Dr. Monica Rojas-Stewart and Dr. Jabali Stewart join Britt for an illuminating conversation about the impact of utilizing ancient social technologies and practices to help equalize power in our everyday lives, how sitting in circle can support our innate curiosity, empathy, and understanding, and why we must slow down in order to speed up our efforts and create sustainable positive change in this epoch of intense turmoil and need. They also introduce us to Huayruro, an organization they co-founded that is skilled in organizational leadership, criminal legal systems, and grassroots and healing work.
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. Monica Rojas-Stewart and Dr. Jabali Stewart
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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 for some courageous conversation because not going quietly starts right now.
Britt [00:00:29] Hi everyone, welcome to Not Going Quietly, the podcast for outraged optimists and heartbroken healers all over the world. I'm your host. Britt East and unfortunately my co-host Jonathan Beale is out sick today, so it's just me, but I'm here with two amazing featured guests today that I can't wait to introduce to you. We're going to talk about so many different topics that I think are really going to touch your heart, open your eyes and get you really excited about things that you can do in your personal life and in your communities to make a real difference in the world. So this is, I think it's going to be a really powerful and important episode. So let me get straight to it. I'm going to introduce our guests and then we'll just dove into the conversation. Our first guest is Dr. Monica Rojas Stewart. She originally hails from Lima, Peru, and holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Washington. Her areas of expertice focus on Afro Latinx communities in Latin America, the Spanish Caribbean, their diasporas and their performance traditions as transborder technologies of resilience and community building. As a community artist and activist, Rojas-Stewart devoted the last 15 years to extensive community based organizing and artistic work as a pioneer, performer and educator of Afro-Peruvian culture and of the Afro-Latin arts movement and the Pacific Northwest. She is the founder of De CAJON Project and Movimiento Afro-Latino Seattle, otherwise known as MAS -- two grassroots arts organizations dedicated to educating about the history and cultural contributions of people of African descent in Peru and Latin America, respectively. Rojas-Stewart is co-founder of Huayruro LLC, and she is currently the assistant director of the African Studies and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Programs at Jackson School of International Studies, as well as part time lecturer in the Department of Dance at the University of Washington. Monica, that is such a cool bio that I kind of ran out of breath. Welcome to the show. It's wonderful to have you. Thrilled that you're here. Also with Monica. We're thrilled to present Dr. Jabali Stewart, who is an inclusion specialist utilizing peacemaking circle in schools K through college, businesses, families, government and community settings. He has trained in the lineage of circle keeping connected to Mark Wedge, Kay Prentiss, and Barry Stewart for nearly a decade. Besides keeping Circle, he also trained in and practices other art of hosting social technologies, all with a focus on institutional cultural change. Jabali is also a public speaker who has also cultivated a practice of deep one on one cultural council. His work is deeply informed by his belief and practice of sensible, love based leadership. Wow, you guys are the reason we have this podcast. I'm so thrilled to welcome you into a chat with you today. Thank you.
Monica [00:03:31] It's good to be here. Thank you.
Britt [00:03:35] Let's just start with what in the heck is the peace making peace keeping circle process? And what role does it have in our Western society? You know, with all of the hurt and anguish out there today, why is it so necessary?
Monica [00:04:11] Well, we're going to, we're going to be expanding more more on this, but I can tell you that it has really changed my life. It's changed my life, the way I communicated. In my family with my kids, the way I live in the community, the way I envision my community projects is is a technology that has really brought a very different perspective on how how to be better in the world and how to do the work that I need to do to be a better human in relation to others. And the beautiful thing about the peacemaking circle is that it really focuses, encourages you to listen to others, something that we've forgotten to do. So why is it important? It's not only that I don't think it's only necessary here in Washington or a Pacific Northwest, or I think we all is is remembering how to be human. But that's that's my impression. You know, I'm newer than Jabali. Generally, the peacemaking circle, a process was introduced to me by Jeff Alley, who learned from somebody else who learned from somebody else. And I came into the peacemaking circle just the last. What? What would it be? 10 years because of you, Jabali? Not a surprise. Not that. Not as somebody practicing it, but I brought Jabali to facilitating or keeping circle for the company that I was leading at the time. Because of some, some some tensions emerge as is natural in any in any gathering group of people. And that's how it was introduced to me. And then Jabali invited me to to learn and to practice. And then he can tell you, I think I'll pass it, I'll pass it to you. But it really changed my life. Well, honestly, even how I write emails, it's amazing.
