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Dedicated to the shells that speak

“I honor that space inside of you where the

whole universe resides. I honor that space in you
where there is love, where there is peace. I honor
that space within you where if you were in that
space in you and I were in that space in me, there
would be only one of us.”

– Closing Prayer for Barefoot Ballet African Dance

Co., Atlanta, GA (Circa 1994).

No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a

retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, methani-
cal, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission of the pub-
lisher. For information regarding permission, write to: All
rights reserved.Copyright © 2004

Credits: Myth
Editor In Chief, salah from 4 Ancestors
26 The Sixteen Odu
Photography, Eric and their Proverbs
7 La Firma of Palo
Contributing Writers, Mayombe
Ben Jones, Luis
Monterossa, 16 Initiation
Bamuthi,Wyatt Ashley,
18 Setting Up An
Cairo San.
Ancestor Shrine
Graphic Design, Corinne

Urban Legend Wordsounds
21 Voodoo
14 Hair-itage
20 Double Standard
12 Modern Tales of
Odu Orisa: 20 It takes a Village to
(Owonrin/Ojuani) Raise a Child
One can’t carry 24 Rant
Water in a Basket
11 The Spirit of the
Aborted Child
28 La Hermana—A 6 Elders
Modern Day
From the Editor
– salah from Buffalo
As the wise old African-American preachers of my child-
hood used to pray, “If I had ten thousand tongues I could not
thank” God, my ancestors and the good spirits of the universe
enough for all they have done! The creativity and energy
employed to create Pathways exists for all. It is the spirit of des-
tiny that sits in our heads that we MUST fulfill…Nigerian proverb
says, “My Head is good Head, my head does not put me in debt!”

To my beloved spiritual godfather, Ikasa Ifa Akinsagun Awo

Orunmilla, I say “thank you!” Ikasa suggested the original title,
Abre Camino. However, at the suggestion of the most amazing
woman in my life, my wife, we decided that Pathways would be a
more inclusive title. Pathways is a magazine intended to provide
affirmation to individuals striving to be better. Through this pub-
lication we invite you to share and explore your pursuit of excel-
lence. Pathways explicitly and without apology suggests that the
practice of indigenous spirituality is a viable means through which
one may attain good character. I hope you enjoy this inaugural
edition of Pathways: Exploration of Indigenous Spirituality.

May it be so!!!
African Art, Spiritual Readings, Incenses, Candles,

3274 23rd Street

San Francisco
CA 94110

Telephone: (415) 821-9127

-salah from Buffalo

What exactly do we mean when we say we are happy? When

you compare yourself to the person you were two weeks ago,
three months ago, four years ago, are you proud? When consid-
ering the lives of your family ancestors, those of your blood lin-
eage whom have passed on from breath to ether, do you feel
that you are improving your family line? Imagine that there are
ancestors and guardian angels that walk with you wherever you
go. Would you do anything differently? How much more care-
ful would you be in each action performed, word spoken, step
taken? In indigenous spiritual practices, ancestors are our “firm
The most refreshing moments in my life are experienced
when someone affirms my behavior—says, “You’ve done well,
keep up the good work, we’re proud of you.” Such affirmations
are ten times greater when given by a person trained in the sci-
ence of communicating with spirit, a person that can grasp and
interpret the message of the divine. Ancestors are divine spir-
its with whom we have the right to communicate daily. The
approval and affirmation of ancestors is the primary goal of
many indigenous cultures around the world. The affirmation of
ancestors is an experience sought by millions of people, daily.
On every continent throughout the Earth people render
benevolent offerings to shrines and sacred spaces consecrated
for the purpose of interacting with one’s ancestors. In America,
we visit cemeteries to spend quality time with our beloved
dead, leave them ripe fruits, favorite trinkets, pictures, flow-
ers, liquor, objects our loved one liked on this when living. In
China, millions seek the blessing of ancestors to attract prosper-
ity to their business. In Mexico, thousands celebrate the dead
annually, dressed in masks and costumes for the Day of the
Dead, known as, La Dia de Los Muertos. In Africa, hundreds
gather in the night, to celebrate with dance and music, food
and drink, the anniversary of a loved one’s death. Right now
there is someone remembering an ancestor, with the hope of
being remembered by those now close to the Supreme Entity.
Why? Because our ancestors affect our lives.

