Dr. Jabali Stewart joins Jonathan and Britt for an illuminating conversation about finding modes of communication that nurture radical togetherness, how music and other art forms can be vehicles of change, resistance, and bonding, and what society needs right now in order to elevate our consciousness and orient to equity and love. But most importantly they discuss all sorts of ways we can practice loving kindness in the face of cognitive dissonance, bigotry, and bias.
Join us on this wild ride, as we delve into the tough stuff and plumb the depths of our souls. You won’t want to miss it!
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Dr. Jabali Stewart
Summer of Soul
Jonathan[00:00:02] Welcome to "Not Going Quietly," the podcast where we inspire growth, beat down biases and get into all sorts of good trouble with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Britt East.
Britt[00:00:11] No topic is off limits as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.
Jonathan[00:00:19] So get ready to join us in courageous conversation because not going quietly starts right now.
Britt[00:00:30] Hey, everyone. Welcome to "Not Going Quietly," the podcast for outraged optimists and heartbroken healers all over the world where we discuss, discuss life's searing topics. We talk about everything that maybe you're afraid to try to bring up but would love to listen to. And we've got a really great episode for you today. I'm so excited to get started. Jonathan, it's been a while since I've seen you. How have you been and what's new?
Jonathan[00:00:57] Yeah, yeah, I know. I kind of dropped off the face of the earth a little bit, didn't I? Various things cropping up, mostly being unwell. But I'm better now, momentarily.
Britt[00:01:07] But that's really good to hear.
Jonathan[00:01:10] And it's good to be back.
Britt[00:01:13] Yes. Well, we are living in the moment of truth, and I'm here with my fabulous co-host, Jonathan Beale. My name is Britt East. I'm doing really well. It's finally spring. Spring is in the air in Seattle. The the flower, the floral sense are wafting through the air and the mold is is is on the decline, which always improves my mood. I'm such a Seattle cliché. I'm just like, after 20 years here, I'm just I need some vitamin D, so I'm doing really well. I'm really excited to introduce our guest to those who haven't met him. Now, I do want to encourage everyone to check out our previous episode where we where we interviewed Jabali and his wife on peacemaking circles and finding modes of communication to support radical togetherness in the face of life's constant pressure. So I encourage you to check that out. But if you have not seen that our guest, Dr. Jabali Stewart, has been active in community movements here in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest for several years. He earned a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington and his work broadly in the area of intercultural communication and conflict resolution. He has been affiliated with the Center for Ethical Leadership and has been trained and using the Indigenous Art of Peacemaking Circles for positive conflict resolution, racial healing and achieving deeper understanding. His primary mode of communication is music, which he has practiced in one form or another for decades. Oh, sorry, for four decades, from singing in gospel choirs, glee clubs and punk rock bands. Okay, we've got to hear about that, too. Playing percussion in Afro-Peruvian ensembles, Jabali is ever convinced that music and other art forms are vehicles of change, resistance and bonding. Jabali, welcome to the podcast. It's so great to see you again.
Jabali[00:03:17] Thank you, Jonathan. It's good to see you. Jonathan, it's really good to see you.
Britt[00:03:29] Jabali, you got to help us out here. Glee clubs and punk rock bands??? Share some of your musical journey, your influences, your career education. Like, how does that go together? What inspires you?
Jabali[00:03:42] That's good. So, yeah, those. I am that eclectic when it comes to music. I'm very eclectic as I don't find myself pulled in any one genre, if you will. When I grew up, the house, our house was filled with gospel, filled my mother and her sisters. Grew up singing gospel in the church. They were the McDonald Sisters, and they toured up and down California. You know, it's just a powerhouse. And then my father was a musician in his own right, loved the piano, came over here to try to make a go of it musical arrangement from Trinidad. That was kind of weird, you know, immigrating here in the fifties, it wasn't really great. Right. And he was really into jazz. And so that jazz and gospel was in the house and blues and still band from Trinidad and Calypso. Like all this musical variety, soul, R&B was all in the house except for one genre, which I take that back because there were a couple of records in the house. But Rock, you know, I got introduced to Jimi Hendrix and I was like, Wait a minute, what's what's happening here? I loved it. And Jimi was for my really, I think my parents, it was a now that's where we draw the line. You're pushing the boundaries and who Jimi was a doorway to the bad brains. The all black punk rock band from DC and once I've met the Bad Brains. It was over for me. I found my people. It was so delicious. There was something. And to be honest, you know. I can connect punk rock to African. Sacred music, and I have a whole lecture that does that for me. There was a coming home and a reclamation of a certain musical form doing it. And punk rock has such a wonderful ethos of Just do it, do it yourself, the DIY thing so you can. I don't know how to play the guitar. I'm going to play the guitar in this band and something's going to happen, you know? And it's delightful. And you've got all these beautiful marching walkers who are really trying to figure out how do we do things a little differently? So it became a home, especially given that by then, by the time I really found punk rock. I was enrolled in a school that had 2800 students in it. My graduating class was somewhere like 675 kids go from high school. Out of the 2800 students, this is in Ohio, Worthington, Ohio. Out of the 2800 students, there were about 16 kids who had any kind of pigment in their skin and about three quarters of the school kids or black. Wow. And so it was. It was a weird environment and it was really hilarious along the way because you're putting up with so much crap. And my mom would always ask me, Why are you so mad? These people are driving me crazy. What's driving you crazy? How about this? I want to be punk rock came. It's like, Oh, it's a bomb for myself. I get to just invent, write this all out in a musical way. And then when I went away to college, I started gigging. I started being in bands, I started singing as a frontman, which was one of the best therapeutic exercises to ever, like a punk rock frontman. And yes, this was a glory encapsulated. It was such a beautiful thing. And. The R.A. on our floor at the time. Was in the Glee Club. And so when I hadn't gone to college, I had a suite. There were four of us in this suite. I had a roommate. And then across the hall there, not all the way, there were two other guys. And we all sang. And so we started singing kind of doo wop, you know, just the four of us of our own accord.
