by Tyesha Best
Currently Southwest Master and slave 2015, Sir Gareth and slave toi have introduced a program that will help our community history keeping. “Reclaiming Our Leather History” is a grass roots organization that aids in locating lost items such as pins, vests, and sashes, and bring them home- hopefully to their original owners, clubs and organizations. If the original owners can’t be located or are willing, items find themselves re-homed permanently in our community archives. Not only will this effort impact our Leather and Kink community, but those individuals who are not in Leather and kink, whom are at a loss as to what to do with previous treasures owned by Leather family members will have options.
Slave toi was inspired to create “Reclaiming Our Leather History” from what happened with her twin brother who died of AIDS in 1994. He was a Leather bottom in Southern California in the 80s who frequented the Palm Springs, LA and San Diego communities. He also co-founded the Inland Empire AIDs Project that is still in existence. When he passed, slave toi at the time, didn’t know Leather even had a term or that there was a community and didn’t know it was something that she would later find interest in.
It is not always the case that "muggles" know how to treat prized Leather and kink possessions of deceased Leather family members. Oftentimes, you will find that families will discard or sell them. They are quick to rid themselves of them because either they don’t have a need for them or don’t approve of the lifestyle and culture. Many don’t realize that there are ways to pass on and/or donate unwanted items to the Leather and Kink communities for them to be preserved by those who have knowledge of their worth. “Reclaiming Our Leather History” Program will help in serving the need in seeking out and finding discarded Leather items so that they find their way back to establishments such as the Leather Archives Museum and the Carter/Johnson Library.
Mama Vi also served as an inspiration to slave toi and Sir Gareth. Initially an encounter at a bar quickly turned into a dinner invitation.
And so the beginning of Reclaiming Our Leather History took roots. Sir Gareth and slave toi would go out to auctions, thrift stores, pawn shops and online sales websites to look for items that were reported stolen or misplaced, and would find homes for them. They also discussed with Vi Johnson and the LA&M about items they were seeking for their archives, and added those to their search list.
Sir Gareth and slave toi have been using personal funds to get their program off the ground. They started with smaller items, like vests and pins, then others started to join in- “Hey I found this item…” and they would go and buy it. But they knew they needed a larger network and more visibility because without it they can’t scour local auctions in Arkansas and other parts of the county because Sir Gareth and slave toi reside in Colorado.
There are many benefits that Reclaiming Our Leather History program has on our community other than recovery. There are also the stories and revisiting old memories. Many Elders of the community have knowledge of clubs, organizations and Leatherfolk that are long since forgotten or gone. In setting up a Facebook group, and posting photos of lost items, Sir Gareth and slave toi have given our Elders and those Leather and Kink historians, a space to tell tales and identify moments in the past. Master Ces currently resides in that Facebook Group and has helped to identify and describe, moments that many of our younger generations never got a chance to live.
Success stories can be seen on the “Reclaiming Our Leather History” website, such as the Mr. Dallas Eagle 2001 vest and poster and the American Leathermen Houston MC pin. They have been properly identified and are making their way to their permanent homes. Many are hoping that these kinds of stories repeat and more open up about the history of our culture after having their memory jogged by items displayed through this program.
International Master/slave 2012 Liza and her slave Jody, had their 2011 Northwest Master/slave title vests stolen from their car. They are looking for those vests so that if it hits the internet anywhere she would get a notice for it, slave toi has set up google alerts that notifies her of any post or ad that has key words regarding lost or stolen items, but knows that the big difference will be made for those who can check their local pawn and thrift shops.
That’s where the community comes in. Sir Gareth and slave toi will be needing assistance in several areas of their project. Over the next few months, Reclaiming Our Leather History will be developing an organizational structure that will have Leatherfolk from cities across the country, checking pawn shops, consignment stores, Craig’s List, garage sales and thrift stores regularly. They also need bootblacks that can revitalize recovered items that are found. Also along with our Elders in our community, having historians and academics lend a hand with research and identification, would be beneficial as well.
Right now, along with the launching of their website, Sir Gareth and slave toi have created pins of their logo to help in the expenses and bringing awareness to this vital program in our community. They are currently looking to have their program be a non-profit organization as well. You can check out their effort on Facebook and their website and see how you can get involved!