The first time I ever attended a MOVE event was in 2004. Two things have changed for me on a personal level in the years since. I’ve documented and worked to educate others about what happened to them in 1978, in 1985, and their tireless fight since. And more importantly, I’ve grown to cherish the fact that I share time and space with them: from sharing laughs over meals together, to learning what effective direct action looks like. My care for people like Pam and Mike Africa Junior and their family runs deep.
This week I bore witness to something so unimaginably difficult. I’ve seen so much raw emotion that I’ve struggled to fully process it, and knowing that my own feeling of pain is nothing compared to the families involved is impossible to grasp.
“Confronting Penn” is a piece I just produced stemming from this week’s news that UPenn and Princeton stole, studied, and profited off the remains of Tree and Delisha Africa, two of the children who died on May 13, 1985 when Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb on their home and City officials “let the fire burn” for hours, preventing anyone from escaping. The MOVE family believed the remains had been buried for the last 36 years.
The first 22 minutes of this piece centers the voices of MOVE and their supporters in the context of this news, as documented on Wednesday, April 28th in front of the Penn Museum, where the remains have been kept. The remaining 37 minutes is the full conversation between Mike Africa Jr and Krystal Strong of BLM Philly, which took place in front of the home of UPenn’s president, while several hundred students and community members sat on Walnut Street and absorbed stories about how Tree and Delisha lived.
The story of MOVE is one of a family dehumanized by the system in life, and now in death, for 50 years. But MOVE is much larger than the atrocities committed against them.
Neither unjust incarceration for 40+ years to the dropping of a bomb on their home has stopped them from speaking out against the material conditions that have brought us to where we are today.
There will be justice for Tree, Netta, Phil, Delisha, Tomaso, Ramyond, Conrad, Frank, Rhonda, Theresa, and John.
As John Africa said, “The power of truth is final.”
Listen to On a Move Podcast with Mike Africa Jr.