The Black Leather Community

From Dark Connections

The leather community, created for the most part by gay men and soldiers returning home after World War ll, was a society steeped in secrecy. It’s members shared a love of motorcycles and leather accoutrements and longed for the familiar military principles and discipline they endured during the war. The term “Old Guard” pretty much referred to the first generation of gay leather men who formed these leather communities in the late 1940s and early 1950s and the styles they pioneered. Unfortunately, there is not much information to be found on the history of people of color within the Old Guard.

In the 80’s leather competitions became a major part of the community. Competing in and attending leather contests became a way to comfortably meet others in the lifestyle and titleholders are held in very high esteem within the community. In 1993 Graylin Thornton and Gregory Adams started the Ebony in Leather contest in San Francisco. The highly popular contest has since been renamed Mr. Ebony Leather and today is run by Cain Berlinger.

There are quite a few books, newsletters and articles written by and for those in the Black leather community. To Love, to Obey, to Serve: Diary of an Old Guard Slave by African-American author Vi Johnson has become a cult classic within the community. Cain Berlinger is the author of Black Men in Leather, a study on what it means to be Black and a part of the Leather, Fetish, BDSM Community. Black Leather in Color magazine published their first edition in winter of 1994. The NYC based quarterly magazine’s goal was to present the people of color images missing in mainstream leather publications and help leathermen and women of color gain acceptance within the leather community.

Jack Jackson (1921-1983) was the president of The Eulenspiegel Society for almost an entire decade since almost its inception in the early 70’s. Jackson was a charismatic leader and a self proclaimed “loving sadist”. He also took many of the photographs and ads featured in TES’s Prometheus magazine.

The first leather organizations for men of color such as “L.A. Brotherhood” and “Brothers in Leather” were formed as early as the 1980s but most have since faded away. In the fall of 1995, one of the most prominent leather clubs for people of color, ONYX (Men of ONYX, Inc) joined the SM, leather, fetish community in Chicago. Founded by Mufasa Ali, the goal of ONYX is to provide an informational and social organization to address issues specific to men of color who choose to discuss and/or participate in the lifestyle.

In September 1999 another prominent club, The New York Panthers Leather Club, founded by John K, was formed for men of color in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area who are interested and involved in leather and BDSM activities. The group is still active.

There haven’t been many leather organizations created specifically for women of color, however there are several notable women of color in the leather community, and quite a few leather contest titleholders.

Vi Johnson is one of the most well known African-American women in the Leather Community. A lifestyle slave, author and vampire, Johnson has been active for over two decades as an activist, writer, and educator and has been dubbed “mother” by a whole generation of leather men and women. She is slave and wife of Jill Carter and husband to Queen Cougar (former Ms. San Francisco Leather, 1993 and winner of the Pantheon of Leather “Reader’s Choice Woman of the Year 2000”.) From her journals kept while living as a slave and vampire, Johnson authored two autobiographical books Dhampir, Child of The Blood and To Love, To Obey, To Serve, Diary of an Old Guard Slave. Her work has been published in Some Women (the Anthology) and various leather magazines such as Dominant Mystique, Black Leather in Color, Passion, The Link, Black Mistress Review, Black Amazon Digest, Ouch, Obeya, and Bitches with Whips.

Jill Carter, International Ms Leather 1996 has been active in the leather lifestyle for over 25 years. She has been an officer or founding member of various organizations across the United States, President of Ms. World Leather, a speaker or workshop presenter for leather organizations and colleges. Carter was the recipient of the Pantheon of Leather Woman of the Year Award 1998 and 2001, Readers Choice Woman of the Year 1998, one-third of the Couple of the Year Award, The National Leather Association International Order of Merit and Lifetime Achievement Awards and the Emerald Award from the state of Washington.

The Ms. World Leather 2003 contest was the first time in any international leather contest that two African-American Women stood on the same stage as winner, Goddess Lakshimi, and first runner up, Daddie Millarca.

Although the leather scene was available to all sexual orientations and genders, most heterosexuals felt the need to form their own groups….

Leave a Reply