Tag Archives: Phil Africa

Remembering Phil Africa


Saturday, January 31, 2015, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Kingsessing Recreation Center, Philadelphia, PA

Mama Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE Organization’s house on Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia, addressed the hundreds of friends and supporters in the audience who had come from across the country to the Kingsessing Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to pay respects to MOVE Nine Member and New Ancestor Phil Africa on this cold Saturday afternoon, January 31, 2015.

“A lot of people have come up to MOVE People and asked us how we’re doing, are we okay.  Of course we grieve the loss of our brother.  John Africa [MOVE’s late founder, who died in the May 13, 1985 bombing of MOVE’s Osage Avenue house – Editor] has taught us that we are living beings, we’re alive, we have feelings.  So, we can be hurt, our feelings can be hurt.  But one thing is for sure, we can be hurt but we won’t be stopped.  And that’s what’s important.

“Phil touched the lives of so many people, and we got so many responses, so many statements, that we just can’t read them all. … But meanwhile, what we’re going to do is let you know how people, all across the globe, feel about Phil Africa.”

Mike Africa was born in prison, the son of Mike Africa Sr. and Debbie Africa of the MOVE Nine.  He has spoken about growing up the son of two Political Prisoners and how that legacy has guided his steps as he has grown to become a father himself.  He and Sis. Rain Africa, one of the Next Generation of the Youth of the MOVE Organization known as the “Seeds of the Seeds”, along with a Brother from Friends of MOVE New York, served as the emcees for the event.

I entered the hall to the sound of the tribute to Phil Africa from the world’s most famous Political Prisoner, Veteran of the Black Panther Party and longtime MOVE supporter, Mumia Abu-Jamal:

[col. writ. 1/10/15] © ’15 Mumia Abu-Jamal

He was born William Phillips, on Jan. 1, 1956, but few people called him by that name.

Most people knew him as Phil, and after joining the revolutionary naturalist MOVE organization in the early 1970s, most called him Phil Africa.

He was part of the confrontation of Aug. 8, 1978, in Philadelphia, where nearly a

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal

dozen MOVE members were charged in connection with that conflict, in which a cop likely died from friendly fire – but MOVE members were charged.

Among them, Phil Africa. Phil was among 9 MOVE men and women charged with murder, and convicted in a hotly disputed trial, of third degree murder. So disputed, in fact, that several days after the trial, Judge Edwin Malmed would admit, in a locally broadcast interview, that he “Hadn’t the faintest idea” (his very words) …who killed the cop.

The 9 MOVE members were sentenced to 30 to 100 years: the longest in Pennsylvania history since third-degree became law in PA. Judge Malmed reportedly acknowledged the illegality of such a sentence, telling those sentenced that it may be reversed on appeal, but, for now, it would hold them. It appears Malmed believed the State Appellate courts were fairer than even they believed.

But not to people named Africa it seems.

For today, 37 years after the events of August, 1978, the fact that 7 remaining men and women are still in prison is nothing short of a scandal.

The MOVE men and women should’ve been free, at least 7 years ago, when they reached their minimums.

But this is Pennsylvania, where madness passes as normality.

Phil lost a son back in the mid –‘70s, when police trampled his child, Life Africa.

On May 13, 1985, when the police bombed a MOVE home, another son, Little Phil, was among the 11 people shot and burned to death.

Phil was an extremely talented artist and painter. He was a man with a gift of lightness, a witty sense of humor, and an ever-present smile.

Phil Africa, MOVE member, will be long loved and remembered by his wife, Janine Africa, by his brothers and sisters in MOVE, and by many, many prisoners across the state, whom he counseled over the years.

Phil lived through 59 cycles of planet earth, before being returned to his Mother.

From Prison Nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Mike Africa read the following statement from MOVE Nine Political Prisoner Debbie Africa just after I entered the hall. 

Remembering Phil
The one thing that always stands out in my mind when I think about Phil is his urgency to be family to all of us in MOVE and those outside of MOVE that love MOVE.  No matter what he was doing, if you needed his attention, he was there.  Phil always had an ear for anybody who needed to talk.  Phil always had a hope for anybody who needed a strong arm.  There was no time that was not the correct time to talk to Phil.  No matter what, he would drop what he was doing and make you his priority.  Long Live John Africa.  Phil was always ready to feed people MOVE’s Law, no matter who or what you are.  Black, White, Puerto Rican, French or German, always ready to encourage people with MOVE belief whether the garbage man, lawyer, clergy, or cops.  He always understood what his purpose was.  What his purpose is.  Everybody knows him.  People even name their sons after him.  He’s the big brother that anybody would want to have.  Phil never passed up an opportunity to talk our Move Nine Debbiebelief to people, and boy did he talk.  I believe that’s another reason we got along so good.  We shared that characteristic, talking.  Janine said, while in prison, Phil earned the respect of many, many inmates and staff alike.  Phil earned respect of prison guards because of his sincere commitment to be right.  Phil commanded the appreciation even from people who weren’t receptive to MOVE’s principles.  They had no choice but to acknowledge that example of loyalty to John Africa.  Phil took a lot of the younger kids in prison under his wing.  Working hard to keep them out of trouble, and steer them in the right direction, away from gang violence, drugs and nonsense.  They loved Phil at Dallas and called him Father Phil.  Phil never misused their trust to ego-trip or lord it over them or others.  Phil always remained humble, to model MOVE’s principle and always acknowledging of the source of his strength and courage: John Africa.  Phil even had time for the older generation in Dallas, making them feel comfortable and young by playing on the Dallas Senior Ball Team with them.  Everybody who came in contact with Phil loved him, as he left a vibration of courage and determination stamped on the hearts of all who loved him.  That vibration will live forever in us, as Phil will live forever, for Phil is with Mama and Mama will always be.  Ona Move!  Long live the Power that pulls all things together.  Long Live John Africa.

