June is Pride Month, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ community and our queer history. Every year since the Stonewall riots of 1969, we take to the streets to honor the activists that paved our way, adding to their legacy by joining together in community––an act of rebellion in itself. And after last year, when 2020’s festivities were canceled or relegated to Zoom as we collectively settled into stay-at-home orders amidst the pandemic, 2021’s IRL celebration of Pride is bound to be even more special than years’ past.
For queer folks, linking back up after a year in isolation means so much. The survival of our community has historically depended on us being in one another’s presence, cultivating queer visibility, and fighting for our rightful space in society. We hold one another in love, support, and acceptance as no one else can. That’s why, in a show of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, Macy’s tapped the beautiful staff of Alibi Lounge, Harlem’s first Black-owned gay bar, to model for a lookbook celebrating Macy’s and its contributions to The Trevor Project* throughout Pride Month.
As we all continue to pick up the pieces in the wake of the pandemic, lending a hand of support to marginalized communities is not only appreciated, it’s vital to the survival of our cultural spaces. Getting behind queer organizations is one of the best ways allies can uplift LGBTQ people. Because in the queer community, the centers, gay bars, circuit parties, and any other places where we’re invited to gather in full expression of ourselves, represent more than just their calling cards. Places like Alibi serve as a safe space for queer people to connect freely without judgment in a world that doesn’t always offer us that privilege.
“An LGBTQ space, for kids, for anyone, is a safe haven. You know that when you go through the doors of Alibi, for example, you will be automatically welcomed with no questions whatsoever. You’ll feel loved,” said Alexi Minko, the owner of Alibi. “There’s something comforting for the human spirit when you feel like you belong. And that’s what LGBTQ spaces offer.”
Below, read more about Alexi Minko’s fight to keep Alibi open this past year, what the pandemic taught him about the power of community, the importance of saving our queer spaces, and how you can support The Trevor Project by shopping at Macy’s during Pride month too.
Alexi Minko on “Being Part of a Community”:
With lockdown measures hitting the hospitality industry particularly hard last year, bar owners like Minko had to make a lot of tough business decisions in 2020––the principal one being: Do we take a chance on ourselves and fight to keep the doors open? Alibi didn’t serve food, so Minko was left to figure out how they even could stay open with the initial restrictions of offering delivery and takeout services only. Adding to the stress, Minko had been brutally physically assaulted at Alibi less than a week prior to the first shutdown, and sent home from the hospital (because of the incoming COVID patients) to recover on his own. “So for a minute, I decided to actually close the lounge. I contacted the landlord and our lawyers and started drawing up a Notice of Surrender,” Minko tells Complex. “And then, this is the beauty of being part of a community, whatsoever, and in our case, the gay community; people around me who were friends, who had been customers, told me, ‘Absolutely not. You absolutely cannot close Alibi.’”
So, Minko got to work, building out an outdoor space and creating to-go drink options in an effort to keep his pillar of the uptown gay community open for business. Devoted customers, friends, and even Alibi’s landlord pitched into a GoFundMe (which a close friend had to pressure Minko to create) to help the bar make rent. “The response, it was overwhelming. I cried,” Minko says. “I learned how to rely on other people’s knowledge, ideas,” he continues, explaining that he bit his tongue and pivoted on the bar’s classic menu, taking the advice of younger employees and friends who wanted to incorporate frozen margaritas for the summer. “God knows I hate frozen cocktails,” Minko laughs.
Listening to and supporting the community’s needs played a key role in persisting through the pandemic to keep his bar going. And being one of the only Black-owned gay bars in Harlem, Alibi’s presence is especially important––it offers queer people who live uptown visibility, community space, and a home away from home that saves them a trip all the way to Chelsea or Hell’s Kitchen. “For us here in Harlem, being a people of color’s village, in the sense that we’re a community, having a space that is for us, by us, is truly important. They recognize themselves in us,” Minko says. He also strives to create a safe space for his customers to learn about sexual health, offering information on where to get free PrEP in the city and keeping Champagne buckets full of condoms and lube on the bar. “For some of us, me included when I was younger, a gay bar was a safe place,” Minko explains. “It’s important to go to places where we feel safe, where we feel welcome, where we feel understood. And going to a gay bar was a kind of relief once a week, being able to be myself 100 percent, to meet people that were like me.”
Alexi Minko on Saving “Queer Spaces”:
INC Men’s Pride Floral Short-Sleeve Shirt, Created for Macy’s | $50*
Doing our part to support places like Alibi is as simple as showing up and partying with the gays. “Just come have a drink, just come say hello,” Minko says. “Save our queer spaces. Save our queer bars.” With brand-new programming for the bar’s indoor reopening, Minko suggests swinging by for a Manhattan, the bar’s best-selling cocktail, on a Tuesday for the weekly “For the Culture” drag show, a Friday for R&B and hip-hop night, or a Sunday for the Sin Sunday party.
“We’re a fabulous place. Gay bars are the best, best, best place in town, everywhere around the country and the world to go have fun. Please, if you are part of the LGBTQ community or if you’re straight, go to your local gay bar,” he says. And we couldn’t agree more.
One Way to Support the LGBTQ Community:
Diamond Accent Rainbow “Pride” Bolo Bracelet in Sterling Silver | $150** /// Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner | $21 /// Steve Madden 5-Piece Bracelet Set | $21 /// Thirstystone by Cambridge 2 Pack of 12 oz White Wine Tumblers with Metallic “Love” Decal | $14*
Supporting the LGBTQ community can be as simple as swinging by Alibi Lounge or a similar local establishment to enjoy a drink during Pride month and all year long.
*Macy’s will be donating 10% of the purchase price of select merchandise to The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, now through June 30. Macy’s will also offer customers the option to donate to Trevor online or round up their in-store purchases and donate their change.
Styling by Weyni Elder, Hair by Jomo Lopez, Makeup by Mimi Quiquine, Styling Assistance by Pauline Foo, Modeling by Alexi Minko, Sage East, and Ashley Harris, Line Production by Tiffany Tran, Production by James Bender, Production Coordination by Sahiba Kaur, and Project Management by Lindi DeGrant and Gil Arias.