Transcript prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
(Ed. note: The following paragraph was recorded three times, with slight variations each time. Parts of each version was rendered unintelligible, since it was recorded in Jonestown at the receiving end of a radio transmission, and there was much static and many competing voices. The speaker is unknown — it sounded like Josh Brown in one identification — and Harriet Sarah Tropp received the transmission.)
The date is April 22, 1977. We’re enjoying the most beautiful trip of my entire life. I am looking up at the stars on this clear night expressing myself with the clean trade wind. I understand some of you are worried about me. I hope you don’t worry too much because no one can bring harm to me tonight. If you have any further questions, give me your name and address, and I’ll drop you a line. I am presently speaking from my boat. Thank you very much.
Part 2 — Conversation between Michael Prokes and member of Nation of Islam
Unknown male: Is this Nathaniel Muhammad?
Unknown male: Yes, I have a representative for Reverend Jim Jones returning your call.
Muhammad: Yes sir.
Prokes: Hi. Mr. Muhammad?
Muhammad: Yes sir.
Prokes: This is Michael Prokes. I dined with you and Reverend Jones in Kansas City when we had our meeting there and— along with the Reverend Jones’ sons.
Muhammad: Yes sir.
Prokes: And he is in our agricultural mission right now and— but I’m sure uh, he would want me to get back to you and see what— any way we could assist you, what, uh, we can do.
Muhammad: Yes sir. Where is he at now?
Prokes: He’s in our agricultural mission in South America. He, he— (Laughs)
Muhammad: He was telling me about that.
Muhammad: I think he was telling me something about that when he was here.
Prokes: Unfortunately he had a collapse. Uh, I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but uh, he is uh, the chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority and he collapsed during one of the meetings, just from exhaustion, and the doctors insisted that he get away and get some rest.
Muhammad: I’m sorry to hear that.
Prokes: He’s just been getting two hours sleep a night for months and months, and finally it caught up with him, and uh, we’re trying to keep him there a while uh, so he can recuperate and get some rest but uh, uh, it’s awful uh, intense back here, there’s a lot of pressure and we thought he should— the doctors thought he should be away from it for a while.
Muhammad: Yes, I understand. I’m glad of that, glad he got away. But I’m real sorry to hear that though.
Prokes: Well, I— I’m sure he’ll be okay if we can just keep him a little bit (Laughs) less active.
Muhammad: Well, my prayers will go out for him.
Prokes: Thank you.
Prokes: What can we do?
Muhammad: Uh, we have a, uh, you know, the (unintelligible), my brother (first name unintelligible) Muhammad?
Muhammad: He’s supposed to be here on the 12th of June?
Muhammad: That— You know we had uh, Reverend Jim Jones out for the jubilee?
Muhammad: (Unintelligible word). But the chief couldn’t make it ‘cause he’s out of town?
Prokes: Right, I uh, I remember.
Muhammad: Right, he— well, he sent up a consigned letter for me to talk to Jones?
Prokes: Talk to Jim.
Muhammad: Yes sir, we wanted him to, uh, share our, uh— Reverend Jim Jones to share the platform again with us.
Prokes: Oh, good.
Muhammad: Ah, if he can’t do it, then will you— will you come as a representative?
Prokes: Of course.
Muhammad: Yeah that’ll be fine. If not— We’ll send you a letter, we’ll send you a photostatic copy of his letter—
Muhammad: — of the, uh, uh, invitation, and we also, we want to know, you know, we said we would uh, finance uh, at least five of his uh, him with five more.
Muhammad: We would finance with, to the fair, for him to fly in along with five of his lieutenants or whoever comes.
Prokes: Oh, well, that’s very kind. Uh, okay, let me— Do you have our address?
Muhammad: Yes sir, we have uh— You haven’t moved, have you?
Muhammad: Okay, well, let me get it anyway.
Prokes: Yeah, uh, it may not be the same one I’ll give you, uh. You can send it to my attention.
Muhammad: Okay, just a minute, now let me write this down. All right? (Pause) Yes sir.
Prokes: Michael Prokes.
Muhammad: Have I met you?
Muhammad: Mi— Michael?
Muhammad: I think I met you—
Prokes: Right, right, we had dinner there at uh, your restaurant.
Muhammad: Okay. Michael Prokes. Right.
Prokes: And it’s just Peoples Temple, and then, Post Office Box 15157.
Prokes: Right. San Francisco 94115.
Muhammad: San Francisco, right?
Prokes: Right. And what’s the date again?
Muhammad: June the twelfth.
Prokes: June twelfth.
Prokes: Okay. Well, we’ll have so— uh, he or myself, depending on what his situation is.
Muhammad: Right. We’ll send you the, uh, invitation along with the, uh, accepting letter where he uh, accept the invitation, okay?
Muhammad: And I thank you very much.