lives. We strive through character development, to ensure that
our ancestors are proud of our choices and efforts on Earth.
My study of Ancestors began twelve years ago with the reading
of John Philip Neimark’s The Way of the Orisa. After reading
the book, I woke up early one summer morning and lit a white
candle in honor of my ancestors. I also poured them a clear
glass of water and called their names. At that time, I could only
think of one name. I called that name three times and prayed
that she would receive the light of the candle and cool water in
the glass. My ritual has grown since then yet remains basically
the same--a candle for light, water for refreshment and prayers
for peace. Augustine, a famous African philosopher believed
that “the mind needs to be enlightened by light from outside
itself, so that it can participate in truth, because it is not itself
the nature of truth.” I believe that that light is the spirit of
love found in our ancestral spirit guides.

Maferefun Egungun!
(Respect to the Ancestors)

Elders Needed
-salah from Buffalo
Pathways is seeking interested initiated Priest and Priestesses
of various indigenous spiritual practices to join our Board of
Elders. The Board of Elders will:

I. Evaluate current indigenous spiritual practice in

Northern California
II. Nominate new Elders to the Board.
III. Consider creative ways to compensate contributors.
IV. Make Pathways visible to the populations of large
Northern Californian cities such as SF, Oakland, South SF
and San Jose
V. Structure a plan for sustainability.
VI. Find staff members with specific expertise as needed.
VII. Conduct fundraising and planning for the future of
VIII. Explore the potential for expanding Pathways to
include Southern California
IX. Increase the number of subscriptions monthly
X. Look at possibilities for staff and/or Elders members, to
speak about indigenous spiritual practices and religions.
XI. Define Board Limits.
XII. Evaluate the quality and authenticity when relevant of
text and image submissions.
XIII. Act as advocate in political, legal and educational efforts
toward the betterment of public relations between
indigenous spiritual and religious leadership and the
general public.
XIV. Publish an annual report by the ninth day of January
each annum.
XV. Actively participate in and encourage publicity
XVI. Meet three times a year to reflect on the Pathways
growth and suggests methods of improvement.

If interested in becoming an Elder please email:

La Firma of Palo Mayombe
Jason Kukuyu Malongo en Briyumban Kongo
An advertisement uses image/text couplings in a very different
way than illustration in a novel. In the case of an advertisement,
the text and image are often dependent, one upon the other. In
a novel, illustrations are extra, embellishments for the purpose
of accessorizing narrative. Word maintains an assumption of pri-
ority. The idea presented is that words convey meaning more
clearly than image. Might we encounter a place where this idea
is subverted? In the expressions of traditional Kongo-Cuban ritu-
al art called, ‘La Firma image’ is meaning.
La firma, or anaforuana, as designated by Robert Ferris
Thompson, African Art Historian, is the Kongo-Cuban spiritual
rendering of a deity, its signature, given to humans for the pur-
pose of invoking spiritual power. In these firma or signatures of
the gods, the relationship of contemporary Spanish and Ki-Kongo
words to ancient Kongo emblems directs energy toward a desired
outcome of an initiated Palo Mayombe priest (ess).
Historically, imperialist and later capitalist limitations
attempted to force the Cuban descendants of the great ancient
Kongo civilization to subscribe to conventional Roman Catholic
modes of communicating with the divine. Perhaps this oppres-
sion lead to the only successful revolution in world history, suc-
cessful in that peculiar sense in which resisting a bully establish-
es at bare minimum, space and respect. Nevertheless, through
centuries of oppression, the African in Cuba persisted in his com-
mitment to celebrate God in his own image! Today the descen-
dants of the Kongo and their traditional Kongolese ritual art have
spread throughout the African Diaspora, to La Americas, Europe
and beyond.
In locating and studying with a licensed priest or priestess
of Palo Mayombe, one can learn to create change in the universe
for good or for bad. In either case, a firma will be drawn and
fed, for without the firma, nothing was done. On Earth, each
draft of legislation and currency requires a signature. As in
heaven, so below.

