“I was a radical, a revolutionist. I am still a revolutionist. I was proud to make the road and help change laws and what-not. I was very proud of doing that and proud of what I’m still doing, no matter what it takes.” Sylvia Rivera to Leslie Feinberg
(Sylvia Rivera & Marsha P Johnson, photo by Leonard Fink)
Tomorrow marks the 10 year anniversary of Sylvia Rivera’s transition from this life. I never knew her but as an trans activist and organizer at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project I am constantly surrounded by people who did and consistently bare witness and benefit from Sylvia Rivera’s work for self determination and liberation.
A lot of people within queer and trans social liberation movements know about or have known Sylvia Rivera. I am moved and inspired by the length of time she dedicated to fermenting revolutionary change and generating self determination. She did this before, during and after the Stonewall rebellion. She co-created Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) after fighting off the NYPD at NYU and together created STAR house in the east village. Upon meeting Sylvia Rivera at the Peoples’ Revolutionary Convention in Philadelphia in 1971 Huey P Newton knew exactly who she was and told her so, affectionately calling her “that queen from New York City.”
Two years later during her fight against the commercialization of Gay Pride, Sylvia Rivera was pushed out of the movement and moved to Terrytown where she continued to supported trans people thru radical reciprocity and sharing her home. She moved back to NYC in the 90s to occupy the Christopher Street pier in order to support homeless and low income queer and trans people and challenge affluent queers who were invested in assimilation than creating radical reciprocity in relationships. Before she died she organized around Matthew Shepard’s death, Amanda Milan’s death, the gentrifying of the pier and continued to build a movement to hold the lives of many poor trans & gender non conforming people and trans & gender non conforming people of color.
Rusty Mae Moore & Sylvia Rivera (photo from Jerimarie Liesegang flickr)
I am fascinated and in awe of her life. In an effort to resist the nostalgia that often accompanies people who are larger than life & help support a social history inhabited by a human Sylvia Rivera I want to share everything I could get my hands on about her. In honor of this I’ll be posting on my blog only SylviaRivera related material including copies of her speeches, writings, articles from her organizing from the late 60s to 2001 as well as interviews she gave. I’ll be doing this for the next 10 days, hopefully this will be the start of an abundance of digital archives on her life as well as the lives present with her that few people know about.
Sylvia Rivera & her partner Julia Murray (photo from Jerimarie Liesegang’s flickr)