Dozens gather at East Oakland burial site to remember hundreds led to suicide by Jim Jones
Tri-Valley Herald, Nov. 19, 2002
By Chauncey Bailey
Tuesday, November 19, 2002 – OAKLAND — Supporters and relatives of Jonestown victims gathered Monday to remember those who died 24 years ago in Guyana and to renew efforts for memorial walls in both Oakland and San Francisco as tributes to the dead.
Dozens sat on folding chairs under a white tent erected on the mass grave site in East Oakland’s Evergreen Cemetery, where 406 of the Jonestown victims — including 40 infants — are buried.
The solemn gathering was emotional and evolved into a spirited revival with gospel songs, music and sermons about love and hope.
On Nov. 18, 1978, 913 persons died during a mass suicide and shootings at or near an encampment in the nation of Guyana formed by Jim Jones, a charismatic preacher from People’s Temple, and his followers who relocated to the jungles from San Francisco.
Evergreen was the only cemetery in Bay Area that agreed to accommodate a grave site for victims who were from Oakland or the East Bay, and San Francisco.
“We are also here to remember the children of Oakland who have lost their lives in the violence,” said the Rev. Jynona Norwood, who lost her mother and
26 other relatives in Jonestown. “People still ask me ‘Why are you still doing this (tribute),’ and I tell them we can’t forget about our family, friends and neighbors. We will never forget and we want a monument to remember them and to make sure this never happens again.”
A Guyana Tribute Foundation, headed by Norwood, is hoping to raise $100,000 to erect memorials at the cemetery and another in San Francisco.
Many of Monday’s mourners arrived on a chartered bus from Los Angeles, where Norwood is a pastor.
Dozens walked 913 steps — in a tribute to the dead — to the tent where the Rev. Eugene Lumpkin and others eulogized the victims. “All of them had been in other churches and believed in Jesus Christ as our saviour … but men have failed us,” said Lumpkin, speaking under a large banner that read “Cherish the Children.”
City Councilmember Moses Mayne was the only city official who attended. Patricia Ryan, the daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan (D-San Francisco), also was present. He was slain on an airstrip after arriving to investigate the compound.
“Many of the people still have a huge emotional void after this,” she said. “I’m here to support these families. My father was only 53 when he died.” Standing nearby was Jimmy Jones, Jr., the adopted son of Jim Jones, who was in Georgetown, Guyana, on that day.
The Jonestown Memorial Wall Fund has set up an account (# 103347) at Kaiperm Federal Credit Union, Allen Temple Baptist Church Branch, 8650 International Blvd., Oakland 94621.