By Rod McCoy
20 is a major turning point for any individual person, even more so for an organization, especially a Leather Club. So imagine the excitement as Leathermen, Leatherwomen and assorted kinksters descended onto Chicago for ONYX 20th Anniversary Blackout Run during the weekend of September 17-20. Attendees who headed to Chicago that weekend came from across the country and comprised of persons of various genders, races and orientations who embrace the lifestyle. ONYX hosted a variety of events, including receptions, workshops, and a bar crawl.
Kicking things off was a night of karaoke that Thursday at Bobby Love’s on North Halsted in Boystown. Although there was no karaoke, after all was said and done karaoke wasn’t needed. The highlight that night - and throughout the weekend - was the joy to be found in the Brotherhood. ONYX Men from all over the country came together for what many considered one big family reunion.
The mood was no less festive with the official Registration and Welcome Reception at Touché that Friday night. Some of the Leather Community’s best and brightest were at the reception, including the current Mr. Chicago Leather Luis Tipantasig and Mama Viola Johnson, co-curator of the Carter-Johnson Library, who we would hear from later in the weekend. The fun continued later that night with the Blackout Ball at Circuit Night Club. Anyone who has ever been to an Onyx Bar Night, the MAL Cocktail Party and/or IML Dance, knows that ONYX knows how to throw a dance party, and that night was no exception!
One of the highlights of the weekend was the Leather Archives and Museum Tour and Fireside Chat with Mama Vi Johnson. While a number of us were no stranger to the Archives, it was still a treat to visit the Jill Carter Green Room, as well as some of the other exhibits. (As an ONYX Man who competed at International Mr. Leather a few years back, I got chills looking at the tribute to Ron Moore, the first African-American International Mr. Leather, in the IML Exhibit.) And then there was the Fireside Chat. Mufasa Ali, one of the five Onyx Founding Fathers, opened the Fireside Chat with a history of the founding of ONYX. This was not just a blow-by-blow account of the events that led to the founding of ONYX.
Mufasa included some personal stories of his involvement with the founding of ONYX, including a moving account of how he met his husband, Daddy Bill, at one of the first ONYX meetings in Chicago. The Fireside Chat featured Mama Vi Johnson speaking about her own Leather journey, and how important ONYX was in establishing the presence of People of Color in the Leather community. She also spoke about her early years as a supporter of ONYX, especially as her role as one of the first Pearls of the fraternity. There was not a dry eye in the house as Mama Viola and Mufasa iterated that it is ONYX’s insistence on remaining a brotherhood, a family to each other and others in the community that has and will ensure its success.
No ONYX Blackout Run would be complete without ONYX University. Though the club has a reputation built on its MAL and IML parties, ONYX is also committed to the education of its members and the larger community. Workshops at Leather Leadership Conference and the annual People of Color Caucus at IML are a couple of the examples of ONYX education efforts. This year’s ONYX University featured a variety of demos, including flogging and mummification and panel discussions, such as What Does It Mean to Be a Sir? In keeping with ONYX’s national motto (originating from its Mid-Atlantic chapter, of Educate, Explore and Empower, the standout moment of ONYX University did not come from a particular workshop or demo, but from a young man, a newcomer to ONYX and to Kink Play, who literally and figuratively shed his shy (and sexy) demeanor to spend ONYX University exploring different fetishes and kinks of which he had had only fantasized. This, for many of us, is what ONYX is about, and why we have existed and thrived for the past two decades, for moments such as this.
More fun followed at the Fellowship Dinner, held at Sun Wah Barbecue, and the Blackout XX Bar Crawl. We highly recommend Sun Wah for its PLENTIFUL (and I do mean PLENTIFUL) and delicious Korean-style barbeque menu, from the roast duck and pork to the traditional Korean fare, even its vegetarian options were delicious. And as for the infamous Bar Crawl: what happens on the party buses (emphasis on the word “party”) stays on the party buses! You had to be there.
The final event of the Run was the Annual Awards Brunch. First, let’s talk about the restaurant where it was held - Zed 451. Next time that you are in Chicago, run do not walk to Zed451. The food is nothing short of amazing. Also great were the men who were honored at this year’s Awards Brunch. Each chapter honored a Full Brother and Associate with a Brother of the Year and Associate of the Year award. Among this year’s honorees were IML 2014 Ramien Pierre, Mama Viola Johnson, Founding Father Mufasa Ali, and, much to the delight of the attendees, a special (and surprise) Honorary ONYX Brother status was awarded to longtime ONYX Supporter and Chicago favorite Cyon Flare.