Jabali [00:06:19] That's real. It is. I mean, one of the biggest reasons why I actually continue to practice is because I saw what it did to me internally, which is why I decided. This is 10 years ago now that this was the way I was going to operate. This was a technology I needed to have in my life. As in my bio, I clearly need out there by bio, but that's a pretty good read, Britt. I was really like listening, but as you heard in the bio, I trained in the lineage as it relates to Mark, which is Stuart K. Prentice, Markowitz is a Tlingit elder from the Yukon Territory, Wesley St. Clair was a judge in the province around Yukon, and Kay Prentice is what has come to be known as the restorative justice practitioner. Although I think of Kay, even beyond that case, a peacemaker. When you get right down to it. And so the three of them? Had a real hand in helping revive an old way of being. That has roots in the Tlingit world, but to be honest, it has roots in the world period. Right, everybody. I've got Trinidadian roots, which can go back to Nigeria, can also go back to Congo, and there's something that we have there. It's called the game and you'll see folks sitting in a circle with this one of the oldest social technologies we have available to us to sit in circle so that you actually see people and work through something. Take the time as a community to work through something instead of having it be forced upon you instead of not having any say in what the thing is, instead of it being a reactionary, systemic approach that doesn't actually allow for the human individual to manifest and act, to be to be seen, to be heard, to be present. And that's really where for me, you know, the first, I would say, the first formal circle, the Center for Ethical Leadership here in Town brought in the process and we sat in a circle for six days and it was this invited population. It was about 20 others. And, you know, after the first two three hours, I knew this is this. This relates to so much of what I've already done in my life, and it's exactly what I think I need to do for the work that I had just been hired to do. I've been I just been hired into the independent school world as the infamous director of diversity. And and mind you, I'm kind of a rogue agent, right, like I don't have a historical background in diversity training and blah blah blah, and I'm kind of glad I don't because in my mind, I've watched that work happen for decades. And and here we are. So why would I want to recreate now? I'm not trashing the whole industry because there are some good aspects to it that definitely have value. But in this idea of getting people to sit down and hear the reality of other people, that's not a workshop, that's not a training, that's practice, and it's shifting modes of how we relate to each other. So after that six days circle and I watch people in that circle very cleverly, you know, there are people who were. Not resistant, but kind of, you know, they just every time the talking peace came to them, they would not understand what we're doing. You know, just not really settling in. And I find it it still happens today. But for one individual in particular, when we're sitting there every single time, you're know. But after six days of that, of the last words that came out of him for that circle, you know, I still don't really understand what we're doing here this year. This does make sense. But I think I've really realized I need to listen to people a lot more than I do. I really need to pay more attention to what is people say, Well, OK, that's it. And I don't need you to know why the medicine works or even how it works. But if the medicine works, then let's go. But for me, it was a no brainer. This was the way we were going to move forward because it is a practice. It's it's like, Monica said, in this society, western society. So that was kind of your point. One of your question. What? Why do we need it here and what society? We don't listen to each other very well at all. Now somebody can say so you need political structures aside. You know, the idea of even listening across lines of politics is kind of the same in this day and age. Take that out of the equation. And still, we don't listen very well. There's a sense in which I talk. I talk and I say my staff and people are just sort of waiting for me to pause. And then as soon as I pause the stuff that they've already been thinking about to jump on it, just jump right in. And you know, there's really no time to actually deeply reflect on who off. What is he saying? Where's that come from? Who is the person that's actually saying, How do you know? Yeah. So my first entree into this conversation?
Monica [00:12:02] Yeah. But I think Britt asked, What what? What is it? You know what is still having to respond? Yes.
Britt [00:12:09] Because thank you, Monica. Because people are listening this like they have no idea what we're talking about. I've been fortunate enough to sit in several circles with Monica and Jabali and hope to sit in many more. But a lot of people listening may have been to similar things like friends meetings at a Quaker church or something, but or sitting in a, you know, Buddhist circles and a singing curtain or something. But can you can you kind of define what the process is?
Jabali [00:12:37] That's good. Yeah. Got all into the like, you know, here.
Britt [00:12:42] Well, that was my fault. I'm going to ask the question. Let's start with what it is.
Monica [00:12:48] Yeah. Well, I can I can start Jabali. The interesting thing I was going to say, well, you see the inner circle, but the last two years we've been on Zoom. So we've been seeing consumed with squares on your screen. But we will be practicing circle for two years, for two years on Zoom. So we've kind of redefined this idea of circle by putting the names of the people on the screen in certain order and always follow that order. Why? Because if we were sitting physically in a space, we would always be after a certain person and before a certain person where you would pass a talking piece. So that's the circle that the circle process is. You come together, you sit in a circle. And the most important probably aspect of Circle is the talking piece, which is, is that is an item. If we were in in person, we would pass an item around as an invitation is an invitation. A talking piece represents an invitation for you to share, to speak, to speak your truth. So what what that what that does is, is, is is really magical because it equalizes power. All of a sudden, if you pass it talking peace, there's nobody leading, nobody managing the conversation. Nobody, nobody interrupting in and. And people, you have to listen, so if there's 10 people in the room, you're listening to nine perspectives about a question, an issue, a problem, whatever whatever is in the space, right? So that's the magic that he was referring to, because when you pass a token, can you share your truth and you pass, you invite the next person to talk and it's always an invitation. Nobody is forced to talk and that person shares and then pass it to the next one in passage of the next. And by that time, they're talking. Peace comes to you. The thing that you wanted to add or, you know, elaborate or respond to when these person talk, by the time it gets to you, you have you had enough time to listen to nine other perspectives, and now you suddenly your perspectives change. So that's what it is. That's that's part, that's part. That's one of that one of the aspects. So just to imagine how the peacemaking circle works in. So again, we have we have an order that we follow in that beautiful thing for me, and you can elaborate much more about what it is, what the peacemakers circle is. Usually when you're going to a meeting, there's there tends to be two people who take over and interrupt or take most of the time to take the time. And then there is there are people who don't have the same personality or the same the same drive to speak up right for me as an immigrant woman of color. Well, I grew up in a culture where you, I went to school and the teachers spoke and you did not. You were not encouraged to talk and to talk your your your thoughts or interrupt. It was very interesting. One of the cultural differences coming to this country show here. Kids are encouraged to talk about their voice and in Peru. I grew up when I was going to school as a little kid. We have a military coup and it was very military. My schooling at that early age was very so I'd never learned to really push my voice, you know? And when I came to college here to to to to do my graduate studies, and I found it really hard to participate because I wasn't used to that. And so they're talking. Peace has been first, meaning very empowering for me, and I know it is for many people who don't know how to push their voice or how to how to talk. I come to many meetings and because I'm a woman of color woman and a woman of color, I hardly ever have a chance to to to to talk. And people are interested in listening to me. And also additionally, what I just explained about me not knowing how to push my voice in many times to remain quiet. And I have big things to say and I can't write so that that's that's part of that. That's that's part of why the peacemaking circle has been so healing for me because I know that that talking piece is going to come to me and I'm going to have a chance to just say what I want to say. So I hope that's giving a little introduction of how this works. Maybe you can add more to that.
