Although the film documentary project on my life is on a temporary hiatus, I am praying that this account of a former member of Peoples Temple will be back on track soon.
I was the pastor at Peoples Temple in Los Angeles at the time of the destruction in Jonestown. My wife Rhonda and my three-year-old son Hue Ishi died that day. Since that time, I have been blessed with a new family. I have three sons and three daughters, and a church in Los Angeles that I minister. I also have a story to tell about Peoples Temple, one that is different from those which have focused on Jim Jones.
As important as it is to tell my story to the world, I realized it was equally – if not more – important to tell it to my family, to lead them to an understanding of who their father is and what he has been through. Two filmmakers – Matt Danciser and Michelle Raven – were excited about the idea, and spent a great deal of time working with me in my church and my home to make this project a reality.
The end of the filming – and the climax of the documentary – occurred in November 2003, when I rode with my eldest son Hue Fortson III from L.A. to the Bay Area to attend the 25th anniversary memorial services. Along the way, I told him the reasons I joined the Temple and the details of my experiences in it. While at the hillside grave at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, where so many of our friends and loved ones now lie, my son met – and I reconnected – with scores of people who had been important to me during my life in the Temple. Many of you shared your memories with me and my son, and for that, I will always be grateful.
The production has run into some unforeseen difficulties within the last year, which I pray will work themselves out and allow us to complete the project. In the meantime, I thank the numerous people who have helped to make this production both informative and inspirational, and invite those who wish to participate by contributing a remembrance of their own to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Hue Fortson was the Associate Pastor of Peoples Temple in Los Angeles at the time of the deaths in Guyana. His wife Rhonda and his son Hue Ishi died on November 18th. His complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. He may be reached at email@example.com.)