Suzanne Ross, New York Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, made reference to one of Phil’s paintings, a lion with the caption “Real Power”, which she dubbed a self-portrait.  She never met Phil personally, but she exchanged many letters with him and he sent paintings to her.  “Phil knew that the deranged police and correctional officers, as much harm as they did, did not represent real power.  Phil’s revolutionary love and power was the kind of power we appreciate and support.  When I think of Phil’s passing I think in ultimate, extreme terms.  Good versus evil, love versus vengeance, revolution versus reaction.  Phil and MOVE represent [this] in all the positive ways and the System in all the opposite.  When my granddaughter, who is twelve years old, heard Phil had passed, she burst into tears and she said, ‘He never even belonged there in the first place!’  And the outrage of someone who never belonged there in the first place, and then ‘mysteriously dies’, is very hard, in just the simplest concept of justice, to accept.”

Ann Lamb, New York City Jericho Movement, shared her pain and her love with the crowd.  “It is really, really devastating [to have heard] that Phil had passed the night before, because there is no excuse for it, there is no reason for it to have happened, and it is really, really painful to stand up here and talk. … I never actually met Phil, but we corresponded for many years, and he did send me many of his paintings … and I extend from the Jericho Movement to the entire MOVE Family our sincerest love for what you are going through right now, and we will continue to support you, and all US-held Political Prisoners, until everyone is home, and everyone is free.  Because there is no alternative.”

Baba Karim, a longtime supporter and ally of MOVE, read a letter from Delbert Africa, another member of the MOVE Nine who was famously, and brutally, beaten by Philadelphia police as he was being arrested at the end of the 1978 police assault.  He began with the reading of the letter:

Delbert Africa being beaten by Philadelphia police, August 8, 1978.

Delbert Africa being beaten by Philadelphia police, August 8, 1978.

Ona MOVE!  Long Live John Africa’s Revolution!  Long Stand Phil Africa’s revolutionary example. … I’m in a state of shock, but handling those troubles as I know Phil would.  Working hard, keeping mind and body busy, so as not to [brood on] a lot of questions.  That way can only lead to depression, ultimately stopping work.  And that’s what the demon wants, to stop those working to revolute this foul system. … Yeah, it’s rough right about now, but Mama ain’t gonna put up no barriers in our way towards freedom.  It’s this damn System that took Phil away from us too soon, way too soon.  I can feel the void, you know.  I try to keep all the good times in mind, so as not to get too sad.  You do the same, Old Soldier. … I can handle whatever they come up with as long as I hold tight to MOVE Law. … With a warm revolutionary hug, and a sharp salute of solidarity, Ona MOVE Karim, Stay strong.  Delbert Africa.  Long Live John Africa Forever!

Baba Karim spoke of his experience meeting MOVE in prison and being impressed that none of the MOVE members were ever depressed, despite the fact that “everybody knows that MOVE didn’t kill that cop”, there were “nine MOVE members [who] were innocent in jail, they’re innocent!  They didn’t do nothing but try to protect their family, defend themselves against the brutal-ass police force headed by [police commissioner and future mayor Frank] Rizzo.”  About Phil specifically, “his dedication, his commitment, his honesty, his sincerity, being lighthearted all the time, is an example that we can all learn from.”

Paulette Dauteuil, National Jericho Movement, shared greetings from former Political Prisoner Larry Butler and current Political Prisoner Tom Manning.  She then added her own comments: “It is an example that we on the outside need to take.  As Safiya [Bukhari, former Political Prisoner, Veteran of the Black Panther Party and Founder of the Jericho Movement who became an Ancestor in 2003] said, we have to pick up this work to free our Prisoners. … There should be a thousand people sitting in this room for Phil.  [There were several hundred as it was – Editor.]  It’s great that we’re all here, but with the work we do, we need to embrace and organize more people.  So please, if nothing else, take Phil’s philosophy, and talk to people, and help people understand the lives of our Political Prisoners are at stake every day they are [inside those walls].”

