From left are Rev. Ed Norwood, Dr. E. Faye Williams, Martin Luther King III, Dr. Randall Maxey, and Pastor Jynona Norwood. (Courtesy photo)

Pastor Jynona Norwood  and Martin Luther King III Dedicate “Cherishing the Children Jonestown Memorial Wall”


November 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the mass murders in Jonestown, Guyana.  The horror of that tragic event in 1978, where more than 600 adults, 300 youngster and 40 infants died, lingers strong in the memories of many, especially Inglewood Pastor Jynona Norwood.

Norwood, who leads Faith I AM Center, had rescued her young son from the cult, yet she and her family still lost 27 loved ones. In fact, her relatives were the youngest, a two-months-old baby; the second oldest, her 90-years-old cousin; and the most family members to perish at Jonestown.  The loss of so many lives and innocent youth weighed heavily on Norwood and she decided to do something about it.

In 1979, she established the Jonestown Memorial Services and years later, launched a fundraising campaign to construct memorials in San Francisco and Oakland in remembrance of the victims.  Officially called “The Cherishing the Children Jonestown Memorial Wall,” the portable structure was unveiled on Nov. 18, during the annual service held at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California where 406 victims are buried, mostly innocent children.

The wall lists the names of all of the Jonestown victims, except Jim Jones and his executioners, along with photos and ages of the children who died in the tragedy.

Speaking with deep emotion, Norwood said, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again. The children’s lives were crushed; their dreams were crushed to earth.  Through ‘The Cherishing the Children Memorial Wall,’ their lives have taken power to speak truth to future generations. The cherishing the innocent children’s wall of healing and love raises them from the pain of obscurity.”

Dr. E. Faye Williams, CEO of the National Congress of Black Women and an appointee of former President Barack Obama to the Presidential Scholars Commission, joined Norwood at the ceremony as well as Dr. Randall Maxey, a noted Inglewood physician; and civil rights advocate Martin Luther King, Jr. III, who emphasized the important role of young people.

Norwood and King share a hug during the ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California on Nov. 18.  (Courtesy photo)

“It is our young people we all should live for, they are our greatest commodity; our children are our most precious resource. We are here to say today that their lives mattered and yes, they do indeed have a very important legacy,” insisted King.

“But we are here today to mourn the loss of all of the precious children of every race who perished in the mass murder at Jonestown.  We have come here to dedicate this ‘cherishing the innocent children wall’ of healing and love as a testament of hope,” he added. “Let it symbolize our determination to put an end to the brutalization of children.”

Norwood also received several letters of support and certificates of appreciation for her efforts to commemorate those who died at Jonestown.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote, “We must never forget that tragic event. For those of us who were around at that time, the memorial will serve as a constant reminder that while the pain of losing a loved one never fades, it must also arouse in us the desire to do good each day of our lives.”

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi stated, “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.”

Former President Bill Clinton said, “My prayers are with everyone gathered…I know that your service will be an inspiring memorial to those who lost their lives so senselessly at Jonestown.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote, “We must never forget that tragic event. For those of us who were around at that time, the memorial will serve as a constant reminder that while the pain of losing a loved one never fades, it must also arouse in us the desire to do good each day of our lives.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who issued to Norwood a Certificate of Congressional Recognition, said, “In recognition of Jonestown’s 40th anniversary service, thank you for your commitment to honoring the lives of the children who died, through the Children Jonestown Memorial Wall.”

Also, Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts presented a special commendation citing, “Your commitment and dedication in honoring the victims and ensuring that their memory remains alive, are worthy of the highest regard. As you unveil the Cherishing the Children Memorial, may it comfort the families to know that their families will always be cherished, revered and remembered.”

In her remarks at the ceremony, Norwood said, “As stewards of God’s kingdom, it is our duty to protect our children and to ensure that tragedies like Jonestown never happen again.  With this wall, we lift kindness, we lift up love, we lift up brotherhood and sisterhood, we lift up our role as providers and protectors, as people of God whose mission is to save our children and protect our children.

“This wall will bring people together to remember so that the horrors of the past won’t be repeated because our core values are higher that the evils that brought these living souls down. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”