Nsala Malekun! Malekun Nsala!


Lucero Dos Hermanas

San Lazaro

Siete Ondas & Ochossi

The Spirit of the Aborted Child
By Wyatt Alley

Mayumi was seeking English, I a place to stay in a city where I

didn’t know anyone and couldn’t speak the language. I’d
woken up one morning and decided that I’d use the money left
to me by my mother to take a trip—I’d visit Japan. I’d fly
alone. I’d make it okay.
Maybe the huge backpack and map gave me away. I
told her I was lost. She seemed concerned. She asked how
long I’d be in Japan. And in broken English, invited me to stay
at her home. When we arrived to her tiny three-room studio
apartment, her University mates were crowded on the bed.
The skateboarder girl, Iromi, the romantic, and many others—
names that I have now forgotten. Over the next ten days we’d
have a blast. Shinjuku. Roopongi. Shibuya. We did it all!
Until the ninth day when we were alone. Mayumi and I cooked
Taro. And then we made love. When I noticed the blood com-
ing from between her legs, I stopped. I saw her shock; I asked
if she kept a journal. Together, we made happy faces, page by
page, her blood, our fingers. Later I’d learn that a child was
conceived. His body does not live but I believe his spirit will
exist always. I keep a white candle lit in his memory. He is my

Modern Tales of Odu Orisa:
(Owonrin/Ojuani) One can’t
carry Water in a Basket
By Ben Jones
The money was an invisible distraction; an insulating
layer against the unpleasantness that never went away but
began to accrete and become concentrated; waiting for the day
when the distractions ran out.
He was never actually happy. Delusion is like drowning;
the mind tells the body “everything’s fine” as cold, dark water
fills the lungs and the velvet embrace of gravity draws the still
form slow down to the bottom. Water was an apt metaphor as
it was a boat that became the proverbial one straw too many
on the back of the camel.
Sam lived the good life. He had a nice home, two nice
cars and from the perspective of his friends and associates; had
every thing he needed to be happy. The hunger he felt, howev-
er, was never truly satiated – each new acquisition, every shiny
new toy only served to temporarily placate the gnawing void
inside him that purred in the most pleasant way possible, “If
only I could get that… I’d finally be happy.” He allowed this
voice to be his guide for five years. Ever larger, ever smaller,
ever more expensive and impractical until one day he crested
the peak and began the downhill slide.
He bought a large yacht with every penny he’d saved.
He thought of the friends he would have out on this yacht,
dreamed of the parties and the adventures he would enjoy. He
boasted of finally having the freedom to simply sail off into the
sunset. Sam outfitted the yacht lavishly, expensive electronics
that would tell him where he was going, even more expensive
ones to tell where he’d been; with diesel-powered machinery
to keep it all running. He acquired all the creature comforts to
make the vessel a true home on the water. Six months after
the purchase, he found himself having to work even harder to
make the payments and the yacht lay silently in the marina,
collecting dirt and more expenses.

