The Gentlemen’s Foundation is gearing up for its annual Gentlemen’s Ball Weekend, which kicks off Friday evening.
This is the second year in a row the Foundation chose to extend what was once a one-night fundraising event into a weekend of festivities geared toward impacting the holistic health of Atlanta’s LGBT community.
“It is about empowering us for the whole entire weekend,” co-founder Gee Smalls said.
Friday afternoon features panel discussions on the presence of black LGBT individuals in corporate America and Hollywood, followed by a meet-and-greet reception and scholarship presentation.
“We will have experts come out [for the panels] and speak about diversity in their respective fields — how do we survive, how do we advance, are we respected?” Smalls said. “We also have our scholarship program, which is called Gentleman and a Scholar. … During the reception, we will be awarding four different young scholars a $1,000 a piece scholarship.”
Saturday includes a free, family-friendly health and wellness fair at Vision Community Church.
“You’ll be able to get health screenings, you’ll get information on health and wellness, there will be boot camps going on. There’s also love and relationship workshops. Gilead will be a part of that and Positive Impact will be presenting. We’ll have a DJ and fun for the whole family,” Smalls said.
Later Saturday night, the VIP reception for the Gentlemen’s Ball begins, followed by a red carpet cocktail reception, dinner and awards and an after-party. Smalls said this is the first year the Gentlemen’s Foundation will award women in the LGBT community.
Entertainment for the evening includes comedians, multiple performances and the headliner, Kelly Price.
That’s not all, though: there will be a Sunday mayoral brunch at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, hosted in part by the LGBT Institute.
“There hasn’t been a forum yet that has been catered to our sector of the community, and even with the forum, we don’t just want it to be a regular forum where you come in and they give their spiel. We wanted to break bread together; talk, let me get to know who you are; have an open discussion about our issues,” Smalls said. “We try to do [the weekend] in a way that’s going to add something different and also teach and educate the community on concerns that we should be concerned with, especially things like work and politics.”
Smalls said funds raised during Gentlemen’s Ball Weekend will go to support programming like the scholarships, mentoring opportunities, monthly group counseling sessions, Morehouse Safe Space and also free events in the future.
The ball began in 2010, when Smalls decided to start an event production company.
“We wanted to do a second-chance prom, give a chance to do prom again the way we really wanted it, but couldn’t back then,” Smalls said. “It really turned into celebrating men that were living in their truth and out of the closet and doing wonderful things in society, because at that time we didn’t really have those images of men that looked like us.”
Eventually, the ball evolved into the Gentlemen’s Foundation, which now raises money to offer its own programming.
“The strong message we’re trying to get out this weekend is the importance of standing up, speaking up and learning about what’s going on, even as it pertains to Atlanta specifically,” Smalls said. “We are still passionate about our entire community, and as true gentlemen, we believe in extending the olive branch to everybody in the community and including them in as many things as we can do.”