White Nights, Black Paradise | A Screening and Discussion on Black Women, Peoples Temple and Jonestown
Museum of the African Diaspora and California Historical Society present White Nights, Black Paradise | A Screening and Discussion on Black Women, Peoples Temple and Jonestown
On November 18, 1978, more than 900 people died in a mass murder-suicide at the Peoples Temple Settlement in Jonestown, Guyana. Although the majority of the Jonestown massacre victims were black women, nearly four decades since the tragedy black women’s voices remain marginalized in Jonestown literature. Based on the 2015 novel by Sikivu Hutchinson, the short film White Nights, Black Paradise explores the relationships, moral dilemmas and politics of a multi-generational group of African American women who emigrated to Jonestown. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with former Peoples Temple community members and Jonestown survivors including Jordan Vilchez, Yulanda Williams, Leslie Wagner Wilson author of the autobiography Slavery of Faith, and Dr. Rebecca Moore of the Jonestown Institute.
Sikivu Hutchinson is an educator and writer. She is also the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project, a South Los Angeles feminist mentoring program for girls of color. Her books include Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, and the novel White Nights, Black Paradise, on Peoples Temple and the Jonestown massacre. She is a contributing editor for The Feminist Wire and her articles have been published in the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, The Humanist Magazine and the L.A. Times.
Dr. Rebecca Moore has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Marquette University, and is Emerita Professor of Religious Studies at San Diego State University. Dr. Moore studies New Religious Movements, where she has concentrated on interpreting Peoples Temple and the events at Jonestown, Guyana that occurred in November 1978. This effort can be seen on the website Alternative Considerations of Jonestown and Peoples Temple http://jonestown.sdsu.edu and in the book Understanding Jonestown and Peoples Temple (Praeger 2009). Dr. Moore currently serves as Reviews Editor for Nova Religio, a quarterly journal on new religions published by the University of California Press.
Leslie Wagner Wilson is the author of Slavery of Faith: The Untold Story of the Peoples Temple. She currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona and was featured in CNN’s 2006 documentary Escape From Jonestown and the BBC’s American Dreams. She serves on the Speakers Bureau for the Jonestown Institute and has done motivational speaking on her experiences to churches, associations, women’s groups, and homeless shelters. Twitter @lwagnerwilson
Jordan Vilchez joined Peoples Temple when she was twelve years old and moved to Redwood Valley with her older sister. She spent her youth in the Temple and identified herself as a revolutionary. Coming from an interracial and progressive Berkeley family, the Temple’s politics and activism made joining an easy decision. Jordan lived in various Temple run communes including the San Francisco Temple which housed several members and went on to Jonestown in 1977. She survived the tragedy by leaving for duties in the capital town of Georgetown she returned at the age of twenty-one to begin life anew. She lost her two sisters and nephews in the in Jonestown. She lives now lives in Richmond, CA and spends her time creating multimedia art and writing.
Yulanda Williams is a 61 year old survivor from Jonestown, former member of People’s Temple and an advocate for equality, freedom and social justice. Yulanda has been a sworn member of the San Francisco Police Department for 28 years. She currently serves as the President of the Officers For Justice in SF. She is a powerful and inspiring motivational speaker who provides presentations to young people, the elderly, victims of violence and those who are incarcerated on restorative justice and reform.
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