The money slowed to a trickle and the cost of maintain-
ing the boat began to consume more than he was earning, his
phone now only ringing with ever more frequent calls from his
creditors. He began to sell or give away his possessions; cutting
them away as one would remove a diseased limb or digit and
with each amputation he would wonder, “Why did I ever want
THAT?” It began with the cars and their attendant insurance
and gasoline; he sold the large house and moved aboard his
boat. The new space was small, it acted as a filter; he became
ruthless in deciding what to keep and with each item he’d rid
himself of, he felt a little bit lighter.
The trickle of money dried up entirely and he tried to
sell the boat but before he could, the bank took it from him
along with the few things he had left on board. He moved into
a small, rented room with a few personal effects; a collection
of musty and dog-eared books, a sleeping bag and an old guitar
he’d always wanted to learn how to play. He found a job at a
café making coffee drinks and washing dishes. He found himself
waiting on some of the people he used to employ, though few
recognized him now, older, thinner and continually wearing a
wry smile. He learned how to cook, to buy produce and meat
and combine them with spices and fire; an alchemical transfor-
mation from ingredients to cuisine. The shared kitchen came to
have a function for the first time in years.
He met a tall, skinny girl who smelled like green tea —
she fixed bicycles and lived a few blocks away. He came to love
her more than life itself. They would read together in bed and
enjoy each other’s presence and he felt something unfamiliar
inside of and around him. It was a dull ache, accompanied by a
sensation like drinking fire. It grabbed hold of his heart and lift-
ed the corners of his mouth every time he saw her. For the first
time in his life, he owned nothing; but had everything he could
ever want.

Ile Orunmila Oshun

3871 Piedmont Avenue, #52
Oakland, CA 94611
Phone #: 510.658.2791

By Cairo San

The day I knew I wasn’t black, I was dressed in a striped

turtleneck and pink pants and my hair only hung to my shoul-
ders, a bowl cut, my twin uncles always teased. Back then my
hair hadn’t changed to brown yet and my red hair, straight as a
any other Chinamans’, looked fine on me had I been of Irish
blood. I went to an all Black preschool in Lakeview, across the
street from daddy’s gun shop. Sometimes he would take me
there after visiting with his friend Billy, the stout bubble eyed
Black guy with a tobacco pipe always in his mouth. I liked Billy
because I liked the smell of his pipe, but his house was always
too dark with the drapes drawn even on sunny days.
In Lakeview, everybody’s Black. My school was full of lit-
tle boys with clean-shaven heads and girls with the prettiest
cornrows and beads I had ever seen. Tamika was my best friend
but there were more of us in the crew of girls who wouldn’t
play cooties or house with the boys- Shaniqua, Angelique,
My mom would pick me up and take me away from all
the fun I had with the girls and the full-bodied love machine
Teachers who adored me, when it was time to go home. On the
day I spent playing “get your hair done” at school, and came out
with nothing but a mess of tangles, I asked my mom to braid my
hair--“Pretty mommy, like Tamika’s.”
Sympathetic to my mess of knots, mom sat me down in
the living room of our home and began pulling gently at my
scalp, eventually completing two neat French braids on each
side of my head, with my bangs hanging down right in front.
“NO!! Mommy!!!! Pretty! I want it like Shaniquas! Like
Angelique’s! I want little braids with beads and… and tin

“But honey, I can’t do that to your hair” she responded,

“ your hair is different. It’s straight. They have kinky
hair and it can hold pretty braids like that, but your
hair…. your hair is different. It’s beautiful and straight.
There are women who pay lots of money to have straight
hair like yours.”

To her dismay, I shouted,

“Well if you can’t do it, take me to someone who can!”

“Its not that I can’t do it, sweetie, its that you have
straight hair and they have kinky hair. It holds braids,
yours is slippery. They’re Black. And you’re not.”

Tears ran down my cheeks like a stormy rain on a win-

dow. I sobbed, not knowing what I was, only that I could not be
as beautiful as the others. I cried. What did it mean to be
Black? And why wasn’t I Black? She didn’t tell me what I was. It
was years before I put that together for myself.

