(The first half of the service is here.)
John Cobb: At this time, we’d like to offer, if anyone would like to come up and feel the need to share words, to speak, I only ask that we keep it down if possible to two minutes, because if not, we’ll be here all day. And so if anyone feels the urge to come up and just say something, a thought, a goodbye, whatever you feel in your heart, please, let’s do that at this time. Don’t be shy.
Guy Young: It’s been an extreme pleasure to be here today, and emotional, to say the least. Lot of members’ names I’ve forgotten, but when I look into your eyes, I get a picture of the last time I saw you. We were 30-some odd years younger. Didn’t we look good?
Young: And we look good now. I thought I heard an “Amen” on that.
I think it was last year – my nose is running, excuse me – I wrote a poem entitled “Mona.” She was the adopted daughter of Christine Cobb Young, my wife, and a sister to all the Cobbs to say the least, and we loved her dearly, and I’d like to dedicate this to out family that’s no longer with us, but in our hearts and to all the children that are gone and all the children that are now coming, because one day hopefully they will see justice and equality and love that we all dream and work for. And as I said, the title of the poem is “Mona.”
You came to us,
battered and bruised,
your ebony marred and scarred,
we bathed you in love and affection,
you healed and blossomed.
You called us Mommy and Daddy,
you brightened our lives and warmed our souls,
you laughed and played in joy.
You joined mom and family in Jonestown.
You brightened their lives and warmed their souls,
and you laughed and played in joy.
While praising the virtues of Jonestown here,
all were perishing there,
life, loss so near and far.
Oft I wonder why I linger on,
year after year, day by day, day after day,
longing to hear you call me Daddy,
longing to hear you laughing and playing in joy.
Garry Lambrev: To testify is a powerful verb. Those of us who once belonged to Peoples Temple and somehow survived thought what we– thought we knew what testimony was all about. How many times did most of us here rise to our feet in order to glorify the accomplishments of a man to whom we gave away our power. Today I want to testify to something quite different, to the selfless devotion of so many individuals, living and deceased, buried here and elsewhere, that created the vibrant interracial community called Peoples Temple founded on a belief in equality. That was and remains the overwhelming miracle, something unprecedented in U.S. history. That’s what makes this hilltop slope looking down over East Oakland sacred space. In the examples of those who participated in this failed – possibly doomed – experiment, in what we then called socialism, I choose to find a seed of hope. Thank you.
Vickie Ijames Moore: I’m so blessed to be here and to see all of you, knowing that each one of you are beautiful flowers. We know that flowers grow and that they bloom with the anticipation of the light of the sun, looking to the heavens for their life, and each one of you that came together, looking for love, looking for life, wanting to be a part of the truth, and they came together under this common decision, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” And that was my quest in life as I came together, even as a child at 15, my father Archie Ijames, which went to help develop the beginning of Jonestown, looking for truth, wanting love and unity, as so many have already said. But I thank God today that I realized that truth is never-ending, and as you search to know the truth, you go higher and higher. And today I recommend and encourage each one of you as you seek to know the truth, to know that no man knows it all, and to know that also you cannot put your trust in man. That happened throughout history. Even people who put their trust in different leaders, as you know, in the past. We know what happened in Germany, we know what happened throughout history where they put their trust in man. And it will fail you. But you have to put your trust in God. So I encourage each one of you to look to the truth, and the truth shall set you free. Thank God for this beautiful memorial, and thank God for all of you here today.
Tim Carter: Good afternoon. My name is Tim Carter. My son Malcolm, my sister Terry, my wife Gloria, my niece Kaywana, Chae-ok my nephew, Lew Jones my brother-in-law are some of the family that I lost in Jonestown. Malcolm is buried here – he was one of the babies – but our family chose to have Terry buried here because Peoples Temple was her family. Not only would she want to be buried with Chae-ok, she would want to be buried with her brothers and sisters that died in Jonestown. That’s what these two roses are for. I am so glad that finally there is a place that has the respect that the people who perished in Jonestown deserve. My intentionality for this place is that it be a place of healing, a place of understanding, a place of compassion, and that the wounds that still exist in all of our hearts in whatever way, both those that are here and those that are not here, that the energy be directed to them for healing for all. It’s been 32 years, and I’m sure, as those of us who survived know – for those who haven’t survived, I’m sure you’ve felt – it still hurts. It still hurts. To me, the greatest tragedy of Jonestown is that most people have no idea how great a tragedy it was, because they didn’t know the people. Malcolm, I love you and miss you. Gloria, I love you and miss you. Terry, I love you and miss you. To all good people who perished there, I love you and miss you. And to all my brothers and sisters here, I love you, and I’m glad I don’t have to say I miss you. Thank you.
John Cobb: Is there anyone else who felt the need to come up and say a few words? Please come.
Craig Reubens: Hi. My name is Craig Reubens. I’m a general building contractor, and way back when, I was working on a project in San Francisco, working on the oldest house in San Francisco in fact, the Abner Phelps, 1111 Oak Street, and one of my bosses came to work and said, we got a new guy for you. It was a small crew, there were five of us, young – I was young then – and this guy was 55 years old. We were all white, and he was black. His name was Roosevelt W. Turner. His name is on– I presume on that plaque. And he was a great worker. I thought, wow, 55, that’s old. (Laughs) Not too old. He was a very good carpenter. However, he wound up leaving us early because he was in the very first wave, because he was a talented builder, he helped build the houses and the buildings in Jonestown. And of course, he never came back. That’s all.