Britt[00:08:20] Wait a minute. Wait a moment. No, no, no, no, no, wait a minute. You can't just yada, yada, yada segue over the best part. Okay. So you and we have listeners all over the world, so I want you to explain what the Glee Club is. But then also, it's like you you were in the frontman for a punk rock band and then all of a sudden you're going to do up and like, what? How did this happen?
Jonathan[00:08:46] Before you do, I just want to I just want to share that from the U.K. Like, obviously, we've seen Glee Club. Like, we've seen the TV show. We know what it is. But but we have nothing like it in the U.K. There is not a chance in hell that any students of any decade would ever be seen dead. Doing that in U.K. schools can happen.
Jabali[00:09:19] That's hilarious. It's also terminology. So doo wop is like 1950s. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo wop. And then everybody's got these multilevel harmonies and four or five, maybe six people doing it. That was really big in the black population back in the days. It was beautiful, beautiful music. And then Glee Club. It is like it's a big singing group that sings words in a very. Sweet way.
Britt[00:09:58] Mm hmm. I don't know.
Jabali[00:10:03] How to describe it as a glee club. It's a big singing group. And, yeah, so I was doing the punk rock that I thought I'd started really? Like, landed the doo wop thing. Got me noticed because I was in the dining hall. My R.A. was like, Oh, my God, this guy sings doo wop. But he's also in this punk rock band he can sing. Why don't you try out for the Glee Club, which I had never done. I tried out for Glee Club. I got in and I found myself singing, became a passion without a similar lease to me with 79 other men. And it was it was actually there were some really cool things that happened in there. That was one of the few times we we sang in a church in Cincinnati. And we we had a guy whose name is Doc Lorber, and he was the director of the Glee Club. We sang a song. So well that we managed to make the building do the vibration thing the way we hit the resonance point in church when we stopped singing, you could hear that harmonic flow. Wow. And it even gets me now. It was such a beautiful that was a beautiful moment. So. But then, you know, I would do concerts where my talks and then I'd have a show later that night. So the guys would pick me up on motorcycles and I'd be changing into my punk rock guitar on the back.
Britt[00:11:30] It's like your communion.
Jabali[00:11:33] It's literally that's what the power of music is. That's my whole point around, like through the agency of music, I can be with anybody in their language, in my language. You know, it's the reason why I did the grad studies. I did. I studied ethnomusicology. It was really I think a lot of people think of ethnomusicology as like, oh, the study of exotic music or the music of other people and all that kind of shit. For me, ethnomusicology is really about the study of music as a tool of social engineering. And there are two camps for musicology, not just the musicology, which is kind of stupid because musicology is really about Western. Why music? And then the rest of the world gets ethnomusicology. I just want to point that out. But the music is a tool of social engineering, is a powerful frame. It's everywhere. You know, when people say that they don't value music and it's not, it's the person that gets cut out of that. And then you go into the surgeon's surgical room and they're listening to music. Okay, somebody's made that music. And not only did they make the music, they practice endlessly to make it so that it was recorded in a good way, so that you could listen to it while you're cutting somebody open like that. Let's just talk about the value of music. Right. And when I got here to Seattle to go to grad school and started the afternoon program. I was a. It was a treasure trove. I played in the Philippine Cool and Tang Ensemble, studied didgeridoo practice with a shout out in Vietnam from Zimbabwe Master Steel Pan. You know, it's people who learn multiple spoken languages. They say that it increases your ability to relate to the world. You think in different frames you have all these different anchor points and different. It's the same thing in music. There's a way in which able to relate to people in a way that is is soul filling. You know, I love going to shows where people don't expect me to be at the show and I look the way I look. Then you would really enjoy the music. Just look good. Hey, you want to come in and bang? Here we are. Now there's a whole new relation and it's because we were enjoying the music together. And the same happens when we're playing music together. If we're playing. You're communicating with people, you know. And. I love. I love working with people in music, too. But what do you sound like? It's like taking two birds and putting them in the same room. And what's the combination of those birds? The sea. Right. But we're humans and we have different songs. So what's the combination? We're sharing space together and we can actually communicate, even though I might not speak the same language as you, but we can musically get down on some good stuff and we recognize it, we feel it. We both are in it, you know, all of us and loving it. That to me is. It's glorious. It's glorious. It's it's something that I've never let go of as long as I've lived. And it's taken me to some really cool. Spaces and places and and situations. You know, I. I found myself in Peru sitting on stage with some of the most amazing musicians. Ever like I am in line because I learned how to play the box a card. And I'm sitting in this plaza with thousands of people. We're. I never would. And the whole entree is music. It's in it. And they loved it. I loved it. It was glorious score. It is glorious.
Britt[00:15:27] There's so many metaphors in that one. So sorry. There are so many metaphors in there. And one of the things that we've been exploring over the past few episodes, including the one that you were previously on with your wife, is the points of interpersonal connection from fractured and fragmented communities. And you alluded to the fact that music can be the same vehicle for common areas of interest where we can maybe set aside some of our differences and find that common ground. But I think there's also something while that's, I think indisputable, I think there's also something where music is intrinsically mood altering. So we're getting the palliative effects of soothing our nervous system as we're finding these common points of ground, indirectly bolstering our connectedness in ways that are kind of non-confrontational, non-threatening to all of our our greater good. We're coming together. Correct. Am I just full of beans or is that.
