Friday, May 1, 2015

Call & Response & Congressman Elijah Cummings' Press Conference About Indictments In The Freddie Gray Case

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post documents the use of call & response in a May 1, 2015 press conference that Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings gave after Maryland State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced indictments for the six police officers involved in the Freddie Gray case.

An excerpt of a book chapter on call & response is included in this post along with a video of that press conference and my unofficial transcript of that press conference.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and motivational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings for his words and his actions. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.

From Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations by Ronald L. Jackson II, Elaine B. Richardson, pp. 249-250
"Call and Response is often found in African American communication, particularly in the Black church (Hecht, Johnson, and Ribeau, 2003). It involves participation from both the audience and the speaker. “Call And Response” is the ritualistic response from the audience, a feature of storytelling mode common to both contemporary and traditional Black communities (Harrison, 1972, 47). Smitherman (1977)notes that call and response organizes Black American culture generally and enables traditional Black people to realize a harmonious and balanced state of being that is fundamental to African worldview. African Americans engage in call and response in various communication situations, though normally in the religious ceremonial setting. “Usually the response is the repetition of the exact word or phrase, or it may be an affirmatory statement such as “Oh yes”, “Praise God”, “Thank you Jesus”, or “Have mercy” (Niles, 1995, 84). Call and response relates to nommo and the spirituality of communication among African Americans. As Harrison notes, calls and response is a “necessary component of black speech; it brings spiritual solidarity and power to the images created in language (1972, 54). Call and response, a custom from African heritage, “provides the audience an opportunity to participate and to feedback favorably to the message (Niles, 1995, 84). The courtroom, however, is one setting in which call & response is not deemed appropriate. Typically, the jury doesn't speak during the course of a trial. However, that expectation, or lack thereof, doesn't necessarily apply to the call portion. In the closing argument, the attorney may indeed make a call by asking rhetorical questions, posing hypotheticalas, using striking statements, and the like. African Americans attorneys may speak to juries whereby they make a call for a response other than one which is verbal or immediate. Attornies can arguably make a call in their closing arguments, looking for nonverbal responses (such as the nod of a head) or seeking a delayed response through the verdict."
Here's an explanation about the use of the word "nommo" in that excerpt:
"Nommo by Adisa A. Alkebulan
"In West Africa, the Dogon people of Mali believe that the African concept of Nommo , the power of the spoken word, carries a life force that produces all life and influences everything. By human utterance or through the spoken word, human beings can invoke a kind of spiritual power. Nommo is a force that gives life to every thing. It is present everywhere and it causes everything. Furthermore, humans have power over the word and direct the life force. Thus all of human creation and natural phenomena emanate from the productive power of the word—Nommo, which is itself a life force. For the Dogon, all magic is ultimately word magic whether the word is manifested in incantations, blessings, or curses. In fact, if the word did not exist, all forces would be suspended, there would be no procreation, and therefore no life"...

Rep. Elijah Cummings remarks after police charges announced

ABC7 WJLA Published on May 1, 2015

Rep. Elijah Cummings remarks after police charges announced

Editor: My very unofficial, suggested title for Congressman Elijah Cummings' press conference remarks is "The Wheels Of Justice Have Begun To Roll" based on one of the statements that he made in those remarks. I took the liberty of naming this "speech" because I believe that a title is needed in order to distinguished these remarks from others that the Congressman would make about this subject.

Congressman Cummings' emphasized words are given with the first letter capitalized. Words that are strongly emphasized are written in capital letters.

The responses made by those standing with Congressman Cummings are given in brackets. When I was unable to decipher what was said I wrote the word "utterances" or "multiple utterances". When the audiences' comments were louder, I included an exclamation mark. That group's applause of Congressman Cummings' words is noted by the word "applause" in the brackets.

Additions and corrections to this transcript are welcome.


(Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings): "Good morning, everyone.

This morning at 7 o’clock I said ah on one of the national networks that I would trust whatever Marilyn Mosby did. I didn’t know that a decision would be coming down today. And I said this morning that I believe in her integrity, her pursuit of excellence, the fact that she is an outstanding lawyer, and that she has been elected by the people of our great city. And I said that I believe that what she would do, is that she would take all the information that she had already gathered and look at it very carefully. And, if she thought that there was any additional information that was needed, that she knew that she had the full force of not only the Baltimore City police department but of the federal government behind her.

And the other thing that I said was this- that I believe with all my heart, that she would take the facts, once she did all the research she needed to do, size it up, with the law ["That’s right."] and make the right decision. ["That’s right."]. And I said this morning, before I knew any of this [Yeah] that whatever her decision would be ["Come on."] because of her integrity [Yes.] and the fact that I believe in her ["That’s right". "Come on, baby."], that I would accept that decision. ["applause"].

