Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Christal Ann Rice Cooper
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Monday, November 18, 2013

She Called Him Father - 35 Years Ago on November 18, 1978 The Guyana Massacre


Christal Cooper – 2,776 Words
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SHE CALLED HIM FATHER
“During my five years in the People’s Temple,
I was sometimes in and sometimes out. 
There were times that I believed that he was God 
and there were times I did not.”
Nell Juanell Smart


In early 1972, Nell Juanell Smart picked up her seven-year-old daughter Terri from the church that her uncle Jim McElvane and mother Enola Kay Nelson attended.  Smart was met at the door by her uncle and told to go sit in the balcony where Teri was waiting.        



Smart climbed the stairs to the auditorium and sat down to listen to the pastor preach.  The pastor seemed small to Smart.  He was Caucasian with rich dark hair and wore a robe.  Smart listened to Jim Jones preach and immediately felt and heard the charisma in his voice that was both commanding and undemanding. 

There were three things Jones said that made a good impression on Smart: he believed in women as equals to men; he wanted no social hierarchy for believers within the church; and he believed that children had rights in the family. Smart, who was involved in an unhealthy relationship at the time, was also impressed with Jones when he spoke about the difficulties in relationships.   

     “I couldn’t get his words out of my mind.  I told my other three children about him and convinced them to go with me to hear what he had to say.  By the time the meeting ended my children and I were hooked.”



 Smart was surprised at her response to Jim Jones.  Her past with religion and her view of God was not a positive one.  Her parents divorced when she was three years old, and her mother, stepfather, and grandmother raised her.  Her mother, a social worker and real estate broker, was considered the matriarch of the family and reared her daughter to believe that Jesus was God, and that one must be saved to escape the fires of hell.  In 1960 she married her second husband, a Pentecostal pastor, and during this marriage realized that her view of God was a God who disappointed her.

         “God was certainly having people doing a bunch of stuff in His name that was hurtful.  This couldn’t be the God my parents taught me growing up.  If so, then He’s not the God that I want.”

For the first time, Smart felt captivated, changed, and validated about God, which she contributes to Jim Jones and his voice and his message.  She became an active member of the People’s Temple in Los Angeles, and had the typical pastor-church member encounters with Jones.  Smart described Jones’s services as being Pentecostal while his sermons were not.  At the end of the services, individuals would come down the aisles to be healed by Jones.  Smart compared believing in the healing to that of believing in Santa Claus.

         Her mother, the church treasurer in the People’s Temple in Los Angeles, encouraged Smart to become involved in church projects, one of which was to be in charge of the membership, which required Smart to keep track of who was there, who was not there, who joined, who left and the reasons why.  At the time Smart was working at a credit union in Los Angeles, and was asked to establish the People’s Temple Credit Union in Los Angeles.  The People’s Temple Credit Union was like a bank, or rather, according to Smart, had the appearance of being like a bank. The church members had individual accounts.  All loans had to be approved by The People’s Temple committee.  Smart gathered the applications to present to the committee and signed the checks.

     “One or two loans were approved in the Los Angeles Temple.  I applied for a loan at the credit union, and I was declined, and I was upset.”  
  It was in Los Angeles that Smart met one of the People’s Temple ministers, David Wise.  Smart and Wise, without required approval from Jim, married in secret. 
       
“He would tell me things that were going on.  He would tell me the ins and outs of what was really happening that the general members did not see.  I became disillusioned.”

         Smart described her marriage to Wise as being based on trust more than on love.  They kept the marriage a secret from Jim Jones and other church members.  Smart became more disillusioned with The People’s Temple when she was arrested for drunk driving after an argument with David.  Her car was taken to the People’s Temple and she was sent to jail, bailed out by her mother and other People’s Temple counselors.

         “Jim came back in town the following weekend and chastised me for being arrested by the police department, which made him look bad.  I was angry because I didn’t feel this man had any right to talk to me as if I were a child.”

Smart decided to find out the truth about the People’s Temple by becoming a counselor on the People’s Temple Planning Commission.  The Planning Commission, in which her uncle and mother were counselors, was created to look out for the members and their best interests.  Smart knew that in order for her to be a counselor on the Planning Commission she had to gain trust.    

         It was around this time that the couple decided to leave.  Smart helped David leave, hoping he would prepare a place for both of them so she could also defect.
         “We had a little secret hideout place where we’d meet.  It’s like seeking asylum after defecting from Russia or something.  It’s very strange.”
         The last straw was when, during a planning commission meeting in Los Angeles, a young woman was brought up on the floor and accused of wrongdoing.  She was told to undress.
         “We were expected to ridicule her and her body.  I felt her humiliation as I am sure many others who were there did.”