Jabali [00:17:24] Yeah, there's definitely thank you for the reminder. There is a way in which everything Monica said that just is we come in. If we're in physical space, you're sitting in a circle and you're using a talking peace talking face goes in rotation for us. We typically go to the left because of the cosmology thing. This spiraling of the universe is said to go in a clockwise direction. Therefore, we travel in conjunction with the universe and we follow that order. So one of the difference is a difference between our tradition and other traditions, like with the friends, circle sat in different circles and they're pretty cool. And in that thing of if the spirit moves you to speak and speak, and so there's no necessary order to how the of conversation, but the the proceedings are, it's like I feel moved to speak. And in that model, it could be one person who's just catching the spirit all night long and was doing all the talking, and it doesn't necessarily make room for other people. So that's what luxury experience I was like, really to make sure you get the spirit a lot. And then there's others where there is. So it's funny. We're watching Breaking Bad long time ago when I was first getting it and they even do it like they have the talking pillow. And I recognize that there's some other tradition. I've never encountered it, really. But we're the talking peace. You are so you can ask for the talking peace. And and then it gets thrown to you, you know? That's another different way. And then that one, I still, you know, I'm not ranking, I'm saying what works for me when I see that happening or playing out or that impulse, it's again that thing of I wanted my turn. I want my turn now, and I don't want to wait for everybody else. No, actually, you're going to wait
Monica [00:19:31] that that that I don't want to wait is I don't want to listen to you. I have something more important to say. And that's that's a tendency. Yes, that's what it is.
Monica [00:19:41] Listen, all these people know my thing is really, Oh, you're super hot and listen. And it's been fascinating as we've gone into space and then kept circle for people like, it's really hard for some people. They really struggle with the idea of having to listen to all these people. And then and then they'll be the first ones to turn around and say, Well, can't we all just get along how we go along? If you can't even listen to the folks around you, that makes zero sense. The only way we're actually going to figure out how to get along is if everybody one to Monica's point feels empowered to share their thoughts, and we take that for granted. We take it for granted that people are just going to share and say and speak what they need. That's a big thing we take for granted. And then if it's done in such a way that there's a power imbalance so that the one who speaks the most and the loudest. I mean, this place is set up for extroverts. Do you speak loud in the most? And even if what you have to say isn't good? We've seen a lot of that. Like what? You still command attention. And people move in and you bury you bury other stories. You bury other voices with your volume and your quantity through them.
Britt [00:21:07] And so I feel so attacked right now because I am the guy that is always interrupting and taking. And you guys, I don't know what your opinion of me is. I mean, we know each other primarily through circle, and I don't know what settings you've seen me in, but I'm the guy pounding my fist on the table, yelling at people, taking the room. I'm always the first person to talk. I'm the loudest and I'm not extroverted. My story is different in that I'm a white male, but I'm a queer person. And so I developed a sense of combativeness and kind of a bratty nature early on because I was and subconsciously, maybe, you know, able or decided to leverage what privileges I had. And so I knew early on that anything that I would be in this world would be made with my own two hands and I would have to fight every single person in it. And so that was my response to trauma was to take the room. And so as I've ripened and seasoned with some age and reconsidered some of my choices, that's one of the things I'm working on is working on listening more and not trying to drive conversations forward. And I want to use this as a segue into my question because this actually comes from my heart and what I experience on a daily basis. And part of what drives that response from me is that we've got to get shit done. I mean, stuff is not going right and and it's like, So where my brain goes to his deliverables and work product? And how are we going to move faster, stronger, harder, more intense, which is anathema to everything that you're saying. And clearly lives leaves people behind and doesn't address all of the beautiful, heart centered points that both of you make some hoping you can respond. Because I can hear in the listeners the audience's mind, you know how some of them might be thinking about, OK, that sounds nice. Maybe for hippies on a commune, but how do we in the real world get stuff done while sitting in these little circles?
Monica [00:23:17] Well, this is not only how, but I to me is like, there's no there's no other way. But this is why we are where we are, because we don't, we don't. We don't slow down. What's the hurry? Many clients reach out to ask and you know, no, we need to get this done like right now. But what is the hurry? Usually related to money and money is one of the problems. One of the things that has caused all the problems, right? Well, to me is if you really want to create that, the you're coming to us and saying we need to get this done properly because there are some issues that you are trying to resolve and you probably arrive at that issue because you don't know the people that you're working with to solve the issue. Right? Many times you're hired in a place at a company or, you know, your job and then you're brought into solving, solving some issues you need, we need. This has come up in and you cannot pinpoint sentences, miscommunication, you don't know what's what's going on. And many times, many, many times is because you make assumptions of what was happening. You don't know the other people. So you are you are trying to solve these without understanding what else is in the space, what really happened, right? So it is necessary to to in order to try to meet a goal, something that you want to do in a in a truthful way, in a meaningful way, in a way that is going to be sustaining. You need to slow down. You need to create, you need to know the people. You need to build those relationships before you arrive at the problem. Because the more you do that, the less problems that are going to emerge. Because now I know who is in this space and I'm not making assumptions. But if I don't know if I just know your name and then there is an issue, I don't know you. So how are we going to solve this? How are we going to get to meet whatever goal we have if we don't win, right? So how do we do this? Do you need to slow down? We need we all need to slow down, learn to slow down and really build those relationships so that now that we know each other, now that we that we really know who is in the space, we can build trust. And by building that trust, we are able to say what really we need to say because many times we we don't feel safe to say what we really want to say or in, and we feel uncomfortable about hearing things that we don't want to hear. Right. I think I just feel that I don't know if he's responding, but I'm sure you have more, more argument about why we should be doing this and how we get how we get things done. Because we are we're getting wider in the people that we're supporting. We're helping them get things done through the peacemaking struggle.
Jabali [00:26:14] And then, you know, I like the question about what are the deliverables and know how do I know if I go, Oh, that's good, that's good. And to just follow up with where Monica ended there, there is, I think, a huge blind spot in people when they enter into an organization or the organization itself, which says, Well, I've got all these smart people, they're going to figure it out. And that that error, the fundamental error has been wreaking havoc in our society for generations. Right. Just because you've got all these smart people in a room doesn't mean that they actually know how to communicate and get along. It's it's like any relationship. It's like any relationship. To Monica's point, the more you work on the relationship, the fewer problems that there are that will side swipe you, you know, and it's not to say that there won't be problems, but I have a better sense of what might be coming for me because of course, I have a fostered relationship with Monica, with Britt, with whoever else I'm working with. And so people want unfortunately, especially when it comes to things like social problems, social issues, there's a sense that it can move just as fast as other aspects of their life. And it's going to be like racism. Let's get it done. Yeah, and let's we really stop and think about it. It took hundreds of years for us to get to this point where we are of and I mean, it was deep thought. Very intentional practice to develop a system that really diverted resources from one population into the hands of it. I mean, it was very, very thoughtful, is incredibly thoughtful. And then it has played itself out over hundreds of years. That's a big thing to unwind. And as a result of this motion, right, this historical motion of thought put into practice systems have been developed and emotions have been woven into those systems that everybody's got their emotional response because of their connectivity to the system that we share. So to try to undo that system is emotional work. And how many offices are really wired for dealing with the emotional work that comes when it starts to get a little hot, especially talking about race, how do we make this more racially equitable? So we end this bonfire in 30 seconds? All right. OK, I want you to. I'm just going to sit here. I know Doug. Can we talk about something else that's too touchy? No, I don't know how to talk about it.
Britt [00:29:17] Yeah, it's depressing. It's depressing. That's my favorite one, because it's not.
Monica [00:29:26] My favorite one is no. That was too long ago. We already moved on. It's different now. People are free now.
Jabali [00:29:35] I love the honesty we need. We got to figure this out. But it's different for every institution because of the characters that are at play. So what worked in one space doesn't necessarily work in either space. We actually have to sit down and and do that. And there's that. There are a couple of old edges that we lean on that people throw out there, flip about it, but it's so real. I mean, if you want to go far, go fast, go alone. And yeah, do you? But there won't be anybody. You want to go fast. Go alone. You want to go far, go together. It's just that simple. And in the short term, short thinking, fast mindset of fast food culture, blah blah blah blah blah. You have rugged individualism and all that. It's all about going fast by yourself, which means your relationship to those around you, including the ones in the building that you happen to be sharing space with, is going to be pretty tense. If you want to go far, if you actually want to build collectively. But you've got to go together. And how are you going to go together if you are in a loving relationship with any individual? You have taken time to develop that relationship and nurture it so that it isn't mutually reciprocal and that everybody feels good in this relationship. And when things don't go good, you go to therapy. You go to counseling. You talk to your religious leader. You do you. You work on the relationship. Why is it any different for any other form of relationship? It's pretty simple. It's just whether you choose to accept the work or not. All right. And that's a big shift. The idea that you are a human in an organization versus just a piece of machinery in a system. You're here to get your job done and to if you do that, then you're being professional. But as soon as you actually allow emotion to affect you, which lord have mercy? We're humans. That's what happens. That is what it means to be human. Your emotions affect you. But if that somehow means you're not professional, then none of us are professional. And let's stop talking trash and stop talking shit. Stop. Actually, this is all bullshit. It's nothing personal. It's just business. Yeah, I don't believe that shit for a minute. What you do is get all the screaming. You're telling me you're not an emotional right now. Get out of here. Right?