But I said something else. I said something else. And I said this at Freddie Gray’s funeral. I said, you know, “Did you see him.” ["Un hun"]. Did anybody see this man. Did they see this man who was a mother’s child. Did they see this man who was just trying to get through life.["utterances"] Did they see him as a human being. [multiple utterances, Yeah.] And I have come here today to thank God ["Yes". "Amen". "utterances", and "applause"], that Marilyn Mosley and her team saw him. ["Whoo!", "Yes!", "Amen!"]. Saw him!["utterances"] The process has started. ["Yes".] That’s the main thing- the process has started.

So many people in the neighborhoods that you have been filming over the last few days-I heard somebody say a little bit earlier –Bishop Thomas I think said it-they’d never seen a victory. They’d never seen a victory. And they had begun to believe that the system could not work for them. ["Right".] So many of them had felt like the system has worked against them ["That‘s right".] And so again we are beginning the process.

And one other thing that I said this morning- I said that as we approach the evening of our lives, many of us, we wanna make sure that our children have a better morning. ["Yeah". "That’s right".]
And so I wanna thank everybody. I wanna thank Bishop Walter Scott Thomas, all the members of the clergy, all the community leaders and organizations, our elected officials, for coming together to stand with our children, but most important, to Hear them ["Yes".], to hear them.

And so, from here on we’ll...again, Ms. Mosby’ll take the case from here. I’m sure that this investigation will still be on-going. That is not unusual. And, the fact is that it is a new day in our city.

But let me leave you with this- I don’t want anybody to be confused. ["No". "utterances"] That the issues of police and community is one part of a broader set of issues.["Yes.", "Yes".] Our children need to be properly educated. ["Yes!"] They need to be trained in certain areas so that they can get jobs ["Yes!", "Yes!"] So that they can be functional.["Yes!"] And so they can have equal chance to opportunity.

And so, ah, as we, as I close out I just wanna say this- This is a great day. ["Yes". "A great day", "utterances"] This is a great day and I think we need to realize that ["utterances", "Thank God."] Thank you.

(Question from newsman): "Did we witness history and is there a role for the federal government to use Baltimore as a model and an example?"

(Congressman Cummings): "I think that we- I wanna caution everybody that this is a beginning of a process. ["Yes".]

We did witness history in one respect. And that is so often these things happen and nothing happens. ["Yes"., "That’s right".] And I think it’s sending an-and and and we witnessed this –this is the main...Our children, they went out there and protested, for the most part, peacefully.[Um hum.] But I, they had to protest ["Un hun"] in order to get here. ["Yes".] And they, and and this creates a faith in them. I mean, they- I had a young man he said to me -just last night, a sixteen year old, sixteen years old. He said, “Congressman, I love you, but I feel like I’m in a casket-crawling and clawing to get out. Just trying to get out just tryin to Be somebody.” And so we got, we still got work to do. And and so I’ve said it before-Let it be known that this is national. ["Un Hun". "Yes".] These things can happen anywhere.["utterances"]. And so, with that, I think a message has been sent by our state’s attorney ["Yes, sir"] that she treasures every life. ["Yes!"] That she values every person ["Yes!"].

And so, let the the wheels of justice begin to roll, and it’s good that they are rolling, as the most are standing still. All right.

(Question from another reporter): "With the charges against the officer in North Charleston a couple of weeks ago and now these charges against these officers, do you see a shift in the tide, where you see these officers being held accountable for their actions?

(Congressman Cummings): I’ve said many times that we need to have- to establish a new normal. See, a lot of times we think that we are in a normal situation, but it’s a thing of mutual respect. Our policemen, and they are, most of them are great. And they know, they know themselves- I talk with policemen, I mean A LOT. And they tell me themselves that there are certain police that should not be on the force.["utterances"]. Those men are going to have to help us ["Yeah."] so that they can become the elite of the elite.

One of the things that I’m determined to do, that I’m hoping to be able to do, is make Baltimore [There you go] ah model for the nation ["Yeah!", "Yes!", "applause"]. A model for the nation. We don’t have to follow ANYBODY. We can SET the model ["Yes".] I believe we set the model when we were at Pennsylvania and North ["Yes".], going out and talking to people. And a lot, a lot of the folks that we talked to, they just simply wanted to know that you HEAR them, and that you SEE them, and that you LOVE them, and that you RESPECT them. ["Yes"]. And they want, they want to live in dignity. And they wanna see their futures. They wanna see their fu- and they want somebody to see them.

Last, but not least, and then I’m closing- When I thought about Freddie, I could not help but think about my own childhood.["utterances"] And I looked at him in that casket, and I said to myself “Here was ah, ah young man just...trying to exist, tryin to exist. And so hopefully now with THIS our city can begin to heal, to come together, policemen will look, and women will look at their jobs from a different standpoint and realize that that that they are here to protect and serve. And, by the way, and and and our community must respect THEM, and it must be a mutual respect thing because let me tell you that that the police need us as a community and we need them."

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