By Christina Velasco, Oló Oñí Iyá

I turned 20 on July 24, 2002. Oshún’s wemilere was held on July 29, 2002 at the BRAVA, Women for the Arts Center in San Francisco. BRAVA, a non-profit organization, purchased the historic York Theater on 24th Street, San Francisco in 1986. It was the 1926 former Roosevelt vaudeville house turned art movie house (York Theatre). BRAVA had it beautifully restored. Since this was not meant to be a stage performance, we held the celebration in the theatre’s large lobby. The drummers played against a gold leaf frescoed wall. The theatre’s high vaulted lobby ceilings profoundly resonated our voices. We had added natural lighting from the glass wall to the street.

An altar was constructed. Angel Vargas from Miami created the throne. It was fabulous! Oshún, Yemojá, Orishaokó (my father) and Elegbá were displayed. Sorry to say, my god brother Jay Pérez, Somileké, quickly scolded all with cameras. I didn’t care about cameras and would have loved to have a visual remembrance of it. Ironically, the drummers had their own cameraman documenting them.

Petie De Jesús, Obindé Omó Yesá, had his crew of drummers playing fundamental batá. Carlos Aldama sang. Marcus Gordon, Salakó (the first African-American initiate in the San Francisco Bay Area, who was ordained by the late Elfidio “Corbatica” Alfonso, Oba’fún), O’Tobaji Steward, Obatero and Isidro Valor (omó Elegbá) joined in. Petie said his drums are the only ones in the U.S. that has been consecrated in Matanzas in such a way where they can be played for Babalawos. I don’t understand what that means?? Two iyawós were presented, an Oshún and a Yemojá. The young Yemojá, only days old was touched! It was beautiful.

There must have been close to three hundred people. People from various ilés in our area came. People who rarely leave their own homes came. There were those who came together under the same roof despite their differences amongst each other. People, I didn’t know came. Many drove many hours. One flew in from New York for this. One flew down from Seattle looking for an ilé. One took the train up from Los Angeles. We were spread out from the lobby, to the 3rd floor “Little Theatre” where we ate, socialized and had childcare and spilled out onto the street in front of the theatre.

There were at least 3 oshas that same weekend. No drummers were available for them as they were at my event or on the road stuck in traffic trying to get to my event. There was a funny story from my uncle in osha, Papo De Jesús, Obá Kosó Niké. He was leaving to take the Obá, Ysamur “Sammy” Flores, Yewandé, when he looked in his rear view mirror and noticed that everyone was about to follow him to San Francisco, leaving an iyawó under the throne alone. He ended up staying home and everyone else left. It was the iyawó’s dia de medio.

Jay found Alberto Morgan from New Jersey to dance for me. Morgan originally arrived to the U.S. from Cuba during the 1980 Mariel. Morgan is Carlos Aldama’s god brother. Morgan was at my Osha in Miami in 1982. He actually remembered me! It took a long time for Oshún to arrive but when she did, she stayed for a long time and spoke to everyone, even the drunk party crasher from the street. Of the many beautiful things she said to me, I was at first dumbfounded when she arrived and said that now that I made her come, what do I want? I had my mouth open, making the stupid sound of ahhhhhh when I blurted out in English “Unity in the Community”. She said something of all the different eyes here to see, who came because of me and they will talk of today for a long time. It is so true! My phone hasn’t stopped ringing each day, as well as the many emails and e-cards from people saying they had a good time. I AM SO HAPPY!

I spoke to the Founder and director of BRAVA. She told me that the local beat cops came up to her today. They inquired about the “religious” event last Sunday. The police officers said that there was a beautiful energy that flowed out of the theatre. It was so warm and positive for whole neighborhood. Imagine that!

I want to publicly thank Ramona Butler, Omí Ladé Ilú, Chisa Jordan, Obá Ewín of the Piraña’s house for your love and support, all my godchildren for making the wheels of this event run smoothly, and lastly to my godbrother Somileké (he says we belong to the Pimienta Colorado house) for taking charge and for running the show. Modupé ó!

Christina Velasco
Oló Oñí Iyá

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