If you’re ever in Atlanta, Juan and Gee are known as the go-to-guys when it comes to relationships. Juan and Gee are certified relationship coaches who specialize in enhancing the LGBT community. The dynamic duo not only help with relationships but the two have also founded a nonprofit organization that focuses on the overall wellbeing of young African-American gay men. The foundation is called “The Gentlemen’s Foundation” and its primary focus is ensuring the mental health of black gay men, as well as mentoring and providing support to college age youth who may still have struggles with their identity.
According to Gee, the concept of the Gentlemen’s foundation was actually spawned from their annual Gentlemen’s Ball event.
“The Gentleman’s Ball actually proceeds the Gentlemen’s Foundation. The Gentlemen’s ball started five years ago; initially the idea was to have a second chance prom, but it became an event that celebrated men in the community. These men were living in their truth, doing great things, and just proud to be who they were. Society often paints a picture where many black gay males are ashamed or living on the “DL” (down low) and we just weren’t seeing a true representation as to who we were. We started the ball to celebrate us and a few years later it turned into the foundation. Our passion of wanting to see men of color in the LGBT community to be healthy holistically is the inspiration behind the Gentlemen’s Foundation.”
Juan adds that,
“The Gentlemen’s Foundation” was also created because there was a desperate need for change. The communities that we wanted to directly impact weren’t necessarily benefiting from the work and the exposure of the nonprofits we were working with for the Gentlemen’s Ball. So, we said to ourselves, what can we do to ensure that those communities were directly impacted? Why don’t we just create our own nonprofit. We can control it, we can control the narrative, and we could directly affect those that we wish too.”
The LGBT community has since benefited from “The Gentlemen’s Foundation” in many ways and membership in the foundation also has its benefits.
Juan says, “First and foremost the number one benefit of membership is giving back to the community, and doing work from a programmatic standpoint that will affect our youth who may have a difficult time living in their truth. Another benefit of membership is that the foundation has become a social network. We have become somewhat of a family and have become each other’s support system. We are able to call on each other, socialize, network, and hire each other. It’s a network of dynamic gentlemen.”
“The Gentlemen’s Foundation” is not your average foundation. There are many things that set this nonprofit apart from others that also focus on the LGBT community.
Gee says, “One of the things that sets us apart mostly is our focus. Many of theorganizations that do great work in the community don’t necessarily have the same focus that we do. Our focus is the mental, emotional, and holistic health. A lot of our community organizations only focus on one particular part but we are really a holistic organization. We promote mental health and I think that is a missing piece in our society, because a lot of people don’t talk about mental health. I think that is what really sets us apart from many of the other organizations. There is a void there that is being filled.”
“The Gentlemen’s Ball” is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, but it’s not only about attending a fabulous party. The foundation takes the time to honor deserving recipients from the LGBT community.
Gee tells us that “The Gentlemen’s Ball” has an honor portion that celebrates positive images and diverse images in the LGBT community.
Juan piggybacks and adds that, “We have several awards. We have the ‘Gentlemen of Excellence’ – that’s for outstanding career achievement. ‘Gentlemen of Alliance’ – that’s for our straight allies that have publicly voiced their support for the LGBT community. The ‘Gentlemen of Promise’ – this is typically a younger gentlemen under 30 that shows great leadership potential. The ‘Gentlemen of Service’ – which applies to serving others. The ‘Gentlemen of Artistry’ – this is for an artistic gentlemen whether that be through film, music, art comedy, etc. The top honor is the ‘Gentlemen of the Year’; This award goes to what we consider a true gentlemen to be. The recipient of this award encompasses confidence, generosity/giving and is proud to stand in their truth. All of the gentlemen that receive awards must be proud to stand tall in their truth. That means they are out, they are proud, they are vocal, and they are confident. They demonstrate this through their actions, through their work, and through their service to uplift the LGBT community of color..“
Juan and Gee are first and foremost relationship experts and when they are not busy with their foundation they spend their time “love coaching” others. “Love Coaching” is not to be confused with your run of the mill therapy session. Juan and Gee want people to know that there is a vast difference with the services that they provide.
Juan explains, “Love coaching is basically our term for life coaching and relationship coaching. We believe that self love is the foundation for all relationships. So our focus is to work with the client to first begin loving themselves in order to be prepared to enter into a relationship with others. It all starts with self love. It differs from therapy because we don’t just identify a problem and then work to fix that problem. We take a holistic approach to self. It’s taking what you want and where you are in your life then deciding where you want to be in your life. We then assist the client in drafting a plan of attack and establishing measurable goals.”
Gee adds, “What also makes our services unique is we cater to black gay men. Marriage equality is becoming a new things now, and a lot of people are looking for what it means to be in a long term relationship. That is not something that has been so common in the black gay community. We help them navigate relationships and see what it really means to be in a male on male relationship. Sometimes we can get caught up in traditions because traditional relationships are the only things that we have ever seen. It’s kind of hard to navigate that sometimes with two men. Juan and I are able to help them guide themselves through that and what that really means. I think often times in the gay community we have these visions of grandeur and these unlimited expectations. So it’s about really sitting down and establishing what real life is like.”
This year’s ‘Gentlemen’s Ball’s’ theme is Harlem Renaissance and the event has been described as the Oscars meet the Met Gala for the LGBT community of color. The event will take place tonight (Oct. 15th) and it is promised to be full of surprises. There will be a musical appearance from R&B artist Monifah, as well as, a live band serenading guest all evening long. This year’s event will be hosted by Darnell Moore and Miss Lawrence. It will definitely be a night to remember.
By Ronda Brooks