Do Right Ministries supports prisoners in several Pennsylvania prisons.  Elder Lee G. Farrell sent a message of solidarity that was relayed by Mike Africa.  Elder Farrell had met Phil and Delbert while visiting his nephew Gabriel Pitman at SCI Dallas, where Phil and Delbert were being held.  He shared letters with Phil over the years and buried some of them under a tree in South Sudan to “spread his DNA in the Motherland.”  Mike Africa then read a poem Elder Farrell had sent him from Gabriel Pitman:

Bro. Phil, True Revolutionary
Mama called, and I answered.
Don’t y’all grieve for me.
As I lived life, so too I embrace death.
Free, able to see deep within, far beyond and far behind
These bars of steel and brick that bind
Lies Mama’s essence.
Just look around.  Can you see?  Can you feel the blessings of her presence?
If not, my sympathies are for you.
‘Cause truly you use her goodness for bad.
Living life in fear of losing things you never had,
And never will.
As your freedom, justice and equality
Are premised on all the people you’ve killed.
Liberty for all, it’s just an illusion.
That’s why, as I lived life, so too I’m choosing to die.
Free, in Revolution!  Yes, the whole damn system is guilty as hell.
Through our lives, this is proved.
So while the system dies, in fear of its self-made hell,
We’ll live life free, faithfully, forever.
January 10, 2015 to Infinity
For Rebel Phil, for Sista Merle, and the whole MOVE Family,
Your light shines on forever.
A Messenger, 2015, a.k.a. Gabriel R. Pitman.
Long Live Phil Africa!

Kevin Gilroy, representing the Partisan Defense Committee, made a statement in support of MOVE, recounting the history of MOVE’s longtime conflict with the Philadelphia police that culminated in the 1978 police assault on the MOVE House in Powelton Village that led to the MOVE Nine’s imprisonment and the subsequent 1985 bombing of the Osage Avenue MOVE House that killed six adults and five children.

Sis. Taina Asili, New York-based vocalist and longtime supporter of MOVE, sang a beautiful and moving song she had dedicated to MOVE, Mumia and Political Prisoners, including Phil Africa, titled “Prison Break”.  Videos of her performances of “Prison Break” can be seen on YouTube, as well as on the full video of this event at MOVE’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/picturethestruggle.

Sis. Basiymah Muhammad-Bey, Longtime MOVE Supporter and Former Assistant President-General, UNIA-ACL, brought “warm greetings of revolutionary struggle.”  She met Phil Africa at age 17 during the Powelton Village police siege when her mother insisted they bring water to the MOVE Family as the police were trying to starve them out.  “She made us have an assembly line where we organized cases of water and we brought it to the compound. … We are under attack … and we have to help each other pull ourselves up.  Some of us are a little tougher than others.  But from what we see going on right now … all of Ferguson, all of New York, all of the world rising against the injustices to our people, and we are left to still tumble harder to Free ‘Em All!  So in the midst of all the storm that’s going on, look at MOVE.  Long Live John Africa!  Still standing strong!  That means something to you when you’re in the field.  I [remember] watching them, and thought that something was mentally wrong with them.  Had no idea that something was mentally wrong with me!  And so I say to my teachers in my school, of course the training that I have received, from MOVE and many others, has allowed my revolutionary fight to be as strong as the [air] that I breathe!”

Zack Africa, MOVE Family Member, presented a Slide Show he produced in honor of Phil Africa.

Sue Africa, MOVE’s first Minister of Confrontation, made some extensive comments, which we excerpt here: “I’m going to start out today by reading a quote from a book titled Strategic Revolution from John Africa because Phil is a true revolutionary, still revoluting, generating and moving. … To quote John Africa:

John Africa

John Africa

MOVE is strong-willed, clear-visioned, one-minded, true in dedication.  MOVE don’t stagger, waver or stumble or fall short.  With the MOVE Organization, a step forward is a step gained, and a step lost for the System, because the MOVE Organization will not take a step back.  Our aim is revolution, our trust is Mama, our drive is consistency, our target is System, and we will not be stopped, for we have the courage of fight, the understanding of true law, and the power of God in both fists.

She went on: “Long Live John Africa!  Like we’ve heard all throughout today, Phil touched a lot of lives.  I have some letters and readings that the inmates at Dallas with Del and Phil wrote.”  She then read a few of those letters, including one from activists at the Bruderhof, one from a MOVE support group in France, words of support from friends with Save the Children in Minneapolis, Minnesota and some remarks from Baba Omar Sadiki, a supporter living in Morocco. 