Jabali[00:16:36] You know, that's that's that's the point of it all. You know, the it was one of my favorite stories of kind of a this is that is the way I listen to them. And it's there's in I believe it was Paul. They have three versions of the national anthem because they're all three different musical systems and they have on occasion figured out how to play them all together. And it to us sounds cacophonous, but it's complete unity, all these different modalities coming together to operate as one singular unit. You know, that's that's incredible to me. It's like, how do you take disparate parties and bring them together? Like we honor or we recognize that you are this wholly different other thing, but you're one of us also. And we're going to. We're going to sing and praying and. Polly, are you in on this? I don't know. I think it's amazing.
Jonathan[00:17:36] There's, um. There's something really feeling about it, really body about it. Where. Where we. We typically try to connect through. Through rational thought or through trying to pick apart the specifics of details of things. And it's something really simple and direct and straightforward about the emotional and feeling aspect of the arts and especially music, right? That cuts through so much of the thinking and get straight to the core of real connection.
Jabali[00:18:11] Yes, exactly. Jonathan nailed it because you go to a show. You know, you pick up a show, buddy, somebody you have never known before. But because you're both sure you're sharing space, I'll give you a look. I went to see the Grateful Dead one year in Chicago, and they were still alive. Not my world by any stretch of the imagination, but it was okay. It's a new musical experience. We're in Soldiers Field in Chicago. And Jerry Garcia was still alive at the time. And we managed to get down on the floor, the stadium floor for the show. Right. Which was amazing. And while we were sitting there, so it was me. It was my partner at the time. We had a little one. Very little. Her friend and the friend's boyfriend. We're all sitting there. I'm the only black dude. Our son is next. And there these six white frat boys sitting to my right. I'm on the I'm on the edge of our lot. And the one sitting next to me looks to his friends and he's like, Man, what the hell is this thing doing sitting next to me? Why? Why is this here? Doing whatever it's doing. Talking like that to his friends. And I was like, Whoa. And there's that moment of looking around the stadium like, Oh, shit, if this goes down, I'm in trouble, you know? And I'm thinking, I love the little one and oh my God, we're not a Grateful Dead. You people are supposed to be. What the hell? And he went on and on and on. And, you know, it started a little bit of a ruckus among his friends, except for one guy, one guy who was like, I don't know, like, look at that kid. That kid's really cute, beautiful kid. And then they got into it, and then the five of them left. Except for the one. That guy should go down next to him. Excuse me, listeners. He packed a bowl of marijuana. And pass it to me. And we sat there and we shared that bill. And we shared the show. We laughed on each other. We loved on each other. He had the little one. We we bonded and we had a damn good show. And there is a way in which we've we did some work. We did some race work that was really deep seated between the two of us, which kind of ripple out later on when we leave that show. And then here I am telling that story. So the guy, whoever you were, I don't know where you were, but I'm bound to that person for life. And thank you, you know, and it's because we had this vehicle of music that was holding and encapsulating and allowing him to feel in a way, allowing me to feel in a way so that we could actually co-mingle those other five cats. They weren't with the music. They weren't actually at the show. They were in their heads about what they think the show was because they could not let go of this thing. And the mind is so powerful that it can override that visceral, emotive state that's being called upon, or that's how powerful those social lives can be. The mental, social tropes. It's it's crazy. It's crazy. So loving on that guy. Thank you.
Britt[00:21:32] Yeah. I love that story. And I think both the points you make, you and Jonathan, both are so valuable that music can bypass the intellect and lead us to somatic healing experiences, embodied connectedness and what you described. Jabali reminded me of the time honored tradition of sitting around a fire, playing music, passing medicine back and forth. I mean, this is prehistoric. And so you're describing the contemporary version of that story. So the piece pipe, you know, and it was so beautiful because you were able to to work at work indirectly to achieve the points of connectedness. And I'm really curious around your thoughts on what you think society. You know, that was a specific story to you individually, but what do you think society in general, in the aggregate needs right now in order to elevate our consciousness and re-orient to love?
Jabali[00:22:37] But first they have to stop thinking. We as society it stop thinking. Love is a weakness. And that love does not belong in certain places. And I say that very seriously as a former administrator within the independent school private school world. I was often chastised because when I was asked about my philosophy of leadership and I would say things like, Oh, I believe in leadership from a point of love. And folks would be like, No, you can't say that. Love. Love doesn't have anything to do with your job, and you probably shouldn't connect it to your work. I love. Love. Love is for your house with your kids and your partner. What? But here. No. And I would always scratch my head, like. Really? So love has no place in my heart. But people would tell me that when I was. Exercising what I believe is good a good way to be. And, you know, I'm serious. I would hear things like, well, it sounds like you're trying to bring church into the building. And I would just think I'm so confused. So so do you understand church? You attend church and you think that it's only for there and don't bring the lessons out here. You know, like, I'm not a churchgoing person, but I would think that if I go there to practice stuff, I should probably practice it outside the confines of the church, you know. And so bringing it in and I don't mean the dogmatic ideology of it, but the beingness of it, like love thy neighbors. I don't know. I mean, didn't Jesus say that? So why is that so weird inside? But working by so love needs to be recontextualized as a strength, as a positive power. You know, it has its everything has its shadow sides for sure. You know, love can make you do crazy things, but love can also help you. Whether. Storms that we just are going to get hit with anyway. You know, and in the absence of love, you literally have less anchor points, less a less of a route, a love route, a strong without that, you have less of a route to hold on to. When the storm comes and the storms coming, it always comes. That's. That's the nature of life, right? So where's your route? So that's one thing. I think the other thing is there are lots of things. There are lots of things. But I wasn't the sloppiest. But there's a. If you look at what's happening in this country, the United States, Jonathan, look on your own in England and Ukraine probably got similar things. I don't know it very well. I don't I'm not up on it as well. But if you look at what's happening inside the United States, where you have people who are literally. Don't say gay was just signed by the governor of Florida. Let's just really stop and think about that. So I want to tell you not to say gay, it matter of fact, just don't be gay because it's wrong. Now, how am I going to tell somebody how they feel as to who they are? Like that whole mindset of, I know what's right, I know what's normal, and everybody needs to operate the same way I operate. That's insanity. And we think that that's how societies operate.
Britt[00:26:27] We're screwed.
Jabali[00:26:29] But that's got to stop. We. People hear diversity and they go to flip out land. But diversity is a reality. Diversity means a multiplicity of things in a space, and that's pretty much reality. There's a multiplicity of humanity. There's like, this is not all one size fits all, so get over yourselves and stop acting like you can. Police how other people are supposed to be in their own skin. You don't notice. And just because it's not you doesn't mean it doesn't exist. That's the craziest shit ever. And then to. Do arrests, I'd like to know you can't do this. We've got so many other things that require so much attention. Policing people of that nature. I mean, even the stuff that's going on with the Supreme Court nomination. Right. Does interracial relationships actually should it exist like what the flying fox that until until there's all. A mindset that I don't even hate because I don't know how to back people out of that. Like, that's where. It's just it's confusing to me, to be honest. Like, why do you think that? Why do we have those conversations? We can't arrive at any healing where we can actually start to work together.
Jonathan[00:28:06] Yeah, there's. There's there's. There's a part of me that worries that those people are already lost to us. I'd like to hope that they're not. But there's a part of me that worries that they are because. Because there is there's no wiggle room in the way they think or feel about some of these things. Yeah. Yeah. I didn't watch that just because it was pertinent. If you've got a response, that would be lovely.
Jabali[00:28:32] Well, I think they worry about that a lot myself. In our group, black and white. I'm the one that will I will just keep leaning in on it like, no, come on, let's do it. No, come on. Come on, come on. Your everybody else is, like, knowledgeable. It's time to cut bait and let that person go. But now there's got to be there's got to be an anchor point that we can connect on that starts building this new thread of humanity. There's got to be, you know. And Jonathan, the thing that. Comes to me when you say that there's a yes, but I feel like. Those people have. Moved himself to this place of almost lost cause because they are the thing that they're railing against and they don't want to own it in themselves. We have case after case after case after case. It's not how many cases of closeted homosexual who has been so homophobic in their outward life and then they are found in a hotel room somewhere where the lover. Okay, you. You could have saved everybody a lot of trouble. Right. His own being gay and move on with your life. You live in a happier person. Everybody around you will be a happier person. But that person's got trauma because of the history of homosexuality, of a sexuality period, as it has evolved over time in our societies. Repression is a motherfucker. I'm sorry. Oh.
Jonathan[00:30:20] Yeah. And there's a part. There's a part of that where? Where some of this stuff really only has roots in a particular culture and. And one that became government dominant. Right. And, and that is now essentially holding the world to ransom for its for its trauma.
Jabali[00:30:40] That's real. That is this that is very real. But it can't last long. And when I say long, I mean I'm thinking in hundreds and hundreds of years. Right. Like there is a breaking point. We might not see it. We might just be watching the wave rise up. But there is a breaking point and it, historically speaking, is never pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. And as much as we tell people, you know, we can be proactive and not let that happen. I just don't see your point. I don't know that folks have it in them and it's too scary. You mean I might have some gay tendencies? And what do you think.
Britt[00:31:23] Jabali, given given all that you just said then, is it even possible to have truly integrated social experiences on any parameter, whether it's race, gender, sexual orientation or anything, and especially in the realm of a capitalistic society which seems to be a zero sum game pitting us one against another. Is is this even possible? How is this possible? What are we to do?
Jabali[00:32:04] Oh, capitalism is a bugger. How we do it, I don't know. I don't know. But I do think that there are little pockets of work that are emerging that are. Trying to build something. Outside of it or around it or, I don't know, building something different. And I think that that's cool. And I think that that's actually part of the answer. The small pockets of people who are doing good, who are making something work of their own accord, because that actually needs to happen. You know, it's one thing the smarts part of the my. It's one thing to smash, smash, smash. But if there's nothing that's being built to replace it, then this kind of useless brawl is destructive for everybody. So. I know of groups who are working diligently to. Create decentralized. I guess societies, many societies, if you will. And it's not all. Perfect. That's not all. I mean, it's new there. They're working. I mean, it's hard to not take the the social code that is native and replicate it in whatever you recreate it. Right. It requires that there's some sense of, oh, let me do some work so that I am at least aware. I might not get it all out of me, but I'm at least aware of how the social code is operating so that when I'm over here designing this new thing with these other people, I'm designing it a little more consciously so as not to just replicate that thing with the new image. Right. Mm hmm. Because that happens all the time, that that's actually one of the strengths of this current system. It can replicate itself. It can take revolution and replicate it as a capitalistic venture, you know, like that. And and nobody is the wiser. And everybody is just like, wow, did you get that new? As opposed to are you the new? You know, you have oh, you bought this. You didn't become that yet. So the small little pockets, but the small little pockets at some point need to start communicating to build a larger net. Especially to share what's working, what's not working. Some groups are working socially, some groups are working financially, some groups are doing food right. At some point there is a way in which all these different nodes, if you will, would need to start coming together to. Build some build a new, if you will.
Jonathan[00:35:08] And I'm I'm curious, you mentioned structures and and like, I completely agree. If we don't replace a structure with a new structure, then just chaos. Right. Because you're going to end up back in the old structure, but. Well, what I really recognize is that if if those who benefit deeply from the structure as it is, have a voice in developing the new structure. Isn't there a danger of us just. Perpetuating privilege and. Maintaining the system as it is. How do we navigate that?
Jabali[00:35:52] No, you're right. That's absolutely correct. That's why you got to be careful who you sleep with right here.
Jabali[00:36:01] The the this process of, you know, I'm in my these social codes. I'm doing some work so that I see, recognize, honor and acknowledge those social codes and in building new ways of being has to be tested over here in this new way. And the people in this space need to test the social fabric constantly in order to see, Well, did you really think we might need to go back over here and do some more work because you're not quite there. Doesn't mean that you're kicked off the island, but there's, like. It's a decentralized structure. This is part of the thing that gets people really pissed off and decentralized. Suddenly, no one person has more authority than the other. So now the person who has done the pivot and they just pivoted like this, I'm going to build new stuff. You didn't stop here and now over here, they don't have as much power and authority and voice as they did over here. And if this group is real about it, they're going to hold them to it. And now all of a sudden. Oh. That's that's accountability. That's accountability, and it's for the greater good. Right? Yeah.
Britt[00:37:27] And that's what I noticed so much and thinking. Sorry Jabali. That's what I noticed so much in in seattle, which is ultra liberal city and a land of so many good intentions. But like as you and I have discussed in the past and other venues, we might be a little complacent and we might be willing to have a heart's in the right place as long as we don't have to risk anything. As long as this does not increase Indians me or cost me in any way.
Jabali[00:37:57] Especially that idea of who I think I am. Yeah, that big piece. That's because that gets us back to this earlier conversation we were at. I think I'm this thing, but now somebody is telling me I am not that thing, but I want to play with them over there. But now they're but I think on this thing, I actually. You're not. I'm woke. No, you're not. I'm. No, you're not. You can't tell me I'm not woke. Actually, yes, I can tell you what you're not. Conversation happens all the time. It's. It's. You have not. I don't. I don't even need to talk much more with you to know you are not here. You're not here yet. It's like when in back in the old days, when you go to a punk rock show and you'd be in the mosh pit. The person who was new. Who thought they knew what it was all about because they had this idea that they picked up from this other social code, and then they come in swinging first and I was like, Man, I see you, dude. I'm like, Nah, nah, I don't know. I don't really understand what's going on. Oh, yeah, but what you think you are something that sometimes have to be taken care of, you know? Well, you brought us back.
Britt[00:39:15] You brought us back to someplace from really important because you were previously you and Jonathan were addressing direct action that is requisite and important and especially when it comes to dismantling structures. But I think what's equally important, where you just brought us back to and where we started the conversation are the indirect procedures where we embody our values and share in non-verbal ways. We transmit authority and we communicate. And those deep seated human, again, sitting around the fire, sharing medicine, sharing beverages, stories, music, where we transmit knowledge and culture in ways that are lower stakes, less threatening. We bypass these defense mechanisms. So it's almost like we're we're coming in with this multifaceted strategy. I don't know what you think about that.
Jabali[00:40:05] I like a lot. I like it's so funny. I'm trying really hard not to go here, but I can't. But as you were talking, I keep thinking about Will Smith and Chris Rock. Okay. Where we I know it. So I'm literally trying not to, but.
Britt[00:40:24] Okay, hang on a second. So let me interrupt you, Jabali, just to give some context for the listeners, because we generally published this show about a month after we record and we were recording this at the end of March of 22, right after Will Smith and Chris Rock had an altercation in front of a jillion people at the Oscars. So, Jabali, take us away. I can't wait to hear what you want to say on this topic. I'll take the bait. So the floor is yours. Jabali, I can't wait.
Jabali[00:40:54] You're you referencing the ways in which nonverbal communication and cues and gestures help with this bonding of. Of us being in this other element. Right? The Will Smith's nonverbal gesture was a slap to the face in front of millions of people, which says volumes about his relationship with Chris Rock. Right. And so for me, there's a way in which. He's still replicating the old the old way. There is another way to handle what happened. The message, the message that has been sent to all. I'm really torn. I'm not torn. I'm just. This one has jacked me up in a way, because here we are grappling with this idea of toxic masculinity, and now we're split. While Will Smith did great because he protected his wife, while Will Smith acted like a patriarchal asshole because he will have to defend his own honor because his wife was mad and he laughed at the joke before he even got up and going to do the thing, you know? Does. Will Smith need to use violence to rectify the situation? I really don't think he does. Does that message need to go to the youth? That it's okay to go up in public and slap somebody. I don't think we need more of that. You know.
Jonathan[00:42:18] Yeah, I hear you. And then there's I think the bigger issue is that he can apologize, but that people most people aren't going to see that. And so while he can repent for his actions, the damage is done. It's already happened.
Jabali[00:42:33] And what about the apology? You know, I apologize, but he got home with Jada that night. She slapped a shout out, like, what do you think it you know. In your to your point job he that's not an apology he he was up on stage later that night. He could have apologized, then he could have apologized to Chris, then he could have apologized to Gina. Then, you know, now you're doing now are you doing something different? You know. But that's not what's in the air. We've got too much of this bravado. Don't even start now. I'm sorry. Well, there's.
Britt[00:43:14] So many threads in that moment. We're going to be dissected. Dissertations will be written about that moment. I mean, when you talk about ableist humor and jokes that we're supposed to, quote unquote, have to take, when you're talking about the space that black women occupy in US society, when you're talking about the racist tropes that white people have about all people of color, in particular black people, especially as we sit here on stolen land and all of a sudden we're worried about violence, about black bodies as white people. I mean, other questions, who else is Will Smith hitting if he's hitting Chris Rock, his friend in front of 8 billion people on television, who else is he hitting? I mean, we could go on and on. There's this moment will be dissected forever. And that's why I think we all feel ill about it, because it has laid bare all of the topics we all want to avoid.
Jabali[00:44:05] Okay. Exactly. And, you know, the other piece of it has overshadowed some really amazing shit, like Samuel Jackson winning his first Oscar.
Britt[00:44:14] Our "Summer of Soul."
Jabali[00:44:19] God, it's so good if you haven't seen that, you got to watch it. That. That documentary is pure gold. It is pure gold. Summer of Soul. I am. I nearly will.
Britt[00:44:32] We'll put this in the show notes. But Summer of Soul is a documentary about a music festival in Harlem that, through this horrible sequence of events that were largely racist in nature, almost was lost forever. And Questlove, working with other people, resurrected it. And it is transcendent and miraculous from the standpoint of musical acoustics to the quality of the video, given the constraints of the technology involved. This is a movie everybody has to go see and I'll link to it in the show notes to make it easy for you. It is just absolutely sublime.
Jabali[00:45:09] Of course, sublime is a good word. And I kept thinking, okay, so they sure as hell hyped up Woodstock and all that kind of shit. This was happening with nothing and say shit then this really interesting. Okay.
Britt[00:45:23] Not only didn't promote it, they hid it in the basement and tried to erase it forever. Welcome to America.
Jabali[00:45:30] They all want you to know that they actually pulled that off. It was good. It was so fucking good. Oh, my Lord. Oh, my God. I'll watch Stevie Wonder just destroy the skins of now with so much joy and miracles. Like all the little babies in the audience. Just getting their love on, getting their love on.
Britt[00:45:51] Mavis Staples. So so good. Anyway, we were going on and on. You have to drop everything and see it. It is transcendent.
Jonathan[00:46:04] Serious, seriously.
Britt[00:46:06] And so, Jabali, that leads me to my next question for you. And maybe this is a softball. Given that topic, what gives you hope?
Jabali[00:46:18] I think people like yourselves, people who are willing to. People who are willing to step in and do the work honestly, and there are people willing to do so. I. It's easy to look at history and start to feel deflated. And, you know, if I think about the history, the United States of America is so racist now and it's easy to feel like there's no hope. But there are narratives inside the history that are like some of our soul, that are not championed, that are not told. That can become. Birds of strength, you know? I mean, if we really if we really, really took the time to highlight the history of abolition in the United States, the architects of abolitionist movement, the philosophy of abolition, the reality that it was present in the early days. Right. That it was actually deeply embodied by some folks. They really they if we actually raised that up and spoke on it and spoken the truth of what's behind it and spoke on the reality that there are people still here who believe that deeply. Instead of allowing this other narrative. That is. Don't say gay. Don't study critical race theory, all that shit that just gets so much noise. And because they play a game, it's a fake. They bait people. We're going to say some inflammatory shit. They're just going to run off and not have the energy or the mindset or the brain power or the stamina to build this other stuff that's actually going to be the offsetting material. But there are people putting a lot of very macabre. Shit, man. Leslie Sinclaire. There are so many good people in the world who are really trying to take care of business and not allowing themselves to be defeated. The negativity, you know? That's it's it's work. It's work. We're just talking about that in the house the other day. It's so easy to be negative. It doesn't require much at all.
Jonathan[00:48:45] We're literally wired for negativity right now, like we're waiting for it.
Jabali[00:48:50] We're wired for it. That's right. So, yeah, it's a little work to be. Non-negative? No, but it's good work.
Britt[00:49:02] Yeah. Given all that, then where do you seek refuge?
Jabali[00:49:07] Our backyard, literally. I love gardening. Between the studio space right here and making music, which I love. They create music on a regular basis and I allow myself to explore. Musically speaking. Which is actually a form of journaling in a way. You know, I can listen to a song I wrote last year and I know exactly what I was feeling or I was like in my space and all of it. That's a big that's a big thing for me. But then also being outside of gardening, working with plants. Get my hands inside the soil. I love it. And then sitting in a circle. Hmm. Because that's a way in which I. Connect with other human beings in a sacred way. And I get to work on this, you know, and this thing, every time I sit in a circle, I get to do this work and I turn over here. I'm like, Oh, wait, I get to do this work. And I love what it does. For me, it's a refuge. It's a refuge in the presence of others. Which is glorious. Those are the only three. Yeah. And people need to get outside in the dirt, too. Everybody should play in the dirt. You know. It's it's a very good thing. You don't have to be a master gardener. You just need to go play in the dirt. It's fun. The idea of growing things.
Britt[00:50:55] Yeah, it's funny. We've talked about so many heady. Intellectual topics, but I think a lot of our answers were really simple and almost childlike.
Jabali[00:51:07] Things that you know about. You get called in on contracts and schools and people are like, How are you going to help a kids like me? How about we leave the house.
Britt[00:51:23] Where you are?
Jabali[00:51:24] I think you need the help.
Jonathan[00:51:26] The kids are good. They've got this.
Jabali[00:51:36] I mean, it is really. It's simple. You everything you needed to learn about how to be a good person. You learned in kindergarten or the earliest grade. Be nice. Share, talk alkali. You know, ask for help when you need it. All those things you learned early on. And as we get older, all those other shit starts piling up in. Taking precedence and being. It reinforces that this is the real thing. Oh, really? I don't get it. I do get it because it's the higher power and blah, blah, blah.
Jonathan[00:52:12] It's it's such a shame to see the innocence of children and the complete lack of prejudice and to see it. To see overlaid on them without their consent. And. Yeah. And so in that way we are as a result, right.
Britt[00:52:33] Well, that's the thing. Hate is a learned behavior.
Jabali[00:52:38] That's right. That's right. That's true. And they tell you, oh, this is just the way things are. I used to do this exercise. I used to go to school here in town. It was a it's a college. And I would tell them I would work with the incoming freshman class, right? So like 200 students and I would tell them, don't introduce me other than Jabali is here to talk with you. That's it. Right. And so then I would walk. There was it was always in this church. So I would walk into the church from the back, all down the aisle wearing this gorgeous suit. I looked good, you know, bang. And then I get up in front of them. All they know is my name is Jabbar. They don't know anything else about me, except I'm wearing this nice suit. And then I'd say, okay. You all see me standing in front of you? I want you to just label me. Go ahead to your heart's content and label me. Who am I? What am I? What do I do? What do I listen to? What kind of art do I like? Welcome the car to drive. You're driving my car. You see me walking on the street. What story comes to your head? Label me. And they would just dove into it. You're a professional. You're a doctor. Oh, you. You drive a mercedes. Know, I mean, they just like that. La la la la, la. Right then. Interesting to see how fast I did this for three or four years. They would just jump to it like that. Okay, great. You feel good, right? Right in front of them. I would take off my suit and then I would have on the t shirt and I'd slip on some jeans and some vans. Okay. Now, who am I? Oh, well, you're a musician, and you maybe got an undergrad degree in. You have a dog, you might live at home still and drive a Toyota. Good. And then the other thing, my last step, I put on a hoodie and. Oh, okay. The person that my mom warned me about. You're you're a gangster. You're a thug, you're a drug dealer. You're everything. You're everything that I was literally made to fear. And they because of the progression, they were already in the spirit of giving. And they would just hand it over. And you'd see them kind of going like, Oh, shit. I just said that I just on that. And then, of course, there was a wonderful thing. Great. So you've watched me in three different outfits. You still don't know who the fuck I am. So everything you just said is all stories you made up in your head. You have no clue who I am. Who am I? Oh yeah, right. That's that's that's that shit at work, you know, you just pick it up and you took it as reality, and now it's in you. And until you do something. Which. What do you think you need to do? Should we talk to you? That might be a good idea. How about you talk to me and figure out who I am?
Jonathan[00:55:50] Such a simple concept. Right.
Jabali[00:55:55] Yeah. That's crazy.
Jonathan[00:56:00] Oh, God. Yeah.
Britt[00:56:03] It all starts with curiosity and empathy, and it's like. It's a really great story I love about that. I love that feeling. I love that feeling where you feel like you're walking on ice because all of a sudden you're confronted with your preconceived notions and your biases and your assumptions in a way where you don't know which end is up. That's thrilling. I actually love that feeling.
Jabali[00:56:25] Yes, I do too. I that's when you're going to learn something, some discomfort, you know.
Jabali[00:56:33] In a way you get to hold on to it. It now shapes who you are. I love that. And I know and I recognize that for some people that's scary as hell, you know, because they really need things to be the way. They have always understood them to be. But there's a reason why there's something behind it. So what's that like? Why do you need it to be this thing? As opposed to allowing the roller coaster to do what it will do.
Jonathan[00:56:59] I would, I would guess, safety.
Jabali[00:57:04] I would guess so. But is it really that's I mean. I would guess that they at least think it's safety. Okay. I'm with that. I'm with that.
Jonathan[00:57:15] I'm with you on it not being perhaps the primary cause for the primary thing. Yeah, but I do believe that they believe that it is safety.
Jabali[00:57:30] But that's very well said.
Jonathan[00:57:32] I'm a diplomat.
Britt[00:57:33] Yeah. See he's that. See what you don't know Jabali that Jonathan is the sunny optimist of the two of us. I'm the depressing one. I'm the Wednesday Addams, I'm the dark one. So I immediately.
Jonathan[00:57:46] We do change roles every now and then.
Britt[00:57:48] But I immediately went to patriarchy. I immediately went to the transmission of wealth from fathers to sons and white power and clouds and and stuff. So I go dark really fast. So I just. I like Jonathan's answer, but let's leave it with safety.
Jonathan[00:58:03] Yeah, I think so. We can go to patriarchy, right? But that's that's the cause. Like, that's the original cause. What we're dealing with now is the result of that. So that's why for me, it's a safety thing because they've clung on to whatever system they live in that brings in safety and keeps them in a life they're accustomed to. And so anything that threatens that suddenly threatens their safety.
Britt[00:58:26] And safety is a proxy for rewards almost. Then they keep getting awarded it's, you know.
Jonathan[00:58:33] For for just being. Yeah.
Britt[00:58:36] Right. Yeah.
Jabali[00:58:44] It's so sad because for me it feels like such a limited approach to being on this planet. You know.
Jonathan[00:58:55] There's no richness in it, is there?
Jabali[00:58:56] No, no, none. It's a cut off, isolated, sterile reality, you know. Did you ever see a boy and his dog the movie? But it's Don Johnson's first film, I think.
Britt[00:59:14] Don Johnson. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Don was Johnson's first film.
Britt[00:59:21] Wow. Okay.
Jabali[00:59:23] Freeway. And it's a post-apocalyptic third post. Third World War apocalyptic. Well, that.
Britt[00:59:31] Would be of course it would be Don Johnson and the apocalypse is this. He's the harbinger of the apocalypse.
Britt[00:59:40] In some ways.
Jabali[00:59:43] But it was really interesting because at some point it's a were the you know, last Sunday afternoon when it's raining outside, throw it on. But what has the sort of suburbia mindset has gone underground to survive versus. Don Johnson and everybody else up on top. And it's it's a really interesting social commentary. It's a very interesting social commentary. The links people will go to keep something in. And it's not good. It's not good. But Lord, they put it in a tunnel and they were working to keep it together. And it's like you're. You probably don't do this anymore. Why are you still why are you still doing this? This is what got us here in the first place.