Jessie Beagle: I’m uh– Well, I go by many names, sometimes referred to Dorothy, Jessie Beagle, but father of my beautiful son who died in Jonestown, Joseph Leo Helle, or we called him Joel, I’m not sure what he was called. Sometimes– Once he adopted Mrs.– Mr. Beam, and he was Joel Beam. But anyway, I want to read– I am a poet among other writings and compositions. “Guyana, the Enchanted Jungle” is the title of this. And it was after seeing a famous sculptor’s Christ. De Staebler is the sculptor’s name– Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
Jessie Beagle: De Staebler had this sculpture in a church– the uh, student, St. John’s Church near Dwight Way in Berkeley. And I’m not religious, I went with a friend of mine, who was very glad to sit there, I think it was two years after 1978, and I certainly had one thought in my mind. (Pause) This is called “Guyana, the Enchanted Jungle.”
De Staebler – that is the name of the sculptor – De Staebler’s Christ I looked upon,
Not– not to pray, but in memory of my son, Joel.
I’m not seeing it right.
I looked upon,
Not to pray, but in memory of my son, Joel
Who with 900 friends and more
Died in a faraway land
Jonestown, the Promised Land
And looking on this maverick Christ
Who wore no crown of thorns
Whose flesh was yellow
I heard again the words that Ishmael, my friend
Spoke on that November day.
I had a vision he was a great artist and a religious man
I had a vision
I saw your son Joel lifted gently upward
By two beautiful white doves
Controversial, like the master
Not accepted, the Catholic Church said
A priest whispering in my ear as he left amused, smiling
Did you know quite– I just can’t see the words– Okay
Leaving, the priest said to me, did you know– he said smiling amused
The artist created Jesus in the way that he was outlawed
At first not permitted in any church
For he was created, a sort of yellowish color
And no crown of thorns
As shown at the point of ascension
Dawn Gardfrey: My name is Dawn Gardfrey. I was 15 when I came from– back from Georgetown to the States – I survived Jonestown – probably one of the few survivors that everybody knows, ‘cause I was so young at the time. But I just had to say thank you to the committee, Fielding, John, Jimmie, whom I was lovingly adopted as their little sister as well as the sister of Brenda, Joel, Sandy, Ava Cobb, and I thank Terri and them for just accepting me and loving me, as well as a whole lot of family. I represent the young people, I represent the children, I represent our hopes, our dreams, I represent our life, our joy. We were happy, we were a family, we were just– we were in paradise, despite what anyone says, what anyone believes. It was a joy to get up every day to those faces, to those loved ones. My mom was there– I lost my mom, Beverly Mitchell, but I’m grateful, that she left doing what she loved, which was being in the nursery. She also adopted a young Guyanese child, as many of them did, while she was there. And I’m just grateful– I lost my two sisters, my brother, two cousins, and I just want to say thank you, because now I can have closure. Now I can have peace. And I know that they are okay. And I know I have a place to come and visit them to say hello to let them know how I’m doing. And I just want to say thank you. I’m going to miss– and I love them. Thank you.
(ed. note: Several other speakers addressed the gathering at this point, including Liz Forman Schwartz, Claire Janaro [pictured], and Teri Buford O’Shea, but the recording of those remarks failed.)
John Cobb: I’d like to thank everyone for coming up and sharing with us. At this time, I’m going to ask Reverend Moore to come up. If we could all stand, he’s going to give the closing prayer. I know we have things to do, for the rest of the weekend, and Jordan has prepared a lot of food and welcomed everyone to her home, so I hope we all can make it, please.
John Moore: May the creative word of God which calls forth green shoots from dead stumps, which calls forth dry bones on the desert into a resurrection of Israel, which calls forth babies from barren wombs and new life from tombs, call us all forth into newness of life. Amen.
John Cobb: Again, I would like to thank everyone. If you’d like to come up and view the plaques and take pictures, feel free, and I think Jordan has directions to her place back on the table back there, is that correct?
(ed. note: Hue Fortson was scheduled to deliver the closing prayer, but was unable to get to the cemetery before the service ended. The following is the prayer he would have delivered.)
Hue Fortson: God in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, I would ask that you bless us your people as we are here today to honor and dedicate these stones that have the names of our relatives and friends that perished on November 18, 1978.
It was not planned for in the original plan, but things changed, and we that are gathered here today hold in our hearts some pain and hurt because of the loved ones that we can no longer talk to. And I ask that there be a special blessing upon these stones in that everyone that will come and view the names, let them be reminded to love life as never before and show it to the ones in their own families. I pray for those that have labored down through the years encouraging most if not all of us that were a part of Peoples Temple, by choice or as a parent.
In the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes, in the third chapter, it says, To every thing there is a time and a season. We have all had a time of grief for our loved ones, and even though we will never forget, it is now a time of healing and forgiveness, and yes I did say forgiveness! We were all left here for a purpose, and remember we could have all been part of that number that did perish.
God bless and keep us safe, and as we are finding and are walking in our purpose, let us remember to issue out life and, most of all, love.