Sikivu Hutchinson, acclaimed author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics & Values Wars and Godless Americana: Race & Religious Rebels, examined the Jonestown Massacre through the lenses of race, religiosity, white supremacy and patriarchy and the result is a fascinating read.
On November 19, 1978, charismatic and psychotic cult leader Jim Jones, orchestrated the largest mass suicide in modern history. After drinking a fatal cocktail of punch and cyanide, 918 people lay dead. What is not widely discussed, as Hutchinson notes, is that a disproportionate number of the deceased were Black women.
“About 75% of Peoples Temple members were African American, 20% were white and 5% were Asian, Latino and Native American,” writes Hutchinson. “The majority of its black members were women, while its core leadership was predominantly white. As per the cultural cliché, black women like [sole Jonestown survivor Hyacinth] Thrash were “the backbone” of Peoples Temple, the primary victims of Jonestown, and the population with the deepest investment in the philosophy, ethos and mission of the church.”
Peoples Temple was established by Jones in Indiana, eventually spreading its reach to San Francisco, before ultimately uprooting to Guyana to avoid government persecution for its communist views. Jones represented the White messiah for many of these women, who had been raised in Pentecostal churches where White Jesus reigned supreme.
Why is it that Black women fall prey to organized religion steeped in racism, patriarchy and White supremacy? Why is it that a religion admittedly used to psychologically enslave the minds of Black bodies already in bondage during the slave trade is still positioned as a central tenet of Black America?
Hutchinson discusses the phenomenon more in her article Why Did So Many Black Women Die? Jonestown at 35:
According to a 2012 Kaiser Foundation/Washington Postpoll, black women are among the most steadfastly religious groups in the nation. Only 2% said that being religious was not important to them at all (compared to 15% of white men), while 74% said that it was extremely important. Numerous surveys have touted the decline of American religiosity within the past decade and yet, in an era of black economic depression, the need to be devout or churched-up has not diminished for most African-American women, despite the often patriarchal, heterosexist orientation of the Black Church.
The widening wealth gap between blacks, whites and Latinos, coupled with the downward mobility of the black middle class, only amplifies the role of religion in black life. Because charismatic faith movements thrive in the presence of socioeconomic and political turbulence black religiosity is flourishing (as the breakout popularity of the new reality show Preachers of L.A. attests).
Peoples Temple rose to prominence in San Francisco during the turbulence of the post-civil rights, post-Black Power, post-Vietnam War era. A self-proclaimed Marxist who fetishized black liberation struggle, Jim Jones actively courted the support and approval of the Bay Area liberal political establishment. He skillfully mined the language of social justice, racial equality and anti-sexism in an era in which disillusion with the possibility of freedom from institutional oppression ran high.
Read more of Hutchinson’s article here.
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1. The Hotness
People magazine released their "Sexiest Man Alive" list with "The Voice" judge Adam Levine taking the #1 spot for 2013 (really!?). Even though some of our favorites like Idris Elba and Pharrell were sprinkled throughout the list, we can't help but think of all the other sexy Black men in Hollywood. From Columbus Short to Michael B. Jordan and of course Denzel, click on to see the hotness and get ready to swoon!
2. Michael B. Jordan
Number one was a no brainer. I mean, have you SEEN "The Wire" and "Fruitvile Station"? Sheesh! Although Mike snagged number one, number two is close behind..
3. Columbus Short
*Sigh* Columbus Short a.k.a Harrison. Our favorite Gladiator, aside from Olivia, of course. Now the question is, Shonda, when is Harrison going to have a love interest on "Scandal" and how do I audition for the part? Just saying..
4. Jay Ellis
Jay Ellis is a newbie to the Hollywood scene but he's definitely making a staple as one of the hottest black men in Hollywood! That smile? Good Lord.
5. Michael Ealy
Get lost in Michael Ealy's eyes ladies. It's something about those blue eyes! Not to mention, I love a man with a scruffy beard! Not debatable.
