Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual

Crown. Sept. 2022. 32p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593306345.
Gr 1-4–“It’s me, it’s me, O Lord,/ Standing in the need of prayer./ Not my father, not my mother,/ but it’s me, O Lord,/ Standing in the need of prayer.” A familiar spiritual is recast as a pledge to remember history and make a better future, and the lockstep of words and art feels as if Weatherford and Morrison were in harmony from the outset. A scene of a slave in shackles and another one for sale gives way to a portrait of Nat Turner and then to one that is an homage to the Emancipation Proclamation and the Great Migration. Portraits, like stepping stones through history, well-explained and documented in the back matter, reference people or moments mentioned in Weatherford’s verses, from the Tuskegee Airmen, Duke Ellington and all of Black music, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King, Jr., Florence Griffith Joyner, Colin Kaepernick, and Black Lives Matter. The force of the words along with the glowing, sculptural lines of Morrison’s paintings will draw onlookers into the journey through time and pain, to two modern children carrying protest signs and facing readers directly, ready and hopeful for what’s next.
VERDICT An evocative use of prayer as old-school protest with a history lesson that is as lilting as a ballad, this spiritual demands a group setting to be fully appreciated for the uplifting answers it provides.

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