Jason Kukuyu Malongo en Briyumban Kongo

The greatest influence on my intellectual development has

been my initiation into Palo Mayombe religion. Palo Mayombe is a
school of spiritual science that derives from the ancient Kongo and
is practiced in Cuba. The purpose of Palo is to help people bring
good or bad into the world. In order to practice Palo Mayombe
one must go through a ceremony during which he or she makes a
pact with the dead. In doing so, one earns the right to communi-
cate with forces that allow one to speak with the dead. In Spanish
this is called Licensia. Without it, nothing can be done.
In order to become a Palero, one must submit to physical
and emotional tests and pass them. While it is every human’s
birthright to communicate with his or her own ancestors, a Palero
learns to speak with the spirits of nature herself. Such spirits
have been invoked for centuries with intention of communicating
with the divine—Nsambia—or God, who Hollywood shamelessly
terms, Zombie! Learning what is required to be an effective
Palero requires studying with someone that already knows. A high
priest in Palo is called a Tata. A high priestess, a Yaya. The first
lesson I was given by my Tata is that “Ears never pass head.”
Palo Mayombe is one branch of Palo. There are several
others, each with its own special twist. In almost all forms of
Palo, plants and animals are used to create changes in the world.
However, before becoming an agent of change, the creation a
Nganga, or a universe in miniature is required. I have practiced
Palo Mayombe for three years. I know nothing. But within the
nganga is an energy that sees and remembers, and that spirit
knows me. I call this spirit my Muerto. He allows me to feel and
know occurrences before they occur. The Muerto of the Nganga
protects its children from harm. While there is much information
published on Palo Mayombe, it can never substituted for the rela-
tionship and learning one gains with a Tata or Yaya. In Palo
Mayombe one learns through participation. It is an awesome
The forces of nature and the dead witness every work
done in Palo. Whereas the Bible admonishes people to treat oth-
ers the way they themselves would be treated.

Paleros can tell you what happens to your spirit when you
don’t. In Palo things are short, sweet and to the point. Except
wisdom. It may take a lifetime for someone to learn three Palo
proverbs, but the value of those three proverbs alone, will be
worth more than silver and gold.

Please visit these websites lk.

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l 40 DAYS & 40 NIGHTS,

4040 Broadway,
Oakland, CA
(510) 601-1754

A mystic journey of the soul

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4212 Foothill Blvd,
r Oakland, CA 94601
(510) 536-8266
Setting Up An Ancestor Shrine
–Staff Writer

To learn about one’s ancestors it is important to estab-

lish a time and space to meditate and pray to them on a regular
basis. Spaces used for spiritual purposes must be spiritually
cleaned. In the Nigerian-Cuban faith of Lukumi one might use
cool water, a cigar and a white dove to clean a space. In Native
American traditions, one might burn sage incense and smudge
the walls of their ancestor space. The energy of love
expressed through cleaning has the power to absorb negative
vibes and frighten away aloof spirits that may be in one’s head,
home or business. Bad energy must be taken out of the home
and grounded, hopefully, never to be touched by another per-
son, as bad energy is transferable. If you are feeling emotional-
ly exhausted chances are you and your home or business need
spiritual cleansing? We all need a spiritual cleansing every now
and then to release all the negative energies in our lives.
Energy is our greatest resource. It sustains us, it makes us
strong. It is both our weapon and our tool. It is our nature to
tread the very threshold between spirit and matter. For this
reason, we have a greater sensitivity to the subtle than any
other physical being. However, our sensitivities are both a
power and a bane. Just as we can easily affect the energies of
the subtle reality, so too are we easily affected by them.
Discarded energy can flake off of people much like dust, and
over time it can build up in a place. A build-up of negative
energy can begin to affect us by changing our health and our
mood. This is true to a certain extent of every being, but for
humans the sensitivity level is very high. We must take care in
our living spaces to encourage a good flow of energy, and to
make certain that the spiritual space of our houses is cleaned
when needed.
In the Lukumi traditions of the Caribbean and South
America, enslaved Africans from West Africa retained, perpetu-
ated and mixed their indigenous spirituality with Catholicism.
Spirits called Orisa are invoked to help humans understand and
achieve their purpose for being in the earth. Orisa present
themselves to an individual through sacred verses called Odu at
times of divination with an initiated Orisa priest or priestess.
However, the Orisa are spirits that work intimately with a per-
son's ancestry and each individual’s emotional/mental
connsciousness that was provided at the time of conception. For
these reasons, Lukumi parishioners establish what is called a
boveda where they communicate with and celebrate their ances-
A boveda is a shrine on a flat surface over which is
placed a white cloth, seven or nine clear glasses of water, a
white candle, white flowers, pictures of deceased ancestors, and
anything else one’s ancestors may have liked such as coffee,
candy, cigars or rum. When spending time at the boveda one is
encouraged to meditate, pray and reflect. During these experi-
ences one’s ancestors will begin to reveal themselves. An impor-
tant ingredient is consistency. It is not recommended that one
ever become neglectful of his or her boveda after it is estab-
lished. A boveda should at minimum be tended to every three
days, kept clean, and have a lit white candle at all times. If one
wishes to ask for specific information from his or her ancestors
he or she should seek to learn methods of divination available
for the uninitiated. For more information visit your local Lukumi
priest or priestess, commonly known as a Santero or Santera.

