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A brilliant speech.

At Southeast Leatherfest this past weekend, I was honored to be a judge for their contests. One of the competitions was for Southeast Bootblack 2007. Now, in many places around the country, bootblack titleholders are selected by a popularity contest - people get a ticket to give to the competitor of their choosing, the tickets are tallied, and the highest number wins. The theory is that the winner will no doubt be the best at doing boots - but that is almost never the case. The reality is the person was viewed as the most pleasing to the eye, or had enough people from their local community going to bat for them, drumming up votes.

Also, bootblacks are almost always expected to care about one thing and one thing only - preservation of the bootblack tradition. No one ever asks a bootblack what their feelings are on other matters. And it's a shame, because bootblacks are fully rounded individuals just like everyone else, and they have opinions on other things. They have ideas, they have philosophies to contribute.

I was happy to learn that the SE Bootblack contest would run differently. They would be judged on technical skills by a panel of experienced bootblacks, and then they would also be treated like any other title contestant, thus having to be interviewed by the judges, and make a speech on stage. This would be a contest of value - not just popularity.

As many people know, I am very proud of the work I had done in creating the idea of The Next Generation (TNG) groups. I feel like I helped create a major contribution to the overall SM scene. While I have pulled away from any active involvement, I am still asked questions on the topic, and am sometimes seen as a resource. I have pulled away, but I still feel passionate about it.

The winner of this year's Southeast Bootblack title is Q, lzbnangel. And she made a speech on stage that caused lthrlibrarian and I, and many others, leap from our chairs in applause. Here was a bootblack who demonstrated intelligence, passion, and concern for something very important. And it touched me and my TNG work tremendously. It is only unfortunate that her speech was heard by only the attendees of SELF, and not the larger world.

Thus, for that very reason, with her permission granted, I am reposting Q's speech for all of you to read. This is a major issue felt by many younger people in our scene, and we would all benefit tremendously by absorbing it, thinking about it, and working towards change.

Not too long ago, a still incurable epidemic took hold in our community. Before we had time to truly take heed, many members of our community were taken from us. Despite our best efforts we could do nothing to save them. They were guardians of the old ways, links to our collective past and a great portion of our history.

Today I would say we are faced with yet another epidemic, one that threatens the growth and sustainability of our community. The epidemic that threatens our future today is intolerance.

Technological advances have brought greater accessibility of information to almost everyone on the planet. Utilizing a few keystrokes on a computer and an internet connection, you can have information on just about any topic at your fingertips including everything you'd ever want to know about BDSM, kink or Leather. Or at least that's what it seems like to many. That's what it seemed like to me.

As I began to read over the different material I had culled from the internet, I realized that although there was an abundance of information it couldn't all be right. So much of the information contradicted itself and I was becoming confused and frustrated. So I began to seek out real people, which proved to be even more frustrating.

Many of those who live by the code of the old, care not for many of those who only know the new. The more I sought out the ones more familiar in the ways of old, the more I must have stuck out as one of the new.

In the short time I've been active in this community I've heard things said like, people want the young ones (be it by age or experience) to know their place. I've heard desires to have things as they once were. In the short time I've been in this community, I have learned this: What we want may not be what we need. What we desire, may not be what is best for us.

If we allow intolerance to fester and breed in our community, how long will our community continue to exist? How long can we survive?

We are all stewards of this community no matter what part we've chosen to take in it. The responsibility to keep our community healthy and thriving belongs to each of us, like it or not. Intolerance can fester and destroy, but it doesn't have to. We shouldn't let it.

I've heard it said that each of us is where we are meant to be. If that is true, then I was meant to be frustrated and upset with things along my journey.

I am meant to be in the sphere of influence of those who so diligently guide me now.

I am meant to be here tonight to remind each of us not to close the door and draw the curtains as we see the young ones approach. Instead, light a candle to let us know that should we need you, you are indeed there.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 13th, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC)
That is an incredible speech. Probably one of the most moving things I've read in a long time. And so very true. I've been honored to actually know some people, like you, who are making a difference in the community in this, and still I see that curtain drawn (and once or twice I've seen myself draw a curtain.)

Thank you for reminding me that everyone starts somewhere. And its up to those of us in the community who started somewhere long ago to help guide those on the same path to miss some of the brambles we hit.

Jun. 13th, 2007 04:28 pm (UTC)
I believe Q touched something within us all - renewed a spark!
Jun. 13th, 2007 05:24 pm (UTC)
I agree whole-heartedly. Just re-reading this speech gave me goosebumps.
Jun. 13th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
thank you for that. As someone who has been involved for over 30 years, and has avoided the "community" because of politics waaay back in the past, it's nice to see this. Almost makes me wish I were free again.


Love you kid,
Your adoring Auntie
Jun. 13th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
I was in and out during the contest, but I was so glad to be present for this part. Q has been in my life since before I was in the community, and I was so proud of her that night. She is such a special person, someone we as a community are lucky to have among us.
Jun. 13th, 2007 04:57 pm (UTC)
Q's speech brought the house down. I have been to a ton of these and heard people speak anywhere from the State Title level to the International level, and this I will say was one of if not the best speeches I have heard. On a side note it was good to finally get to meet you this weekend since we do and have had people in common. Glad your weekend back down south turned out to be a good one. Oh and I friended you..hope that is okay.
Jun. 13th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
It was great meeting you as well. Welcome aboard!
Jun. 13th, 2007 04:59 pm (UTC)
That is an excellent speech.
Jun. 13th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
That was amazing, I actually cried. Thank you for sharing that.
Jun. 13th, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
Not only is it a great speech but for me it is nice to hear that the BB contest allows the contestants to speak on what is passionate to them. Not just on how to do a spit shine.

Gives me hope
Jun. 13th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)
As always your energy can fill a room. You are so right about the message and the deliverer!
Jun. 13th, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC)
Aw... thank you for your kind words.

And don't forget what I told you at SELF - all you need to do is ask.
Jun. 13th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
< grin >
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )