“Call and Response“ is the voiced invitation for nearby hearers to join in chants, hymns, alerts, or protest. The caller is the one whose voice initiates the outcry. The response is the many voices who follow suit with the same or similar expression. The cry announces a new message in the surrounding environment, and the response of many voices agrees with the caller.Call and Response is the voiced invitation for nearby hearers to join in chants, hymns, alerts, or protest. The caller is the one whose voice initiates the outcry. Click To Tweet
Call and response is in the resonance of my voice. I grew up singing in the choir of an African Methodist Episcopal Church on Sunday mornings. As the cheerleading captain, I yelled loudly on the sidelines of Finklea Robinson Field for Americus High School football on Friday nights. I “called the cheer” to capture the attention of the varsity cheering squad to follow my lead, and then the squad engaged the surrounding environment to do the same.
If cheerleading squads have taught us anything, it is that the screams of more than one voice may change the outcome of what is happening on the field and ultimately may ignite everyone’s screams. One caller’s voice can be powerful.
The Caller and the Called
Many voices in agreement are riveting and perhaps can become the influence to summon nations into collective lament.
In 2020 Natasha Sistrunk Robinson was inspired by Jeremiah 9:17-18:
“Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come;
send for the most skillful of them.
Let them come quickly
and wail over us
till our eyes overflow with tears
and water streams from our eyelids.”
What would happen should she call for wailing women who would in turn get the attention of others around them, building toward a collective lament over injustice and the world’s brokenness? This desire became the foundation of the book: Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World-Longing for Justice.
When Natasha invited me to join the group of BIPOC women she was assembling, I disqualified myself, feeling inadequate. Some of the women were accomplished writing creatives, and I was a writing amateur. But I was basing my belonging on the wrong qualifications. Belonging to a project of this kind, where there is a purposeful and profound missional intent, is less about our ability and more about our relatability. Kindred hearts aching over some of the same hardships is relatable enough to start collaboration. I accepted the invitation. To bring many voices to the call just might get everyone screaming.Belonging to a project where there is a purposeful and profound missional intent is less about our ability and more about our relatability. Click To Tweet
Connect to God and with Each Other
Natasha invited the contributors to embrace this project’s vision not just by writing book chapters but by creating a community of like-minded women of color to link up together. Each month we met by Zoom with the intent of reflecting on the words of Psalm 37 to inform our response to evildoers and remind us that God’s people are protected from the evildoers. These hour-long meetings helped to build connectedness as BIWOC. Over time, strangers became sisters, having grown up together with shared experiences.
We wailed in prayer over our difficulties in balancing work along with virtual schooling for our kids, the unexpected death of loved ones, anxiety over whether COVID would find our homes next, and the strain everything put on our marriages or family life. For me, these Psalm 37 meetings provided respite that helped to manage the hard reality of the state of our nation.Many voices in agreement are riveting and perhaps can become the influence to summon nations into collective lament. Click To Tweet
During our meetings, we also read excerpts of the finished manuscript. I recognized many overlaps from stories about family heritage to sharing of vulnerable moments when we are alone with our feelings. The book became the repository of our collective freedom, freedom we discovered in this intentional practice of creating space on a virtual platform.
Our continual coming together shaped our community of women so well that we learned the names of parents, children, and husbands and celebrated new births and new homes together. The established work of our hands is a result of our collective association, of listening together to the call of God.
Accepting the invitation to join the Voices of Lament overcame my personal feelings of inadequacy. It allows me to release lament for many of my BIWOC sisters who have wanted to belong somewhere in rooms to share their testimonies. I found space with companions who accept the responsibility to impart to others the wisdom needed to command the attention of our surrounding environment because we have something to say.
We are on the field igniting the crowd to agree with the Caller. In doing so, we become the called and the response.
How Are You Responding?
- Is there some injustice or lack in your world that you wish others would scream about with you?
- What is preventing you from responding to the Caller’s voice?
- How might you consider doing so now?