Welcome back to another blog about my oral history writing endeavors. I hope you are all finding yourselves productive in your home offices while cuddling your pets and books! Over the course of the shelter-in-place order, I have tried to gain a sense of normalcy and routine, especially as all of my classes transitioned to an online platform and I moved back home after moving out of my campus home. The transition has certainly been a challenging one, but I look forward to sunny days when I can rollerblade around my neighborhood or step out of my home to get some fresh air. I hope you are all also finding creative ways to stay active!
Thank you for joining me for another blog dedicated to my oral history writing project: The Second Baptist Church Project. As I continue creating these 400-word narratives, and the deadline for the book swiftly approaches, I have started to seriously hone in on my revision process. In particular, I will focus on the process of creating narratives, using a combination of my words and the interview transcription, while preserving the integrity of the interviewees’ voice, purpose, and word-choice, since I pull the exact language directly from the interviews. I also owe my recent inspiration for the drafting process to Maya Marshall and Marty McConnell, the founders of Underbelly, who visited Lewis University as guest readers for the Creative Writing Series.
I am excited to share more about my oral history writing project with you! Per my last blog, I briefly summarized my own understanding of the genre and described my newfound familiarity with the required style of writing for the genre. Today, I would like to provide more insight into why I joined the Second Baptist Project, the beginning challenges I faced, and how technology has made the process and the project more accessible to me and my collaborators.
As a daughter of Polish immigrants, I grew up in a small Polish community, which flourished because of the establishment of a Roman Catholic Church, St. Stanislaus Kostka. Since 1912, the parish priests and its members sought to keep the Polish culture alive by offering a Mass in Polish every Sunday. Beyond this, my fondest memories of growing up in this community include attending Polish School every Saturday, participating in plays, and singing in the children’s choir. The parishioners also began organizing an annual Polish Fest; last August, we celebrated the 32nd one. While the Church has documented and preserved its history over the years, it is to my understanding that such a large scale oral history project has yet to be conducted. Therefore, when the opportunity to join the Second Baptist Project arose, I thought this was the best opportunity to preserve a culture and a church than through conducting individual interviews of its parishioners.
Over the course of my college career as an English major, I have been introduced to various types of writing including, but not limited to, professional, creative, and analytical. I have had experience with designing a CD cover using Photoshop, writing recursive poems in creative writing, and writing research essays on Julius Caesar and The Pre-Raphaelites, but I had never created narratives from interview transcripts and recordings. Now, as a senior, I have been introduced to a style, which before recently, I had not known at all–oral history writing.
This brings me to the details of the project. A local Baptist Church in Joliet, IL, by the name of Second Baptist Church, is recognized as being the oldest African-American Church in the Joliet area. In April of this year, the community will celebrate their 140th anniversary. For previous anniversaries, the Anniversary Committee of the church has put together a collection of photographs into a book; however, they aspired to create a project much larger than this, seeking the support of the Lewis community. Thus, the project began in the Sociology Department where students of various classes conducted interviews with the members of Second Baptist Church and then transcribed them. Similarly, the Art Department crafted spreads of what would become the design of the anniversary book. The design would then include a number of 400-word narratives based on the original interviews, and this is where I come in!