T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History Collection
INTERVIEWEE NAME: Bridgett Demery Jackson Brister COLLECTION: 4700.0855
Bridgett D. J. Brister is a Baton Rouge, Louisiana native. She attended St. Francis Xavier Catholic School and has been a church member there for many years.
INTERVIEWER: Paula Jacobi and Shawnte Green
PROJECT: McKinley 3: African American Churches
INTERVIEW DATE: June 16, 1997 FOCUS DATES: 1960 - 1997
Tape 1229, Side A
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; baptized and attended school through eighth grade at St. Francis Xavier; St. Francis bazaars were famous for home cooked food, games, and crafts; discussion of Creole versus Cajun food; explanation of the school and church grounds, where buildings were torn down, moved to or built; her early religious experiences were “more rote learning,” didn’t gain a full appreciation for mass until adulthood; involvement in church life increased as she got older; role of the church in her community; negative impact when Interstate 10 was built, her family and others forced to move; neighborhood and community were fractured; residents appealed to federal government to stop construction; began attending St. Paul Catholic Church after moving; mother encouraged her back to St. Francis years later; first African-American priest at St. Francis and his strong Afrocentric influence; to satisfy all church members, traditional and more Afrocentric masses are held at different times; says “traditional” forty-five minute mass is too short; attending church is about give and take; more participation in song, dance, and knowledge of the Bible, overall more involved in mass; congregation melds traditional Catholic elements and Afrocentric themes; role of women in the church is moving forward; women preaching on occasion, those knowledgeable of “the word and doctrine of the church”; The St. Francis Xavier name came from the first Josephite parish; individuals involved in building of the church and preservation of records and photos; Father Peter Hogan provided material for seventy-fifth anniversary booklet compiled by Brister; congregation mainly young families, parishioners come from many surrounding towns and parishes.
Tape 1229, Side B
Partnership between St. Francis Xavier (predominantly African-American) and St. Thomas More Catholic Church (predominantly white); joint masses twice a year and activities including an Undoing Racism Workshop with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond; discussing current events and the role of African-Americans in the Diocese of Baton Rouge; involvement in political activities independent of church affiliation; People’s Institute workshops include bonding activities followed by intense dialogue sessions; cultural differences between whites and blacks; “a lot of times people don’t realize they are racist”; definition of redlining in predominantly black neighborhoods; one on one interaction makes a difference against racism; Brister’s service on many committees and organizations; perhaps moving to Saudi Arabia where husband works for Saudi Aramco; Bishop Alfred C. Hughes allowed an Afrocentric mass that attracted 2,000 people; discussion of her religious jewelry; recollection of the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated; book Desegregating the Altar written by a Josephite priest; St. Francis church built by its parishioners who scraped together resources; Catholic Church’s “open door policy” on black congregants.
TAPES: 1 (T1229) TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes
# PAGES TRANSCRIPT: 36 pages
OTHER MATERIALS: Interviewer’s notes/word list, Interviewer comments (3 pages), Essay on interviewee by interviewer (8 pages), Interview data sheet, Correspondence (2 pages), Index (4 pages), Information on individuals mentioned in interview (3 pages)