“Bars have long been places where we could gather without fear of persecution—where we could find others like us and those who can let us know we aren’t alone, where we could find our friends, lovers and those that face the same daily struggles,” Stacy Lentz, co-founder of the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative and co-owner of NYC‘s seminal queer haven the Stonewall Inn, shares with us. It was outside of the Stonewall Inn that two trans women of color—Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera—would play central roles in one of the most vital LGBTQ+ rights movements in US history. Today, Lentz and the Stonewall Inn’s other co-owners and partners continue providing respite for the community in many ways. Among these efforts, a recent partnership with Jägermeister led to 75 $1,000 grants for nightlife workers affected by COVID-19 closures across the country.
Lentz has been protecting the queer community for decades now. In 2006, Lentz and a team of investors (of which she is the only lesbian) saved the Stonewall Inn from permanent closure—a GoFundMe launched in June also staved off closure due to coronavirus losses. “To me, it is home and run by my family—made up of business partners, the bartenders, DJs, drag queens, performers, security, porters and bar backs that actually make it such a special place to visit,” she continues. A lot has changed since her first visit to Stonewall in 1998. In fact, her role as an activist and organizer now infuses the venue through partnerships with GLAAD, Lambda Legal, Sylvia’s Place and many more. In co-founding the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, Lentz sought to further the spirit behind the riots.
It’s through this initiative that Jägermeister participated in the Stonewall Inn Gives Back virtual fundraising concert that aired on World of Wonder’s YouTube channel. There, with 300,000 viewers, the brand raised funds to support the nightlife grants they’d distribute under a campaign called Save the Night. Mirroring Lentz’s sentiments, the liquor brand understands and supports the safety provided by bars dedicated to the queer community. In a short documentary, filmmaker and Bronx-based Compound gallery-owner Set Free chronicled Lentz’s thoughts on the power of nightlife and the needs to preserve it.
Our community understands the importance of helping other groups that have also struggled
Lentz also feels the gravity of sustaining Stonewall itself. “Our community—with Stonewall as a symbol—has survived and fought for so much that we can’t let a virus close Stonewall for good,” she says. She also makes clear that the LGBTQ+ community must continue to fight for Black lives. “I think our community understands the importance of helping other groups that have also struggled and that protests are a powerful way to make change. Intersectionality is also such an important part of the movement. It’s critical that we fight, protest and do anything we can to help the Black Lives Matter moment.” She adds that this includes one of the most vulnerable members of the LBGTQ+ community: Black trans women who are being murdered at an alarming rate in this country.
Hero image courtesy of Rhododendrites