6. Trey Songz
7. Idris Elba
Idris Elba!! A man with a British accent? Automatically qualifies as a hottie. No debates here.
8. Isaiah Mustafa
Say heeelloooo to the Old Spice guy (from the Old Spice commercials)! I don't even use the men's product but I'll buy whatever he's selling!
9. Derrick Rose
Not exactly Hollywood, but Derrick Rose deserves a mention on this list. Wouldn't you agree?
Skateboard P gives us sexy sounds, style and seriously, does this man age!? Sheesh!
Tip, you sir, are fine.
12. Charles Michael Davis
The sexy stare that this "Greys Anatomy" star launches into? Man, listen...
13. Colin Kapernick
Those arms! Who can really focus on the game?
Oh, hey Nelly. Who knew you had all those abs in those jeans?!
Nas still looks as great as he did when he was in his 20s!
16. Terrence J
Nothing like a man that's gorgeous AND super successful! Television host, actor and now author? What CAN'T Terrence J do?
17. Lenny Kravitz
Love the whole rocker thing Lenny Kravtiz has going on!
18. Will Smith
The "Fresh Prince" is aging quite nicely if you ask me!
19. Kendrick Lamar
Just because he's killing everybody in the rap game right now. My opinion. No debates lol.
20. Lance Gross
Tall, dark and handsome. Hey Lance Gross!
21. Reggie Bush
Kim Kardashian let a fine one get away! Reggie's muscles are chiseled from the gods!
22. Damon Wayans Jr.
Damon. Wayans. Junior. Who. Knew.
23. Mechad Brooks
Seriously, have you seen this man's Calvin Klein ads?
Miguel is absolutely adorable!
You may or may not like Future's style, but let's just stand back and admire his chiseled face and high cheek bones!
26. A$AP Rocky
Say what you want about A$AP, but he's beautiful! Especially when he decides to cut his braids!
27. Boris Kodjoe
One of the few that can actually pull off the bald look and we've never heard German sound so smooth as it does when this native speaks it!
28. Shemar Moore
Shemar's been looking good for decades!
29. Tyson Beckford
The body? Those lips? Tyson Beckford's hot-factor needs little explanation.
30. President Barack Obama
Yes, that's our President! Not exactly a man in Hollywood but he deserves a mention anyway just for being him - great father, husband and the hottest President EVER!
Usher, you're fine.
32. Jesse Williams
Lawd... I could stare into those blues eyes all day.
33. Laz Alonso
Well, hello there!
34. Pooch Hall
Everyone fell in love with Pooch Hall as Derwin on "The Game" and for good reason too!
You must admit that Drizzy cleans up nicely in a suit and tie!
36. Denzel Washington
Had to throw Denzel in the list for everybody's mom and auntie! LOL
37. Luke James
With songs like "Make Love To Me" this crooner who opened up for Beyonce has some sultry tunes, and he just so happens to be easy on the eyes too!
38. Lamman Rucker
39. Blair Underwood
Wish we saw more of Blair on the big screen!
40. Taye Diggs
Taye made a few women want to get their grove back with that perfect smile!
41. John Legend
Love a man that can sing!
Gotta love an intellectual man!
Whether he's rocking a full 'Fro or a shorter crop Maxewell always brings the sexy.
44. Morris Chestnut
Thanks to this hottie, I can not WAIT to see "The Best Man Holiday!"
Ludacris has stepped it all the way up since he's started his acting career! Well, hello!
46. Mack Wilds (Tristian Wilds)
Might be a little young for some, but quite a cutie nonetheless!
47. J. Cole
Yup, crooked smile and all!
Unfortunately, we haven't heard much from Jeremih lately but we could never forget how gorgeous he is!
49. Brian White
Brian White, yes! NFL player turned actor.. we see you!
50. Terrence Howard
Terrence Howard definitely deserves a mention!
51. Derek Luke
52. Andre 3000
Last, but certainly not least, Mr. Andre 3 Stacks! Just because he's so darn fly!