Monica [00:32:12] Yeah. Jabali, you said something really important is that the fact that we do this doesn't mean the conflict is not going to emerge. It's going to emerge because this part is part of life is is this part of being human? But but what you do with it, how you process that? That's the key. That's the key, because here is the way to do it right. We've been practicing circles since we we created why do we build white veduto by sitting in circle hours and hours for a year and in? And so we know we've we've created this, we know each other very well and we process our work. You know, there were clients when they reach out for our support for us in order to to plan what how to best support these people who reach out for for for help. You know, we do the work and struggle. We sit in a circle and we process. So we do this. We practice this. But conflict emerged emerge even within what we do right. But but but we have a way to in we spend the time. Many times we have things we need to create. We need to write a proposal for a client by some deadline. But if something emerges, we just take the time. We just take the time to process whatever shows up in the space to do so.
Britt [00:33:27] So thank you for that. That's beautiful. Let's back up a second because we alluded to why we it all in the bios and in your you mentioned it. Now I'd like for you to tell people what why Ruto is how, how you found out how it became about what the word means. That word might sound strange to some of our listeners who are non Spanish speakers. And, you know, just give us some background on the on the organization, what you do for your clients and communities.
Monica [00:33:56] Hello, Jabali, you should. Where do we start with a name or how we we should use this party in order because you, you should start how this is started and then I can I can jump in at the moment when the name came in. OK, cool.
Jabali [00:34:12] So it actually all started when we were watching that,
Monica [00:34:16] and I didn't check this
Jabali [00:34:20] surprise.
Monica [00:34:22] Yeah. Jiverly and I watch Mad Men and that generated so many feelings and ideas, and I watched it twice. So what's happened twice?
Jabali [00:34:33] Oh God. That's how it works resides in like, Oh my God, who, you know, just sit there and watch that and to know, is there and blah blah blah, whatever. And then to think those sessions when they would sit around and they would talk deeply, I mean intensely and put in all this time and effort and energy. And oh man, all just tell you this watch. I mean, the amount of human energy being expended to figure out how to sell you something and the money connected to it all. So if, if, if we did the same thing for social issues. We would be in a much different place. You know, which got me thinking. It's really interesting that the idea of selling something is a hugely for profit industry. That idea is just normal. But the idea that. Working to fix social issues is not a for profit industry on the whole. There is no peace industrial complex. There is a military industrial complex which makes all your bullets and guns and everything else connected to it, and that's understood. But the complex that's built up to help offset the military industrial complex, there's not a whole lot of thinking going on at a for profit level. It's not used as price like, Oh, you should be doing it out of the goodness of your heart. How's how's your heart going now? It's insane. So I was like, OK, this let's we had to. Why don't we try something? And why don't we create a group who actually uses our human power, energy, our time and everything to work and to make the world a better place? One case at the time. We're not lawyers. We're not actually trying to do the lawyer trying to actually make the world a better place in a good way. And not that lawyers don't always. But, you know, lawyers have a thing too. So that meant starting to try to figure out, well, who who could we do this with? And because had been sitting in a circle for a while, at that point, I had a few people that I knew Piccolo Zackie was a partner of mine who we that first circle spoke about. The two of us were part of that group, so and I had real good faith skills. She's amazing. Leslie S. Kellett, Wesley St. Clair is a former judge here in Seattle, who actually was one of the first judges to introduce circuit process into his courtroom to try cases. You know, I'm going to be listening in on Wesley, and I had sat with the wrestling community. This is just a Leslie's incredible human being. Yeah. Emily Warren and Warren is a woman that I actually hired on in my previous job, and she's my teacher. But social justice advocate. This woman is hella smart. You know, I call her tank girl. She's she's out to win, and she's no joke. And so she came on board in my office and actually, it really helped me move the circle through through our school. It was a it was a shift for her, even because she kind of came with that sort of traditional activist modality. And then she sat with me. I was like, What the hell? And oh, so much came to her and then her heart and soul she is. She actually went apprentice with Kate Prentice for a lot for a year. She she became that deeply invested. She's a genius when it comes to it. And then this therapist is an actual, you know, family. Is it a family that's mostly kids? But I think it does. Families also. Therapist, they haven, right? Educator and a therapist. And Davis. Davis Golden is one of the sweetest, gentlest, and he is a true counselor therapist. He's a true therapist to his core. It does things for him and what we see it do for his clients. It's it's pretty spectacular. So for me, those in Monica, of course, need Monica's with her cultural anthropology Ph.D. as the other one is all the. I'm not going to go on a train here, but a cultural anthropologist. The idea of actually knowing how to be with the other in order to share information gained information a lot. And when Monica is an immigrant who comes to this country and gets a Ph.D. in a language that's not hers? Yeah, I think she knows the can do Louis and and there are a couple other people that we had along the way, even in that early in the early. But the beautiful thing about circle is it you can't hide, right? And so there. People can say they want something, but then when it comes to actually doing the thing, when it comes to actually being the thing, they're their words may not match what they actually want. And so what they actually want starts to manifest. And now they're not with us anymore. And it's no fault of anybody's other than this honestly just turned into something that they did not feel that they could be a part of because it's hard to, you know, like Monica said, the only Brit like the hippie thing like, Oh, it's just typical sincere and is the circle of some of the hard work. On the face of this is I don't see a whole lot of hippie if he is a kid as well. So we took ourselves through a arc of circle for a year, and then we went on a retreat to a really hyper. I don't know. Focus, and for two and a half days, we sat in a circle. Birthing ourselves. That's when the name came into play.
