Artist Spotlight: Ras Heru Stewart

Maplewood Celebrates Black History Month & Black Local Artists!
Ras Heru Stewart — Poet. Publisher. Educator. Executive Producer. Advocate.

The Book of Heru; A Poet’s Portrait by Ras Heru Stewart Ras Heru’s First Full Volume Collection of Poems Rebel Ink Publishing
The Book of Heru; A Poet’s Portrait by Ras Heru Stewart
Ras Heru’s First Full Volume Collection of Poems
Rebel Ink Publishing

Heru Stewart, otherwise known as Ras Heru, is a Newark, New Jersey born poet, artist, creative entrepreneur and elementary school teacher. A life-long writer with years of performance, hosting, and producing experience, Ras Heru Stewart is not only a profound artist, but a multi-dimensional presence and contribution to the region’s creative arts and literary realms.

With two self-published chapbooks of works, in 2018 Ras Heru founded Rebel Ink Publishing, which coincided with the release of his first full volume collection of poems, entitled The Book of Heru: A Poet’s Portrait. Since then, Rebel Ink has published 5 more works of literature, including Ras Heru’s latest book, The Rubicon, published in late 2020. 

The Rubicon is the fluid tale of two stories, led by two uniquely similar and powerful protagonists, separated in time by roughly 2000 years. A collection of poems, essays, and other media, this seminal, second full-volume work from author-entrepreneur Ras Heru is all parts indictment, manifesto, diary, and culture-weaving glossary.

“My art is my highest and clearest expression of who and what I am.  The bravery it provides is the bravery I attempt to inspire in my students and in those that share in my work. It is when we can channel who and what we are through our highest truth that we are our most vulnerable, powerful, and pure.” — Ras Heru Stewart

Beyond the creative arts, Heru is a 5th grade English Language Arts teacher and social justice advocate, often aligning his creative ventures with causes, initiatives, and other opportunities to create lasting social impact with the same fervor and intention he allots to his work as an artist and entrepreneur.

Ras Heru’s approach to his artistry echoes his life-long perspective to life: be bold, be honest, and be sure that you cannot be ignored. His poems are ongoing conversations and explorations into the core of the things that drive people, most principally, that drive him.  Reflective of his natural personality, his poems are, at any given moment, insightful and commanding, observant and self-assured, yet meek and always pondering. 

The Rubicon by Ras Heru Rebel Ink Publishing

At Mana Contemporary, Ras Heru has recited his moving poems live. Mana Contemporary with locations in Jersey City, Chicago and Miami is an expansive arts center featuring contemporary visual and performing arts programming and exhibitions.

Ras Heru was selected by the Maplewood Arts Council Black Lives Matter Poetry Project with his poem, ‘How Doves Come to Tears’ which stands in the front grounds of Jefferson Elementary School.

‘How Doves Come to Tears’ by Heru Stewart Location: Ridgewood Road @ Jefferson School, Mapelwood, New Jersey

“These public displays of warm and relevant poetry are a beacon and reminder of the resilience and humanity in us all.” explains Ras Heru to Village Green.

The Maplewood Black Lives Matter Poetry Project from the Maplewood Arts Council displays 38 poems by Black authors throughout Maplewood. These poets range from the internationally known to the local; they span a wide breadth of experience, age, and sensibility. Many are living, while others speak to us from other eras. All of the pieces invite readers to engage with the power of language, and explore their relationship to the people and places in our community.

This project’s challenge to the community is to consider what it means to be free as we work against systemic racism and police brutality. The unsettling power of beauty engages us with these voices and with one another, and moves us collectively to ethical activism. This project was made possible by the support of individual donations and the contributions of two local Maplewood businesses: The Able Baker and [words] Bookstore.

On June 15, 2020 Ras Heru along with more than 1000 teachers across the state of New Jersey participated in the Teachers for Black Lives March and Rally. Ras Heru’s signage at the march read: 1) “Anti-Blackness Kills!” and 2) “My Students Are Watching!”

