Activist icon: The best Marsha P. Johnson quotes to motivate you
Let’s face it, we’re going through some really tough times. First, COVID-19 put the world on lockdown, with a death toll of 100,000 in the US alone. Then, after years of unarmed police killings, primarily against people of color, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. Needless to say, people are fed up.
What’s worse is that in protests across the country, police are using excessive force against nonviolent demonstrators. Photos of children being tear-gassed are appearing on our Facebook feeds. Curfews are in effect. The world is a mess.
We hope that real change comes out of these protests. We’re thinking back to Stonewall during these times, and how an uprising against oppression opened the door for queer rights. Same-sex marriage, housing & adoption rights, safe spaces, even existing without fearing institutionalization wouldn’t have happened without Stonewall.
Marsha P. Johnson was instrumental in making Stonewall happen. A local drag queen from New Jersey, Johnson is credited with throwing the “shot glass heard around the world,” kicking off the uprising. An activist for the rest of her life, she had a lot to say about standing up for the rights of fellow queer women of color. Here are our faves.
“Darling, I want my gay rights now!”
When asked by a reporter what she was doing at Stonewall, this is how Marsha P. Johnson angrily replied. It encompasses how fed up the queer community was at the time with being treated as less-than.
“Nobody promised you tomorrow”
This famous quote by Marsha P. Johnson became the name of an art exhibit in the Brooklyn Museum last year dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall. Right now, it’s a rallying cry that we need to keep fighting because our rights are never guaranteed.
“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”
In a famous piece for Pride 2013, artist Micah Bazant created a famous poster of Marsha P. Johnson with the quote emblazoned above her flower crown. While the quote is originally from Bazant, not Johnson, it truly encompasses everything Johnson stood for. It’s a call-out to more privileged members of the community to recognize that the fight for liberation goes beyond what the mainstream is only beginning to accept is wrong.
“I always just do drag. I never do it seriously”
Marsha P. Johnson said this in an interview on Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson. While she was poor and houseless, Johnson had to create her drag looks from scraps. She dug in dumpsters for extra fabric and Christmas lights. She even spent what little money she had on old flowers for her extravagant headpieces.
The quote captures the spirit of how Marsha P. Johnson never took life so seriously that she let it bring her down.
“You never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights”
Near the end of Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson, Johnson describes how she became involved in the queer rights movement and why she continued to march after Stonewall.
“As long as my people don’t have their rights across America, there’s no reason for celebration”
Marsha P. Johnson’s quote is a stark reminder that no one is free until we’re all free. We can celebrate our rights all we want, but we have to fight to ensure that those of us who are more marginalized can enjoy the same rights as us.