Monica [00:40:51] Yes. Up until then, we call it the project because we didn't know what it was going to be. So what are we going to do? You know, literally specifically call all of us for for, for, for our different skills. And we sat for a year, literally said we didn't know what we were going to do. So what are we going to do? But the beautiful thing is that we spent a lot of time, as you know, talking about, how do you work well, what do you like? How do you, you know, and what what is it that you don't like because we were working on getting to know each other at the very, very, very deep level. And but still, we didn't know what we were going to do. So that weekend we went on retreat. We spent hours and hours and hours birthing. It was it was a birth, but I had just come back from Peru. I went, this was August. I had taken a trip to Peru through a study abroad program at the University of Washington. I took some kids and while I was shopping, I said, Oh, I'm going to bring the project people. Some some souvenir, some gifts. So when I was in the market and in so I got some, some different things for each one of them, I deeply thought about what to bring each of them. Among the things that I brought for Jabalia and other people wear jewelry, necklace and earrings that have these seeds called White Oro. White Oro is a plant that is originally from the Amazon Basin. It's a very powerful plant because it expands, and now it's grown everywhere. And the plant, both both the plant in the seeds are called way to sow. The seeds are those things that you just showed that are beautiful. They're red and black, and that's the meal seed, the female serious only red. And there's different sizes, different species of these white auto plant, and it has expanded all over Latin America. I think, you know, even in the Caribbean, people will recognize the seed, but it's called differently. But that's the name in Peru is white. You know, that's how we use it in the indigenous populations in Peru. I really think of this as beer as having very positive energy in people, especially especially. Good luck. Good luck and prosperity. So people who shame men in people who do spiritual work. They use the white rose in their prayers in the, you know, in cleaning. And in many times people carry with them as a as a how do you call when you have the bunny? The bunny? Lucky Charms. Lucky charm. They keep it in the pocket in the white two to bring prosperity. And good luck. So is there is a is a venerated plant and seed that people the people are using and people always talk about it as something very positive. So I brought these jewelry people because of the beauty of it in Peru, in the handcraft they used to look for earrings and necklaces and other items like the value of what he showed is a little box. So then I brought I brought this these pieces to two. Then at that retreat, I handed those up things to people. And then when we were trying to find them, if I don't remember exactly how it emerged, but we were saying, Well, we have there's English people here, but there's also Spanish speaking people here. And there are also Japanese, you know, with Keiko there. And so. So why do we need to choose a name that is English? Why don't we use a name that is, you know, just from a different language? And I don't know who said, maybe I did or something I did, right? And I say, What about why do it all? And it clicked, and I didn't think it was going to click and everybody, Oh, that sounds that so soon and then explain more about the seeds and what do they do to me in terms of the seed itself? And then we said, Well, we are like seeds. We're Lexie's, we're planting, we're planting peas. We're trying to, you know, expand, grow goodness and in in in social social well-being. So what you know, why don't we see ourselves as seeds and then what? And that's how that's pretty much I don't know if you remember anything else about it.
Jabali [00:45:12] And I was as a person who has been in countless bands and having to go through the naming of the band like that takes six years just to get done. That conversation about what the name of this project was happened. It is a great example of go slow to go fast because that conversation was about 10 minutes long and we were done. We had the name stuck. We were on to the next thing, but never happens. Exactly. That's that's our point. That's our point. That's our point because we had done work week because we have done all this work before. There are so many conversations that happen through.
Monica [00:45:53] So they get results just like I feel like the name came to us, really. It's kind of it's kind of like it fell like that. It felt like it felt like so obvious. So and then people started saying, Oh, now people are not going to be able to pronounce that you should reconsider. And we were like, No, these are my thesis, our name.
Jabali [00:46:13] Yeah, that's right.
Monica [00:46:14] And now people are forced to to to pronounce it.
Jabali [00:46:18] So that's a thing like what? You guys, how do you say that? What is it? No, it's it's a great it's a great hook, but multiple levels. What is that? Oh yeah. Plus we need to hire these people
Britt [00:46:34] and we're going to we're going to put the all sorts of links in the show notes like we always do in the name and stuff, so you don't have to scramble to write down the URLs and. And so we'll include that for all the listeners. But tell me some about like the practical applications of the work, some success stories, what you do for clients and communities then.
Jabali [00:46:53] So we're all we're our first client. Our very first client was a tech company, code.org, and we did many, many projects. So for them, it was very cool. And to Monica's point, early on, like wherever there are humans, we can be because there's always going to be something to conflict or something.
Britt [00:47:17] Yeah.
Monica [00:47:18] So we were done work where we work with just the leader of an organization and as a coaching model, right? The work where we've done, where it's the leader of an organization, but who sits with every single member of crew and circle. And it's like a 360 review of an individual that's all working to quickly get conflict inside an organization with a tech company, a university, some other kind of business, a neighborhood association, you name it. We've always been and continue to be invited into most people's houses, you know, family family issues and engagements because the practice translates everywhere when you get right down to it. And sometimes it's about conflict. But a lot of times it's about we just need help figuring out how to orient ourselves around an issue. And so then it's like a think tank of sorts. And then we work. And also, what do you call it? It changes the D i e di J di di World. There are a lot of folks who are really trying to fix and solve their issues and that we're not world. Let's face it, we work with them. We need. Which is wholly fascinating for lots of reasons. Yeah, they're coming to us for help.
