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Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera march in New York City in 1973.Photo courtesy of Netflix
Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera march in New York City in 1973.Photo courtesy of Netflix

Sylvia Rivera, Latinx stonewall activist, is getting a monument in New York

50 years later, the city apologizes to the pioneers of the LGBTQ revolution.

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This coming June 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the seed of what is now celebrated as the Pride Parade and Pride Month.

It was in that bar in Greenwich, Manhattan (NY), that the first major civil rights protest by the LGBT+ community took place after the New York police made one of their usual raids against LGBT+ youth.

That night, the lead faces of the resistance against the police forces were two transgender activists: the African-American Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who had Latinx roots.

The two women were committed to social causes since they had experienced extreme poverty, lived on the streets of New York, and had suffered for most of their lives from violence, police abuse, and discrimination even within the gay community itself due to their skin color, cultural identity, and even their way of dressing.

Now, 50 years after the LGBT+ fight for equal rights started, the state of New York organized WorldPride throughout the month of June, to celebrate the diversity and commemorate all of those who fought in Stonewall.

As part of the celebration, the state of New York raised the pride flag in the State Capitol for the first time in history — a challenging action since Trump administration banned the rainbow flag in all the U.S. embassies around the world.

And while Trump also bans transgender people from serving their country in the Armed Forces, New York announced they will build two statues in honor of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

The monument will be located on the same street as the Stonewall bar, Christopher Street, and will be inaugurated in 2021 with a budget of 750,000 dollars. It will be the first work of its kind to honor transgender activists, according to The New York Times.

Latinx and pioneer

Ever since she was a child Sylvia Rivera always knew who she was and what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Although her life, at first, felt like hell.

Sylvia was the daughter of a Puerto Rican father who disappeared shortly after she was born, and of a Venezuelan mother who committed suicide when she was only three years old.

An orphan from an early age, Sylvia moved with her sister to her grandmother’s house; her grandmother despised her femininity, letting the child know her disapproval with repeated beatings.

The bullying at school was also an issue and began when Sylvia started to put on make-up in fourth grade. She had had enough by sixth grade when she left formal education.

Her teenage years continued down the same path: a hard and tragic way. She lived in different houses, then in a Catholic boarding school, and finally landed on the streets at 11 years of age, when she became a sex worker. Later on, she found her true identity as Sylvia and was embraced by a new family: the drag queens of New York.

It was along with the drag queens (Sylvia was considered one of them) where she developed her activism and advocacy on behalf of her marginalized community and the LGBT+ youth who lived on the streets.

And although there are many detractors about this historical fact, it is widely believed that Sylvia was the first person to throw a stone against the police that night of 1969. But regardless of who threw the first stone, there is no doubt that Sylvia and her best friend Marsha P. Johnson started a worldwide movement of freedom that continues on to this day.

Sylvia's political activism lasted until her death in 2002 when she passed due to complications of liver cancer at the age of 50.

The NYPD apologizes

This Pride Month is particularly special, not only because of what was mentioned earlier in this article, but also because, for the first time in history, the NYPD apologized to the LGBT+ community for their actions at Stonewall 50 years ago.

New York Police Chief James O'Neill told The New York Times that "what happened should not have happened. The actions of the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and laws were discriminatory and oppressive and, therefore, I apologize".

Better late than never.

And another example that no matter how long it takes, love always wins!

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