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It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
Cairo San

I sat on your shoulders that sunny, cool breese on a no business

as usual midday
Perched like a pigeon on a palm tree,
Observing the rows of police in ironed riot gear, faces masked
Billy clubs jabbing out at the momentum of their stiff marching
From my four year old eyes,
I witnessed the crowd scream in protection, chanting big words
that wore no meaning
I sang with you
“Spanish bombs yo te quiero y finito yo te quiera, oh my cora-
You chewed your spearmint gum rhythmically,
Eyes intent, concerned and protective
“Where is your mom?” you asked,
Carefully glancing at the masses of energized people,
My babysitters.

Double Standard
By salah from Buffalo

His hand fit with a gentle familiarity

As if he’d been there before
Known me before
And remembered the secret of the soft places
Where dreams ripen in the clench of sweaty fists
His calloused fingertips didn’t cut like I’d expected
And my manhood wasn’t shattered when he let go
As we reached our destination
And he entered his home to greet his wife
I couldn’t help but wonder if he held her hands
And knew the secret of the soft places
Where her dreams reside.

Listen very closely
Cuz the spirit won’t sleep
Wake the undead unrest underneath
Speak the word voodoo and watch the faces freeze
Ice in her veins ocean water in her lungs her last gasp of life
Before she haunts mine is just loud enough to shake me from my

Wake up wake up wake up

Speak the word voodoo and watch he faces freeze

Maybe if I inject it with a different inflection
To suggest I speak these words in jest this shit could rock on CBS
But instead it’s like I’ve infested the room with disease

Wake up wake up wake up

Voodoo is just another language for elemental magic

Swappin perspectives with an external character
Like acting

Like your actor

That president who still got the country under his spell
Everybody seems to be nostalgic for the Reagan years
It’s like pining for crack
With every hit of the burnt black pipe you descend another level
to hell
There is dark magic at work
I can feel it like a dying rooster’s cry carousing my nerve

Speak the word voodoo and watch the faces freeze like they
swervin offa wine flavored Christ, like when preacher speak the
word of jesus it fly’em out they natural mind
Manipulated by the magic when the means meets the micro-
phone in the chest

And maybe your watchin a poet possessed

Maybe I’m not rhyming, I’m just out of my head
Maybe the spirit of bamuthi has left
Your listening to creation manifest instead
Intuition indigenous to the intellect of the dead
A lightening rod
A breathing ankh bleeding profusely through pencil lead
I’m just a voodoo doll for the voiceless victims harrowing a
haunting my head
They won’t let me sleep if I let these things go unsaid

Demanding that I speak their names

Every fact has a face
With silence we erase their memories and legacies
I race to raise the dead
Speak their names
At will