Jabali [00:48:53] They write their work and and sometimes where we go is actually it's not the LBJ stuff. You know, you actually need to look at this over here. In order for you to even start touching well. It's fascinating, it's wherever there are humans. There's a need that we are finding and people are finding us, and that to me is a gift. It really is a gift because it's us doing our own work and in concert with people from all over. We worked with the Charleston School District on some stuff, which I mean, it was it was powerful. It was truly, truly powerful. Didn't even get folks to recognize. How they are orienting themselves in community like you take the idea of the word market. What does the word market mean to you given your background who you are in the context of Charleston? I don't stop to think about that. And so conversation, this word market can be just thrown around all the time and have no idea what's actually being said under the surface. So let's bring it to the surface. I'll look at that. Oh, no, no, no, no. It's it's good work. It's very good work.
Monica [00:50:22] Yeah, it's grief also has been grief for communities who have lost people with everything, conflict, team building celebration like I don't even know. It's been two years of nonstop work everywhere, even in Charleston.
Jabali [00:50:41] Literally set the mighty bridgework with the total, yeah, police officers and community while community members, police officers.
Monica [00:50:51] Wow, you should talk about a breed. Ask about some success stories, something the map from that worked and you should share, which was a huge success.
Jabali [00:50:59] That was that was after some seriously deep unrest, you know, here in Seattle and across the nation and you've got officers who just don't understand what's going on, and you've got community members who don't really understand what's going on. So we brought folks together and we said, we want to sit with police, right? Not want to sit with police and let cops who are apprehensive about, you know, well, I don't want the community members jumping down my throat because X, Y and z and perceptions, no. And so we sat in a circle with them for eight weeks and to see the understanding. The lists say success was an officer saying, well. I guess I'd just never really understood the history of this country and how it has shaped our reality. But now, after sitting and listening, I have a lot of learning to do that was. And while being being shipped and then the community of member activists, I I'm I have actually not really put your humanity into the equation. And I actually want to go out with you and help keep things safe. Well, what does that look like?
Britt [00:52:16] Oh, that's huge.
Jabali [00:52:18] Fascinating. When we get right down to it, we've also done work with the Herring Institute. That's another success story where actually the high powered academic school, working with the executive director of that school in the combination of circle work and coaching work and to see her shift her stance, she has become a royal. I would consider a really great leader, no longer threatened by ideas that challenge her own ideas and capable of engaging in a conversation in such a way that it feels humanizing to everybody. And one of the things that one of our sessions brought up the point because she's been doing this work so deeply now for over a year, she feels the toxicity and other meeting settings where it's the wrong end and. And what it does to her, that was that was a beautiful thing.
Monica [00:53:17] So that's another thing that we also do. We introduce a peacemaking circle to many organizations that need the work because they they manage many times. Just yesterday, we were talking to a national level organization that is an umbrella organization for 65 organizations throughout the country. And these these organization needs a lot of healing, a lot. They work with a lot of like 95 percent of the people that work. There are immigrants and they need they need healing. They need a lot of work. So something that we do is that we train. We also that train. But but by sitting long enough with the leaders of these organizations, they eventually get it and understand. And then they themselves are, you know, kind of empowered to to kind of introduce these and lead that way. And that's that's I think what happened in the Herring Institute. And yes. Yeah. So that's our plan for this organization. How do we we need to sit with your leadership long enough in circle for you to to to really get how this works? And then and then so that you can introduce because we don't want to be working with you for the rest of your life. We want to. Part of our work is to give you the tools for you to introduce that into your life, but also to support your communities that you work with.
Britt [00:54:44] So it's amazing, and let me chime in with sort of a testimonial. I'm not affiliated with way overall in any way, but I have had the pleasure of sitting in circles with them. I was first introduced to your organization through Early Music Seattle, which is a performing arts organization that I do some volunteer work with out here, and that organization is was and is looking for ways to address some of the power equalization issues that we mentioned earlier with the way arts are created and presented and produced in this country and all that that implies. And then that led my interest. It was kind of because my background is in the 12 steps and you know, like I said, with some other spiritual traditions that piqued my interest. And so I started like attending on my own. So also what you do if and if you're listed, if the listeners go on your website, what they will find is that there are monthly community free circles. There are also specific themes. And so there was a surfacing Race Circle theme that I attended several sessions of. And so it's it's really like, I think, a multifaceted organization like you were saying, I think Jabali, where it's like you can meet people in organizations where they are. And one thing I also wanted to chime in, let you guys comment on and correct me if I'm wrong, is that based on everything that you're saying and my own experience sitting in circle with you is a lot of it feels it's like it's like the cliché in jazz about the notes. You don't hear a lot of my experience in circles, what's unsaid and the magical, mystical transformation on a cellular level that just happens by being in each other's presence. That feels like a lot of the healing for me.
Jabali [00:56:45] Correct. You want that one?
