On a recent night at C’mon Everybody, The Illustrious Blacks evoked the spirit of Whitney Houston. Not Whitney a la “I Have Nothing” from The Bodyguard. Whitney Houston at the 1991 Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida. The evocation, part of their Pride night at the Bed-Stuy venue, resonated with members of the crowd.
After the record played, The Illustrious Blacks took to the mic to address their decision to play Houston’s cover of the national anthem, a song which in recent years has been one of controversy and protest. “I know this song is controversial. However, this woman who is Black, who may not have been out but had some lesbian affairs, sang the hell outta it and we need to celebrate that, her talent and gift, and what she shared with us,” recalls The Illustrious Blacks.
As they descended off the stage and looked at the crowd, a mixture of diverse people of various gender orientations and sexual identities, the artist and DJ duo reflected on the ever-present need to come together in a time where queer and trans people are being unjustly targeted.
The DJ duo, The Illustrious Blacks is made up of Manchildblack and Monstah Black.Photo by Gregory Kramer.
With the recent disinvestment of corporate brands from PRIDE and boycott of Bud Light after their campaign with Dylan Mulvaney, a trans influencer, the duo describes this month as “showing us who our real allies are.” They describe this moment as an opportunity to support and invest dollars into neighborhood and community businesses that show and vocalize their support for LGBTQIA+ people and communities on a continual basis.
“If we don’t support us, who is going to support us? Right. We have to be the first,” says the duo. “Anytime we can shine a light on those kinds of businesses, we’ll do it. You know, and we’ll support ourselves.” Here’s their guide to some of the best LGBTQ shops and venues in NYC.
325 Franklin Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
The birthplace of The Illustrious Blacks. “It became our living room to create, perform, and share new ideas that we’ve been working on,” says the electrifying DJs, music duo and style icons. The pair describes the venue as a discovery space for emergent LGBTQ+ artists and a place for good cocktails. Their personal favorite is the Nile Rogers, a specialty jalapeño tequila cocktail mixed with hints of pineapple and lime.
67 E 4th St #1, New York, NY 10003
In Soho, there resides a brick-and-mortar shop where celebrities like Janet Jackson, Janelle Monae, Lizzo, Rihanna and more frequently to acquire one-of-a-kind hats with exaggerated cuff hats and elongated western hats are centerfold in hues of yellows, blues, and greens. Created by designer Rodney Patterson, the shop not only caters to the elite but anyone bold enough to don one of his creations.
1329 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
The creative hub of emerging queer designers is home to one of The Illustrious Blacks’ favorite pieces. A custom-made Claire Fleury kimono exudes luxury, space, and movement. Think Diana Ross in Mahogany. Fleury, co-owner and one of the queer designers in residence founded the boutique to embrace the creative community and highlight the designers’ artistry.
52-19 Flushing Ave, Queens, NY 11378
Want to know who is the “who’s who in LGBTQ+ performance,” buy a ticket to Bushwig. Last year, over 150 queer and trans performers took to the stage at Knockdown Center in Queens. This year promises to be a jovial end-of-the-summer celebration as the festival celebrates 11 years of operations.
9 to 5 Vintage
130 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Wardrobe stylist Kyle Watanabe is the brains behind this incredibly curated vintage clothing store in Williamsburg. The store specializes in vintage apparel and accessories from the 1940s to 1990s.
309 Tompkins Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11221
For queer and trans people, barbershops can exist as a place for misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic conversations to emerge and take root. Thankfully, new places like Locale have created an environment where inclusivity and respect are at the forefront. Be sure to book with Alyssa, a queer woman of color who is known for her touch-ups.
La Ultima Flor
220 Bogart St, Brooklyn, NY 11206
Drawn to their warm personality and mission to create a safe space for BIPOC and LGBTQ people to get tattooed, The Illustrious Blacks are admirers of Alexandra Abril and Monikka Velvet’s tattoo studio in Williamsburg.
Velvet’s expertise in Polynesian-style tattoos is a beautiful visual representation of how she shows up in the tattoo industry. She encourages her clients to show up as themselves in their chill, laid-back tattoo shop that she shares with her wife, Alexandra Abril, a Brooklyn native. The pair prides themselves on establishing rapport and community with their clientele.
563 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Add Good Judy to your list of summertime hangs. The sister venue to C’mon Everybody has a cool outdoor space, perfect for day drinking or when the weather permits for a sunny day outside. Later in the season, the neighborhood bar and cabaret space hosts massive block parties at its Park Slope location.
BLK MKT Vintage
465 Marcus Garvey Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 11216
Kiyanna Stewart and Jannah Handy, owners of BLK MKT Vintage, a one-stop antique/vintage shop in Bed-Stuy, to preserve and highlight Black culture. As consumers of vintage items, the duo was disheartened to see the lack of representation in vintage stores. As a response, their Bed-Stuy shop has become known as the place to acquire an issue of JET or Ebony issue, an old school HBCU letterman varsity jacket, and more.
Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx
With the recent increase in anti-trans legislation, community health centers like Callen-Lorde Community Health Center are of special importance. Their mission is to meet the health needs of LGBTQ people in nearby communities. The organization provides adult and elder care, services and programs for youth, and trans healthcare.
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