She finally shared some remarks from fellow MOVE Nine Political Prisoner Eddie Africa:

Eddie Africa

Eddie Africa

Ona MOVE!  My brother Phil is a good man.  A father, a husband, a brother, a good soldier.  I sit here thinking of him and I’m smiling.  I can hear his voice, see his laugh, and it touches me in a good way.  The memories of our brother are countless and I think of them a lot. … At times I would call on his strength.  I would lean on him to get past a particular problem.  He would give me MOVE Law to make me strong.  And his smile showed his love.  We spent a lot of time together and I will hold that time together close to me. … He is not perfect, but he strives for it, as we all did.  His friends are many, prisoners and staff.  They gravitated to Phil.  Some of them not understanding why, as the stories told about us were supposed to turn folks against us.  But the lies that are told don’t match Phil and MOVE’s behavior, how we really are in person. … Phil was taught to revere family.  Life, wherever, whoever it was, without prejudicial characterizations.  Phil’s example is a good one, and instead of feeling down about him, I will use his life to strengthen mine.

Mama Alberta Africa, the wife of The Coordinator, MOVE Founder and Ancestor John Africa, spoke about Phil.  “Phil and I were extremely close.  He always took care and looked out for me. … I have a small quote here from Alphonso Africa.  It’s very small, just one line.  It’s from when he was on trial with The Coordinator.  And Alphonso said, ‘Now, as MOVE Members, we are secure in that we live, so shall we live.’  And I have a little something here from the writings of John Africa:

Everything that is dependable has always been here.  And everything that has always been here stays here.  Because it don’t fail.  You don’t see a thing outside your window that is within the Law of Life that hasn’t always been here.  The sky you see was here for your mother to see.  The sun in the sky was experienced by your grandmother as by you.  The grass that abounds the earth that you walk was witnessed and walked by your grandmother’s mother.  The water that is wet to your touch today was wet to the touch of your parents a zillion years ago and beyond, because the composition of water don’t fail.  The language of life is very plain.  Life plainly states to live, as death plainly states to die.  MOVE don’t have to be fearful of death.  MOVE will never know the suffering of death.  Because our belief is engaged in the principle of life.  All that life just outside your window, that is MOVE Law you’re looking at.  All of that life you see didn’t just happen to be here.  Life is here because life is alive.  MOVE believes in life.  And it ain’t life that disappears.  It is death that will not last in the Law of Life.

Mama Alberta concluded her remarks: “Life is the most powerful thing there is, and Phil Africa is connected to that force, a proven prophet of God, a MOVE Member.  All those involved in interfering with Phil Africa’s work, MOVE’s work, will not be able to will away the suffering they’ve got to do for violating MOVE.  Long Live John Africa.  Long Live MOVE.  Long Live Phil Africa.”

Mike Africa, who had been serving as one of the emcees for this event, took some time to share some remarks of his own.  “All this dates back to ’78 when they arrested Phil and they arrested the MOVE Nine, that started as a result of March 28, 1976, when the police came out there and they killed Phil Africa’s baby [Life Africa, who was knocked out of the arms of his mother, Janine Africa, and died when his head

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

The MOVE Nine after the 1978 assault.

hit the pavement – Editor].  People don’t know that.  Because the police tried to say that the baby didn’t exist because the baby didn’t have a Birth Certificate.  Phil Africa was in prison because of the work to protect our children.  To protect us.  And this is how the System repays people for trying to protect children!  It’s no different than when they killed Jesus Christ, when they were looking for Jesus Christ because they had heard that the Messiah was coming to bring peace.  It’s no different than when they killed Martin Luther King.  It’s no different than the killing of Malcolm X.  Because the System is not here to help us.  It is here to eliminate anybody [that opposes it].  And this family here, this MOVE Organization, is a family, and we’ll work together, and we’ll be close to each other and we will continue to fight this system as Phil Africa did.  Long Live John Africa.  Down with this rotten-ass System.”

There were a few musical performances from supporters of the organization.  Three strong young Brothers from MOVE had formed a group named Raw, and they performed “We Ain’t Crazy” for the appreciative crowd.

Baba I Abdul Jon spoke about his introduction to MOVE and the devotion he has felt toward them ever since: “I was following the MOVE Organization [since] 1976 when they came out with the arms [the famous “Guns on the Porch” incident when MOVE Members stood on the porch of their Powelton Village house with rifles in a show of defiance toward the brutality of the Philadelphia police – Editor].  I thought that was the most amazing, craziest thing I had ever seen in my life.  They were standing their ground with their weapons [saying that] no longer would they allow [police] to come in and beat on them. … It was Phil Africa’s child who was killed [in 1976].  Phil Africa had a child killed prior to August 8, 1978 and on May 13 [1985, the police bombing of the MOVE house on Osage Avenue that killed six adults and five children, among them another of Phil Africa’s children – Editor].  The MOVE Nine is making sacrifices. … If we have to spread some of this work out, people have to start standing up for themselves. … The MOVE Organization is standing up against this government in a manner and way in which nobody has ever done, and in a manner and a way that everybody needs to do.  One of the things that Phil told me is that it only takes a few people. … There’s no compromising with this System because they don’t have anything that they ever offer you.  They don’t have health, they don’t have wealth, they don’t have anything. … It’s just war and murder!”

