SOUTHLAND HONORS AWARDS: HISTORY
Southland Honors is an annual event that has evolved much over the years. As the the event is about honoring people and traditions, this short history has been provided to preserve a piece of L.A. Leather History, and the spirit in which Southland Honors was created.
Southland Honors was originally conceived by Kent Arnwolt and Robert Blackmon in 2002 with the following two goals:
1) To recognize and publicly thank people in our community who might normally go un-thanked or unnoticed by the community as a whole. The awards were created to HONOR these important contributors to our community that we want to keep around for a long time to come.
2) To kick off L.A. Leather Week with a formal Leather send-off, where Traditional leatherfolk could come and feel that it was an event for them; and to provide reflection on the past fifty (plus) years of Leather traditions. They accomplished this with the inclusion of a traditional Color Guard, singing of the National Anthem, and the creation of a “Boots, collar and Cover Ceremony,” to honor those who have gone before us.
At some point after the concept work was laid out, Robert Blackmon stepped away from the project and Dan O’Leary took his place. It took over two years from concept to the actual event. Kent and Dan presented the original idea to the Los Angeles Leather Coalition C (LA Leather Weekend Producer) in 2001 and came back with the details in 2003. The LALC soon after began the nomination process.
NOMINATIONS AND VOTING
Originally, nominations and winner selections came from the leaders of the Leather organizations and businesses that made up the LALC. The members would nominate those unsung heroes within our community who work unselfishly, are always of service, are first to volunteer, and for these efforts deserve some public recognition. Community leaders know who these people are, but since these underdogs are either not well-known, have not been around a long time, or work behind the scenes, they go largely unnoticed. Yet without these people, our groups would be at a loss.
THE FIRST SOUTHLAND HONORS
Held in 2004, the first Southland Honors kicked off LA Leather Week and was produced by Kevin Casey. It was held at the One Institute at USC, which also included an exhibit of Los Angeles Leather history. The keynote speech given by the late Kent Arnwolt that year can be found here.
THE BOOT CEREMONY: PART ONE
The Boot Ceremony was inspired by the traditional military ceremony that honors fallen soldiers: the rifle of the fallen soldier standing, it’s bayonet down in the ground, with the soldier’s helmet placed on the rifle’s butt, his/her ID tag hung from the rifle and his/her boots placed on the ground in front of the rifle.
In Southland Honors’ “Boot Ceremony,” the boots represented Leather, and the collar and cover represented the Master/slave dynamic. Three elders of the local Leather Community would be chosen for the honor of carrying an item to the stage in silence: a Master carried the cover (Master’s cap), a slave carried the collar, and someone else carried the boots. A moment of silence would commence to honor “those who have gone before us.” The items would remain onstage for the duration of the event.
THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER
The Keynote Speaker was to be a well-recognized and long-time Leather person with roots or history in the leather community of the Southland, and highlighted as a method to honor their contributions to the history of our local community.
Nominees would be notified to be in attendance at the event. The winner of each category would be named and called to the stage. A short description of why they won the award would be read. The winner would then be given a few moments to speak, perhaps thanking those who have helped them along their leather journey.
THE BOOT CEREMONY: PART TWO
The evening would end with the three elders ceremoniously removing the items from the stage that they'd brought up at the beginning of the night: the cover (Master’s cap), the collar, and the boots -- honoring “those who have gone before us.”
The Boot Ceremony has since been repeated at major leather events across the United States.
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POST-SCRIPT: NOMINATIONS & VOTING
In more recent years, nominations are made by anyone in the community and LALC voting members end up voting for the winners. Because anyone in the community can make nominations, the event has changed from recognizing the unrecognized to the recognizing mostly the very popular, often already awarded people, heads of large organizations, etc. The unknown in-the-background hard-working volunteer has no longer any chance to get recognized when competing against the often already popular recognized leaders of large organizations.
POST-SCRIPT: THE BOOT CEREMONY
The Southland Honors’ Boot Ceremony has evolved into a Memorial Ceremony, honoring those from the local Leather Community who have passed away in the past year. Beginning in 2009, it included various items of leather that were worn by some of those who passed on and a memorial candle. This was also the year when some of the people chosen to carry the items were virtual newbies in the Leather Community
POST-SCRIPT: THE FEEL OF THE EVENT
The event has shifted from an intimate recognition of individuals to honor their contributions to local Leather and for the traditional leather community to come out and celebrate it's own. Instead, Southland Honors has turned into an event that reflects community popularity at large with a Hollywood entertainment value. This has now become totally opposite from the original traditional-Leather intent and design.