JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Collects Oral Histories

I am delighted to be one of eight survivors and friends involved in an Oral History Project. Five of us are Jonestown survivors – John Cobb, Jordan Vilchez, Leslie Wagner-Wilson, Versie Perkins, and me. Two more lost much loved family members in Jonestown – Vera Washington and Teresa Cobb. And, we have an additional friend, a psychologist, Dr. Gary Maynard, working with us. I have started my contacts and I am really delighted to give voice to people who have not yet shared their own stories.

I have expressed many times in the past thirty-five years that we Peoples Temple members are anything but followers. We were visionaries when we joined the Temple, unless we were the ones running for shelter from other disasters of our own making. But, however we entered, we stayed in Peoples Temple because we wanted to make a different in an often inhumane world. That unified our efforts within Peoples Temple, but it did not merge our own personalities and differences into one. We were and we are different from each other. We hold strong, diverse opinions. The Oral History interviews remind me of that. I will love to have them in our archives.

A particularly touching point was made by a person I interviewed recently. He told me that he always felt he was born into the wrong family. His goals in life and his perspective were not reflections of anyone in his life as a child. I do think that many of us in the Temple did feel that we were born in the wrong decade, or part of the country, or part of the world. It motivated us along the way to discover our own paths, but it mystified us that no one else wanted to fight the intolerance we saw and the inhumanity many of us experienced. Part of my strength today is that I was never interested in winning a popularity contest – I had to be true to myself. I didn’t want to be one of “them” but rather my own person. We in the Temple learned to be “outsiders” and to be fine with it.

Tags: , , , , , , ,