The Commemoration of Phil Africa.

The Commemoration of Phil Africa’s life at the Kingsessing Recreation Center.

The Daughter of Delbert Africa spoke briefly and shared her feeling with the audience.  She spoke of her connection to Phil and the MOVE family even when she lived in a different world.  “I want you all to know that the movement continues.  It continues whether there’s rhetoric, whether there is marching, poster boards; life lives within.  It was taught and bred in me from the time I was born in Canada till today.  I have never denied my MOVE Family, nor have I denied my lineage, and I make sure that everyone is clear, I am here because of my father, because of what Uncle Phil taught me, because of my mother. … I want you to keep love in your heart. … I’m glad that he existed and he exists still within me.  Ona MOVE.”

Fred, a local supporter, sang a brief song and then he recounted a conversation he once had with Phil.  “I remember trying to express the [pain] I felt from the darkness this System had imposed upon me.  And he stopped me and said, ‘Fred, look.  We all have done bad things.  But when you came to MOVE, and you embraced John Africa’s teachings on life, these things no longer mattered.  Under the System’s influence you had no choice but to be corrupt, and in the dark, because the System is sick and corrupt.  John Africa’s influence is the influence of innocence, truth.  Once you turned around, you started to leave that [corruption] behind, and as long as you stay, work, keep on generating, you only get cleaner, and you leave that darkness behind.’  I never met a man who brought so much light into the darkness.  I love you Phil.  Long Live Revolution.  Long Live John Africa Forever.”

He then read a statement from Kristen Reed, a longtime supporter of MOVE and Mumia who now lives in New Mexico:

The best word I’ve seen in the aftermath of this tragedy that describes Phil’s open and honest demeanor is love. … You knew he would always be there for you. … To try to make sense of such a loss is impossible.  The world has lost one of its strongest, brightest and warmest souls. … Rest in Power, my friend.  You are sorely missed.

Political Prisoner Sundiata Acoli, imprisoned since 1973 as a result of a Shootout with New Jersey police that left Zayid Shakur dead and led to the conviction of himself and Assata Shakur (who subsequently escaped and now lives in Cuba) in the death of police officer Werner Foerster, released a statement through Prison Radio:

I could not have met a better comrade. … Very intelligent, good confidence and courage, yet easygoing and not concerned with his own self-importance.  Or, in other words, a comrade’s comrade, who was too soon transferred to points unknown, but left indelible favorable impressions on me.  And while I’d like to use this occasion to commemorate both the MOVE 11 [who died in the 1985 Osage Avenue bombing – Editor] and the MOVE Nine … we commemorate the dead by remembering them, by honoring them, for as long as one person remembers their name, they yet live.  We commemorate them by remembering and honoring them all, and by coming together, working together with them, for we all know MOVE Political Prisoners want freedom, all Political Prisoners want freedom, and it’s time we brought our Political Prisoners home.  So let’s … get together and make it happen, for MOVE Political Prisoners and all Political Prisoners.  Free them all.  Bring them home.  I thank you.

Mama Pam Africa, President of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal (ICFFMAJ), roused the audience with her usual revolutionary fire: “Phil’s life is an example of resistance, of true resistance.  And you find that in Phil, but you find that in every last MOVE Member. … Everybody talks about the greatness of Phil, and you could talk for hours and never even get to the tip of the iceberg. … When I met MOVE and Phil, I thought that I was coming to help MOVE.  When I saw the confrontation in 1978, ’77, and police had surrounded MOVE, I thought I was out there for me to help them.  But through these years it’s been MOVE Pam Africa 1MOVE helping me, and I want everybody else to understand the battle that the MOVE Organization is doing and waging against this government is for each and every last one of us.  Inside the prison, outside the prison, and when for years, all you hear MOVE speak about is life, about Mama, about the air, the water, the soil, and that is so important.  To fight for these things, the necessities of life, is something that we all must get involved in.  I remember one time, when our sisters were fighting about water the prison, and another Political Prisoner said ‘Y’all are talking about water?  I’m talking about freeing Political Prisoners.’  Well, if you can’t make the connection between water and Political Prisoners … you’re not making the connection at all, because you need water to survive. … My brother Phil died in that prison because he wasn’t supposed to be there.  He was healthy and strong when he went in. … And they write letters about the people that are now dying in prison on a regular basis. … We say ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’; all lives matter! … The same information and love and understanding that people get on the street, is what you get from every last MOVE Member that’s in prison.  We can’t tell you enough what it means to fight for your air, your water and your soil.  That is revolution.  That is protecting yourself. … This system didn’t come after MOVE because MOVE cursed and MOVE demonstrated against Puppy Palace and things like that.  They came after MOVE because MOVE is waking people up about all life.  The Animal Rights Movement now – I learned about animal rights in 1977 when MOVE was battling toe-to-toe about animals that are in prisons, and people who see zoos as a place to go and take your family and think that the animals are doing fine.  Those are concentration camps, death camps, just like the ones that people recognize that people are in inside those prisons.  I’ll never forget, when I first encountered MOVE, they were demonstrating at Puppy Palace. … It’s MOVE who will make you understand about the necessity of life, and if you’re talking about freeing Political Prisoners, all prisoners, you’ve got to take it all the way across the board, or no one’s going to be free.  That’s what John Africa taught us. … The same monster, the same government … the same people that are doing all these things, are the same people that are doing it all the way across the board. … This fight is about each and every last person that’s in this room, and your children, your family. … And I know I appreciate what MOVE has done for me, and my children and what’s continuing to be done for me and my children. … These [people] thought when they dropped the bomb [in 1985], that would be the end of MOVE.  I’ll never forget Rizzo saying the same thing in 1978.  Now he’s gone, all the judges are gone, a lot of the cops are gone, and MOVE is stronger, and these people are getting weaker.  When you saw Occupy, that was their children coming up against them. … When you see ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’, you see their children coming up after them because of the wrong that they do. … You want to do something for Phil?  Do what Phil has done, and what Merle has done. … Stand up, continue to resist, continue to fight. … Let’s get to Philadelphia on that day [May 13, the 30th anniversary of the MOVE bombing on Osage Avenue – Editor], so that we can shut it down.  And we want them to feel us coming. … Ona MOVE, Long Live John Africa, Long Live the Power that pulls all things together.  Ona MOVE!”