Prokes: Thank you, sir.
Muhammad: Be careful, and take care.
Prokes: You too.
Muhammad: Give all the members my love and greetings, and make sure you extend my love and greetings from me and the believers here in this area to Reverend Jim Jones, and tell him out prayers will go out for him. I will mention it to the, uh, body today that he is uh, sort of convalescing in South America.
Prokes: Okay, he, he’s doing much better, it’s just a matter of uh, uh, you know, lessening, letting up on his schedule some, but uh, I see no major problem at this time.
Muhammad: I can understand it, because he is a very good man, he needs the rest.
Muhammad: I understand exactly what he’s, what you’re saying.
Prokes: Thank you for your good wishes, and I’ll pass them along.
Muhammad: Thank you very much.
Prokes: Thank you, sir. Bye-bye.
Part 3 — Ongoing conversation between Mike Prokes and a reporter
(See also Tape Q 629, Part 4, for earlier conversation with same reporter)
Prokes: Uh, we found out some information regarding Marshall Kilduff, which I thought you might like to know. It’s uh, we’ve confirmed the fact that his views are uh, an— uh, antithetical to the political and humanitarian beliefs that, that you hold.
Prokes: And that uh, uh, he generally just, you know, opposes everything that uh, you know, that we stand for, that he also has very highly-questionable connections—
Prokes: — of the nature that, uh, people like us should be wary of.
Prokes: And uh—
Reporter: Is that fairly, knowledge you feel fairly firm about?
Reporter: Is that knowledge you feel fairly firm about? I mean—
Prokes: And uh, what, you know, you think about us personally is largely irrelevant, but I can tell you, we’re not naive in these areas, and we’re not as paranoid as some people think. We do have sources that know what they’re talking about. And I just felt that it was incumbent on me to get back to you, though we may not see eye-to-eye on all things, because, you know, he may be using people like yourself. I mean this doesn’t just involve Peoples Temple, but others as well who think along similar lines.
Prokes: And uh, I thought that, uh, he may have gotten back to you.
Reporter: He did. There was a message that he had called, uh, Wednesday or Thursday, ah, just a message that he had called, not uh, you know, no callback number or anything, and I haven’t gotten any me— any call from him since then.
Prokes: Um-hmm, um-hmm.
Reporter: So I don’t know what, what it was he would be calling me about.
Prokes: Okay, so, you don’t really know any more than the last time we talked.
Reporter: No, no. That was the only contact.
Prokes: Were you planning on returning his call?
Reporter: I hav— No, there was no request to return the call, just a message that he had called, so I—
Reporter: Uh, I wasn’t planning to talk to him unless he does catch me in.
Prokes: Yeah. Well, are you—
Reporter: Are you— When I last talked to you, you said you were thinking of bringing a libel suit against— or slander suit?
Prokes: Yeah, well, the attorneys are uh, I think that that’s going to happen.
Prokes: Uh, they’re uh, putting something together there—
Prokes: — the information that we have. And again, uh, it will determine his course of action— I mean, his course of action will determine what we do.
Prokes: And that’s why, uh, if he does get back to you, we’d, you know, appreciate it your letting us know, in light of this new information that we have.
Prokes: And I suspect that he will, because, uh, we also know that he contacted one person who, uh, knows about us, and, uh, asked him questions. They used to attend. And, uh, you know, he asked a lot of personal questions and at the end, uh, you know, they— they stopped answering questions. It just, uh, got to be too much.
Prokes: And, uh, he, according to them, said that he would continue bothering them until he got what he wanted.
Prokes: And, uh—
Reporter: Strange behavior.
Prokes: That’s what, you know, uh, I guess prompted them to contact us, so—
Prokes: But uh—
Reporter: Is he still— At the time, when I had contacted him, he was doing this for, uh— not New West, the other one, San Francisco Magazine.
Reporter: Is that what he’s still planning to do?
Prokes: That’s, uh— As far as we know.
Reporter: Uh-huh. Hmm.
Prokes: Have you heard anything different?
Reporter: No, no, that was the only thing I’ve heard. He had also said there was someone from New West Magazine who, even though he had been pulled off it, a man named Phil Tracy who might be doing something.
Prokes: Who, Phil?
Reporter: Yeah. Do you know him?
Prokes: Yeah, I do know Phil.
Reporter: Uh, I don’t know if he is planning to or not but—
Prokes: I think maybe later on.
Prokes: He’s doing—
Reporter: He’s a very experienced, uh, reporter. He, uh, used to work, as you know, for the Village Voice.
Prokes: Mmm-hmm. Yeah, uh, he— (Laughs.) He’s very prolific.
Prokes: Well, uh, okay, I just wanted to bring that to your attention.
Reporter: Okay, and, uh, if I do, you know, if there is any contact that would be of interest to you, I’ll try to get back to you, but I— As of this point, uh, unless he persists in trying to reach me, uh, you know, I would not be returning his call.