Another wonderful surprise which occurred during the AGM (Annual General Meeting) was the formal recognition of the ONYX Southern California/Southwest Chapter, which makes history as the first ONYX Chapter on the West Coast, and brings the organization’s chapter number to five.
After a weekend of honoring our past and celebrating our present, ONYX looks forward to our future of continuing the work of building our brotherhood and sisterhood (with the Pearls) from within, and in the larger community. We look forward to 2016, when we celebrate our 21st year - with an ONYX Invasion of Toronto Leather Pride. As for the next Blackout: we’ll see you in 2017 in New Orleans.
San Francisco's Leather Week brought out all the best that the San Francisco Bay Area has to offer, culminating with the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, September 27 under slightly overcast skies and comfortably warm weather, with Leather/BDSM/Fetish/Kink/Gear/Rubber/Furry/Pony/Pup/Uniformfolk out earlier than usual and staying the full length of the Fair.
Events held earlier in the week included events at the SF Citadel, a men's play party hosted by The 15 Association at the Alchemy dungeon, a special presentation by the Leathermen's Discussion Group, The AIDS Walk hosted by Folsom Street Events the weekend earlier, a Leather Cruise of San Francisco Bay presented by the Golden Gate Guards, Donna Sache's pre-Folsom Titleholder Brunch before the Folsom Street Fair, Folsom Fringe by smOdyssey of San Jose, Leather titleholders were introduced on the Main Stage at 10th Street and Folsom Street, Magnitude party, various bar and dungeon parties, a new book debut by Mark I. Chester, raising of a Leather Pride flag outside the SF Eagle, Stompers Boots party, special events at the Steamworks in Berkeley, Mama's Family photo shoot outside the Powerhouse on Dore Alley with the big finale being the Deviants Party at 12th Street and Folsom Street beginning when the Folsom Street Fair ended for the day.
Folsom Street Events presented Leather Walk as the official kick-off for San Francisco's Leather Week. The Leather Walk celebrated lLeather, kink, family and community; all while raising funds for three agencies. It began on Market Street, marching from the Castro to SoMa. The route included stops at some of San Francisco's favorite watering holes including Powerhouse with performances by the Growles Family and John Weber, Oasis with performances by Kylie Minono and Tamale Ringwald and BeatBox with performances by Brian Kent and a demo by Ms SF Leather 2015, and ended with raising of the Leather Pride Flag at the SF Eagle.
The Leathermen's Discussion Group hosted a Tom of Finland Art Auction and Cocktail Party on Wednesday night, Spetember 23. With the help of Tom of Finland Foundation's Durk Dehner they auctioned off pieces of work, not only by Tom of Finland, but also of other Foundation artists, as well as local erotic artists and was very well attended. http://www.sfldg.org/
About 75 Leatherfolk were on the Leather Cruise of San Francisco Bay which left Pier 40 late Saturday afternoon, September 26. There was food and drink while sailing under the new section of the Bay Bridge, under the Golden Gate Bridge, on to the area south of Tiberon, ending with a view of the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park before returning to port.
Well-known photographer Mark I. Chester had an artist slide show and book launch of City of Wounded Boys & Sexual Warriors at the Center for Sex and Culture on September 18 and 25 and viewing at the Center for Sex Culture on September 26 and viewing of his photography at his Folsom Street studio during the Folsom Street Fair. http://markichester.com/
The Exiles, San Francisco's educational BDSM club for women, held a Friday evening social, welcoming people of all genders and identities to enjoy their hospitality with demos and refreshments at the Center for Sex and Culture. http://theexiles.org/
There was a variety of music acts and other activities on the Main Stage, the SF Eagle and Powerhouse were crowded. One could smell the hot dogs, sausages, chicken and beef being barbecued at the many food booths.
The Steamworks booth had a large stage with their buff models entertaining the crowd. Always popular, this year's version did not disappoint.
Even before people boarded planes for San Francisco, social media was a-buzz over the hot promotional video to promote the Folsom Street Fair. Reviews were all 10s. It is still out there.
Most of the usual vendors were there, in fact it seemed that there was an increase from last year. There were plenty of men showing their dicks and a few women baring their breasts. This has been so common place at certain events that the shock value is gone and so many just had the seen-it-before attitude and just went about their business. There were a couple of Leatherfolk with their pet snakes wrapped around them.
