November 14, 2013
By Dr. Barbara Reynolds
"TEAR DOWN THAT WALL" was once the cry of former President Ronald Reagan to tear down a barrier between East and West Germany that walled in hatred for one another.
That wall did come down. Pastor Jynona Norwood carries a similar hope that a wall commemorating those involved in the murder and forced suicide of more than 900 innocent people, including 305 children ranging from ages 3 months to 18 years, will also come down. The innocents died in a South American jungle of Guyana upon the orders of Rev. Jim Jones, who had promised a socialist paradise that turned into a slave camp; then a death trap.
In 1979, Norwood organized the first community memorial in San Francisco amidst a standing-room-only crowd of bewildered and shocked San Franciscans and dignitaries. From walk-a-thons to prayer vigils a dedicated committee continues their valuable work in remembering the children who were there through no fault of their own.
Every year, they pause to reflect at the mass gravesite, where 406 bodies lay, including 40 infants in Oakland. Norwood has dogged determination to ensure that we never forget Jonestown and never forget that Jim Jones has been honored on the children's sacred final resting place by his followers and family.
Pastor Norwood calls the current memorial the "Wall of Shame" as it places Jones alongside the innocent children. With the support of more than 100 celebrities and political leaders, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House, the impassioned pastor envisions a new memorial that cherishes the memory of the children.
In a recent letter to Pastor Norwood, Pelosi said, "Cherishing the Children Memorial Wall will provide a place of comfort and solace to the Children's relatives and loved ones as well as to those who wish to honor the memory of Congressman Leo Ryan and all those who lost their lives."
This memorial would honor the innocent victims, including Rep. Leo Ryan, who was also murdered in the Jonestown massacre and not the shameful perpetrators, Norwood said.
In addition to Pelosi, she has garnered the backing of many other notables over the years.
"My special gratitude goes to Dr. Jynona Norwood for her remarkable compassion and determination to gather the funds and resources needed for your memorial," wrote then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif) applauded Norwood for her perseverance. "Thank you for all of the work you are doing to create this memorial and your commitment to those in our community most in need."
Norwood is pastor of Miracles of Action Faith Center, which is formerly Family Christian Cathedral in Inglewood, Calif. Four decades ago, the young evangelist had a warning dream of tragedy awaiting those who would follow Jim Jones from his California churches to Jonestown.
She vigorously warned against making the trip to Guyana. Her warning went unheeded and 27 loved ones in her own family, including her beloved mother with her 3-month-old Charles Garry Henderson, perished. Fortunately, she kidnapped/rescued her son who was being raised by her family while she traveled as a minister, forcing him not to go to Jonestown with their family, a courageous move that saved his life.
Shortly after the massacre, Norwood started a campaign and a fundraising drive to honor the 305 children and Congressman Ryan. Her plans were sadly interrupted when, in her words, "A shameful wall that includes the name of the perpetrator of these horrors, alongside the names of the innocent children was erected at Evergreen, the mass gravesite where 40 infants and most all of the 305 innocent children lay in their final resting place. All public donations went to Evergreen's vendor as ordered by Evergreen. Not one penny ever went to a private individual."
In an effort to keep public attention and public pressure on erecting the new wall and honoring the children who are the true victims of Jonestown, Norwood is releasing a book called Remember Me Today, Look at me Tomorrow on November 18th, the 35th anniversary of Jonestown.
The new book is the first of a 10 volume series which, through interviews with their parents, children and other loved ones, look to the future of who the children might have been and what they could have accomplished had they been allowed to live. Would they have been scientists, teachers, preachers, athletes, a Nobel Peace Prize winner or the President of the United States of America? To stress the point of their future even further, Norwood's book also features age progressions, which are enhanced photographs of the children of how they aged and would look today if they had lived and fulfilled their destinies.
Norwood said, "The book will examine what lessons can be learned from their lives. What lessons can be learned from their death? Some actually saw the abuse before their family left for Jonestown but were either unable to communicate it to their families or were ignored when they did. This book includes family friendly resources on how to keep your children safe, who to call and information that will lead your children to safety when in dangerous situations."
Norwood appropriately contrasts the murders in Jonestown with the more recent deaths at Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Imagine - if you will - that a memorial was erected to the victims of Sandy Hook and Columbine shootings, and that the names of the shooters were included on the memorial to the victims as victims themselves? Would you not be outraged? This is exactly what has happened in Oakland at the site of the memorial to the victims of Jonestown.
Pre-ordering of the Children's Tribute Edition, Look at Me Today, Remember Me Tomorrow,will start on the 35th year anniversary, November 18th, on the website www.305ICANR.com. The first 1,000 pre-orders will receive the book at retail price and the DVD version at a discounted rate of $10.00 on December 8. The E-Book version will be released before December 8th. Supporters will gather at the official 35th Annual Jonestown Memorial for the 305 Innocent Children, Congressman Leo Ryan and the over 900 victims on Monday, November 18, 2013 at 11 a.m. at the Evergreen Cemetery, 6450 Camden Avenue, Oakland, Calif. Fraternities, speakers, singers, dancers and children will be performing to honor and remember the true victims.