Ras Heru was quoted in Village Green regarding the march and rally:

“Today’s protest was proof that love and civil disobedience are married”, said Ras Heru, 5th grade English Language Arts teacher at Jefferson. “When citizens have had enough of the destructive and poisonous airs that work to suppress and snuff out so many of us, gathering—with love for ourselves, our futures, and namely, our Black citizens—in opposition to these airs is a civil duty. We performed that duty with pride, boldness, and honesty today. And we will continue to be bold, loud, proud, and honest in these pursuits for joy and justice.”

Ras Heru has worked in Maplewood or South Orange for the last four years and has lived in the surrounding area since high school. He is very connected to the community and his students, as well as Maplewood and South Orange’s commitment to the arts.

“The genuine passion that SOMA townsfolk place in keeping arts and culture actively alive and at the forefront of town life would draw any artist looking for platform and artistic comradery here.”

— Ras Heru Stewart

Say Their Names Ras Heru Stewart at the Teachers for Black Lives March and Rally Honoring the Lives of Black Women Lost to Police Violence
Say Their Names
Ras Heru Stewart at the Teachers for Black Lives March and Rally
Honoring the Lives of Black Women Lost to Police Violence
Ras Heru Stewart Teachers for Black Lives Matter March and Rally, Maplewood, New Jersey Photo by Joy Yagid
Ras Heru Stewart
Teachers for Black Lives Matter March and Rally, Maplewood, New Jersey
Photo by Joy Yagid
Maplewood and South Orange Teachers Teachers for Black Lives Matter March and Rally, Maplewood, New Jersey Photo by Joy Yagid
Maplewood and South Orange Teachers
Teachers for Black Lives Matter March and Rally, Maplewood, New Jersey
Photo by Joy Yagid
Ras Heru Stewart Reciting  His Poem, ‘How Doves Come To Tears’ Maplewood’s Springfield Avenue Gazebo for the Black Lives Matter Street Graphics Unveiling and Celebration
Ras Heru Stewart Reciting His Poem, ‘How Doves Come To Tears’
Maplewood’s Springfield Avenue Gazebo for the Black Lives Matter Street Graphics Unveiling and Celebration

“Get in contact with me, let’s collaborate!” —Ras Heru Stewart

Email: rasherustewart@gmail.com

www.herutheras.com

Instagram: @herutheras

Facebook: @rasherustewart

Ras Heru Stewart
Ras Heru Stewart

Black Lives Matter Poetry Project Youtube Video
Heru Stewart Performance of ‘How Doves Come to Tears’
Recording Sponsored by: Maplewood Arts Council, SOMA TV and Maplewood Division of Arts & Culture

Heru Stewart is a member of SOMA Arts Registry, a free online hub serving Maplewood, South Orange and neighboring towns. It focuses on artists, arts professionals and arts organizations, with the goal to extend their local, regional and national market reach. SOMA Arts Registry was created by the Township of Maplewood and Maplewood Division of Arts & Culture to support the local arts community.

The Maplewood Arts Council (MAC) is an advisory committee made up of 11 appointed members. Their mission to improve the quality of life in the Township of Maplewood by helping the arts to flourish. The members of MAC work to further the understanding of and involvement in arts and culture by the citizens of the township by firmly committing themselves to supporting artistic diversity, accessibility, public participation, the involvement of the business community, and fostering the healthy abundance of artistic energy in our community. To learn more about the council and get involved, email them here.

Youtube Links:
https://youtu.be/WYYKZpuUMDs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cnJ_EBW0Nk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PV3MGbzkOzw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI3_JkD70k4&t=6s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eNIbiYkq7I

Village Green Story Links:
https://villagegreennj.com/arts/38-poems-by-black-authors-installed-in-maplewood-to-celebrate-black-lives-matter-movement/
https://villagegreennj.com/schools-kids/photos-video-new-jersey-teachers-march-to-demand-equality-and-justice-for-black-students/

Links to Poetry Performances and Speech by Ras Heru Stewart:http://www.youtube.com/embed/3cnJ_EBW0Nk?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1http://www.youtube.com/embed/PV3MGbzkOzw?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1http://www.youtube.com/embed/1eNIbiYkq7I?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1

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