Bro. Russell Shoatz, son of Political Prisoner Russell “Maroon” Shoats, followed up Mama Pam’s comments by briefly recounting his own awakening to the importance of MOVE’s decades-long resistance.  “I’m that ignorant kid, I’m that person who didn’t know.  There are still people outside this room, who don’t know.  And Pam is 110% right.  We’re talking about ‘People’s Socialism’ and ‘Maroon the Implacable’, my dad’s new book.  But I remember the conversations about MOVE, about the Africas, that were in prison.  They aren’t crazy!!  Now, the crazy done come full circle now.  Now the crazy’s come so full circle that we’ve got a whole movement talking about People’s Socialism, but they were doing that a long, long, long time ago.  But nobody is pointing back and saying ‘do you remember when MOVE was getting locked up for defending animals and everybody was saying they were crazy?’  Now we’ve got a whole movement, trying to save the planet, White folks, Asian folks, Purple folks, Green folks.  But nobody is saying ‘here’s a whole family that was bombed’ [for taking a similar, uncompromising stand – Editor]. … It ain’t about nothing but freedom.  And these people exemplify freedom.  Behind the walls, and here.  In front of your face.  You want to see freedom?  You want to see life?  Look at MOVE.  You see life.  You see freedom.  Long Live John Africa.  Ona MOVE!”

To close out the event, the Seeds of Wisdom, the MOVE Organization’s original youth group who are now adolescents and young adults, gathered on the stage and recited, in unison, the following creed:

In MOVE Law we trust.
All things in order of life.
The Power of Truth is Final.
Long Live MOVE.
Long Live John Africa’s Revolution.
Long Live John Africa.
Long Live John Africa.
Long Live John Africa.

On Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 12:00 Noon, supporters and activists will gather again to commemorate the 30-Year Anniversary of The May 13 Massacre: The 1985 Bombing of the MOVE Organization by the City of Philadelphia.  The event will be held at First District Plaza, 3801 Market St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  For more details, be sure to visit http://www.onamove.com or the MOVE Facebook page, www.facebook.com/picturethestruggle.




MOVE’s Phil Africa Passes to the Ancestors

Phil Africa, a member of the original MOVE Nine who have been imprisoned since Move Nine Phil 21978 after a highly controversial police assault in West Philadelphia, has died under suspicious circumstances in a Pennsylvania prison hospital.

In the early 1970s, a man once named Vincent Leophart was known for walking the dogs of neighbors in the Powelton Village area of West Philadelphia.  After finding a permanent home for himself, in 1972 he developed a philosophy he called The Guideline, which would become the basis of the principles of the MOVE Organization.  He took the name John Africa, and those who would join MOVE would take the name Africa as a surname, thus establishing themselves as a “family”.  MOVE was often characterized, rather simplistically, as a “back-to-nature”  and “Black liberation” organization, but their membership, while largely Black, also included White and Latino members, and their ideology went beyond just a commitment to natural living, including support of truth-and-justice issues and a consistent stance in opposition to the increasing use of drugs such as Ritalin on school children, issues about which they have regularly warned the public during rallies and teach-ins for decades.

