An Invitation to “Speaking Their Names”

On November 16, 2008, we will unite in Speaking Their Names, a ceremony unveiling a memorial listing the names of all who perished in Jonestown that horrible day.

I would like to invite family, friends and all loved ones, including many from the historical societies of Oakland and San Francisco, who contacted me wanting to participate in this groundbreaking momentous occasion. Additional details on this event – which is free and open to the public – is here.

I would also like to invite any of you to participate in the reading of the names.

Each of us pays homage to our friends and relatives in our own way. In my case, I created a non-profit corporation named after my aunt, The Mary Pearl Willis Foundation, to help low income families purchase grave markers, to eliminate unmarked graves and raise awareness of lack of life insurance and pre-need arrangements. Through the foundation people reached out to me, telling their stories for the first time about losing loved ones in Guyana. After much prayer and seeking guidance from our Creator, I realized this was my path, not to follow, but to blaze.

This path has taken me to the U.S. Capitol, State Capitol, city halls, mayors’ offices, Boards of Supervisors and City Council members to have the victims recognized and their dignity restored, naming those who were once known only as bodies in brightly-colored clothing lying under the Guyana sun.

In addition to the memorial, I have worked with the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco to have Certificate of Honors made for Congressman Leo Ryan, Greg Robinson, Don Harris, Robert Brown, Steve Sung, Charles Krause, Tim Reiterman and newly-elected Congresswoman Jackie Speier. All were injured or perished at the airstrip in an attempt to help those in need.

I can proudly announce that the City of Los Angeles will pay honor, making November 18, 2008 a Day of Remembrance for the Guyana, South America victims! And Los Angeles is not alone in recognizing the people of Jonestown. Numerous states have also issued Certificates of Honor for their citizens who perished. Even Congress will remember, not just the single colleague who was slain in the line of duty, but everyone who died. All these will be on display at the memorial service. Finally the Postal Center built on the demolished location of Peoples Temple in San Francisco will receive a new name in recognition of who was there before.

There are many other magnificent plans in the work, which will be announced at the ceremony. I am looking forward to seeing you!

(Lela Howard is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. Her other articles in this edition are “No” Is Not an Option and Los Angeles Peoples Temple May Become Historical Site. Her complete collection of writings for the site may be found here. She can be reached at