Prokes: Thanks a lot (unintelligible name).
Prokes: Bye bye.
Reporter: Bye bye.
Part 4 — Phone conversation between Temple member Chris Lewis and an unidentified man named Charles Walker
Ringing phone. Dead tape. Baby crying.
Man: Can you close the door please?
Lewis: Hey, nigger. What’s happening?
Lewis: (Excited) Listen, man. This ain’t nothing ‘bout no motherfucking uh, uh, proving nothing to nobody. I was just asked for a favor, this motherfucker fuck with me, if for some reason, this old pickle would think that you on his own side or some old kind of shit and that’s what that is, so you know, if if if if if I (unintelligible) wrong yesterday cause I— I just heard that shit and I was really pissed off but it ain’t about proving to me. You supposed to be cool. And if you want— you know, I do a favor for you, and I figure you do it for me too. I want this pecker off my back. And he brags, yeah well, I got Charlie Walker on my side and bipdebip and bopdobop.
Walker: Who is the cracker, man?
Lewis: Huh? Dude name Kirkendoff, Kirkoff or Chilledoff, Marshall Kilduff for the Chronicle or some old kind of shit.
Walker: Who do they mean, they got me on his side. You know, they always write shit about me and then—
Lewis: I know, but I’m just checking what the pecker said, Charles, so what I asked you is I just want you to do me a favor, man, and just call this old pecker, you know, I want, I want, you know, (stumbles for the words) and find out why he, you know, what he, what he coming from or whatever, you know.
Walker: He leave a phone number?
Lewis: I’m on the phone. Yeah. Look. It’s 236-
Walker: On the phone.
Woman talks low.
Lewis: I’m on the goddamn phone.
Woman: Well, who is this?
Lewis: (Yells) None of your goddamned business. Will you get off the phone?
Woman: No, I won’t. What are you doing on this line, please?
(Phone being muffled.)
Walker: What’s the number?
Woman: Who’s on the phone?
Lewis: Will you get off the phone?
Walker: What’s, what the—
Lewis: Let me, let, let me get this (unintelligible word) number?
Walker: It’s 236-
Lewis: Hey man.
Lewis: Hey Charles.
Lewis: Listen man, the dude— I— Let me see, I gotta get it, ‘cause, my old lady ain’t here, man—
Walker: It’s 236-
Lewis: No let me, let me make sure ‘cause I— Let me make sure I got the mother fucker right. (Pause) ‘Cause this old pecker. (Pause) Shit. (Pause)
Walker: Well, just what did he say?
Lewis: Let me see. Here it is, here it is, ‘cause it’s, uh, 391-3608.
Lewis: Yeah, you know, like I was wanting to meet with this old pecker, whatever, I’m gonna call him too, cause I’m gonna find out where he’s coming from in regards to me and shit, you know. But look, well look, (struggles for words) Let’s get together tomorrow sometime and and and and do— you know, Charles, let’s get together on this one, okay? And then anything I— anything(struggles for words) If you do this one, I owe you one, you know, like, and I pay mine, so if you help me out, I’ll look out for you.
Walker: (Asks several times) What’s his name?
Lewis: Uh, Marshall Kilduff.
Lewis: Kirkendoff, Kilduff, or some old shit.
Walker: How you spell it?
Lewis: I don’t know. K-a-l-d-o-f or something. Kilduff, Marshall Kilduff or something.
Walker: Okay. I’m gonna call my friend.
Lewis: All right.
Walker: I got a friend in intelligence. I’ll just call and find out who he is.
Lewis: All right, and Charles, you do this for me, I swear I owe you one, man, anytime you can collect on it, okay?
Walker: What did he say to you exactly?
Lewis: Well he didn’t say, you know (struggles for words) I got my wife living in Richmond. I don’t know how he got her number and shit, but he called and asked her some, you know (struggles for words) ‘bout I had the car with me when you was telling me about this fool at Broadway Plumbing.
Walker: Who is?
Lewis: Well, that’s my wife, all right? So he done got her number and he start telling her some old kind of— call her and tell her some old kind of shit about me, and you know, what— asked me about my environment with Peoples Temple, and my environment with contractors and my environment with (unintelligible name — Jane?)— but she don’t know all this shit, you know, and so you know, like—
Walker: Ah, he was asking her those kinds of questions—
Lewis: Yeah, all kinds of shit like that—
Walker: Well, let me tell you something so that you righteously understand it then.
Lewis: All right.
Walker: They been asking— Two or three of them been going around asking that question about everybody’s involved in Peoples Temple, okay?
Walker: And I’m going to tell you why they been doing it, okay?
Walker: Because, some of them guys that supposed to be bodyguards of uh— Jim Jones, carry a gun.
