By Jahneil La Mara
While many of us are familiar with the 1969 Stonewall riots, the story of queer and trans people of color are still untold. Film directors Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel are working on sharing the lives of the self-proclaimed “street queens” Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson and Sylvia Rivera with their narrative film, Happy Birthday, Marsha!
According to the website, “Marsha throws a party, but no one shows up. Meanwhile, Sylvia gets stoned and forgets the party after unsuccessfully introducing her lover to her family. Throughout the difficult day, the friends struggle with harassment and alienation before converging at the Stonewall Inn to finally celebrate Marsha’s birth.” Marsha and Sylvia, both homeless, were Black and Latina trans women that played an important role in igniting the riots.
This project came about from Gossett working at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project where she interacted with many people that knew Sylvia and Marsha personally.
“We were just really inspired by all of the organizing that Marsha and Sylvia did throughout their entire lives. They were there the night of Stonewall but after Stonewall they formed STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) as a group to really fight for the homeless, street queens, people doing sex work and people of color,” Gossett tells ELIXHER.
The directors have been collaborating for four years now and were awarded a fellowship with filmmaker Ira Sach’s Queer/Art/Mentorship program in 2012. This project guided them through writing the script for Happy Birthday, Marsha!
People of color have been erased from historical events for far too long. “It’s not unusual that Black and Latina lives are written out of history and not told,” adds Gossett. Marsha and Sylvia embody many marginalized groups that don’t received the credit that they deserve.
Gossett and Wortzel are currently raising funds for the production of their film. Donations can come in any size and every donation is valued. The directors are aware of all financial situations and suggest that the smallest donations are adding up quickly and are just as appreciated.
Jahneil La Mara is a Southern California native and graduate of Florida’s Bethune-Cookman University where she received her B.A. in Mass Communications and served as editor-in-chief of the school paper. Nowadays she’s learning the streets of NYC. She has always been intrigued by the personal style of others and loves food, natural hair, traveling and Instagram. La Mara enjoys reading all things queer, fiction and non-fiction, and writes about her personal experiences being a young fashionable queer woman of color on her blog, LaLaLaMara.com. She serves as an editorial intern at ELIXHER.com.