Marsha "Pay It No Mind" Johnson is widely considered to be one of the catalysts of the gay rights movement in America. A drag queen and beloved activist, Johnson emerged as a champion of sexual minoroties and is credited with sparking the Stonewall Riots.
Johnson has since been canonized as hero of the LGBTQ community. New Yorkers and queer people around the world mourned her untimely death in 1992.
Although her death was officially deemed a suicide, suspicions were aroused about the situation almost immediately and were summarily dismissed by the police, who had and continue to have a fraught relationship with LGBTQs.
Now, a new Netflix documentary, titled "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson," looks into the circumstances surrounding the beloved icon's demise in the hopes of finally providing some closure and justice.
Here's 5 facts you need to know about Marsha before diving into the documetary, which premiers October 6:
1. She is considered the person to have thrown the first brick during the Stonewall Riots.
The Stonewall Riots occurred during the summer of 1969 after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a local New York bar known for it's covert gay customer base. As arrests and police raids on unsuspecting citizens began, some fought back, inciting violence and demonstrations in the street. Marsha is credited with the first act of resistance against the police, who were attempting to apprehend drag queens and transvestites for the crime of cross-dressing. Although specific details of the brick-throwing incident which incited the organized outburts are considered apocryphal, Marsha is still widely recognized as the inspiration for the movement.
2. She modeled for Andy Warhol.
Marsha wasn't only an activist, she also was a model and performer. Warhol famously snapped a Polaroid of her in 1975 as part of the "Ladies and Gentlemen" series. She also performed alongside the Hot Peaches group of queer artists and was considered the mother of the STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) house.
3. She also was an activist for HIV/AIDS issues.
Although she is most famously associated with the revolts of the late 60s and early 70s, as the AIDS crisis took hold of America, Johnson became increasingly involved in important organizations like ACT UP.
"How many people have died for these two little statues to be placed in the park to recognize gay people? How many years does it take for people to see that we're all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean how many years does it take for people to see that? We're all in this rat race together," Marsha had said of the construction of a monument for gay rights during her ACT UP activism, according to the documentary "Pay It No Mind - The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson" by Michael Kasino.
4. Those closest to Marsha completely deny that she was suicidal.
Johnson's body was found in 1992 floating in the Hudson River. Police ruled the death a suicide, but friends insisted that Marsha was being harassed, with some even saying they overheard a conversation in which someone had bragged about killing a drag queen, according to the New York Daily News.
5. The case on Marsha's death has been reopened.
Activist Mariah Lopez's tireless efforts to look into Marsha's death, which are the subject of the upcoming Netflix documentary, ultimately resulted in the New York police department's decision to reopen the case as a possible homicide.
"The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson" will be available to stream on Netflix on October 6.
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Netflix]
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