Walker: And they know it.
Walker: And one of them men with the Housing Authority police, saw one of them with a, with packing.
Walker: The Housing Authority police told the San Francisco police, and they been launching investigation against Jim Jones.
Walker: Now, what all of that shit’s about— ‘cause they asked me what did I know about it—
Walker: I don’t know nothing about you, I don’t know nothing about Jim Jones, I don’t— and if I did know anything about him— I ain’t going to have them white folks have me standing up in front of me and the motherfuckers ask me a lot of questions of did you say this and did you say that?
Lewis: Yeah, right.
Walker: ‘Cause I don’t know.
Lewis: All right.
Walker: You understand? I don’t know nothing about you but your name is Chris Lewis. That’s all I know.
Lewis: All right.
Walker: That’s all I want to know.
Lewis: All right. Well actually— Well look. I ain’t going to hold you up, but Charles, do this for me and I owe you one, all right?
Walker: Yeah. I only want to know—
Operator: Excuse me, this is the operator. We have an emergency. (unintelligible) Can you get off the line?
Walker: No operator, we’re talking right now.
Operator: Thank you.
Walker: Yeah man, uh, this nigger calling about some bullshit, but uh, uh, what I was doing, is uh, I’ll find out what it’s all about.
Lewis: All right. I appreciate that, Charles.
Walker: And then uh, where you gonna be tomorrow?
Lewis: Well, I be up on the hill tomorrow. (Pause) By that service center up on top of the hill.
Walker: Uh, I’m not going be nowhere—
Lewis: Well, where do you want me to be? I’ll be wherever you want me to be tomorrow, ‘cause—
Walker: What time you going to be up there?
Lewis: Well, I, no— it don’t make no difference. Wherever you want me to be, I be there. Just tell me a time.
Walker: Well, you see tomorrow, I gotta be at my lawyer’s, you know?
Walker: Because, uh, I’m, ah, just got hold of some money, man.
Walker: And I’m busy trying to take care of that shit.
Walker: I ain’t been doing too much other than trying to get my contract with the Housing Authority, but I don’t know— I don’t know why, man. I’m going to tell you something. I don’t know if you like it or not.
Walker: But they are really really really really trying to find out what’s with Jim Jones, man.
Walker: And everybody that’s associated with him. Is he still off sick?
Lewis: Huh? (struggles for words) He’s supposed to be over to Zaire or some other mother fucking where.
Walker: He supposed to be sick, ain’t he?
Lewis: Huh? No, he all right. He’s in Zaire or some other mother fucking where.
Walker: Well, didn’t he pass out?
Lewis: Yeah. At that Housing Authority meeting.
Walker: Is he still off from the Housing Authority?
Walker: Will he be back Thursday?
Lewis: I don’t know, Charles. I can’t— I— Really, really, I don’t. I can find out and let you know.
Walker: I’m talking about for the meeting.
Lewis: I don’t know. I’ll find out and let you know tomorrow.
Walker: Well, anyway, it doesn’t matter whether he’ll be back for the meeting or not, it’s just that— it’s just that there’s a lot of people that want to know about Jim Jones, man. There’s a lots of people. And there’s a lot of people want to know about them brothers packing.
Walker: You better tell— I told you before that that wasn’t a good idea of Jim’s.
Lewis: Yeah, yeah, uh-huh.
Walker: And I told you, you should tell him.
Walker: Don’t you know, man, that all the women in the TPT is intimidated by Jim Jones.
Lewis: (Pause) Intimidated?
Walker: (Exasperated) Yeah, man, I told you that before.
Lewis: Yeah. (struggles for words) I can straighten that part of it out. I can stop that.
Walker: I told you that, man, and th— when that shit goes on, man, you get a lot of peanut gallery shit afterwards, you know that?
Lewis: Right, right.
Walker: You know, people just be running they mouths and talking talking talking and the white folks be just listening listening listening, and before you know anything, they got everybody mixed up in their shit.
Lewis: Whole bunch of shit.
Walker: That’s why I stay back from it.
Walker: I don’t want to be mixed up in it.
Walker: That’s what I was telling you last night.
Walker: Wasn’t that I wouldn’t find out. It’s just that I don’t want to be mixed up in nothing.
Walker: And that’s the reason I sounded the way I did last night.
Lewis: But I got to apologize. Hot— I just heard I was hot too, so that’s why I called, to apologize on that end, too, cause I didn’t mean it ‘bout no proof, we did say we would look after each other, you know, so I—
Walker: Oh you know goddamn well you called me up and asked me man would you do a favor for me?
Walker: I would do it. It’s just that I don’t want be the one— I’m just like you, I don’t want to get mixed up in no shit—
(Talk over each other.)
Lewis: All right. Well, look. Where do you want me to meet you tomorrow?
