Johnson was as tough and as gritty as New York City itself. But as kind and as loving as any mother could be to her “children”
In July of 1992 that came to an abrupt end when Marsha’s body was found floating in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers shortly after the 1992 Pride March. Police ruled the death a suicide. Johnson friends and supporters said she was not suicidal, and a people’s postering campaign later declared that Johnson had earlier been harassed near the spot where her body was found. Attempts to get the police to investigate the cause of death were unsuccessful but many today believe that Marsha was murdered.
Marsha P. Johnson was an original, an activist, and a martyr.