African Traditionalists Call for Peace and Unity in Bembe for Obatala


Practitioners gathered at Pomponio State Beach in April for the first event sponsored by the current officers of Oloshas United Bay Area. Photo by Jaime Marcic.

Praying for world peace and healing may seem daunting and unrewarding, but practitioners of African Traditional Spirituality are stepping up to the sacred task in their own way.

They will hold a bembe, a ceremony incorporating music and dance, in honor of Obatala, the Yoruba deity associated with wisdom, patience and peace on Dec. 2, 2017 at 459 Vienna St. in San Francisco. It will run from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. with refreshments to follow.

“This is an event open to the public,” said Christina ‘Olo Oni Iya’ Velasco, president of the Bay Area chapter of Oloshas United, a worldwide confederation of practitioners of African spirituality.

Started in 2014 in Miami, Oloshas United’s purpose is to promote solidarity, tradition, and service for the preservation of the global Orisha community. Now there are chapters in New York, Texas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Toronto, Canada.

The first demonstration of solidarity that Oloshas United called for was to ask practitioners to wear white clothes the first 16 days of December. (White is the color for Obatala, who is also known as ‘king of the white cloth.”)

Within those 16 days, each community is to hold a bembe for Obatala and a ceremony for Babaluiaye the deity associated with healing.
In  2016, the Oloshas United Bay Area , led by Vice President  Lisa ‘Oshun Funke’ Mestayer  and Secretary Tammy ‘Ibu Toke’ Ryan held a drive to clothe the homeless and donated the winter clothing  to charity.

Because of climate change Mestayer is organizing an offering to Yemoja, the deity of the ocean next weekend.

And the bembe for Obatala is perfect to heal the brokenness of the local community and the world,  Mestayer said. “He represents a cool, calm head. And compassion. That’s what’s missing in the world right now.”

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