Walker: Well, what you do, man, is uh, you just be around tomorrow, you know, in the vicinity.
Lewis: All right.
Walker: I’ll find you.
Lewis: All right. Slick.
Walker: Yeah, okay.
Lewis: All right. Later, Charles.
Part 5: Meeting in Sacramento area with Jean Brown and Michael Prokes of Peoples Temple, and several community members
(Ed. note: Because of the noise in the background of the tape, and its low quality, this is not a 100% transcription. All the words are ones the speakers used, and the larger chunks are virtually verbatim, but it has already had a preliminary edit in transcription.)
Prokes: Jean Brown, who’s in my church, works in housing, and she can tell you how terrible housing conditions are, and this is in San Francisco, which I hear is better than most large cities, uh, her— the housing is terrible, and even the uh— I was going to ask, how many saw the, uh, documentary that Bill Moyers of CBS did on the uh, Boston situation — was it Boston or the Bronx? — where, yeah, um, I think they burned something like uh, 10,000 buildings in one year.
Woman: I saw that.
Prokes: Did you see that?
Prokes: I did not see it, and now uh, I’m really sad that I missed it, because I had so much feedback from it. I understood that there are landlords who uh, even burn the uh, their own buildings to get the insurance after they can no longer, you know, no longer anybody would want to live in them. And this is— I mean, people would be living in it too, while, when they burned it. It’s terrible, you know, how landlords, you know, just they raise the rent, they give eviction notices and the ones who get evicted a lot of time are seniors. I saw recently in San Francisco, they’re going to evict— they want to raise the rents by 40% or something, and the people were on a fixed income, and they, they couldn’t afford that. And so, he uh, he uh, is in the process of having them evicted, but fortunately, some good people know about it, and we’ll attempt to stop that, because it’s just not right. Why do we do put property rights over human rights? Where, where is our priorities? I think that uh, people need to be concerned about these types of things. Senior citizens shouldn’t have to worry about being adequately housed and adequately fed and living on such meager incomes when they’ve worked hard all their lives. I don’t understand it. I really don’t understand it. We’re supposed to be a Christian nation, and yet I see so much suffering. So much suffering. (Pause) (Unintelligible name) Why don’t you talk. I think it’d be very helpful for these people to know what you’re doing.
Main Speaker: I don’t have a lot to say that isn’t, isn’t already said. (Tape stops) —have a stake in what’s going on in their own community. Okay, that’s one thing. The other thing is, there is no way to get from 44th Street where our church is, one mile down to the Fruitridge Center where all of the services that our people need are available. That means the senior citizens and productive people and youth cannot get from the pocket area to the Fruitridge Center, which is the service center where all of the businesses and shops and boutiques and shoe shops and, and the post office— they can’t get there. There’s no way. No way. We’re going to address that problem on Tuesday evening. We’re going to say, there’s no way. We’re inviting in the merchants who have a stake in where those people’s dollars go. You know? And why hasn’t it happened before now? Well, it hasn’t. Okay? But they’re going to be called together. We’re going to talk about that. We think it’s a quickie, winnable kind of a community organization project. Now some other things will be coming up. Our housing project will come up. There is not in our area a library satisfactory to meet the needs of the people. Why? We’ve got thirty years of neglect in the pocket area. And the other evening, the board of directors of the neighborhood center invited in the city/county librarian. He came in, very open, said the reason you don’t have a good library is, that nobody’s asked for it.
(Woman speaks quietly about pocket area.)
Speaker: Well, it’s the county. It’s the county. It’s the unincorporated part of the county that’s surrounded by the city. Yes, that’s why it’s call a pocket. It’s, it’s— But you can go from the city to the county and you can tell that you’ve gone from one environment into another. (Pause) So next Tuesday, we’re going to address those two needs that are on there, plus the library, uh, then $150,000 is for street lights. You know, turn on the lights so the senior citizens are not frightened to look out their doors in the evening. That’s another kind of project that’s coming along. Yeah I see. Ray.
(Man speaks softly).
Speaker: Why don’t the county people get in the city?
Speaker: I’m listening to find out why they don’t. I think it’s— I think it’s an economic kind of a problem.
Man: (speaks softly). This is one of the major problems. For instance, it’s a big battle going on in the city of (unintelligible) Willits(?). It’s a long time battle. (Talks about streets, and police protection, and how some people don’t want to pay their taxes.) These are not poor people. I mean, they’re not. (Unintelligible). The city of Chico’s got, there are more pockets that Carter’s got liver pills. And they’ve had them since I was a boy, ten years old. And that’s a long time ago.
Speaker: Well, I— I’d invite the Chico church to address its constituency (Laughs.)
Man: I’m just saying, these— these things go on and, in, in Oroville, we’re doing something about it too.
