by Wanda Sabir

Yulanda Williams and Ron Crawford’s daughter Nyoki holds Jim Jones’ grandson Chaeoke in Jonestown.

When SFPD Lt. Yulanda Williams and her husband at that time, Ron Crawford, and 1-year-old daughter arrived in Georgetown, Guyana, March 4, 1977, with one small suitcase each, upon arrival the luggage had morphed into three large crates filled with guns and ammunition, “We were told, ‘Be quiet! We have to get this through.’

“That was the first thing I didn’t like. The second is our transport. I know we are a wealthy church organization, yet we are picked up in a raggedy van … and driving down the road, I see sheds people are supposed to be living in. I think silently, ‘What kind of mess have we have gotten ourselves into.’”

At the orientation, the new rivals were asked to surrender their passports, money and medicine. With reluctance, Williams said she and her husband, an attorney, turned over their passports to church staff, but not their money. Fortunately, the couple was not housed separately in dorms, so they were able to make a plan to get out of that rabbit’s hole as soon as possible.

Yulanda Williams and her then husband, attorney Ron Crawford, Jonestown survivors

Williams, who worked in town in the main office, says the church was starving people on a diet of rice pudding. Formerly healthy adults were unable to walk. Jones’ diatribes were a confusing soundtrack in a wilderness one could not turn off; his demonic voice forecast doom for anyone who left.

People believed Jones. The former San Francisco planning commissioner told the congregation that concentration camps were being built for Black people back home, that all present would be arrested if they returned. With communication cut off from families, no outside news allowed, there was no way to contest Jones’ claims, so most families stayed.

Jones knew there was a leak in his communications department. Williams had smuggled a note out to her mother with Little Jimmy, Jones’s adopted Black son. She then turned around and told Jones that if he let her family go, it would boost his public rating. High on medications the leader confiscated from new arrivals, Jones agreed to let Williams’s mother come to Jonestown to get them.

They were the only family granted such permission. A condition of the Williams’s family release on June 29, 1977, after a three- to four-month stay, was that she and her husband could not tell anyone what it was like in Jonestown; also, they had to continue to attend church. The family did for about a year.

Jonestown – Photo courtesy Yulanda Williams

Before he left for Guyana, Congressman Leo Ryan contacted Williams, who told him to take armed guards with him because the Jones’s outfit meant business. He did not believe her.

Forty years later, San Francisco has yet to publicly mourn this genocidal tragedy of nearly 1,000 Black people. On par with Rwanda in numbers, it is a silent disappearance that organizers of the Sunday, Nov. 18, “Homecoming: Day of Atonement in Fillmore, Reclaiming Heritage in San Francisco,” at 1:45 p.m., hope to rectify.

There will be an invocation at the site of the former People’s Temple, 1849 Geary, followed by a procession to the Fillmore Turk Mini Park for the formal program at 3-4 p.m. which includes reflections by family and survivors, poetry, music and food. Speakers are Supervisor Vallie Brown, Professor James Taylor, Leslie Wagner-Wilson, Lt. Yulanda Williams, Sikivu Hutchinson, Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown, Rev. Arnold Townsend and Suga-T.

Forty years later, San Francisco has yet to publicly mourn this genocidal tragedy of nearly 1,000 Black people. On par with Rwanda in numbers, it is a silent disappearance that organizers of the Sunday, Nov. 18, “Homecoming: Day of Atonement in Fillmore, Reclaiming Heritage in San Francisco,” at 1:45 p.m., hope to rectify.

Similar to the way Vietnam veterans were not seen as heroes in that tragic war, Jonestown victims and Black survivors and their families have not had their public say, Williams says. She and others, like Dixon Mayor Thom Bogue, are survivors.

Rev. Harry Williams Sr. and Mrs. Rose Mary Williams, parents of Yulanda Williams

Bogue was buried alive in a 6-foot hole and left in the hot sun for days as punishment for his running away. His and others’s treatment is analogous to chattel slavery, something Jones was both knowledgeable about and obsessed with, Williams, whose family joined People’s Temple when she was 11, said in a recent interview.

