97,000 People Petition to Replace Columbus Statue With Tribute to Black Trans Icon

AP featured image
Two activists climb on top of the 60-meter (197-feet) monument Christopher Columbus tower after placing a vest with the words “Open Arms” on the statue in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, June 4, 2018. Activists in Barcelona have dressed in an orange life-vest a statue of 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus to turn attention to the loss of life of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)


Christopher Columbus hasn’t gotten a lot of love as of late, and some are calling for his statue in New Jersey to be taken down. But don’t accuse them of not thinking it through — the group has a ready replacement for the man who, as we were previously taught, “sailed the ocean blue.”

That’s all old news now, and there’s a new tribute in town.

According to a petition, Christopher should be knocked off his perch in the town of Elizabeth, and in his place should go a tribute to Marsha P. Johnson.

If you’re unfamiliar, Marsha was previously a topic of discussion amid New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife’s spearheading of the “She Built NYC” memorial. Back in October, a Big Apple committee chose seven individuals to be honored.

From my article at the time:

Marsha P. Johnson was an activist whose involvement in the 1969 Stonewall Riots helped pave the way toward trans acceptance. Born in Elizabeth…Johnson moved to New York City after high school with just $15 and a bag of clothes. Though she struggled with homelessness, Johnson devoted her life to advocating for gay and transgender street youth, sex workers and people with HIV/AIDS… Towering in red plastic heels and floral wigs, Johnson was a captivating figure who caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who photographed her. She will share a monument in Greenwich Village with Sylvia Rivera.


That’s Marsha, and that’s the recommended Columbus substitute as per more than 97,000 signatures — fewer than 60,000 from the Change.org effort’s goal.

The petition dogs Chris somethin’ fierce:

The appropriateness of celebrating Christopher Columbus is something that has become more popular discourse in recent years. Although it is widely taught that Columbus “discovered” the Americas, he could not have “discovered” land that was already occupied by indigenous groups. Many believe celebrating Columbus is glorifying European colonialism. Columbus is not a figure to be celebrated, as he enslaved and killed the Taíno. Him and his men also sexually abused Taíno women and girls, some as young as 9 years old. He was even arrested in his own time for crimes he committed against Spanish colonists, which included flogging and executions without trial.

“For these reasons,” the petition asserts, “the statue of Christopher Columbus in Elizabeth should be removed and replaced with a monument to someone who is deserving of being celebrated, Marsha P. Johnson.”

Here’s how it describes her:

[S]he was revered and was an inspiration to many in the LGBT+ community. She was a part of the Gay Liberation Front and staged a sit-in protest at NYU when the administration cancelled a dance sponsored by gay organizations. She also co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with her close friend Sylvia Rivera. They established a shelter for homeless, gay and trans kids called the STAR house, where they provided shelter, food, clothing and emotional support. She was referred to as “Saint Marsha” because of the things she did for New York’s LGBT+ community.


Marsha’s been getting quite the kudos.

Courtesy of The Daily Wire:

Johnson has gained notoriety in recent years and especially in the past week, when Google created a Google Doodle to honor Johnson and then donated $500,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, the Associated Press reported.

Marsha’s story ended tragically — the activist was found in the Hudson River. However, as per the Wire, friends insisted it wasn’t suicide.

As for the statue, the swap-out seems absolutely apropos of the times.

And it answers a burning question: As purveyors of change seek to destroy history or at least delete reminders of it, what will take its place?

As America is remade in the image of the country’s new normal, I’d say expect a lot more of the same.

Where does it end? And when? Putting Christopher aside for a moment, more generally, with regard to judging people from the past according to views of today, how contemporary must those who aren’t contemporary be? Despite what some may think, many beliefs and activities at home in 2020 will be deemed at best obsolete and at worst evil somewhere down the line. Will we continue to hit Reset?

Or will we last long enough for that to be an issue?

Whatever the case, in 1962, Ella Fitzgerald sang “The New Jersey Bounce.”


And now nearly 100,000 Americans wanna bounce Columbus out of town.



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