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Hello My Stance Is

Happy New Year to us. I write this as I settle into the boundaries of my cocoon for the winter. My goo spreading out to fill every nook and cranny. Something new is cooking in this lunar year of the Metal Ox. I can feel it, and welcome it. I have long had a practice of cocooning with intention. We are lucky to be able to do so unlike the butterfly, moth, or the spider's food. This season the process seems to be more intense than in the past. Then I remember...I say that every year. Still, this year feels different.

This year, in the early stages of the process, I do realize that I am freer than I have been in a long time. I am unfettered by the work demands of being someone's employee for the first time in...forever. Huayruro has been such a blessing in my life. A blessing I have yet not understood in full. What I can say now is that each day I move forward with Huayruro I get back a bit more of myself. As this realization set in, I thought more about what we do. What we actually do. Then something dawned on me.

As peacemaking circle keepers our work is based on this diagram:

The clockwise flow from 12 to 12 is our path on a micro and macro level. I finally connected that path to our work here in the blog/newsletter space, and what did I see? I saw how I did exactly what I preach against so often. I have produced two solo pieces of writing on our site. The first one discusses my perception of a disconnect in the conservative symbolic usage of both the ant from Aesop’s Ant and Grasshopper fable, and the rugged individual. The second piece revolves around how women like Amy Cooper use weaponized innocence to further police violence against Black men. Both pieces that I code as quadrant three because they discuss issues as I see them. Which means when it comes to you the reader, in my writing I have skipped both quadrants 1 and 2. It also potentially means that as an organization which operates collectively we have done the same, but I can not speak for the whole. To err is human, no? Like forgiveness, to be able to recognize the error and address it in a good way, is divine. We do not acknowledge that enough. So with that in mind...

Allow me to introduce myself.

My full name is Dr. Ernest Jabali Stewart. I am the proud son of Drs. Sandra and John Stewart, and the loving brother of Ruth Stewart. My ancestors are many, and I am blessed to have known a few. I never met the two of them that seem to stick with me the most. Grandma Mary, my maternal great grandmother, and my namesake Ernest, my paternal grandfather. They seem to ride my shoulders with loving care, and I often whisper their names. I look forward to meeting them one day.

Indigeneity is key to my existence. My mother's family comes from plantations and reservations. Fresno, California became their hub. My father's family too comes from plantations. The sugar plantations of Trinidad and Tobago. I am the collision of so many worlds. Central and West Africa, The Caribbean, North America, and Europe. Notions of purity are laughable. For that I am thankful. My ancestral wisdom comes in many forms from many sources. My offspring Jacy, Carmela, and Cecilia being three of those forms. I am a married man of seventeen years to a woman named Monica from whom I have learned much. I am a spiritual man. The spiritual world has always been in me, and I in it. As I have said elsewhere I consider sitting in circle a spiritual practice. It is one of many practices to which I adhere.

Music is life. It is on both sides of my family and in my marriage. I am a black punk rocker, and have been for 35 years. Trained in ethnomusicology I can connect West African religious music to the Bad Brains, and was born to rage against the machine. Creation through destruction has always been fascinating to me. What happens in a cocoon after all? The last five years has seen me fronting a band I started called Special Vices. The title of this paper originally comes from the painting above done by a dear friend named Matt Lu. I incorporated the words in the painting into the lyrics of a song called Platforms, another piece of Quadrant 1 work that truly inspired the title of this piece.

Voice and saxophone are my primary instruments, but I will try to play anything I can touch. In the time of Corona I have picked up the electric guitar after discovering my deep reverence for the blues musicians that have wielded it, including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, has actually kept me away from it. Those are my heroes, and I may have worshipped them too much. The guitar as it relates to the blues tickles my inner ear, resonating the gnbri tucked deep within. Why the saxophone then? That is a story for another time. What I can tell you now is that I was fortunate enough to study with the late, great John Tchicai. His influence on my music can be heard here. As for singing, it is the primary mode of communication in my mother’s family.

I enjoy martial arts, and currently walk in the way of Kalinda, an art form born in Trinidad and Tobago. In the past I studied Capoeira Angola, Tai Chi, and Tae Kwon Do. Capoeira brought me closer to home, but Kalinda is truly home. It is a way of being, and so much more than the eye can see, all hidden in plain sight. It too is bound by a circle. No surprise.

In 2012, I sat in my first Peacemaking Circle. It lasted six days, and was all about the social construct of race. After the first morning I knew I was where I was meant to be. It was familiar, and connected me to words I wrote for a religious studies class in 1988. The paper was about using indigenous practices to heal our sick country. We manifest our realities, no? The paper gained me a reading at the American Academy of Religion. After reading my paper a man walked up to me and told me, 'You can't say that.' Being who I am I smiled at him and said, 'I already did.'

That is a quick introduction to the human that is me, and there is so much more.

I look forward to hearing your stories, deepening our relationships, and co-creating the world in which we want to live.

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