Marsha P. Johnson: An Activist and Inspiration
WARNING: Some of the information you’ll learn about Marsha P. Johnson is sensitive in nature. This block might not be appropriate for everyone. If you are young or easily upset by references to violence, then you should check with your grown ups before going any further.
Some of the content includes violence, reference to death, and mention of mature subject matter.
Marsha P. Johnson was a prominent LGBTQ+ activist in New York City, NY, USA. She is remembered for her role in the Stonewall Riots (1969) and the Gay Liberation Front, as well as her AIDS activism. She also co-founded STAR, an organization to support homeless youth. She championed the rights of marginalized groups in the gay rights movement, particularly transgender people of colour.
There are two videos to choose from to learn about Marsha P. Johnson…
Younger children will need to get permission from their grown-up to watch them as they contain some more mature references.
Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to test your understanding by taking the quiz!
High school students or any student who wants to dig deeper, continue your study with one of the advanced learning projects located at the end of this learning block!
Take A Deeper Dive!
Make a Lapbook: “There’s More to Me”
First, watch the read-aloud video of Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall.
Like Marsha P. Johnson, Red was different from what others expected of him and what they saw on his outside. We all have more to us than people can see. Make a “There’s More to Me” lapbook to illustrate what is special about you.
For this activity, you will need:
- A file folder
- Tape or a glue stick
- Markers or coloured pencils
- Pictures of yourself
Fold your file folder into a lapbook (follow the first half of this video to see how this is done). Now your folder looks like a cabinet with doors that open.
With the doors closed, write “There’s more to me than you can see” across the outside. Decorate it however you like.
Now fill the inside of your lapbook with images or words that represent you. You can draw pictures, paste in photos, write words that represent you, anything you like!
Save this project to your portfolio.
As a transgender person of colour, Marsha struggled to find community early in her life. She created her own community within the gay rights movement and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).
What does your community look like? Who makes you feel safe, seen, and supported?
Create a collage of your community. You will need:
- A large piece of paper or bristol board, any colour
- A glue stick
- Pictures (photos, magazine cut-outs, pictures printed from the computer)
- Optional: markers or coloured pencils
Your community might include people you know in real life or authors, community leaders, bloggers, etc., that you feel represent your community. You can use markers, pencils, photographs, cut out pictures from magazines, or print from the internet to create a work of art that represents your community.
Save your artwork to your portfolio.
Create Your Own Picture Book
Watch the video on How to Write a Story.
You could write a story about an LGBTQ+ event in history such as the Stonewall Riots, or a person in history such as Marsha P. Johnson, or you could write a story about an LGBTQ+ child or family and their experiences.
Watch the video on different ways to bind your book and choose a method. Collect your supplies based on the method you have selected.
You will need:
- White paper
- Coloured paper or cardstock for your book cover
- Binding materials (staples, washi tape, binder rings, brads, hole punch, binder clips, etc.)
- Coloured pencils or markers to illustrate your book
- Pencil to write your book
Save your book to your portfolio.
Advanced Projects & Videos
Choose at least one.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Watch the trailer for the Netflix documentary.
Frameline Voices – Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson
A feature length documentary on Marsha P. Johnson.
History: Marsha P. Johnson
Listen to Marsha P. Johnson talk about her involvement in the Stonewall Riots in her own words.
Queer History #1 || MARSHA P. JOHNSON
Story of Marsha P. Johnson.
More about Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and their activism work.
40% of Homeless Youth Are LGBTQ – What We Can Do | Melissa Moore
Part of Marsha P. Johnson’s legacy was her support of homeless youth in New York. Watch this moving Tedx on the prevalence of homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth today
Write a Poem, Song, or Rap
Watch the video of Marsha P. Johnson reciting her Poem, Soul.
Write a poem, song, or rap about Marsha P. Johnson. Poems and songs often capture the experience or emotion of a moment. Think about how you can connect to the human element of the story in writing your poem.
- The thoughts and feelings tied to an experience
- The best kind of poem to express this
- If you’re writing a song, consider the type of music you choose to add to the purpose of the poem
- If you’re writing a rap, consider how the flow and cadence of the words and the syllabic percussion can add emphasis and connect the listener to the intent of the words
Upload it to your portfolio as a written piece, or record it as video.
Create a Newspaper
Download this activity. Read the excerpts from actual newspaper articles published after the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and think about the discussion questions that are included.
It is always important to consider language and bias when reading a report of an event.
Now, create a mini newspaper about Marsha, her contemporaries and the Stonewall Riots…but imagine the event happened in the present day. Include three short articles and at least one advertisement. Use a free newspaper template tool for Google Docs to make your newspaper look professional.
How do your articles differ from those from 1969?
Include your finished copy in your portfolio.
Click on a book to buy it from Amazon. Or, you can ask for them at your local library.