         The next thing on the agenda was to accuse David of tapping Father’s telephone lines.  Someone questioned Smart if she thought what Wise did was wrong.  Her response:  “If he tapped Father’s phone then I guess he was wrong.”  She was immediately verbally attacked for not believing that Wise tapped Jones’s phone lines.  The verbal attack lasted for hours until Smart broke down and cried. 

         “Jim said, ‘Nell, what’s wrong?’  (I said) ‘I want out.  I don’t believe in this.’  He whispered something to somebody.  They came back with a gun and placed my fingerprints on this gun. I assumed it was to blackmail me, to accuse me of something in case I said anything negative about the church.  Everybody gasped.  Jim said ‘You don’t think I gave her a loaded gun, do you?’”  The gun, supplied by Uncle Mac was placed in a plastic bag.”       

         At first, Jones told Smart she’d have to live at least 100 miles away from the People’s Temple if she wanted to defect.  Smart responded that Los Angeles was her home and she would not leave.  Jones then told Smart he would allow her to leave if she signed custody of her minor children to him:  Tinetra Ladese Fain, 20; Alfred Smart Jr., 18; Scottie Smart, 15; and Teri Lynn Smart, 14.  Smart agreed to it knowing the signed piece of paper would have no validity in a court of law.  She then contacted an attorney friend who knew a judge and had the custody of the children given to their father. 

The People’s Temple was moving to Guyana, South America at Jim Jones’s orders to escape the racism in America.  It was to be a slow migration.  Small groups of people were going to Guyana, South America to clear and develop the 900 acres in the rainforests for the others.  Smart’s mother and eldest daughter were already there.

         “I later went to Guyana with my three younger children because they wanted to go.  I wanted to see what it was like.  I felt that it was okay for my children.  It just was not my lifestyle.”
              In hindsight there were warning signs but at the time Smart did not see them as warning signs or didn’t see it as something that would wrongly affect the community. 
“It was obvious that Jim’s drug abuse had dragged this once-dynamic speaker to the level of those he pulled from the streets.” 

         Sometime later, on November 18, 1978 USA time, Smart received a phone call from friend Hugh Forson at 7 a.m. while in bed.  He was still a part of the church, but was visiting San Francisco at the time.     
         “He said, ‘Nell, don’t worry everything is okay.’  I hung up the phone and (thought) what is he talking about?  I called him back and he said that Ryan was shot.  So I turned the news on.  It’s all a blur.”

         Before California Congressman Leo Ryan and his party could board a plan leaving Jonestown in Guyana, South America to the United States, Jim Jones’s men shot and killed Ryan, NBC Newsman Bob Brown, NBC Correspondent Don Harris, Examiner photographer Greg Robinson, and defector Patricia Park.  



     Smart’s mother, uncle, and four children were among the 900-plus people who died by drinking or being injected with Purple Kool-Aid laced with potassium chloride and potassium cyanide.  Two United States military cargo planes flew in to bring back the bodies, now swollen and rotted, to grieving relatives.  Those unidentified were buried in a mass grave in Oakland, California marked by a headstone.  

“I believe my children and my mother were all together.  I don’t think my two sons took it willingly.  My sons did not believe in what was going on as much as the girls did.”

         Smart had her children and mother cremated.  Their ashes are in urns hidden away in her closet.  Smart has made plans to be cremated upon death, her ashes mixed in with those in the urns, and then scattered into the Pacific Ocean. 

         Since that day in 1978, Smart has had time for reflection.  She has also moved from California to Jones’s hometown Indianapolis, Indiana, due to her job.  She retired from the Federal Government after 30 years of service. 

         Smart now works part time as a pharmacy technician, surrounds herself with supportive friends, and lives with her rat terrier Sydney.  For fun, she does makeovers on her house, bowls, and reads.  Smart has found a safe place in her life – which includes living alone.  Smart also spends time with other ex-members of the People’s Temple.  With them, questions can be raised without fear.  There is strong healing within the group, but the one thing the group cannot decide upon is the issue of brainwashing.  

         “Were we brainwashed in People’s Temple?  That bone of contention is, was and will forever be.  As for my view, I don’t think that any layperson can explain brainwashing anymore than they can explain being in love.  What I am reasonably sure of is that it was not the matter of brainwashing that ruffled feathers, but rather the statement that one must take responsibility for one’s own actions.  I believe each of us wants to think of ourselves as a good person, so it is hard to admit that any bad deeds done while in People’s Temple could have been done by that good person.  We think we are.  The only way to accept that is to believe that we must have been brainwashed.  And if we have to bear the responsibility for our actions, does that not also mean that each of us is in part responsible for what happened on November 18?”

