Photo Courtesy of Calvin Garner
Chicago native Calvin Gardner is a man of action. When the baby-faced entrepreneur isn’t thinking of new and creative ways to give back to the LGBT community; he’s busy making things happen. Garner is the co-chair of the membership committee of the Black Gay Men’s Caucus, an advocacy group dedicated to bridging the gap between traditional and nontraditional health care providers servicing African American gay men. He’s also the president of The Society of Distinguished Gentlemen (SDG) a social club of twenty members, he co-founded with two friends. SDG along with YES International’s B! BLYSS Productions are the co-hosts of a monthly LGBTQI Networking mixer which showcases LGBTQ talent and businesses. Garner and his crew of distinguished gents will host a New Year’s Eve Soiree. A party for a positive purpose.
PRIDEINDEX (PI): Tell me about the Society of Distinguished Gentlemen, when did it start?
CALVIN GARNER (CG): The Society of Distinguished Gentlemen started back in April of 2012. It was birthed from three people, Charles Fitzpatrick, Terrance Morris and me. We were looking for like minded professional gay men to interact and socialize with; something different from the typical nightlife scene. We decided to create our outlet back in April. We took on members in September and held our second membership drive in November. Currently we are twenty members strong and are a group of diverse gay men. SDG is not focused on one race; it is a group for gay men in general. We’ve already had several events including cultural events, a bowling party and movie premieres to encourage brotherhood. I’ll do a shameless plug for our New Year’s Eve Soiree. The event will take place in Chicago’s hot, trendy Wicker Park neighborhood at The Silver Room at 1442 North Milwaukee Ave from 9:00 PM until 2:00 AM. The admission fee is only $35 and includes free food and beverage with live entertainment to give to our people an upscale New Year’s Eve event and is relatively competitive in price to other events of this kind. We’ll also provide party favors and there is an outdoor patio area which will be heated in case it is too cold that night. Our people will be able to take advantage of the fabulous space at the Silver Room. We are super excited about this event which will go toward raising funds for our gentlemen’s ball, our impact retreat and a few other future events we’re are planning down the road for 2013. Our events chairman is working on several events; some will be for the general public, while others that will be for members only.
PI: How does one become a member of the Society of Distinguished Gentlemen?
CG: The process is fairly simple; interested people should contact us for an application. The application asks for basic information because we want to know a little bit about you and your expectations of being in a social club. So if anyone has a special talent or skill set or if you can enhance the organization and help take us to the next level we want to hear about that. We ask for an application fee of $100 which will go towards the first month dues and other expenses.
PI: What’s the mission of your organization?
CG: The mission is to help like minded individuals grow financially, educationally, and socially and to enhance the brotherhood of gay men. Too often you hear about the disconnections between gay men and how we cannot work together as a solid unit without there being a lot of drama, we’re working to build solid relationships.
PI: Let’s talk about one of those networking events I attended the event which took place at the Red Kiva on Thanksgiving Eve that was co-hosted with YES International’s B! BLYSS Productions. How did you get B! BLYSS Productions involved?
CG: The way it came about is… Tamara Allen, president of B! BLYSS joined the Chicago LGBTQ professional’s group on Facebook. She also had a vision to have monthly networking mixers to showcase the businesses, talents and services, of out LGBTQ people. She reached out to the group; we had dinner and the ideas came flowing. We have become great friends. She is an excellent resource and comes with a wealth of information; she is very professional and we think alike. And we have more ideas we want to launch through our organizations. We’ve collaborated to make it a monthly event and she has just been amazing.
PI: When does the LGBTQI networking event take place?
CG: We recently migrated the event to the second Wednesday of the month.
PI: So if I have a business that offers services for the LGBTQ community how can I become involved?
CG: All you have to do is to contact us via Facebook and let us know what that service is and we will give you a platform/stage for 5 minutes to garner some extra business. We had the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce speak. We’ve also had Charles Fitzpatrick a Principal with Equilibre Partners, a small business strategy firm and many other entrepreneurs as well.
PI: I first became familiar with you through N the Closet Entertainment? Will you ever go back into promotions?
CG: I was 20 or 21 and enjoyed going out and promoting for Craig Loftis. I started out passing out and designing pluggers and doing all of the street promotions. Then I started to do it for myself and started a party at the Cotton Club in Chicago years ago. And I started off with DJ Superman Chi and I started working with DJ Stoney. And the chemistry I had with DJ Stoney was amazing! It was like this chemistry I had with the older brother that I never had. So much wisdom and so much life; it was so much fun to hang around. We changed our relationship and I brought him in as a business partner which helped us to get into Spin nightclub. Stoney and I worked at Spin nightclub for about 3 or 4 years. It was an amazing time I met a lot of great people and I got to learn a lot of different things about street promotion and marketing. The money was good but the hours were hectic. So would I ever go back? I am not so much interested in the day to day or week to week promotions, but I wouldn’t mind launching another entertainment company. I would definitely take a step back from doing the day to day operations and I am not in the least bit interested in doing any of that again on a week to week or even a monthly basis. It just so happens that the gay networking mixer is something that is near and dear to my heart.
PI: What is your ultimate goal professionally?
CG: I would like to be a business consultant and motivational speaker. I would like to help people in the LGBT community figure out what their passions are and to make their passions profitable. That is what I have done with CAIG the community and investment club I started a year ago. It is now 10 members who meet together monthly and we pool together our money and stocks and we plan on starting a new company soon. So what I really want to do is pool together resources and collaborates with other companies, men or women to help them to go to the next level because I believe that we could all benefit and learn from each other because there is power in numbers. Some times as individuals we cannot make things happen. I come from the philosophy of let’s work together, let’s collaborate and we will be more successful together.
PI: What else would you like to tell us?
CG: I would like to do more to help the community grow; I would like to help the community grow financially. I sometimes feel that I am not doing enough; maybe I could do more. Let’s face it the people with the money have the power. In order for us to be taken more serious; to make things happen, to chart our own path, we have to have the finances to fuel these dreams. My goal is to empower us financially and if it is selectively; then I am okay with that. I also really want folks to know that the things I do are not for selfish gain because most of the stuff I do; I do not get a financial gain from them.
To contact SDG email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To purchase a ticket to SDG’s New Year’s Eve Soiree visit: https://sdgnye.eventbrite.com