A bright, floral gateway in Brooklyn will honor LGBTQ+ trailblazer Marsha P. Johnson

A bold, artful park entrance will soon welcome visitors to Marsha P. Johnson State Park to honor the late transgender activist and to commemorate her spirit and legacy. 

State officials announced the plans for the park gateway on August 24, on what would have been Johnson’s 77th birthday. After growing up in New Jersey during the 1940s, Johnson moved to Greenwich Village adopting the full name Marsha P. Johnson with the “P” standing for “Pay It No Mind.”

“To her, this was a life motto and a response to questions about her gender,” according to the New-York Historical Society.

The phrase “Pay It No Mind” will be written above the entryway next to vibrant pink, yellow, and blue floral sculptures.

In addition to the gateway, located at the Kent Avenue/North Eighth Street intersection, officials have recently added dozens of new trees, a great lawn, pathways, and panels documenting Johnson’s life and work. A native species perennial garden and “Marsha’s hillside” honor her love of nature. The gateway is the final piece of work at the park, capping a $16.5 million renovation project. If all goes as planned, you’ll be able to see the gateway sometime in 2023. 

“I am so proud that our North Brooklyn district is home to this beautiful, public waterfront open space that honors the legacy of Marsha P. Johnson and the ongoing struggle for Black, queer and trans liberation,” Assemblymember Emily Gallagher said in a statement. “On what would have been her 77th birthday, the New York State Office of Parks has revealed a thoughtful, bold design to welcome neighbors and visitors alike to this truly unique place.”

Floral sculptures surround a metal park gate.
Photograph: Courtesy of Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

About Marsha P. Johnson 

Known as an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and HIV/AIDS treatment, Johnson was a prominent figure of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. While there are many conflicting accounts about the uprising’s start, the New-York Historical Society says it’s clear that she was “on the front lines.” 

“In one account, she started the uprising by throwing a shot glass at a mirror. In another, she climbed a lamppost and dropped a heavy purse onto a police car, shattering the windshield,” the Historical Society wrote. “Young trans women like Marsha were particularly vocal that night because they felt they had nothing left to lose. Their rage was not just about the police. It was about the oppression and fear they felt every single day.”

In addition, she was also:

  • A founding member of the Gay Liberation Front
  • An activist with ACT UP
  • A co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), later renamed as Strategic Transgender Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR) 

“Marsha P. Johnson is someone we consider a pillar in our Trans community of color, and someone who broke down barriers for us to be able to be seen and heard,” New York State Executive Chamber Deputy Director of LGBTQ+ Affairs Chanel Lopez said in a statement.

About the park

If you haven’t been to Marsha P. Johnson State Park, here’s what to expect:

  • A seven-acre waterfront park located along the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 
  • Stunning views of the Manhattan skyline. 
  • A play area, plus a greenspace for relaxing. 
  • Historical remnants, like old cobblestone streets and railroad tracks embedded in concrete, evoking the site’s history as a 19th century shipping dock. 
  • It’s free and open to the public, so go visit and remember Marsha P. Johnson’s legacy.

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