Man: We’re sick and tired of this stuff, of, uh, uh, a few men and women (unintelligible) who are renting places in those areas are keeping the rest of the community from having sidewalks, streets and lights and gutters and sanitary (unintelligible) not telephone, and PG&E. They wouldn’t even have that. (Too soft). And you’re going to say, you’re going to raise the taxes on some fool widow’s sons. (Lot of rambling by older man.)
Speaker: Let me say this, that, our first struggle was with the politicians, for, for this reason, that they would use the statistics of the Furbage pocket area to get block grant revenue sharing funds to come to Sacramento County. Number one, many of those people have already been paying for services they were not getting, because the, the the capital development is not there. Secondly, their poverty would be sent to Washington as an appeal for their percentage of those kinds of funds to come, they would hit downtown and they’d spread out all over the county. The housing and redevelopment agency of Sacramento County receives the money to do jobs where the need is. What happens? Seven percent of the money that came, came to the pocket area. It’s demonstrated that 50% of the need is in the pocket area. Somebody— somebody is making some decisions for peoples’ lives when they’re not involved in it, so what we’re trying to do is just to keep the process honest and open and keeping the pot stirred. (Sentence unintelligible)
Older woman: What we’re saying is that the church should be pioneering, and spread it through the community.
Speaker: You’d think it would have pioneered by now.
Older woman: I mean, this is the role of the church.
Speaker: Of course.
Second woman: I’m wondering though if uh, many of us, you know, hearing all of this, you know, wondering where to start. Now I think, ah, I recall there was an alcoholic anonymous group that came to my church once, and asked for a place. That’s something that probably most of us would find we could start something.
Prokes: Well, certainly it is, and uh, because there are alcoholics in every community. And that’s one of the biggest problems—
Second woman: And they do have a hard time finding a place for their activities.
Prokes: Yes, and uh, you know, why, why is it that our society has more alcoholics. I wonder what it is that drives people to drink. Jean?
Jean Brown: I’d just like to contribute one word, because, I, I understand, I understand your question, where do we start. But one thing, one thing that has meant so much to me in this church and community, uh, involvement is that in a very personal sense, uh, I’ve been a teacher for six years and have felt the frustrations of a classroom of some 35 youngsters that you never reach. There’s no way to reach that many youngsters in one spot. Also under the, uh— It just isn’t possible. If you do tell them, if you do convey any values (struggles for words) it’s just really frustration. I guess you probably know what I’m talking about, but at the Temple, youngsters come in after school, and I’m able to involve myself with them in their lives. I can, can talk with them, work with them, be with them, share with them in a sense I could never do in a classroom. And it’s also a learning process, of course, too. I’ve seen youngsters who were classified retarded be, be tutored, myself personally involved, and uh, have, have them excel in their classes with that kind of back-up. And the, the thing that keeps coming to my mind is how, you know, what does this mean to me? That kind of thing that, that— It says in the Bible, you know, seek first the kingdom and all these things shall be added unto you, and I think, I think that’s true for me in a very real sense, because when I know— I have friends who are involved in assertiveness training, and I know that’s very real and that’s very important, but somehow, that’s just happened to me. It wasn’t something I conscientiously went after to learn how to assert yourself. Somehow doing it and being involved in programs like this that mean so much, these things happen. Or my sense of evangelism or whatever. To me, it’s not set that we don’t evangelize two days a week. It’s, it’s a, it’s part of me and it’s a new way of looking at life and I feel a very deep meaning and sense of my, in my, in my Christian upbringing. (Unintelligible) I just thought I’d contribute that, because I do know that, when you’re talking about programs, it’s easy to talk about something that seems so abstract but it is a very deep personal fulfillment.
Prokes: Thank you. There’s certainly— I mean, there’s need all around us. Everywhere we look. And what a church could do that decided it wanted to become involved is to gather those who want to be part of that process into a meeting and come up with suggestions and priority needs, you know, the greatest needs they, they see around them in, in their community and in their own church. Because of course church has first the responsibility to take care of the household of the faith, and if every church would at least attempt to do this, then, we would take a great burden off of the government. This is really the answer to the welfare state, is the churches. If they would just try to take care of the needs of their own household of the faith, then that burden would come off government bureaucracy, and that government would be freed to deal with other priorities. And it would be a stronger government, and also a greater deterrent to threats to the system. But uh, I think needs first have to be identified, and then, if it’s a democratic process, as ours is, we vote on, you know, which is uh, the greatest need, the greatest priority, and then, determine what sort of resources you have to meet that need and begin to set up a structure to deal with it. But uh, it’s a— we find that the more people are involved, the better, I mean, the more ideas. We do things democratically, where the whole congregation is involved in major decisions. And we’ve had cases where uh, almost everybody in the church would feel one way about a certain issue, but there would be one person or two persons dissenting, and expressing their opinion. They have that right. Sometimes it’s a little child, and uh, that has in the past turned the whole uh, congregation around, because they had the information that was lacking. There’s— there’s some knowledge there that no one else had. And it changed their— the decision. So I think things must be done and we shouldn’t be— decisions shouldn’t be made by a pastor, an elder, a board member, any particular board member. I think the more involvement, uh, the better. But uh, I would like to hear from more people here, if they have programs in their church, to share them, or if anyone has questions on what they’ve heard so far.
