Written by Azizi Powell
Call & response patterns not only shape and influence African American music. They also shape African American communication. "Verbal engagement" is my term for a call & response pattern of communication that influences African American communication expectations and permeates that communication. "Verbal engagement" is indicated by the words and sounds that a listerner intersperses during a conversation. Those words & sounds confirm that he or she is listening and involved in that conversation. Examples of verbal engagement are words or sentences such as "Yeah", "Yeah?" ,"You got that right", "I know what you mean", and "Get out of here!" "Verbal engagement" is also expressed by tonal sounds such as "Un hun" and "Hun?", Un un-n". If a listerner fails to engage during an African American conversation, if he or she remains silent too often or too long and doesn't add verbal engagement terms to that conversation, it's probable that that person speaking will consider that listerner to be rude or to have disengaged from the conversation.
I believe that these African American rules of verbal engagement are also found throughout African & other African Diaspora cultures. However, it's my sense that those White American and White European cultures may not have the same call & response verbal engagement rules. Instead of interspersing conversations with words, sentences, or tonal language, I gather that White people "wait their turn", waiting to speak after the other person has finished speaking. Also, it seems to me (admittedly from the outside looking in), that White people see no social imperative to signal that they have heard a conversation that they may or may not agree with. Perhaps they might be silent because they are thinking about what was said to determine if they agree or disagree with the whole or parts of that conversation. No rudeness, disinterest, or disengagement might have been intended, but given the different ways that Black people have been socialized to view communication, we may indeed mis-interpret that silence as rudeness, disinterest, or disengagement. The possibility for misinterpretation may also occur during written communication between Black people and non-Black people in online social networks such as facebook. Discussion threads about racism or cultural diversity in which the Black person is "the only one" (meaning the only Black person) or one of few Black people participating in that discussion are particularly ripe for verbal engagement misinterpretations. When I willingly engage in such online discussions often as a result of being asked to do so), I have to remind myself that the lack of confirming, reinforcing, questioning, disputing, or just plain thanking responses doesn't necessarily mean that the White people reading my comment disagree with what I have said. I also have to remind myself not to interpret their lack of response as being rude, disinterested, or disengaged. Instead, I try to remember that they were socialized differently than me, and don't see the need to immediately respond to verbal or written communication if they don't feel that they have anything of value to add to the discussion.
Rules of communication are usually unwritten. People learn those rules as a result of interacting in that particular society. Problems occur when we are raised to believe that our way of communicating, responding during communication, and responding to communication are the only way, or are the only right way. One of the reasons why I wrote this post is to help me remember this.
The following three videos are re-posted as examples of call & response communication styles in certain African American churches. Note that the congregation of these churches are expected to respond during the sermon to the minister's words. Also note that standing up is one socially approved way of responding to what is being said or sung by the minister or what is being sung by the choir and/or the congregation. These same affirming, engaging responses made by many Black people during concerts/performances of most Black secular music and Black people also often stand up & move our body during non-religious performances.
Sermons by Rev C L Franklin
Uploaded by Bohles128 on Apr 10, 2009
[Clarence LaVaughn Franklin (often abbreviated to C. L. Franklin) (January 22, 1915 – July 27, 1984), was an American Baptist minister, a civil rights activist, and father of the legendary soul and gospel singer Aretha Franklin]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._L._Franklin
Pastor Jerry D. Black Preaching 'Wolf Country' Mean Hearted People [excerpt]
Uploaded by BrothaRollins on Jan 20, 2007
Powerful sermon about living in the midst of wolves and mean people.
In his summary statement the uploader provided information about Pastor Jerry D. Black including the following:
"...at the age of 21, Reverend Black accepted his calling to preach the Gospel. He was called and served as pastor of the Greater Paradise Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. During his 15 years of service to Greater Paradise, the church membership grew from 17 members to over 3000. During that time, Pastor Black also had a very popular television and radio ministry in Little Rock..."
"that video was recorded in 2005...
Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7JBqBAfSzs to find more information about Pastor Jerry D. Black.
Old Time Preaching, Shouting and Singing
Uploaded by RevSinkiller on Mar 6, 2010
Taken from the  movie "Nothing But A Man." This is a beautiful snapshot of church back in the 1960's, the likes we don't hear as much these days.
Thanks for visiting pancocojams. Visitor comments are welcome!
Scroll down the page to read comments, to find the comment box, and/or to add comments. If you don’t see the comment box, click on the post’s title to visit that post’s page.
Comments can be posted anonymously or you can use your facebook address or another website address to sign in to comment. However, your address is never shown publicly or given to anyone.
If you aren't sure how to add comments on this blog, follow the instructions found on this page Adding Comments
Share! Learn! Enjoy!