Praize Productions Ascends with “Call Her By Name”


Praize Production Inc's “Call Her By NAME” was an intergenerational manifesto for women and girls on the largest platform in Chicago, the Pritzker Stage, on June 4th during Chicago's Gospel Festival weekend. A grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events along with funding from the Millennium Park Foundation made the event possible.  
Helmed by PPI's fierce CEO and Founder, Enneréssa LaNette and led by an accomplished team, the evening was out of this dimension. “Call Her by NAME” set an explosive stage for a multi-disciplinary theatrical production packed with music ministry, expressive movement and a message. It was a powerful reminder of the ascension that awaits humanity when women stand in their power and fully embrace the calling on their life and vision for their future.

In an asymmetrical dreamsicle-toned dress, a poised Davis stood in her light as she began the evening with welcome remarks.  To our surprise, she also welcomed our city’s newly-elected mayor, Brandon Johnson to share his blessings for Chicago and important organizations like PPI. Delighted in the mayor’s gust of energy, Davis returned to present PPI’s signature Pillar Awards. Historically, the award-winning organization has also made a commitment to give flowers to community leaders at each production.  The honorees representing three categories for this year included Nicole Clarke-Springer in Arts and Humanities, T Alexis Owens in Service and Entrepreneurship, and Andria S. Hudson in Faith and Community.  


Dancers of Praize Productions at the Pritzker Pavilion; photo by Patrick Pyszka
Act one began with “Asilli Chanzo”(Essence, Source, Reason), performed by “Rize Pro- Elite.” Draped in burgundy and rose chiffon, the dancers gently entered the stage acknowledging one another with their eyes and heart. Affectionately choreographed by Monique Marie Haley, the movements reflected the sisterhood that has served as the bedrock for PPI for twelve years. At times, it felt ceremonial as the seven women gathered, poured libations, lined up with reverence and leaned into one another as tribal women may do in South African Bapedi or Basotho traditional dances.  
Following the intentions set by “Asilli Chanzo” was a touching video compilation, “For the Women Who Come Next,” created by Jordyn Bush. Erykah Badu’s “On and On” ignited me as I sang along, “If we were made in his image then call us by our names.” The video montage, coupled with Davis’s urgent spoken word, compelling women and girls to stand in their power and tell their stories, served as reinforcement for Davis’s origin story. “I was a little black girl with a big name, never knowing how to fully stand in that…until now.” The dual symbolism of this statement was profound. It could literally refer to an actual name or a purpose. In many cultures the two are synonymous and this also rang true for the production.
Davis’s spoken word and choreography, assisted by Dominique Atwood-Hamilton, increased in reverberation in the third piece, “The Complexities of Motherhood (Bitter Earth).” Four couples dressed in flesh-toned attire consoled one another, bringing attention to their womb as they indented their core inward and expanded outward, at times gently grabbing hands or consoling the lead, Tashielle Ciera, with sincere embraces. In this emotionally stirring piece, Rize Pro-Elite grappled with mature subjects of fertility and miscarriage while Davis left us ruminating with the question, “Shall my womb be whist in the wind while searching for the echo of her own name?” 
To help ease the vulnerability of “Bitter Earth” was Trina Dorsey and The Love Culture Choir’s soulful performance of “Help.” 


Praize's Rize Pro-Elite perform work by Enneréssa LaNette Davi; photo by Patrick Pyszka
A seasoned Cierra continued to shine with her choreography of “War Cry,” assisted by Davis and performed by PPI Youth Division. In all white, the dancers began in a seated position. Fully committed to their emotions, the dance evolved with windmilled arms, aerial moves, and flying turn sequences that kept the energy soaring. To be honest, the holy ghost straight took over as the dancers bridged their power to the current of the track by Queen Naija. 
Leaving the audience breathless, “I’m Tired (Loves Song)” also kept us on our toes.  Choreographed again by Ms. Davis, this was our first glimpse of Davis dancing with Rize Pro-Elite. Standing out with immense energy and a nude short set amongst six dancers in black sets, the piece began with jogging that advanced to running. Intensity built as the choir chanted and the dancers consoled an exhausted Davis, each dancer holding their own gold sprinters paton, eventually throwing in the towels/patons in a pile for a spent Davis to fetch the burden. Eventually, Davis left us with the golden lesson that we could attract rather than chase all that was meant for our destiny.
Act two furthered the theme of taking up space and claiming your power, giving us “Chains,” a sick solo to “Be Free” by J. Cole.  The esteemed Dominique Atwood-Hamilton, who also happens to be a new mom, brought our palms to the sky. By peeling back her layers of restriction she loosened her crimson tie, hitch-kicked, unwrapped a blue headwrap, and danced her raw truth. 

Dancers of Praize Productions; photo by Patrick Pyszka

We also welcomed “The Light,” an entertaining and fluid music compilation edited by Dave Felton, PPI’s treasured Music Director.  Hitting us with classic old school hip hop moves, choreographed jointly by Brandon Avery, Tashielle Ciera, Shanna A. Cruzat, Enneressa LaNette, and Terri “Berri” K. Woodall, PPI Youth dazzled in gold and black glitter costumes and black girl joy. 
In the explosive finale, all the muscles of the production came together to enforce Davis’s blazing sermon, “Hands on me.” “Lay your hands on me!” was the call as Davis insisted on healing for our foremothers, children, mothers, city and the world. In traditional African attire, Rize Pro Elite dancers embraced the younger generation of the PPI Youth Division as a mothers would gather their children. Taking up the full stage, alongside “The Love Culture Choir” and the live band, they shouted, reached their arms to the heavens and laid their intergenerational burdens down. 
Concluding the two-hour evening was perhaps the most restorative moment of the production. In a world where it is the norm to shrink for society’s comfort, the entire cast made it a point to state their bright names one by one with pride—Brooklynn Dotson, Wynter Grossett, Khaleah Binion, Erica Wade, Kenya-Rose Jeanty and so many more. Thank you for your demonstration of excellence. Showing us that the alchemy of stepping into our power requires prayer, vulnerability, confidence, connection to our roots and unapologetic shinin’. There are no limits in sight for Praize Productions Inc. and anyone who bore witness to “Call Her By NAME” knows the same holds true for themselves.