When one arrived at any of the entrances they were greeted by members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: San Francisco House who were collecting $10 donations from guests. The suggested donations netted the donor a discount on drinks at any of the Folsom Street Fair beverage booths staffed by Leather community service clubs. The collections will go to the many beneficiaries designated by Folsom Street Events. The report of hundreds of thousands of dollars raised at Up Your Alley and the Folsom Street Fair will be released within a couple months.
For more check out http://www.folsomstreetevents.org/folsomstreetfair/
IML 2015 Patrick Smith hopped on a plane on Thursday, June 25 to be outside the United Stats Supreme Court building to be there for the celebration or wake for the expected ruling on the Obergefell v. Hodges case which would either extend full marriage rights to all sexual orientations. He did not have to wait until Monday, June 29 as the favorable ruling was handed down at 10 AM EDT on Friday, June 26. The following is his account:
Today, the nation’s highest court affirmed the age-old principal of equal treatment under the law and changed the lives of millions of LGBT people across the nation. This is the America I dreamed of living in as a child growing up in Canada.
In 1972, renowned Leatherman Larry Townsend dreamed in his famous Leatherman’s Handbook, about whether "the day ever comes when two people of the same sex can enter into a legal state of matrimony.” We can rejoice that what seemed so implausible to Larry 43 years ago, is now a reality today.
While the ruling is a monumental victory for LGBT Americans, it’s still too bad that the Court has not declared our community a protected class under the Constitution. This means we are still subject to invidious discrimination in areas of everyday life, including housing and employment. We have much more work to do, both at home and internationally.
From the heartbreaking stories of LGBT Russians being thrown in jail, to the President of Gambia saying he would like to slit our throats, we must turn our attention to the places of the world where our community still exists on the fringes of society.
As International Mr. Leather, I am dedicating my title year to visiting and fighting for these communities on the fringes. But for now, today is a day to celebrate.
Smith told The Leather Journal, "I've been following these cases since the day the Prop 8 case was announced. This is a very emotional day for me. I'm so happy that all Americans now have the chance to share in the same happiness and commitment that I enjoy in my marriage with my husband."
Gay and lesbian couples already cab be married in about two-thirds of the states (36) states and the District of Columbia. The court's 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states will have to stop their bans on same-sex marriage.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the Obergefell v.Hodges case decision, just as he did in the court's previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996, "No union is more profound than marriage."
How does this effect the military? Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) military families, responded to the news that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of nationwide marriage equality.
“From burial rights to veteran home loans, today’s historic Supreme Court decision bringing marriage equality to every state in our great nation means that LGBT military families will finally have access to the full federal veterans benefits they’ve earned,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “Nationwide marriage equality is not just a huge victory for LGBT people, but for America. ”
For more on the American Military Partner Association check out http://www.militarypartners.org
Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign wrote in a prepared statement, "Think about it — decades from now, children in schools will learn Obergefell v. Hodges as one of the most important equal rights cases ever before the Supreme Court. And, you were a part of it!
Today's ruling makes it perfectly clear that there is no legal or moral justification for continuing to stand in the path of marriage equality. Couples from Michigan to Texas to North Dakota shouldn't have to wait even a moment longer to be treated equally under the law.
I am calling upon state officials across the country to act swiftly to ensure that every obstacle to obtaining a marriage license is removed as quickly as possible so loving same-sex couples don't have to wait any longer."
To read his full statement and for more information on the Human Rights Campaign go to http://www.hrc.org
Gay and lesbian couples already could marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court's 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.
The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court's previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996. It came on the anniversary of two of those earlier decisions.
"No union is more profound than marriage," Kennedy wrote, joined by the court's four more liberal justices.
Patrick Smith is International Mr. Leather 2015, Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2015 and Eagle LA Mr. Leather 2015. Patrick first came to los angeles in 2011 from his hometown of Winnipeg, Canada, to pursue his MBA at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. There he served as the head of corporate relations for Out@Anderson, the LGBT student association. He is involved in fundraising for the Point Foundation, the national scholarship fund which empowers disadvantaged LGBT students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential.
Active in politics, Patrick’s writing on LGBT issues has been published by The Advocate, HIV Equal and Bear World Magazine. He also served as assistant to the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada. As International Mr. Leather, Patrick intends to focus on international and domestic LGBT political activism. He is committed to visiting not just places with established LGBT representation, but those parts of the world where our community is still on the fringes of society.
Patrick lives in the historically significant Silver Lake neighborhood of los angeles, home of the Black Cat demonstrations of 1967, with his husband and love of his life, Michael. He currently works as Senior Manager of Business Development for Marvel Studios, where he takes inspiration from the many superheroes clad in their tight leather gear.