Starting At the Beginning In Call and Response

When thinking of African American traditions what comes to mind? Before studying and learning more about the subject I wouldn’t have an answer to this question. I can’t even say that I have an exact answer now. Looking directly at a book that is made for readers to educate themselves in the anthology of the African American tradition, Call and Response. It is shown that one of the first subjects or “Calls” that is brought up is about oral tradition and African survivals in folk cultures. 

Reflecting on these observations means that I would have to look further into the title. The title gives readers an idea of what the novel or story will be about before they dive into reading it. Which steams the point of digging deeper into the title in getting closer to why the book is set up in the way it is. Call is defined by Merriam-webster dictionary as: to speak in a loud voice; to announce or read (something) in a loud voice. However, in the sense of the title and the book it is written for, I believe there is a deeper meaning to the one word. On February 9th, 2022, we watched a video in class, called “Moyers Moment” where Bernice Johnson Reagon was talking about her songs and the songs she listens to. Towards the beginning of the video she said, “when you look at the body of songs, you can feel people are talking about things that happened to them every day” (Moyers Moment). If we look at the line in the same sense of the book title, then “Call” means more than talking loudly instead loudly expressing a point that should be made. The “Call” is addressing the situation made present to the readers. Therefore, in this situation the authors believes that readers need to understand the cultural or oral traditions before understanding the rest of the traditions. Similarly, to Reagon, the authors use writing to speak loudly and build up what is happening in the world. Oral traditions are something the authors feels are important for readers to understand before diving deeper. It’s the background knowledge. 

To illustrate the point, I am going to make, I imagine being a teacher to a group of young students where they are learning specifically about African American traditions. In order for the students to get a better understanding of what is yet to come they will need to learn more about African Americans and their cultural. This will give them the tools to grasp the understanding of what is going to be learned. Bringing this back to the book, if you were to look in the table of contents you can see that page one has a headnote labeling “African American History and Culture, 1619-1808”(Call and Response). The authors are building up the traditions by starting at the very beginning. When you start at the beginning you as a person are getting the full background and are learning about where others have gotten to where they are standing today. Knowledge does not start with one person nor does cultural which brings me to back to the point of the first “Call” of the book being about oral tradition and African survivals in folk cultures. 

This book specifically has six authors who all have worked collectively to publish this book which means they all have a story somewhere. They all have something that needs to be said and this book is how that is happening. Reflecting back to 2020, I took an African American Literature class with Professor Nwabara. In this class I just began to start learning about this particular culture and was able to study more about the cultural and what it might look like. We read various books, poems and watched videos to build our learning on the topic. Something I have taken with me throughout my learning and that I made a connection to in the video we watched in class, was how song is one of the most popular ways to speak up. A voice is usually thought of as a conversation and speaking one’s thoughts. However just as actions speak louder than words, songs do exactly that. Songs are used to promote awareness within the communities. I made this connection when watching the Moyers Moment video and heard Bernice Johnson Reagon say, “the power is in this circle”(Moyers Moment).  At the time of the video, she was talking about communities building up together especially in churches, although, it can be seen in Call and Response where a group of people band together to make a difference in the world and have their voice heard to make the difference. 

All of these thoughts lead to the main goal I believe the authors of Call and Response have for the book. If there is no background knowledge being built up there would be no story. Instead, it would just be a story. To clarify my thinking, I will illustrate another scenario, by referring back to the video on repetition and Mount Everest. Even though that video was meant for another reason I am going to be using it to express my thoughts. Imagine the man ready to tell the story to his parents, except he tells the ending, where he climbs the mountain and reaches the top. He does not tell the beginning of the story where it takes him long and hard to make it to the top and how there were many obstacles standing in his way. In the shortened story there is no background and no chance to picture the difficulties on how it took him to get up the hill. Even if as the listener you aren’t able to face everything it adds to the story on how it took him to get to the top. Bringing it back to the book, I believe if the book was not created how, it was, where the first “Call” was about oral tradition and African survivals in folk cultures then there would not be the same effect. As a reader you need to start from the beginning no matter how far to get the picture and watch as the stories develop. If not, you lose a piece of the story, and it would not have the same outcome. This book has a specific method where the first “Call” is then satisfied by a “Response”, if that was taken away then there would be parts missing and it wouldn’t make as much sense.