Monica [00:56:50] Well, that's that's beautiful, because that brings me back to the beginning when I say how this has changed my life just by sitting in a circle because again, it's all about self-reflection and doing the work that you need to do in your own chair. So that's what's happening. I am sorry. That's what's that's what you're referring to is, is that the power of the circle and how it just by being there, sitting in a circle in this with other people, what it does to you?
Jabali [00:57:21] It's symbolic. It's real. It's truly magic. Watching and being present in the space where it couldn't be between two other people, there is a tension pull between two other people that doesn't even include me, but watching them navigate it and circle. Is doing something inside me. And if there is resolution that emerges out of that, it actually is in me as well. I've had to go through the struggle and the journey with them. Which kicks up my own internal things unnecessarily, so and then I sit with it. I sit with it just like everybody else is sitting with it. And as the two poles start to do this, those two poles in me are doing the same thing. And that's where the healing comes.
Britt [00:58:21] Well, yeah, you know, I think there's something about human design and making art, dancing and frankly, sitting in circles. I just think that I don't know if it's a chicken or the egg, but it just feels like wherever you find humans, you will find circles, people sitting in circles and there is something that it just touches in our human design that I that is mystical and I certainly can't explain, but it just feels like it's one of those things that we're supposed to be doing.
Jabali [00:58:49] Exactly, exactly. I feel you're sitting with our earliest ancestors who were just figuring out what fire was and yeah, all in our own lives are, we got to make this, but means that we've got to work together some kind of way. It's it's a direct line, you know?
Monica [00:59:08] Last quarter, I taught in the Department of Dance at the University of Washington, and I always teach my classes in circle because and also the topics that we're looking at. I teach a course on Afro-Latina dance traditions. So it's inevitable to talk about colonization and that history. So it's it's the content of the course requires some, some difficult conversations many times. So I use Circle from day one with my students, and that's one of the things that they always comment that the inclusiveness of the approach to the class and the topics, the conversations, because everybody's invited to, to share, to talk. So it works. In other words, Circle works for anything, for many things. And and yes, I want to just highlight what Britt said about our community circles. We offer a free community circle. The last Monday of every month. The last Monday of every month. In the evening you go, you can go to our website and look for community circles in English. We're going to have one in Spanish in May, potentially one in Japan. These two for four Japanese people people, people who speak Japanese, who would like to join. Also same with the Spanish, but usually it's in English every last Monday of every month, although sometimes we change, so it's better to check the website just in case we change the date. But pretty. This is free and open to all. Everybody is welcome to come and give it a try and see it for yourself and experience it.
Jabali [01:00:46] We think that's a really wonderful, and I think one of the things to keep in mind is that the theme will change on those monthly circles. And so what you experience one month may not be the same thing as the next month, and also to remember that this is a long, long arc body of work. So two hours or even an hour or two hours sitting in a circle is going to be good for you. There are things that will happen. But remember six days? Three days, that's now you're starting to really play dance with the medicine if you want to go walk.
Britt [01:01:27] That's wonderful. Well, like I said, will include links to the website and your socials, and in the show notes, everybody can check you out and I really encourage everybody to do so. It's just been such a wonderful healing, magical process and my life, and I'm so grateful to have found you and have gotten the chance to sit with you and circle and then here today as well. Just been a joy to talk with you. I always had such a blast chatting with you guys, and I really appreciate your time today, so please everybody listening. Check out the Wairau website, which will have in the show notes, you know, and I think that if you go in with an open heart and open mind, I think you're really touched on something really deep and frankly primal in your soul that maybe especially in our kind of zero-sum capitalist society is is missing and are not found in many other venues. And so you might have a really special experience. I know, I sure have. Thank you, Monica. Thank you, Jabali. From the bottom of my heart is so wonderful to talk with you today to all of our listeners. Thanks for listening to another episode of Not Going Quietly. This is a podcast dedicated to you and healing our hearts for all the outraged optimists out there in the heartbroken healers. We're doing this podcast for you. Mike Jamali said. To be the medicine, you need to go back out there, sustain yourself and go back out there and keep fighting the good fight. Thanks again, everyone. We'll catch you next time. Bye bye.
Monica [01:03:15] Thank you. Bye bye.
Britt [01:03:21] You've been listening to not going quietly with co-host Jonathan Beale and Britt East,
Jonathan [01:03:26] 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 [01:03:34] Check out our show notes for links, additional information and episodes located on your favorite podcast platforms.
Co-founder of Huayruro
Monica Rojas-Stewart (Lima, Peru) holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Washington. Her areas of expertise focus on Afro-Latinx communities in Latin America, the Spanish Caribbean, their diasporas, and their performance traditions as trans-border technologies of resilience and community building. As a community artist and activist Rojas-Stewart devoted the last 15 years to extensive community-based organizing and artistic work as a pioneer performer and educator of Afro-Peruvian culture and of the Afro-Latinx arts movement in the Pacific Northwest. She is the founder of DE CAJóN Project and Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle (MÁS), two grassroots arts organizations dedicated to educating about the history and cultural contributions of people of African descent in Peru and Latin America respectively. Rojas-Stewart is co-founder of Huayruro LLC and she is currently the Assistant Director of the African Studies and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies programs at Jackson School of International Studies as well as part-time lecturer in the Department of Dance at the University of Washington.
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.