Philadelphia in the 1960s and 1970s was extremely turbulent, as were many urban centers in the United States, as Frank Rizzo, first as Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner and later as its mayor, mirrored the “law-and-order” philosophy of the Nixon Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover in the pursuit and destruction of Black Liberation and Civil Rights organizations from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Malcolm X, the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, among others.  Rizzo made it his business to eradicate first the Philadelphia Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, and then MOVE in the 1970s.  A series of harassment arrests, complete with gratuitous assaults by Philadelphia police against MOVE members that resulted in the death of Life Africa, an infant member of MOVE, increased tensions between MOVE and the police.  In 1977, a neighborhood dispute between MOVE and other residents of the Powelton Village community drew the attention of several community mediators who finally saw MOVE reach an agreement with their Move Nine Powelton Villageneighbors, but also of the Philadelphia police, which had already earned the nickname of “Rizzo’s Thugs” with many city residents who had come to recognize the brutality, racism and corruption of the police force.  Rizzo’s police blockaded the house where the MOVE family lived for a year, attempting to “starve them out”, before deciding to launch an assault on August 8, 1978.

The assault on the MOVE compound employed fire hoses in an attempt to drown the MOVE people who were hiding in the basement or force them out to the main floor of the building, where they would be met by hundreds, if not thousands, of rounds of ammunition fired into the house.  Indications are that one of those rounds hit Philadelphia police officer James Ramp in the back as he was storming the house, killing him.  Because of Rizzo’s unbridled hatred of MOVE and the fact that MOVE Move Nine Delberthad successfully resisted the Philadelphia police blockade for a year, the MOVE people, who had been hiding in the basement and possessed several non-operational firearms, were to be blamed for Ramp’s death.  When the MOVE people were finally extracted from the house, four Philadelphia police officers viciously beat Delbert Africa in a scene that was captured in a rather famous (or rather, infamous) photo (right).

Eleven MOVE people were arrested and taken to trial.  Prior to trial, however, they were offered a “deal”: renounce MOVE and go free; remain loyal to MOVE and be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Two of the eleven took the “deal” and charges against them were dropped.  The other nine — Merle, Debbie, Janine, Janet, Delbert, Phil, Mike, Chuck and Edward Africa — who refused to renounce MOVE, were taken to trial and convicted on a variety of charges connected to the assault on the house and the death of police officer James Ramp.  They each were sentenced to terms of 30 to 100 years in prison, and prosecutors as well as police and politicians have steadfastly insisted that they will impose the full 100 year sentence on all of them, meaning that they will all die in prison.  These people would be known as the MOVE Nine.

The four police officers who viciously beat Delbert Africa, on videotape and in photographs, were also tried, but the judge ordered a “directed verdict” at the last moment and acquitted all four of them of any charges in connection with the beating.  This behavior is seen today in the recent grand jury decisions to not charge police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, as well as hundreds of other cases of unpunished police brutality over the last several decades.

Among the better-known advocates of MOVE is current Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Minister of Information for the Philadelphia Black Panther Mumia 15Party who, as a journalist during the Powelton Village siege and assault, had broadcast interviews with MOVE members over the radio and helped to counteract the dehumanizing propaganda that had been spread about them.  Mumia was targeted by the Philadelphia police and was arrested on December 9, 1981 for the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.  He was convicted in a trial replete with withheld evidence, witness intimidation and many other forms of prosecutorial, police and judicial misconduct, and was sentenced to death, which has since been commuted by a federal judge to life without the possibility of parole after years of appeals, rallies and court challenges.  Mumia’s daughter, affectionately known as “Goldii”, recently died as she and the MOVE Family have been fighting for Mumia’s exoneration and release from prison. 

On March 13, 1998, the first of the MOVE Nine died in prison, Sis. Merle Africa.  A statement that day from the MOVE Organization said the following:

Today our sister and family member Merle Austin Africa died under very suspicious circumstances. After a short bout with a stomach virus from which she was almost Move Nine Merlefully recovered (family visited with Merle last Thursday) she fainted in the cell last night going to the bathroom. The prison authorities removed Debbie Sims Africa and stayed in the cell with Merle for 45 minutes and finally called an ambulance and took her to an outside hospital.

We were not allowed any information and only after Merle’s mother insisted was she told that Merle had died.

Information is sketchy but on Thursday the 5th Merle was looking good and feeling back to her old self and gave strong hugs to family who came to visit. Merle was a young woman in her mid-forties of good health and strong spirit.

One week after she is dead. We need to have answers!

Now, the second member of the MOVE Nine has died in prison, and under Ramona Africa 1remarkably similar circumstances.  The following statement was released by Mama Ramona Africa (pictured, right), who was the sole adult survivor of the May 13, 1985 Osage Avenue assault on MOVE that killed five children and six adults (including MOVE’s visionary founder, John Africa).

On Saturday, January 10th Phil Africa, revolutionary, John Africa’s First Minister of Defense, and beloved brother, husband and father,  passed away under suspicious circumstances at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, PA. On Sunday, January 4th Phil Africa wasn’t feeling well and went to the prison infirmary. Though he wasn’t feeling well, other inmates saw Phil Africa walking, stretching and doing jumping jacks. Hearing that Phil was in the infirmary MOVE members drove up to visit him and were denied a visit by the prison. While they were visiting with Delbert Africa, Phil was secretly transported to Wilkes Barre General Hospital where he was held in total isolation, incommunicado for five days.

