Mentors and Collaborators
Coming together from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, our skilled team of professionals is the backbone of Water and Honey Community Well Inc.. Their influence has helped shape the direction and mission of our organization as it continues to develop. Read on to learn more about some of our incredible mentors.
Iyalorisha Wanda Ravernell and Babalorisha Tobaji Stewart
Community Activists, Teachers, Mentors
Wanda Ravernell, Executive Director of Omnira Institute
Wanda Ravernell is a retired copy editor and writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. A cultural expert, Ravernell is Omnira Institute’s executive director, primary fundraiser, booking manager, program developer and publicist. After retiring from a 20-year career in print journalism, she embarked on creating programming that would lead to the creation of Omnira Institute in 2009. As its director, Ravernell has developed and implemented the program known as ‘Roots of Faith/Roots of Freedom,’ under the artistic direction of her husband, (Dennis) Tobaji Stewart. Held all over the S.F. Bay Area, the lecture demonstrations draw on the musical framework provided by African ritual bata drums, which is then applied to African American history using a choir comprised members of an African American church and African traditionalists. The Black-Eyed Pea Festival is her brainchild. Through her, Omnira Institute has received awards and citations from the Friends of Negro Spirituals (2010), State Senator Rob Bonta’s Office (2015) and the Community Legacy Award from the B.H. Brilliant Minds Project, Inc. (2016) and the Love Not Blood Campaign, run by Cephus Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant who was killed by BART police on New Year’s Day in 2009.
(Dennis) Tobaji Stewart, Omnira Institute Artistic Director and Knowledge Creator
At 14, Stewart discovered percussion and it has been a lifelong passion for him. He has played in bands of all kinds, ranging from salsa to Latin jazz, R&B and his own early funk/jazz band Juju in the 1970s. By then he had been introduced to the sacred Bata drums by his friend and mentor Marcus Gordon, who would go on to organize San Francisco’s first Carnaval in 1979. While teaching percussion students at home and at schools, he also played for dance classes at schools and locations throughout the Bay Area: S.F. State, Mills, Dominican, Cal State East Bay, Laney College, City College of San Francisco, U.C. Extension, Western Addition Cultural Center, et al.
Beginning in 1972, Stewart played the Bata drums in Lucumi ceremonies in Northern and Southern California. His students have since become renowned in their own right: John Santos, David Frazier, Yagbe Onilu, Ron Rico (who plays for the band Santana) and (Mozell) Zeke Neely. In the 1990s, Stewart toured frequently with the S.F. Mime Troupe, which went to New York, the Southern U.S. and England and Germany. He also toured the U.S. with the Oakland Youth Chorus. His Bata battery is comprised of himself and several of his current and former protégés James Coleman, Calvin Holmes, Takeo Wong, Umi Vaughan, David Frazier and Alfredo (Sosu) Randolph. Taji Hill and Coleman were also his students in all things having to do with the drum, from carving to stringing. In 2010, he became Musical Director for Omnira Institute’s performing arm, Awon Ohun Omnira. From AOO’s inception, Stewart has worked with core members who are also part of the re-entry population. Inspired by a documentary about the Georgia Sea Island Singers, he went on to further research the tradition known as the Ring-Shout. Seeing the link between those rhythms and what he knows of many other African-derived percussion styles, he quickly began to learn them, and added them to the repertoire of the choir. To further his expertise, in the fall of 2013 he received a grant from Alliance for California Traditional Arts to go to Georgia to meet the McIntosh County Shouters, a family group that has kept up the practice of shouting for 200 years. In 2013, he received an ACTA grant to apprentice to Bata his two sons, Adisa and Ade Stewart.
Stewart has led countless workshops on traditional values found in street memorials for transitional aged youth at Oakland’s Health & Human Resource Education Center. He has also led workshops for participants who are part of the re-entry population in the DetermiNation program with United Roots and the Urban Peace Movement.
He received his first ACTA award in 2013 to apprentice his two sons in Bata. In 2015 and 2018 he received ACTA awards to apprentice chorus members, DavinaEstrella Ramey and Acacia Woods-Chan as lead singers. Currently, Stewart continues his lifelong work of making music and teaching the world the beauty of cultural expression through sound.
Maestra Maria Acension Ramos Bracamontes
CNM Partera, Addiction Nurse, Sealing Ceromony Circulo Facilitator
María Ascensión Ramos Bracamontes is a Mexican Indigenous Certified Nurse Midwife & Addiction Nurse Practitioner in Santa Cruz county, California. She was born at home in Ayotitlán, Jalisco, México, and raised undocumented binational. She comes from a lineage of traditional Mexican birthkeepers, home birth, and farm workers. She is the mother of three earth angels. The last two were born gently at home in the water. She is the founder of Campesina Womb Justice which aims to bring justice, healing, and reparations to indigenous Mixteco farmworkers. She is passionate about reviving ancestral healing practices to heal collective and individual wombs and to treat addiction in indigenous communities.
Maestra Maria Says "Thank you to my maestras en vida: partera Tema of La Matriz Birth Services (Sealing
Workshop), Maria Eugenia Gobbato and mayan partera Doña Dominga (Maya
Abdominal Massage), partera Isa Block at Luna Maya (Postpartum Workshop), and
Ancestral Apothecary(Curanderx Tool-Kit Class)."
Chief Awodele Ifayemi
Babalawo, Teacher, Mentor
Chief Awodele Ifayemi comes from a long line of reputable Babalawos. He is the Awo Atunwase of Ilobu Land, Osun State Nigeria. He shares his knowledge of Ifá with whoever is seeking to find their “truth” in life. He teaches that Ifá is a Spiritual Philosophy that teaches Self-Empowerment via Self-Accountability.
Aremisa has been serving her community as a doula (former), herbalist, emotional wellness coach, instructor and business owner since 2003. She is fully committed to the upliftment and empowerment of her community through emotional intelligence and the healing from the scars of traumatic experiences.
She is trained in many modalities of holistic health and as practitioner incorporates those modalities into her work based on her client needs.
As an instructor of herbal therapy and trauma informed support, Aremisa has been able to expand her services to those feel the calling to support their communities. She has been blessed to teach students from all across the United states and globally, including New Zealand, Africa, Australia, and England.
She currently owns and operates the Inspired Womb, where she hold space for her amazing clients and students.
"My purpose is to help alleviate and or end suffering for my people. I believe the key is creating a safe space for people to heal so that internal suffering can end."
Aremisa May Emotional Wellness Coach, HerbalistThe Inspired Womb www.theinspiredwomb.com