Strike the sky with syllables scarlet as Haitian blood spilled

Haitian blood fills these words
And yet are worlds removed
From dahomey nago igbo shango
Boukman Toussaint vivant
ago e papa legaba
ouvri baye pou nou
hear the voices comin
got something just for you
educate the people
this a simple ritual

to talk about voodoo

and how it probably scares you
but it ain’t no scarier than the way we’ve been conditioned to
think about
dark skinned people
the magic manipulation navigates us to ignore that this govern-
ment just helped to execute a military coup
the motherfucker’s been in office 3 years
and supplanted foreign governments in two
a redneck wasp cowboy means non white non Christians get

can we talk about voodoo
can we talk about how growin up Haitian or Arabian in the age
of voodoo economic Regan made you the object of ridicule
and how it still do
can we talk about the lost lives of real people
one little girl
visions of guantanamo swallowed by the Caribbean sea
Ice in her veins ocean water in her lungs her last gasp of life
Before she haunts mine is just loud enough to shake me from
my dream
the faces looking up at the bottom of the well from the abyss of
the cesspool
can we talk about practicing African religion in massa’s back-
yard and how it probably upsets you
and you ain’t never seen that shit
you just seen that shit on TV in some Hollywood flick and that
was enough to convince
and I’m convinced I’m watchin the news but it looks just like a
Hollywood flick
two screens one reality one myth I can’t tell which is which
and who is who
and can we speak the word voodoo

Listen very closely

Cuz the spirit won’t sleep
Wake the undead unrest underneath
Speak the word voodoo and watch the faces freeze
Like Haitian blood still and black and white static on my
Technicolor tv screen
Ayiti must be free

salah from Buffalo
In response to bell hooks’ “eating the other” and john
santos’ conciertos de tambores
In response to kilimanjaro sound crew and dancehall reggae’s
general hatred of and fascination with battiness
In response to the urgent need to for artists of color to defend
artistic agency within a context of domestic tourism
In response to my immediate need to re-read and
deconstruct the power of the gaze
In response to my spine, which locks and tightens whenever I
think to breathe, drum, sing, or simply “be” while in the pres-
ence of white men, in particular, and white people in

My objective is to designate the detrimental and culturally spe-

cific nature of audience reaction, participation and interpreta-
tion where communities of color, communities of womyn, and
communities of artists are situated as performer and Europeans
or European Americans’ positioned as audience. My argument
is that artists of color are often relegated to object-status
before predominantly European and/or European American
audiences who, due to western-paradigms of analytical
response, situate themselves as Subject. My interest is in iden-
tifying what agency non-white/and/or/non-male artistic commu-
nities working in European and European American dominated
artistic context have at their disposal to combat assumptions
of Subjectivity. Too often, artists of color “give it up” before
audiences of white people who have little understanding of
exactly what they are being given. The European and European
American participant/viewer MUST somehow learn that partici-
pation is proper reciprocity for expended artistic energy,
become sensitive to the benign rules and rituals involved with
people of color and seek to grasp hold of the life that is urging
them to clap, stand up, shout or cry.

Eyes eat. Cannibal eyes. Cannibalize.
As a musician, I have found that the arrangement of artist,
audience, and art is most fulfilling when energetic participation
occurs. The deafening silence many Europeans, European
Americans and historically male audiences comfort themselves
within is no longer acceptable. We must exit the stage. The
perpetuation of call and response exchange within a perform-
ance is essential—but often missing.

Artistic expression is, always principally at least, priceless. An

original experience. Whether an artist is enacting a piece for
the first or fifteenth time, the emotional, spiritual, physical,
and mental risks that the performer takes are always original
and worthy of consideration. An artist’s acceptance of vulnera-
bility is laudable in itself. However, artists endure beyond this
difficult task, not only sustaining the emotional/spiritual self,
but invoking and creating beauty within the same instance.
When culture is involved vulnerability and risk inform the per-
formance. History documents European destruction of culture
for over a thousand years. Europeans have consciously found a
way to dislocate indigenous art from its tradition and make it
their own—but that is another story for another rant. If artists
of color and womyn are to thrive as proponents of culture, we
must ensure reciprocity from our audience. It is incumbent for
us to begin the process of informing white folk of how much
more they would get out of our art if they weren’t so tight

The Sixteen Odu and their
General Information on Odu:

Odu are divine proverbs and stories that correspond to several

indigenous systems of divination that were born from Ile Ife,
Nigeria. When one goes to a diviner from one of these sys-
tems, be it Santeria (Cuba), Candomble (Brazil) or IFA
(Nigeria), he or she receives combinations of 16 different Odu
based on the pattern in which shells fall onto a mat. For each
combination there are literally thousands of pages of stories
and interpretations. It is the job of a senior priest in one of
these traditions, either a Santero, Santera, Iyanifa or Babalawo
to memorize the significance of the different combinations
derived from combining one Odu with another. A Babalawo is
the senior priest of all Yoruba based practices around the
world and he must memorize all 256 different possible combi-
nations and their corresponding histories, interpretations and
suggestions. When one goes to a priest or priestess of these
traditions he or she learns spiritual actions necessary to pre-
vent pending harm or needed to facilitate abundance and
blessings. Odu dictates the actions that are needed. The fol-
lowing are the sixteen Odu from which all 256 different Odu of
IFA (The Spirit of Divination in Traditional Yoruba religions) are
born. From these sixteen Odu were born everything that
exists in heaven and earth.

One Ogbe
“The head carries the body

Two Oyeku
“An arrow between brothers”

Three Oggunda
“Arguments cause tragedies”

Four Irosun
“No one knows what lies at the bottom of the sea.”

Five Ose. (Oche)
“Blood flows through the veins”

Six Obara
“A king does not lie. From the lie, the truth is born”

Seven Odi
“Where the grave was first dug.”

Eight ”Okanran
“If there is nothing good there is nothing bad”

Nine Osa
“Torn best friend is your worst enemy.”

Ten Ofun
“Where the curse was born”

Eleven Owonrin/Ojuani
“Water cannot be carried in a basket.”

Twelve Iwori
“When there is war the soldiers do not sleep.”

Thirteen IKA
“Where illness is born blood is bad”

Fourteen Otura
“A family that does not get along.”

Fifteen Oturupon
“You were born to be wise if you only listened to advice.”

Sixteen Irete
“The same way it moves you it paralyzes you.”

La Hermana— by Luis Monterrosa
As you walk down the side corridor of the house toward the
yard, depending on the weather, you’ll see people sitting or
standing near the fenced garden as you enter the downstairs
back door on your left. You walk into the small waiting room
with about ten folding chairs, which, depending on the time or
particularity of the day, will be mostly occupied. If this is your
first time the unfamiliar faces will pause to notice you, hushing
their conversation, as your turn is silently accounted. With the
occasional rare exception, everyone is of Latin American ori-
gin, primarily immigrants. They are waiting to see a very spe-
cial woman who for the past fifteen years has been giving
spiritual consultations from this room in her home. Her name
is Eldive Monterrosa, some call her Yoli (her middle name is
Yolanda), others call her hermana (sister) or. You’ve heard that
she gives limpias (“cleanings”) and by now realize your loca-
tion in a spiritually clandestine zone.
Although she is a housecleaner like so many Central American
immigrant women, this is a different kind of “cleaning”, one of
prayer and blessing. As you sit in the waiting room your atten-
tion is captured by the religious altar along the far wall and as
the door opens a middle-aged Salvadoran woman emerges with
her daughter along with the aroma of Florida water and rose-
mary and behind them a vibrant señora emerges signaling for
the next person to come in. Eldive, who immigrated to the US
from Guatemala at age eighteen, alone and pregnant, has for
more than a decade offered spiritual consultations and “clean-
ings” every Tuesday and Saturday, rushing home from cleaning
large houses in different cities to prepare to see dozens of
people. Donning a white robe she opens her soul to God
through prayer and asks for the power that she needs to help
heal. Opening the side door of her house she welcomes anyone
who wishes to see her; although she doesn’t charge for her
services almost everyone! finds a way to repay her in whatev-
er form they want—donations, flowers, food, helping her fix
her garden, etc. She recalls her early childhood, helping her
grandmother who was a curandera (healer) who would cure ail-
ing children. In the pharmaceutical age of fine print dis-
claimers, Eldive continues a shamanic tradition that has almost
been lost in the modern Western age—a modern day shaman.