De­tails

GA Voice - - Ge­or­gianews -

One of the hottest events in At­lanta’s black gay com­mu­nity is back, and big­ger than ever. The fifth an­nual Gentle­men’s Ball takes over At­lanta’s Mar­riott Mar­quis Oct. 14-16, with a se­ries of events ex­tend­ing be­yond the main event on Oct. 15.

“This year, it’s grown into a full weekend,” says Gee Ses­sion-Smalls, who cre­ated the Gentle­men’s Ball with hus­band Juan Ses­sion-Smalls. It’s the sig­na­ture event of the cou­ple’s non­profit The Gentle­men’s Foun­da­tion, and it’s un­der­gone con­sid­er­able growth over the past five years.

“It started in 2011 as a sec­ond-chance prom for the LGBT com­mu­nity, but it re­ally just turned into cel­e­brat­ing the peo­ple who are stand­ing out and proud of who they are, be­cause of­ten the me­dia didn’t show that side of our com­mu­nity,” says Ses­sion-Smalls. “We thought it was im­por­tant to show that we are here, and to just in­ter­ject our voices into what’s go­ing on.”

Ses­sion-Smalls com­pares the black-tie event to a cross be­tween the Os­cars and the Met Gala. The glam­our of the event is demon­strated through the themes that each year’s ball presents, and this year’s Gentle­men’s Ball is no ex­cep­tion.

“This year, the theme is Har­lem Re­nais­sance,” says Ses­sion-Smalls. “The Har­lem Re­nais­sance re­ally was about cel­e­brat­ing th­ese dif­fer­ent facets of mu­sic in the black com­mu­nity in the Har­lem area, from mu­si­cal artists to pain­ters to writ­ers. A lot of LGBT peo­ple of color were in­volved in that move­ment. So this year, we de­cided to cre­ate that Re­nais­sance theme as well, and re­late it to the dif­fer­ent facets of the gay com­mu­nity, the dif­fer­ent iden­ti­ties that we own in our com­mu­nity.”

Se­ries of weekend events lined up

The Gentle­men’s Ball, co-hosted by Miss Lawrence of “The Real House­wives of At­lanta” fame and au­thor/ac­tivist Dar­nell L. Moore, be­gins at 6 p.m. at the Mar­riott Mar­quis with a cock­tail hour, where guests

Septem­ber 30, 2016

“There is no bet­ter time than now to gather in cel­e­bra­tion of the many peo­ple whose work and pres­ence makes the lives of black gay men more lov­ing and more liv­able. The Gentle­men’s Ball is our chance to con­nect with and af­firm the pro­found beauty of black LGBT lives. I can’t wait to dance, laugh, and shed tears in honor of our peo­ple in At­lanta this year.” can min­gle, grab a drink and take pic­tures on the red carpet. The Im­pe­rial Ball­room opens at 7 p.m., with a band in­side play­ing mu­sic from the Har­lem Re­nais­sance. Around 7:20, the awards pre­sen­ta­tion will be­gin. Half­way through, the pre­sen­ta­tion will break for a three-course din­ner with wine service. The show will close with head­lin­ing en­ter­tainer Moni­fah per­form­ing.

This year’s event is sur­rounded by a full weekend of events. The fes­tiv­i­ties kick off Fri­day at 7 p.m. with a Meet and Greet at the Bai­ley Agency with host Xs­cape Puerto Rico, fol­lowed by a wel­come party at a lo­ca­tion to be de­ter­mined.

Satur­day will be­gin with a Gents Boot­camp hosted by Hol­ly­wood Fit­ness at 10 a.m. at the Mar­riott Mar­quis, with a se­ries of pan­els and work­shops fol­low­ing at noon. Af­ter the main event, an af­ter party at Opera will start at 11 p.m. The weekend wraps up with a day party on Sun­day at Art­lanta, be­gin­ning at 3 p.m.

Nu­mer­ous hon­orees to be feted

Be­tween the Gentle­men’s Ball on Satur­day night and the sur­round­ing events, the weekend will be en­ter­tain­ing for guests. As co-host Dar­nell L. Moore sees it, though, this an­nual event is about more than hav­ing a good time.

“There is no bet­ter time than now to gather in cel­e­bra­tion of the many peo­ple whose work and pres­ence makes the lives of black gay men more lov­ing and more liv­able,” says Moore. “The Gentle­men’s Ball is our chance to con­nect with and af­firm the pro­found beauty of black LGBT lives. I can’t wait to dance, laugh, and shed tears in honor of our peo­ple in At­lanta this year.”

The 5th Annnual Gentle­men’s Ball

Sold Out www.the­gentle­mensfoun­da­tion.org

Among the ways the event cel­e­brates mem­bers of the com­mu­nity is through its awards pro­gram. The sec­ond an­nual event saw the in­tro­duc­tion of an award, and by the next year, the event be­came a full awards pro­gram. This year, six awards will be given out in all.

The main award of the evening is the Gen­tle­man of the Year. The award is an al­laround ex­cel­lence award, based in part on ca­reer suc­cess and com­mu­nity in­volve­ment. This year’s nom­i­nees are Bishop O.C. Allen, Karamo Brown, Olu­bode Shawn Brown, Leo Mar­tinez and Frank Roberts. The winner, as de­cided by the board of the Gentle­men’s Foun­da­tion, will be an­nounced at the Gentle­men’s Ball on Satur­day night.

The Gen­tle­man of Artistry re­cip­i­ent is voted on by the com­mu­nity from a list of nom­i­nees. This year’s re­cip­i­ent is rap­per, pro­ducer, model and TV per­son­al­ity Mi­lan Christo­pher. The Gentle­men’s Foun­da­tion board names the win­ners in the other four cat­e­gories – Gen­tle­man of Prom­ise, Gen­tle­man of Service, Gen­tle­man of Ex­cel­lence and Gen­tle­man of Al­liance. This year’s re­cip­i­ents are Devin Bar­ring­ton-Ward, Neo Sandja, for­mer Ge­or­gia Voice ed­i­tor Dar­ian Aaron and state Sen. Vin­cent Ford (D-At­lanta), re­spec­tively.

“I think that it is im­por­tant to cel­e­brate our­selves, be­cause I just don’t think that it’s some­thing that hap­pens of­ten enough, not only in the black com­mu­nity, but also in the LGBT com­mu­nity of color,” says Ses­sion-Smalls. “His­tor­i­cally, many of us grow up not be­ing loved and ac­cepted for who we are, so a lot of times we sup­press that. We don’t give any­body the chance to love who we are, and so when we do get to that point, it can be a lit­tle hard to fully ac­cept our­selves.

“So I think the more we put those im­ages out there for our com­mu­nity, the quicker we can get to heal­ing.”

By ELI­JAH SARKE­SIAN

The fifth an­nual Gentle­men’s Ball takes over At­lanta’s Mar­riott Mar­quis Oct. 14-16, with a se­ries of events ex­tend­ing be­yond the main event on Oct. 15. (File photo)

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