I was a child of the Temple. I lived with my Mom Sammie L. Jones in San Francisco and traveled all over with her. I had many relatives in Peoples Temple, and three of my family – Georgia Lacy and her adopted children Tony Linton Lacy and Donna Briggs Lacy – died in Jonestown.
As a young child in the Temple, my brother Marco McLemore and I were always with Sammie when she sold her delicious food after the services. We grew up in the midst of the expansion and move of Peoples Temple to San Francisco.
My aunt Kay Francis Curry was part of the Planning Commission. Over time, she saw things in the leadership group that disillusioned her, and she eventually left Peoples Temple, taking her son. She told some of my relatives about things she had seen, particularly the horrible treatment of Grace Stoen, and encouraged them to leave. Because of my aunt’s early insight, some of the family did leave. My brother Marco, my cousin Frank Lacy, and several other cousins and I along with friends of the family stayed back in the States after Georgia and her two other children left for Guyana.
I have never been public about being in the Temple, and have told only seven or eight friends. I do see other friends who attended Temple services with me, but we rarely talk about Peoples Temple.
I am a successful dancer now. I remember the first time I saw Charles Marshall and Black Velvet perform, and my first dance experience on the stage during Temple talent shows. I fell in love with the stage and performing, and have followed my dream.
Now, 32 years later after the Guyana tragedy, I am reacquainting myself with my years growing up in Peoples Temple. I am producing a documentary of my life, which will lay everything bare about my past. Many of my friends and fellow performers will be surprised about what they didn’t know about my life. I haven’t made my past in the Temple a big part of my life until now, but I am now ready to acknowledge it and open up about it to my friends and the world.
(Tommy Washington’s other article in this edition of the jonestown report is Medea Sirkas Documentary Film to Be Released in 2011. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)