O.I.D.S.I. Kicked Off Summer Conference: Honoring Our Roots

Written By: Shahid Abdul-Karim (Ifatunwase Fabolasi Fayemi)

The Obafemi Institute for the Divine Study of Ifa (O.I.D.S.I.) is a holistic healing institute that provides the necessary tools to positively enhance lives, according to the organization’s website. Its mission is to assist in creating and maintaining wellness, globally and locally, within our respective communities. The institute strives to provide renewed vitality and an optimum quality of life through traditional African-centered sciences and other healing disciplines.

O.I.D.S.I. began holding its organizational biennial conferences in 2012 with the intent of bringing Ifa practitioners, devotees, students of indigenous spiritual systems, and supporters from throughout the world together. The 2022 O.I.D.S.I. Conference ran from July 13th through 17th and is the organization’s fifth conference. It was enlightening, invigorating and full of enthusiasm. Each day was filled with activities for children and adults, panel discussions, spiritual rituals, vending and scholars from various parts of the country. “Calling it a slam dunk, would be an understatement! “

Throughout the conference many participants expressed being thankful for the knowledge, joy and community the conference experience provided. For Nylyn Oubre a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, the conference reinforced the reason why she was drawn to African Spiritual Traditions. Oubre stated, “I’ve been around the Ifa community even before I received my Hand of Ifa, because in New Orleans it’s all interrelated.” Oubre, who works in the field of information technology went on to express how rewarding it was to attend conference, as personal conversations and testimonies from other participants impacted her spirit. “When you’re not around this type of community conference atmosphere enough, you can get lost and lose focus.” said Oubre, who also studies Orisa song and dance. “O.I.D.S.I. is respected, because the organization is a learning community, she said. “They give the reason and philosophy behind things; they don’t do to just do, which is powerful for me.”

Conference Committee Chair, Chief Iyalola Osunkemi said the goal of the conference was to bring people together. “This was a vison that Chief Baba Obafemi had for all of his godchildren, to meet in one place for the opportunity to see each other,” said Osunkemi, who has been with the organization since 2006. “It’s really for everyone to walk away with something that will be beneficial and helpful for their lives.”

Osunkemi, went on to state the idea of the theme was to get back to the basics, as the ancestors play a major role in our lives. “We wanted to make sure that folks came away with a better understanding and reverence for the ancestors, because that’s the basis for why we are here.”

The conference included several guest speakers including Chief M’ba Montana, who resides in Atlanta, Georgia and spoke on “Ancestor Renewal.” During his session Montana discussed how the ancestors have three primary functions among other duties. “They help us navigate through life, manage and govern our relationships and fulfill our purpose while here on Earth.” Montana went on to state, “I wanted people to understand how the ancestors interact with us regarding our purpose, it’s a partnership we have to develop.”

Montana advised participants to do inner work and self-discovery. “We can actually go to our ancestors and tell them to reveal to us how they communicate to us,” he said. “It’s about building that close intimate relationship with them so we can fulfill our purpose.”

The 2022 O.I.D.S.I. Conference also included sessions that focused on topics specifically and individually related to men and women. Many attendees expressed the messages and information received from each session was invaluable. Baba James Weeks who lives in Oakland, California is the author of the book, Meditations Across the Kings River: An African Inspired Wisdom for Life’s Journey was the guest speaker for the session focused on topics related to men and complimented the organization for a well put together week. Weeks stated, “It’s phenomenal, from a leadership standpoint. It’s rare to find something like this in the broader Ifa community. The spirit of togetherness is very rare, because at times there is a lot of in-fighting; this is very refreshing and uplifting,”

Weeks believes O.I.D.S.I. is setting the standard and blazing the trail. “The nonsense that happens in the tradition, doesn’t have to happen, we see it here,” he said. “Ifa could be a powerful force for healing, if it’s done with the right spirit.”