Prison officials at SCI-Dallas wouldn’t communicate about Phil’s condition. They told MOVE that Phil was at Wilkes Barre General hospital and the hospital denied he was there. The hospital and the prison behaved very suspiciously denying Phil the ability to call family members or his wife of 44 years, Janine Africa, stating that she was not a blood relative. The hospital and prison received hundreds of phone calls in support of Phil from around the world. When they finally submitted to pressure and allowed Phil to call Janine on Thursday, January 8th he was heavily drugged, incoherent and couldn’t even hold the phone to talk to her.

On Friday, January 9th Phil was sent back to the prison infirmary and placed in hospice care upon arrival. On Saturday, January 10th Ramona and Carlos Africa were granted permission to visit Phil in the prison infirmary. When they reached him he was incoherent and couldn’t talk or move his head to look at them. An hour after they left Delbert called with the news that Phil passed away.

Inmates in the infirmary and others in the prison were shocked when they heard the news. They had witnessed his vigorous health for decades in the prisons, had just seen him stretching and doing jumping jacks six days earlier. This rapid decline all occurred while he was being held for six days in isolation, incommunicado from his MOVE family at Wilkes Barre General Hospital.

The fact that Phil was isolated for the six days before he passed, that he was in such better health before he was taken to the hospital, and that the hospital refused to release his medical information is beyond suspicious.

This is another example of how the system hates MOVE and will do anything to stop MOVE. You can look at the example of August 8th, 1978 when the MOVE 9 were illegally imprisoned, and May 13th, 1985 when the government dropped a bomb and intentionally murdered 11 MOVE members to see this point clearly. When Merle Africa died in prison on March 13th, 1998 the conditions were very similar. She had been one way in the prison, but within hours of being forced to go to an outside hospital she was dead.

Move Nine PhilPhil made a deep impression on people all around the world. He was constantly writing, often dozens of letters a day, encouraging solidarity and strength, and warmly advising hundreds of people. Phil worked hard to learn to paint and created countless paintings which he sent to supporters for free to draw attention to issues, get raffled off for the struggle, and bring people together. Phil took his commitment and work as a revolutionary very seriously, but was often smiling, laughing, and giving people hugs and encouragement. He was a warm father figure to many in the prison where he taught inmates how to box, to think, and how to get stronger. Despite having two of his children murdered by the system and being separated by prison, Phil was a father figure to many. He was separated from his wife Janine for over 36 of the 44 years they were married, but he worked hard to stay connected with her even though they were so callously isolated by the system.

It’s this system’s  intention for MOVE people to die in prison. The MOVE 9 never should have been imprisoned at all, and according to their sentence they should have been paroled over six years ago. The death of Merle and Phil Africa rests directly at the feet of this government! Phil will never be forgotten. He is dearly missed, but his strong example should inspire everyone to fight harder for the freedom of the MOVE 9 and all political prisoners!





Memorial Service for Phil Africa

A memorial service is being planned for Phil Africa on Saturday, January 31 at the Kingsessing Recreation Center in Philadelphia.  Here is the announcement from Mama Ramona Africa about the memorial service:

ONA MOVE, Everybody. First, let me thank each of you for your genuine and kind words to this family regarding the loss of our brother, Phil Africa.  We wish we could thank you individually but the sheer number of the responses we have received makes that impossible.  Know that we love you all and our family truly appreciates your response to our loss.  We want to inform you that there will be a celebration of the revolutionary life our brother, Phil Africa, on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the Kingsessing Recreation Center, located at 49th and Kingsessing Ave. from 1-4 pm. We’re inviting all of you that can attend.  If you choose to, you can take the opportunity to verbally express how Phil touched you; what his revolutionary life means to you or whatever you would like to say about Phil Africa.  If you are located far away or can not attend for whatever reason but would like to send us a brief comment about Phil, please do so and we will see that it’s read at the celebration.  Again, thanks to each and every one of you for all of your kind words of support. 

Ramona Africa for The MOVE Family

More information is available on the MOVE Organization’s Website, http://onamove.com, including the following statement:

Many people have asked where they could send cards to Ramona Africa and the entire MOVE Family. Please send a card to the MOVE Family at this difficult time at:

The MOVE Organization
P.O. Box 19709
Philadelphia, PA 19143
(215) 386-1165

and Phil’s life partner/beloved wife Janine Africa at:

Janine Phillips Africa #6309
451 Fullerton Ave.
Cambridge Springs, PA 16403-1238

and all members of the MOVE Family still unjustly and illegally imprisoned by the anti-life,  money-loving Philadelphia-Pennsylvania-U.S. authorities. Free the MOVE 9!

Janine Africa, as drawn by her husband Phil Africa.

Janine Africa, as drawn by her husband Phil Africa.