Older woman: (Question about feeding people)
Prokes: Well, our people, our committee go to— they just start going everywhere they could think of. Wholesale outlets, coops, people — Safeway, right — people that supply the big supermarkets, and uh, the thing that is happening, food is, is being thrown away, it’s being wasted. Anybody could get it if they just themselves to be, you know, legitimate, have a legitimate need, you can get it. And it’s a crime, when two out of three babies are going to bed hungry in the world, that we’re wasting food. We have a picture up in our dining hall that shows a woman who is starving, her breasts are deflated and her child is trying to get nourishment from them. And the child is obviously starving. His stomach is distended and uh, it’s amazing, how the plates are clean at the end of a meal. When you look at that— I mean, you don’t want to waste food, when you know there are people like that, who— they didn’t do anything to bring themselves into that situation, they were born into it, and there are millions of them. And you know, how can we justify wasting food? We don’t put it up there to make people feel guilty, but I’m not so sure they shouldn’t feel guilt. It may not be their responsibility, or their fault, that that person is hungry, but it seems to me that you know — how can we not — if we care about people and, you know, we claim love as Jesus taught, then, you know, that love should reach out to everyone, including those who are hungry, so when we take a bite of food, know that there are so many who cannot, that I think a person who has any conscience would feel some guilt, and want to do something about such conditions in their own small way, whatever way that might be. I think that’s the duty, it’s our duty to do so.
Older woman: How many of our churches take care of all their seniors, are responsible for all their seniors, are responsible for all their youth, are responsible for all immediate children in the congregation?
Prokes: I think relatively few, relatively few compared to all the churches that there are. But where else do they have to turn, but to their churches?
Older woman: Because I work with volunteer services and lots of help— we get all these calls for help, transportation and all, every one of them belong to some church, every one of these seniors that calls and say, could you have somebody take me to the doctor, or whatever it is. So I just feel that if all of the churches were taking the responsibility for their own congregation, it would be a big help.
Prokes: So many seniors that are shut in their own apartments, that, you know, they’re afraid to leave, because, you know, they’ll go to the bank to cash their check, and they get robbed.
Brown: This brings to mind one thing that we always do which is, our pastor has always from the start, ever since I’ve been at the Peoples Temple, I can remember, the first few, maybe ten, fifteen minutes of service — course, we have longer services than an hour — and maybe you have to be willing to spend more than one hour in church on Sunday morning, for instance— but we always make sure that every senior has a ride home before church starts. And also if there’s anyone who has a doctor’s appointment during the week, that the ride is arranged. And these things become elements of the service. Again, you have to have a certain tolerance for a little more, you know, a little more give-and-take. And you can’t start chomping at the bit at eleven o’clock for service to be out, you know, there might be someone’s need yet unmet. But we always try to bring these things out and deal with them right there. It sure means a lot. A lot of time, it’s just a matter of communication, to be willing to go (unintelligible).
Prokes: There’s a fear, there’s a fear in this society of going out for, like, evening services, or evening meetings, because of violence on buses, bus system, you know, but if people have the reassurance that they’ll have transportation, I think people will be more involved, if they want to. Because nobody wants to stay indoors all day, but the crime is getting so bad, and the blame is being placed on all the wrong places. The police want to create more law enforcement and more policemen and come down with more force, that’s not going to stop the crime rate. It’s environmental conditions that cause the crime rate to go up. People don’t do things in a vacuum, they do it because there’s need, and there’s deprivation. We had an FBI agent come to our church, and he met with some of us before he spoke, and he talked about crime, and he said how every person has this seed of sin within them. And we stopped him right there. We said, “This isn’t true.” We know from our own experience that crime isn’t something that’s born within a person, it’s something that’s created, it’s something that’s learned, it’s something that comes out of necessity. People aren’t born good and bad, they develop that way. To say otherwise is to say they’re inferior, that God created people inferior on some different levels. But that’s not what our Bible tells us.
Woman: You see babies in the nurseries in the hospital, and they all look like little angels.
Prokes: They are—
Woman: They are until their environment changes.
(Low conversation, indecipherable. Comment — on tape — that it’s noisy, and Michael is asked to recap the question.)