         Despite the debate, meeting with the group on a regular basis has been a healing experience for Smart.  She began meeting with the group in 1998, twenty years after the massacre, and now feels less guilt and secure with her feelings.  She finds the group to be a haven.

         The lessons Smart learned through this experience she believes is the same lesson that all civilizations have learned - that when a person or group of persons are at their most vulnerable they should attach themselves to a group that has a positive impact and uplifts them.  Smart also believes that African Americans (who made up 80% of the membership) were at their most vulnerable and taken in by Jim Jones. 

         “People still haven’t learned through history how not to have wars.  I don’t think people will learn, not enough to make a difference.”
         Smart still believes Jim Jones did want to make a positive difference, but that he could not handle the power that he attained.  He believed he had the power to be all things to all people.  In order to maintain this power and this way of thinking he took drugs.   
         “I would not describe him as an evil person, but a person mentally and physically impaired by drugs.”

         On May 29, 2011 Smart witnessed the dedication ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California.  Four panel plaques listing the names of all those who died were placed over the mass grave of 412 unclaimed bodies.  Smart gave a speech during the dedication.

         “Thirty-two years, six months, one week and five days ago, none of us thought we would be here to dedicate four memorial plaques to over 900 people, family, friends, children, loved ones.  No did 11,881 days ago did my four children – Tinetra Fain, Al Smart, Scott Smart, Teri Smart – my mother Kay Nelson and my uncle Jim McElvane know that we would be here dedicating four memorial stones.  To them, I say that I’m sorry it took so long.  This should have happened a long time ago. 



         I find it difficult to speak at any length about my family, especially my children, but I’d kind of like to say something about some of the other children that were in the LA Temple. 

     I often think about little Gary Tyler.  He really wasn’t little, but he was a teenager in the LA Temple, and very quiet, very shy, but extremely smart and very dedicated.  There was Darrell Devers who I secretly had hoped would be my son-in-law one day, not that I was unhappy with the choice my daughter made with Poncho.  Poncho had a beautiful voice.  The day I was over there, I went over with my two – three younger children, and of course, I think we all know the talent shows that Jonestown is famous for, and People’s Temple, and Poncho sang “The Greatest Love,” and there were so many years after that I could not listen to that song, until one day, I accidentally heard the last few lines, that said, “Ad if by chance that special place that you’ve been dreaming of, leads you to a lonely place, find your strength in love.”  And I hope that they did.

         I didn’t realize that Poncho had living family until today, and his brother is here, and I was so happy to meet him.

         I don’t know how many of you know the Baisy children – there were a lot of them – but they were so well behaved and they used to kind of look like little ducklings following behind their mother.  

     And there was Angela Connessero.  Little baby, beautiful little baby, and I used to sit and hold her and rock her to sleep.

         We knew these children.  (Pause)  They were no different than other children.  They had the same dreams, the same hopes, the same problems, but they had one thread running through them that was consistent, and that was, they all wanted a better wor4ld for everyone.  And they were steadfast in that desire, some even more so than their adult counterparts.

         There are a number of children buried here who have been – who were not identified.  Among them are Teri and Scottie, my two youngest.  Now with these four markers and all the names, they are no longer unidentified or unclaimed.  We know that they’re here, they’re named, and after all these years, I realized there was something I need to do, wanted to do, and didn’t know what it was.  I want us to say goodbye.  And now I can.  By Mom.  Bye Uncle Jim.  And by my beautiful children. Thank you.”

Despite the horrific loss of her four children, mother, and uncle, and the destruction of her church, as well as the egomania of Jim Jones, Smart still believes in a Supreme Being but she refuses to call that Supreme Being by the name God.

         “I would never call Him God because there’s been too many horrible things done in the name of God.  They cannot tarnish that (Supreme Being) name.  And that makes me feel better.”





PHOTO 1
Jim Jones.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.  

PHOTO 2
Juanell Smart at home on February 19, 2010.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 3.
Teri Lynn Smart.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 4.
James “Jim” McElvane.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 5..
Kay Nelson in Washington, D.C. 1972.  Copyright by Juanell Smart. 

