PERFORMANCE & DISCUSSION | White Nights, Black Paradise, The Play
White Nights, Black Paradise, The Play: A Showcase and Community Discussion on The Legacy of Black Women and the African American Community in Peoples Temple and Jonestown
The new historical stage play, White Nights, Black Paradise, by L.A.-based writer Sikivu Hutchinson, is based on the arc of the predominantly African American female Peoples Temple church and the November 1978 Jonestown, Guyana massacre. It is the first literary, theatrical production to foreground the lived experiences and social history of African American women members of Jonestown and Peoples Temple through interlocking, multi-generational characters from all walks of life. In this showcase, actors from the “White Nights, Black Paradise” cast will perform select scenes from the play, followed by a panel discussion with Jonestown survivors and community scholars. The panel will contextualize Peoples Temple and Jonestown vis-à-vis the Great Migration, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, Black Power, and the LGBTQ movement, toward a deeper understanding of Jonestown’s implications for contemporary Black San Francisco and beyond.
Pictured in image clockwise from left to right: Charlotte Williams, Scott St. Patrick Williams, Elvinet Piard, Breeanna Judy, Cydney W. Davis, Erin Aubry Kaplan, Darnell Rhea, Elise Robertson
Sikivu Hutchinson, Ph.D. is an educator, author, and playwright. Sikivu’s books include Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically, Black, Feminist, and Heretical (April 2020), and the novel White Nights, Black Paradise on the Black experience in Peoples Temple and Jonestown. Her plays include Grinning Skull, Narcolepsy, Inc and the adaptation of White Nights, Black Paradise, which debuted in 2018 at the Hudson Theatre in L.A.
James Taylor, Ph.D. is a professor of Political Science at the University of San Francisco. Professor Taylor’s current research is on a solo-authored full-length study of the Peoples Temple Movement and African American political history in California. The working title is Peoples Temple, Jim Jones, and California Black Politics. The book is under contract with Pennsylvania State University Press. Professor Taylor brings a wealth of experience and scholarship to the initiative, and has been deeply engaged in the Fillmore District community through collaboration with the New Community Leadership Foundation.
Yulanda Williams is a Jonestown survivor, serving as a police captain in the SFUSD schools for the San Francisco Police Department and an in-demand public speaker on the politics of cults, religious idolatry, trauma, and the journey to survivorship associated with post traumatic stress disorders. Yulanda’s family escaped from Jonestown before the November 1978 tragedy and she is one of the creators of the BlackJonestown.org
Leslie Wagner Wilson is a Jonestown survivor and author of the autobiography Slavery of Faith, which chronicles her experiences growing up in the Peoples Temple. Leslie lost multiple family members at Jonestown and lectures audiences worldwide on the contemporary lessons of Jonestown trauma, violence against women and religious idolatry. She is also one of the creators of the website BlackJonestown.org and was recently featured in the A&E documentary “The Women of Jonestown”.
This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit calhum.org. Additional support was generously provided by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.