*Dowoti was not at the Black Feminist Retreat. However, she is an elder – an activist and Vudu priestess – who formed part of the historic visit by Native Elders in August 2012. I asked her to contribute something to this special issue of Aster(ix) because her work on the African Slave Trade and Human Rights is an on-going contribution to Transnational Black Feminist struggles for freedom, memory and the healing of our communities. This is her praise song.– Ana-Maurine Lara


As the steam curtain rose high, its hot fingers grasped playfully at the tendrils of bark floating above the ambushed stones. They slowly pirouetted back to the ground only after I opened my legs wide before the ritual flame in true Caribbean rude gal style. My white linen skirt lanced itself between my thighs.

The Moon rose almost obscenely amidst the plateau of trees… looking like a nipple, competing with the mountains for the mouth of a sky crammed with beryl green clouds and kenepas. It’s color as yellow as the bonfire flames which sought to singe its curled hem above the sky.

Bienvenidas,  Bienvenidas, Bienvenidas  Abuelitas
Hey ya hey ya hey
Hey ya hey ya ho
Hey ya hey ya hey
Hey ya hey ya ho

Sung men and women whose six-pack bellies conceded to too much rhum, beer and habichuelas. And breasts once filled with nourishment and erect abandon sway to ancient songs with indifference. The memory of hungry babes dismissed even as Rolando Victorio Romano cried loudly, unable to fathom why his mother sat shrouded in black space like the belly of Kongo peas, sweating with strangers, under  the massive dried fronds of the La Tannier Palm… .

Bienvenidas, bienvenidas, bienvenidas Abuelitas. Hey ya hey ya hey, hey ya hey ya ho

We chanted each time the hot stones left a fire, that teased a Moon now high in the sky. She had transformed to a glistening white, her light, and the red heat entered the Temazkal as the Mexica grandmother sang praise songs for Mother Earth.

I had sung my prayers, too, for serious things but also for a place to stretch a swollen knee; a place to clear the pebbles from an ass, planted on the earth’s floor and uncertain of the viscous gooey substance soaking its way through my underskirt, my underpants  and unwelcoming flesh. I prayed I would get the white linen skirt washed white again como la Luna chasing her brother stars.

Rolando Victorio Romano surrendered to the heat, the layers of darkness on darkness, and Mami’s unyielding rock. Our chanting became a lullaby. Sleeping, he clamored no more…

Bienvenidas, bienvenidas, bienvenidas, Abuelitas. Hey ya hey ya hey. Hey ya hey ya ho…

Release me of confusion and suffering. Bathe me in the dew of the night’s sage air. Bring me water fragrant in clay cups… and let the wind dance in the place our ancestors walked many a Moon ago as our Mother suckled in her light.

Bienvenidas, bienvenidas, bienvenidas Abuelitas…. Hey ya hey ya hey… Hey ya hey ya ho….

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