Darcy Brown, executive director of San Francisco Beautiful, one of the presenters, says: “The Bay Area has an opportunity this weekend to finally honor those silenced mutilated remains with a public memorial at the mini park which will have a plaque listing the names of those killed in the genocide (by 2021). The public witnessing and new scholarship about the impact on the San Francisco community following the massive migration of 917 Black people, many of these people middle class homeowners, is necessary to set the record straight.

“What happened at People’s Temple and Jonestown is not just a cautionary tale, horrifically similar to George Orwell’s fictive ‘1984’ and Alain Resnais’s 1955 short documentary thriller “Night and Fog,” which Jones showed to his congregation, foreshadowing its massacre. What Williams calls “racial genocide” is on par with the normalized structural racism that today has Black bodies policed, surveilled and found wanting in the scale of humanity.

Jones got away. He did not just pass go, he picked up $200.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wanda@wandaspicks.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 7 a.m. and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.

Martin Luther King III to keynote unveiling and dedication of memorial wall honoring 305 innocent children who perished in Jonestown, Guyana

by Dr. Jynona Norwood

On Nov. 18, 1978, the world as we knew it was changed forever: 918 victims, of whom 305 were children – including 40 infants – lost their lives along with U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and a United Press International film crew. The place was Peoples Temple in Jonestown, Guyana – that Paradise of Pain – founded and led by James Warren “Jim” Jones, forever rendered infamous by its name “Jonestown.”

“Beauty for Ashes: The Jonestown Memorial” is the unveiling and dedication of the memorial wall honoring children who perished in Jonestown. It will be held Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. PST, at Evergreen Cemetery, 6450 Camden Ave., Oakland. To learn more, contact Dr. Norwood at DrNorwood4@aol.com or 310-292-5800 or via www.Jones-town.com.

Martin Luther King III will deliver the keynote address, Dr. Jynona Norwood (founder of Jonestown Memorial Wall and Services, Dr. E. Faye Williams (Nationalpresident/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women) – appointed by President Barack Obama’s Presidential Scholars Commission), Oscar C. Wright (former president of the Emeryville, CA, NAACP chapter and community activist), along with victims’ family representatives, concerned citizens and community, civic, academia, and ministerial leaders.

“Beauty for Ashes: The Jonestown Memorial” is the unveiling and dedication of the memorial wall honoring children who perished in Jonestown. It will be held Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. PST, at Evergreen Cemetery, 6450 Camden Ave., Oakland.

Cherishing the Children Memorial Wall Supporters

President Bill Clinton: “My prayers are with everyone gathered. I know that your service will be an inspiring memorial to those who lost their lives so senselessly at Jonestown.”

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “The ‘Cherishing the Children Memorial Wall’ will provide a place of comfort and solace to the children’s relatives and loved ones as well as to those who wish to honor the memory of Congressman Leo Ryan and all those who lost their lives.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee: “Thank you for all of the work you are doing to create this Memorial.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters: “I want to join your many supporters in commending your efforts to erect the Jonestown Memorial Wall in honor of the innocent victims of Jonestown.”

“Their memories have left an indelible footprint in our nation’s history. Our innocent children, their families, and Congressman Leo Ryan and his film crew shall not be forgotten,” Dr. Norwood exclaimed.

About Jonestown Memorial and Services

In 1979, Dr. Jynona Norwood established the Jonestown Memorial Wall and Services organization to remember and honor the Jonestown victims. This organization is not affiliated with the organization responsible for honoring Jim Jones on the innocent children’s mass gravesites. Its dedicated members have chosen to commemorate their legacy remembering their final resting place as revered and sacred. She explains, “We respond to their sacrilegious act by building a portable memorial.”

The organization and its body of volunteers have persevered and been unyielding in their passion to raise public awareness and deeply inspired truth behind these horrific acts of homicide that never should have occurred.

The Cherishing the Children Memorial Committee intends to make the healing memorial wall a lasting reminder so that these men, women and children have not perished in vain.”

Dr. Jynona Norwood, founder of Jonestown Memorial Wall and Services, can be reached at DrNorwood4@aol.com.

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