Peoples Temple: A Reading on a Legacy in Leadership

by Logan W.

(Logan’s essay about the process of creating the performance described below is here.)

Logan. The Chosen One. A Blessing.A man, Jim Jones, provided unconditional love and constant protection that he never experienced.He was born in 1931, raised by an alcoholic father and a distant mother.Jones found a home at the local Pentecostal Church.

At an early age he felt a kinship with blacks battling against inequality and oppression.

 

Raelynn: A Pastor. A Leader.

As a young man, Jones moved to Indianapolis in 1952 where he could lead his own church.

Peoples Temple was born. It began as a home for lonely souls seeking support.

The church gained more followers through its message of equality and acceptance.

 

Logan: A Mentor. A Guide.

Moving suddenly to Brazil in 1962, Jones was believed to participate in mission work.

During this time, the Temple, under minimal leadership, dramatically lost membership and financial issues ensued.

Returning to the struggling Temple after eight months in Brazil, Jones sought to lead the church again with new goals in mind.

 

Raelynn: A Protector. A Father.

Peoples Temple grew in membership as it attracted college students and others concerned with socialist issues.

In 1965, Jones moved the Temple westward to a remote town in California called Ukiah, believing they could survive an inevitable nuclear apocalypse.

Nearby, San Francisco aided in the growth and prosperity of Peoples Temple, amplifying the membership from 81 to hundreds.

 

Logan: Why are we telling you this?

Jones ensnared the helpless and those who sought to help them, then succeeded in contorting the malleable minds of his followers to the one true gospel in his perception.

Jim Jones created one of history’s most significant losses of US civilian lives.

 

TOGETHER: Ethereal Exodus: The Migration and Massacre of The Peoples Temple

 

Go behind curtain and change to 70’s attire. Raelynn hangs San Francisco Temple sign while Logan Talks

 

Logan: San Francisco, California, 1965, and the nation was getting in the groove.

The Sound of Music premiered, the first Batmobile was built and Pink Floyd was formed.

In addition, Peoples Temple worked towards its goal of helping people and spreading the idea of socialism.

 

Raelynn: “Let me tell you about a place that became a home to me.

I’ve found a man that speaks the truth and shows me the way.

He acts like a father, showing me the light when I need it most.

Come and listen to Jim Jones. The Temple is a home for everyone.”

(Wave your hand to come toward you. Walk to side of stage.)

 

Logan: Jim Jones continued to gather enthusiasm in the newly relocated Peoples Temple as he expanded his involvement in political issues.

In 1967, Jim Jones was appointed to the Mendocino County Grand Jury in California, continuing to gain favor in his community.

 

Raelynn: “He has only suffered for us. It is my time to give back with my body and soul.

Dad says sacrifice is necessary for all of us to prosper.

I gladly give all my time, effort and money to the Temple for its needs are greater than my own.”

 

Logan: Jones had a growing need for isolation to build his utopia.

He stated, “They’re not doing it for a man. They’re doing it because I’m no longer a man, I’m a revolution. I am the I am, I am the mighty wind of revolutionary change.”

In 1974, a few members left Ukiah to start development in an untamed jungle in South America.

The Temple signed a permanent lease in Guyana in 1976, to become the Jonestown Agricultural Project. A mass migration to the site would soon follow.

 

Raelynn: “This is an exciting time in Peoples Temple.

Dad is giving us new land in Guyana.

Being pregnant, I can’t wait to raise my little one there.

Equality and love is the jam right now, and we can’t wait to follow Dad there to spread it all round.”

 

Logan: Paranoia drove Jones to motivate the members to leave when a California magazine published an article making allegations of abuse within Peoples Temple.

Members believed that they were going to create a community unblemished by racism or class while Jones was anxious to escape his prosecutors and gain more power.

Both wanted to flee, but for completely different reasons.

 

Raelynn comes out sweeping, then stops.

Raelynn: “Jonestown has been quite the experience.

A new place of our own means a lot of work.

Food is a big deal.

I was chosen to farm here but there isn’t enough food and Dad has been complaining about how expensive it’s been to feed everyone.

We have to do what we can to keep him happy.”

 

Logan: Jones’ paranoia escalated and he was constantly afraid and felt threatened at all times.

Recorded tapes were continuously broadcast with his chosen messages or required orders.

Members could no longer speak freely to one another, as it would be perceived as betrayal.

The omnipresent voice deeply affected members’ mental health and freedom of thought.

Jones’ drug abuse became more prominent while he deteriorated both mentally and physically.

 

Raelynn: “The tapes are playing 24/7. Dad is constantly being heard throughout Jonestown.

I miss my family and want to tell them everything about my new life here.

If you send letters, they are read by someone first, because some disloyal members are trying to send bad thoughts to their families.

How could they? They need to appreciate what Dad has given them.”

 

Logan: Jones made wild accusations of the US government, such as all male black babies being castrated.

He said, “You’ll see, there’ll be a few peoples land out here. They’ll torture some of our children here. They’ll torture our people. They’ll torture our seniors. We cannot have this.”

Because of the isolation of Jonestown and the ongoing propaganda that Jones fed his followers, they were forced to believe him.

 

Raelynn: “Congressman Leo Ryan is here to visit us. He brought a group of reporters to show the world our special way of life.

Dad tells us to watch what we say or do because we don’t want them to tell lies about us. We have to protect our way of life.

We’ve worked too hard for it.

Some have believed the lies and are on their way back to California, they’re giving up.

They are weak. Pathetic. I feel so betrayed.”

 

Death Tape plays in background

 

Raelynn: “Dad sounds the alarm, he says it isn’t another rehearsal. It is time to leave.

I wrap my baby in my arms and meet the others near the Pavilion.

It feels confusing, I’m nervous and not sure what is right.

Dad keeps talking but it does not bring me comfort.

We are not committing suicide, it’s a revolutionary act.

Am I doing the right thing? I don’t know if I can do this.

The screams of other children, saying Mama, Mama….it tears at my heart.

I can’t let them do this to my baby, I don’t want to give him the drink….

(pause)

He’s no longer crying..

He has passed.

I must follow where he has gone

I no longer want to live in this world. Receive me, Lord.”

 

Logan: As the sun sets on November 18th, 1978, 907 men, women and children are dead from a cyanide-based drink or by forced injection.

When you hear ,“don’t drink the kool-aid,” it is derived from this tragic event.

Congressman Ryan and three members of the media were killed as they attempted to exit the country.

Jim Jones chose to end his life by putting a bullet in his head, instead of suffering with the rest.

For 22 years, he set out to lead others in a life-giving community but only succeeded in corrupting his vision of a courageous crusade.

The man that was thought to be a loving father, a savior of his people, killed his flock of believers.

Allowing power to rule over pure intentions,

Jim Jones’ legacy will forever be tied to death and destruction.

 

Raelynn: This letter was found at Jonestown among personal belongings:

“If nobody understands, it matters not. I am ready to die now.

Darkness settles over Jonestown on its last day on Earth.

To whomever finds this note. Collect all the tapes, all the writing, all the history.

The story of this movement, this action, must be examined over and over.

We did not want this kind of ending.

We wanted to live, to shine, to bring light to a world that is dying for a little bit of love.”

Originally posted on October 29th, 2015.

Last modified on November 2nd, 2015.
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