Marsha P Johnson park mural scrapped after backlash from trans hero’s own family

Lily Wakefield
·2-min read

Plans for a gaudy rainbow mural in the Marsha P Johnson state park in New York have been scrapped, after complaints from the trans hero’s family.

In August, 2020, New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Brooklyn’s East River State Park was being renamed Marsha P Johnson State Park, making it “the first state park to honour an LGBT+ person”.

But since then, plans have been made for the design of the park, with little input from the LGBT+ community or Johnson’s own family.

At a community meeting last week, Black trans activists raised concerns about the “harsh thermoplastic colours and extended cement slabs”, while Johnson’s family accused the city of using her name for publicity.

According to Brooklyn Paper, Johnson’s cousin James Carey said at the meeting: “I personally feel this was a mass deception campaign and our family was deceived, moving forward, from this point forward, no one will be trying to exploit my cousin’s name without consulting with my family.”

A petition, titled “Stop the Plastic Park”, was also signed almost 2,000 times.

While construction was initially paused following the community meeting, the state’s Parks Department has now confirmed that the design has been scrapped, according to Gay City News.

A department representative said that infrastructure upgrades would continue, but that there would be further consultations before a new design is decided on.

New York City regional director Leslie Wright said: “The interpretive design elements of this project will not be installed until we can develop a new path forward with the community.

“This means no mural will be placed on the historical concrete slabs in the park and no floral interpretive elements will be installed in the gantry plaza area.

“We will work hand in hand with the community to identify a more appropriate commemorative design.”

She added: “The leadership of the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation have heard the feedback and realised that the design outreach we did was simply not enough, and for that we are deeply sorry.”

Who was Marsha P Johnson?

At just 23 years old, Marsha P Johnson was a key figure in New York’s 1969 Stonewall uprising, which saw the LGBT+ community fight back against a police raid at the Stonewall in, and is widely recognised as the beginning of the modern LGBT+ rights movement.

She was spirited performer beloved by the Greenwich Village street life scene, founded the Gay Liberation Front and became involved with ACT UP.

Later, she founded Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to work on behalf of homeless queer youth.