Prokes: He was saying, how do you get people involved in the church that have been busy. The ones who want to get involved, most of them are ones who are involved in other things. They have their jobs, they may have other community involvements, and they’re not around, you know, they’re doing other things during normal hours. In case of our church, there are very few who — like me — work full-time. I’m only one of several. What we draw on is people who come in when they can, but we try to get a schedule when they’re able to develop so much time, we try to pin down a time when we can count on them that they’ll be in, you know, they’ll come into the church. These are ongoing programs, you know, there’re different ones they might help with, whether it’s day care or senior programs, or tutoring or any number of programs. People come in, and you have to try to get a schedule, when you know you can count on people. If it’s not during the normal business day, or day hours, certain things have to be dealt with in the early evening hours. You mentioned a justice committee—
(Low conversation, indecipherable.)
Prokes: And of course that would determine the types of programs you can get involved in. Some programs you can’t do at night, I’m sure.
(Low conversation, indecipherable.)
(A pastor from another church talks about involvement of his church in local groups and activities. Not transcribed.)
Prokes: Not all congregations are going to be able to involve themselves in ways that they would like, due to their members’ schedules and the numbers of members, but they can do what Tom’s church has done, certainly, and that’s to become facilitators of programs that reach out, and that would involve people who don’t even go to the church. Or, allowing some outside group to use the facility, in having whatever members can get involved with that outside group. But the point is that I think we’re addressing ourselves to is that the church must — and in these times should — reach out in some way, whether it be with its own members or with others or with both, in whatever way it can. That’s the whole, the main duty.
(Low conversation, indecipherable.)
Prokes: By the way, I didn’t finish with the story about the FBI man. After we challenged him on his idea that everybody has a seed of sin or crime within them, we took him through our program, we had him talk with some of our ex-convicts and others that we have rehabilitated, and when he ended up giving his talk, he talked about how the environment affects our lives, using virtually the same words that we had expressed to him, which was, to change, he was changed very quickly, and I don’t know if he’s in very good stead with his higher-ups at this point, but he certainly has a different view. It’s a view that he had never seen. He’d just been educated out of some academic text that’s prepared for him by others who’ve never even seen the seedier side of life, which is what we face every day. And it was encouraging. And I’m glad to hear at least there’s an interest in criminal justice because this area, it’s unbelievable what’s happening. We have gotten last year hundreds out of jail and some that were headed for jail, free, that would be in prison today, simply because they could not afford an attorney. It’s fortunate for us that several members of our church are attorneys, and they all work on our legal staff. They devote the time they can. Some have practices, others are able to give more time, because they’re not in a firm. They defend people who can’t afford adequate legal representation. These hundreds that I’m talking about would have ended up in jail, and I would say close to 100% of them were innocent. We’re talking about innocent persons. My question is, how many more are in jail today all over the country who are innocent.
(Low conversation, indecipherable.)
Prokes: Mistaken identity, a lot of mistaken identity, because people point their finger at a black person, because it’s true, so many people think that person’s black (unintelligible). It’s really terrible. Others were set up and harassed and framed, and there’s something wrong with that kind of thing where the rich are able to buy their way to freedom. Patty Hearst is an example. Do you think if she’s wasn’t know that she’d be out? She may do some time, but I think it’ll only be to show that the system works and that it doesn’t favor the rich, but it does favor the rich, because money is what’s behind this society. It is the root of all evil. I’m convinced of it. We see how it works every day. Watergate helped show it. And I agree with those who say Watergate was the tip of the iceberg. There are things going— We had a person come to our Temple to speak who was a mayor in Mississippi. She happened to be a black woman. She talked about her trip to China. She didn’t speak about it in glowing terms. She just talked about it in terms of their meeting their own needs. And it is phenomenal that you can feed every person when you have a fourth or a fifth of the world’s population. I say that’s an achievement. It may not work for us, but it’s working for them, so she told about it. She told about how there’s virtually no crime. She saw it, she stayed there a long time. She went with the first delegation of women which also included Shirley MacLaine, the actress. And she came, she told us about it. And outside of our building were two men with a briefcase. And when our people who greet guests went out to approach them, they ran for their car. Well, we ran after them. We wanted to see what they were up to. And as they drove off, we got their license plate. Fortunately, we have some people in our church that have various contacts and are investigators in newspaper work, and they traced these guys to the state where she came from. They came from an Air Force base, Kessler Air Force Base, and they work under [U.S.] Senator [John] Stennis who has his own CIA-type operation, if you can believe it. It’s true. But when we tried to expose it, nobody wanted to handle it. It was too hot to handle. But it’s true, because we had their license, we had their names, their signatures at a car rental agency. They came in a rented car. And when we wrote Congress, Stennis sent back, answered the congressman contacted and said they were not in California on that date. Which is a lie. So, who knows all the things that are going on in this country? But why was that woman a threat? Well, I guess they didn’t like her talking about another country. And they didn’t like the fact that a black woman had become a mayor, particularly in Mississippi.
(A member of the Arden church speaks to end of tape.)
Tape originally posted January 1999