On October 2, 2017, I completed my work on what came to be known as the Birthday Project.
The project was the idea of my niece, Eren T. Gibson, and I am indebted to her for it. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had to do it. It lasted for more than a year – beginning September 12, 2016 and ending October 2, 2017 – with an intentional overlap to bring my early posts up to a standard in content and image quality of the later ones.
The Birthday Project profiled those in the Who Died book who were born each day of the year. I took about an hour for each person’s post. It was an emotional task, with feelings ranging from sorrow, shame and guilt, to discovery, illumination, and joy. I learned much, but still just scratched the surface of the research archive which this website presents as I sought information to use for each person.
Other survivors and living relatives took my posts to the next level with their reactions and comments, and this soon became the most meaningful aspect of this work. To this end, I sent invitations to birthday posts to any who left contact emails with remembrances on the Who Died Memorial List page. Their stories and observations fill out the profiles more than anything I can say. The exchanges with relatives have been especially rewarding. The project was welcomed by so many who had long wanted understanding and more information about the deceased, whether they knew them or not. Some who followed the posts said they gained a deeper understanding of what the Temple was – and was not – by learning more about its individual members.
All posts are public, and will stay up on the Facebook page linked in the first paragraph. I will be using the posts as a basis for e-pages for each person as I turn to compiling Who Died, Edition 2. which is the subject of another article in this edition of the jonestown report.
Interesting factoids turned up during my work on the Birthday Project: There were five days with seven people born: 2/26, 7/25, 9/8, 11/7, and – ironically – 11/18. (Lottery players may wish to take note.) The average was three. There were 29 “days of rest” (no one born that day) in the year.
Some significant discoveries:
- On 9/29, three days before the project’s end, while doing Tiny Soloman’s birthday, I discovered that her infant, Ju’Quice Shawntreaa Turner, was a boy, not a girl (thanks to two entries about him in Edith Roller’s journals) and that Tiny’s name, Scyria, was pronounced “Shy-rah” (thanks to Glenda Randolph).
- On 2/12, while doing Gloria Rosa’s birthday, I found out her mother was Minnie Magaline Lyles, who was better known as Magaline, not Minnie. (Thanks again to Edith Roller’s journals.)
- Thanks to a remembrance by a friend of Mary Allie Johnson (Mary Darden), I found that James Johnson, Jr. was her son, and added that relationship to his page and hers on the Jonestown Memorial List, as I did the others.
(Kathy [Tropp] Barbour joined Peoples Temple in 1970 with her companion, Richard Tropp, and was living in the San Francisco Temple on November 18, 1978. The website for her book, Who Died? is here. Her other articles in this edition of the jonestown report are The United States of Jonestown, Alive and Well; Jim Jones, MK-ULTRA Poster Child?; and Status of Plans for Who Died, Edition 2. Her earlier writings on this site can be found here. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)