Like Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Ifa has one Supreme Being called Olodumare, yet the Orisa (forces of nature) who act as lieutenants are aspects of Olodumare and work to support human life. Each represents elements of life or nature which range from: water, air, fire, rebirth, agriculture, the arts and serves as an intercessor between humans and the creator.

While many African Americans are flocking to the indigenous traditions such as Ifa, Baba Fabolasi Fayemi advises new initiates to pace themselves. “Take your time and be gentle with yourself, it’s a culture shift from what many of us are used to in the West. Sometimes in this microwave society that we live in, we’re used to having things so quickly,” said Fabolasi, who is the head priest of the New York City Chapter of O.I.D.S.I. Fabolasi, said the way of the ancestors is methodical. “You have to be patient, dedicated and committed to your own path. It’s important not to measure your journey next to someone else’s, because we are all unique individuals.”

In addition to the main conference, O.I.D.S.I. also simultaneously ran a Children’s Conference that included activities for young children and youth, which largely focused on Ifa for kids, ancestor reverence, and Orisa crafts, songs and dances and Orisa egbe sessions where information was discussed and presented on individual Orisa (e.g. Obatala, Yemoja, Sango, Osun, etc.).

Eleven-year-old Nayo Abbede said she made new friends being part of the youth conference. “I learned a lot of new things, especially about the different Orisa and their colors,” said Nayo, who traveled with her mother, Tamara Thomas from New York City. She believes more youth need to attend the conference next go-around. “It would be good to see other kids my age here, I was really impacted by all the clothing and patterns people had on.”

First time attendee, Kevin Glasford who traveled from Bronx, New York admits he didn’t know what to expect when he arrived in Texas. Yet, he believes the conference has strengthened his spiritual journey. “This is my first time and I’ve learned more about my own Orisa and how they work to help me in my life,” said Glasford. “It was filled with information and guidance; any questions I may have had inside have been answered.”

While the primary focus of the conference was around ancestral reverence, a major component of the week also dealt with the aspect of mental illness amongst African Americans. Conference organizers said mental illness is prevalent among devotees who practice the Ifa tradition as much as it’s prevalent within other spiritual communities. According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, one in three Black adults with mental illness receives treatment. Blacks are less likely to receive guideline-consistent care, less frequently included in research and more likely to use emergency rooms or primary care rather than mental health specialist, according to the American Psychiatric Association’s website.

During the panel discussion on behavioral patterns related to trauma, panelist explained and discussed how Ifa could be used as a tool for healing acute, chronic and intergenerational trauma. “Each time we do a ritual; we’re reprogramming our subconscious mind so that we can heal. We establish a new behavioral pattern every time we engage in ritual,” said Chief Oluwo Obafemi, the organization’s founder who was a part of the panel. He stated, “Slavery is intergenerational trauma, and we’re deconditioning ourselves from the trauma we’re experiencing through this tradition.”

Erica Legaux said the mental health discussion was the best part of the conference for her. “It reinforced my path according to my Odu,” said Legaux, who lives in Memphis Tennessee. “The mental health aspect, as far as healing with the ancestors, that was a major breakthrough for me,” she noted.

Among the panelist, was Chief Akasanmon Sangodare, who spoke about the concept of the “Inner Ifa.” Sangodare who is the founder of the Sangodare Institute for the Study of Gan Philosophy stated, “When we come into Ifa, it’s about character development. If we follow that conduct of behavior, we automatically start to tap into trying to change certain behavior patterns.” Sangodare went on to explain, “When you begin to understand those patterns that get you into problems, you start to identify with certain Odus which will begin to bring you into alignment to heal and change your behavior.

He also stated, “You may not know the science behind it, but because you’re following the instructions of the Odu it literally begins to make you a better human being.” The conference closed with a Sunday brunch and lecture by Chief Baoshorun Olaifa Sangokayode Epega “From Covid to Now.” Attendees enjoyed themselves and look forward to the next conference.

Check out this video with Chief Oluwo Obafemi Fayemi of O.I.D.S.I.

Chief Oluwo Obafemi Fayemi & OIDSI 2022 Conference Recap

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