Jabali[01:00:38] You know.
Jonathan[01:00:39] And then nostalgia comes into play, right? And nostalgia is a hell of a drug. Died of a drug overdose.
Jabali[01:00:51] This is a conversation that our dinner table on a regular basis, The Star-Ledger, is I almost considered an evil force. It is a hell of a drug. It was so much better back then. Make America Great Again is like the harbinger of nostalgia. Make America great again for who, when, what? How is this actually being put out into the air as though it's real and people just suck it up like, Oh yeah, we need to return back to when.
Jonathan[01:01:23] Things were so much worse.
Jonathan[01:01:28] I mean, we have the same thing with Brexit, right? The Brexit is the result of nostalgia and and of not having brown people in our country and like all of that shit and right. Like it's just being replicated across all Western nations at the moment.
Jabali[01:01:46] It's so bizarre. It is so bizarre. And I don't know what they think the endgame is, honestly.
Britt[01:01:52] Well, I have a theory here, and you guys can tell me if it's just totally out in left field. Is that one dynamic? This isn't everything. This is just one dynamic at play here is that we have a whole lot of grandparents out there who don't want their grandkids to know that they were in the KKK. They don't want their grandparents, their grandkids to know that they were the ones shouting at Ruby Bridges when she was integrating her elementary school in 1962. They don't want their kids to know that they were the ones dragging gay people behind a truck to their death. And so they are so invested in the perpetuation of the system that they cannot afford mentally, emotionally, psychologically, or maybe even physically to admit their error.
Jabali[01:02:37] That's real. That's very real.
Jonathan[01:02:40] Mm hmm.
Jabali[01:02:41] Which means the history will repeat itself as a result. I mean, that's very real. This is just. I don't understand why there isn't a sense in which if you own the thing, it actually is a good thing in the long run, you know? So everything you just describing, like a good therapist would say, well, then you will never. You'll never arrive at healing. You'll never arrive at a space. And. You're still passing it down because it's slipping out in different little ways. That unspoken stuff. That actually sends the message on down the line. So you cannot say everything you. They want to hide. But the damage is done and continues to be done. And the. The youth, the offspring will visit the central inherit the sense of the mother's whatever. And. And there you go.
Jonathan[01:03:47] Yeah. And and unfortunately, we live in a world where personal responsibility is is not really a thing. Well, and and when personal responsibility is not really a thing combined with the threat of cancel culture and start, actually, it's really hard to take responsibility for a cause because if there's no room for you to to grow or learn or be a better person, if if the immediate response is, well, you did a thing in your bad.
Jonathan[01:04:16] Like, there is actually no wiggle room, really. And it takes a hell of a lot of courage to take responsibility and to stand up and say, Yeah, I did a thing and I'm not proud of it. I want to be better.
Jabali[01:04:27] That is not wrong. That is not wrong. Cancel culture is. Is. Cancel culture exists for a reason, you know?
Jonathan[01:04:35] Oh, yeah.
Jabali[01:04:35] Like, there's. There's been way too much time on people not owning their shit that now at this point, like, well, fuck you, you're off the island. You know, we have enough episodes of Survivor to fall back on. We know how to do this, you know? And unfortunately. It's like the pendulum just swung drastically into the other direction and there's a lot of work for the folks on the margins in the middle who are willing to do that. And. I mean. In those polls getting at some point we might have to just frame the polls and. Concentrate on the folks who are willing to do what they do with each other in a good way.
Jabali[01:05:20] At the polls. Yeah.
Britt[01:05:26] Well, Jabali, we have covered so big and we have covered so much ground for real people. I mean, you know, from music to movies to cancel culture to a will for Can Smith and Don Johnson's first movie that was not on my bingo card for today. Jabali, you stumped me with Don Johnson's first movie, so I'm going to have to check that out. That's a new that is a new one for the podcast. So I thank you for that. That alone gets you some sort of a presentation trophy. It is just such a pleasure to have you on the show. You're a delight. You're you know, you're so smart and thoughtful and and such a great person and so wonderful to know you. And I'm just so glad we got to get you in front of our audience. And I just thank you so much.
Jabali[01:06:14] I appreciate both of you. Really appreciate the time, the conversation. It could probably go on for quite some time. Yeah, I really, really just.
Jonathan[01:06:24] Wanted to say that. Yeah. So it's been a one. It's been wonderful.
Jabali[01:06:31] I'll take care.
Britt[01:06:32] Oh, hey, everyone you've been listening to. Not Going Quietly, the podcast for outraged optimists and heartbroken healers all over the world where we tackle the searing truth so you don't have to. We talk about all the topics that maybe nobody wants to raise that everybody's dying to hear. My name is Brett East with my co-host Jonathan Beall, our featured guest, Jabali Steward. Thank you so much, everyone, for listening. Have a great day. You've been listening to. Not Going Quietly with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Brit East.
Jonathan[01:07:08] Thanks so much for joining us on this wild ride. As we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.
Britt[01:07:16] Check out our show notes for links, additional information and episodes located on your favorite podcast platforms.
Co-founder of Huayruro
Dr. Jabali Stewart has been active in community movements here in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest for several years. He earned a PhD in Ethnomusicology from UW, and has worked broadly in the area of intercultural communication, and conflict resolution. He has been affiliated with the Center for Ethical Leadership, and is trained in using the indigenous art of Peacemaking Circles for positive conflict resolution, racial healing, and achieving deeper understanding. Jabali’s primary mode of communication is music, which he has practiced in one form or another for four decades. From singing in gospel choirs, glee clubs, and punk rock bands, to playing percussion in Afro-Peruvian ensembles. Jabali is ever convinced that music and other art forms are vehicles of change, resistance, and bonding.