PHOTO 6.
Jim Jones preaching in Los Angeles.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu
 
PHOTO 7.
Jim Jones preaching in Redwood Valley, California in 1971. Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 8.
Alfred Laughton Smart.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 9.
Tinetra Fain.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 10.
Scott Cameron Smart.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 11.
Kay Nelson as a young woman.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 12.
From left to right top:
Kim Uneii - murdered in Jonestown
John-John Stoen (baby being held by Uneii) - murdered in Jonestown
Phil Lacey - survivor. His mother and sister were murdered in Jonestown
Dorothy Buckley - murdered in Jonestown
Name withheld - survivor
Darrin Swinney - murdered in Jonestown
From left to right bottom:
Danny Beck - murdered in Jonestown
Steve Burnham - survivor
Martin Amos - murdered in Jonestown
Danny Pierson - believed to have survived, but whereabouts unknown
Darrin Janaro - murdered in Jonestown
Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 13.
Jim Jones baptizing a church member.  Fair Use Under the Untied States Copyright Law.

PHOTO 14
Kay Nelson.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 15.
David Parker Wise.  Jim Jones preaching in Los Angeles.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 16.
The People’s Temple in Los Angeles.  Attributed to Lela Howard.  Jim Jones preaching in Los Angeles.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 17.
Kay Nelson.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 18.
Jim Jones.  Attributed to Nancy Wong.  Jim Jones preaching in Los Angeles.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 19.
James “Jim” McElvane.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 20.
Jim Jones preaching.  Jim Jones preaching in Los Angeles.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 21.
Jim Jones with toucan in Jonestown Guyana, South America.  Photo taken from 1974 to 1978 time frame. The California Historical Society (CHS) is providing access to these photos for educational and research purposes.  www.californiahistoricalsociety.org

PHOTO 22.
Jim Jones.  Copyright Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

PHOTO 23.
Peoples Temple youth including Scott Smart, Eleanor Beam, Teri Smart, Tommy Beikman, Al Smart, sitting on the porch of the house in Georgetown.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 24.
Tinetra Fain in Jonestown 1978.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 25.
Jim Jones.  Photo taken on November 18, 1978. Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 26.
NBC reporter Don Harris (left) and S.F. Examiner photographer Greg Robinson (right) were filmed by NBC cameraman Robert Brown just minutes before all three were killed. (NBC / Chronicle File 1978).  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

PHOTO 27.
Leo J. Ryan, D-Calif., left, and three newsmen were killed in an ambush in northern Guyana on Nov. 18, 1978, after visiting the jungle headquarters of a controversial American religious sect. The others are Don Harris, an investigative Reporter for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles; Robert Brown, a cameraman with NBC news; and Greg Robinson, a photographer with the San Francisco Examiner.  Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law.

PHOTO 28
Patricia Parks. Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 29.
November 18, 1978.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use
by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 30.
Alfred Laughton Smart.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 31.
Kay Nelson, Tinetra Fain, Terri Lynn Smart in Washington D.C. 1972.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 32.
Juanell Smart.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 33.
The entrance to Jonestown.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 34 and PHOTO 37.
Jim Jones on November 18, 1978. Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 35.
Juanell Smart on May 2011.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 36.
Jim Jones in blue shirt surrounded by members of the People’s Temple.  The California Historical Society (CHS) is providing access to these photos for educational and research purposes.  www.californiahistoricalsociety.org

PHOTO 38.
Juanell Smart giving her speech at the dedication ceremony in Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California.  May 29, 2011.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 39.
Tinetra Fain in Jonestown, 1978.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 40.
Kay Nelson in Johnstown, Guyana, South America.  1978.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 41.
James “Jim” McElvane.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 42.
Jim Jones with the Children of the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, South America. Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 43.
Tinetra Fain, smiling and sitting on floor with blue shirt, against Poncho Johnson’s legs.   1978 in Jonestown, Guyana, South America.  Copyright by Juanell Smart. 

PHOTO 44.
Kecia Basey. Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu
 
PHOTO 45.
Jonestown 1978 Dawnyelle Fitch, Tad Schroeder, Jamal Baisy Playing. Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 46.
Precious babies of Jonestown.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 47.
Children of Jonestown.  Photo originally placed in Jonestown brochure.  Tape transcripts, summaries, some primary source documents, and photographs not otherwise designated as copyrighted on this site are free and available to the public for use by crediting: The Jonestown Institute, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu

PHOTO 48.
Juanell Smart giving her speech at the dedication ceremony in Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California.  May 29, 2011.  Copyright by Juanell Smart.

PHOTO 49.
Memorial gravesite for the unclaimed bodies (and all the names) of the victims of the Jonestown mass killing in 1978. Evergreen Cemetery, Oakland, California.  Attributed to Mercurywoodrose.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

PHOTO 50.
Juanell Smart.  Copyright by Juanell Smart. 

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