Remembering Marsha P Johnson
As I write this blog, I feel it necessary to introduce myself a little more. I've been writing the blogs for a while here at PEP Kitchen, but my personal identity is a little more important for this one! My name is Jemima Rex, and I identify as a lesbian. I feel it's key to let you, the reader, know this because as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I too am tired of reading articles about the community which are written by those who have never experienced day-to-day life as one of us.
Most of you will know this by now, but June is Pride Month! Perhaps more importantly, Monday 28th June is the anniversary of one of the most pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ History. It was on the 28th June in 1969 that New York Police violently raided the Stonewall Inn, an infamous gay club in New York City. Patrons and staff were violently removed, triggering 6 days of riots. These riots became the beginning of a huge LGBTQ+ uprising globally. The people who participated in those riots are hugely responsible for the rights that LGBTQ+ people have in the present day. We still have a long way to go, but we're a long way from where we were.
One of those people we all have to thank is Marsha P Johnson. The 'P' stood for Pay It No Mind, her response when questioned about her gender. She was a Black drag artist, sex worker and activist, and the community today owes a lot to her. Whilst, yes, she played a role in the Stonewall Riots, however this was not her only time protecting LGBTQ+ people. This is the less told part of Marsha's story.
We at PEP are particularly in awe of Marsha's work with STAR, an organisation she formed with Sylvia Rivera, another incredible activist of the time. STAR's purpose was to support marginalised people who weren't supported enough by existing organisations. For example, homeless transgender people, who without organisations like STAR, would have gone for much longer without food and shelter. At PEP we really value the power of people and of food in bringing people comfort and togetherness. It is impossible to imagine what people like Marsha and all the people her organisation helped went through, as it paved the way to infinitely better inclusion and lots of effective law-making.
This month, we remember all the people like Marsha P Johnson who gave their lives and livelihoods to protecting and uplifting LGBTQ+ people and ensuring those in need had food, shelter and support to be themselves in the face of oppression. Today I strive to carry out acts of kindness in honour of those who have fought for our rights, and I feel it's important to remember the people, largely Black lesbians, gay men and transgender people, who we owe our freedom to.