On Thursday, April 22nd, MOVE member Pam Africa called into Black Power Media’s The Remix Morning Show to give an exclusive drop on information just uncovered about the MOVE family.
May 13th will make 36 years since attempts to evict the MOVE family from 6221 Osage Avenue West Philadelphia resulted in Frank Powell, Philadelphia’s chief of the bomb disposal squad, boarding a state police helicopter and dropping a bomb made of C-4 plastic explosives on their home. As a blazing fire ensued, the Philadelphia Fire Department stood aside and did nothing. At the time, many onlookers recall witnessing the police shooting at any of the members attempting to flee the burning house. Although two managed to escape, six adults and 5 children died in the raging fire. In 2020 the first Black mayor of Philadelphia at the time of the bombing, W. Wilson Goode Sr, issued a formal apology after 35 years. No one has ever been charged.
Pam Africa appeared on the morning show to announce that two of the children who perished in that fire, now being identified as Tree and Delisha Africa, have gone missing. The MOVE family has only now been informed that the last whereabouts of the children since the bombing have been two Ivy League universities— UPenn and Princeton University — both unable to confirm where the children’s bones currently are. The story gets even more insidious and vile.
NPR reports that “After an investigation into the bombing, the remains were given to anthropologist Alan Mann by the city Medical Examiner’s Office, according to the MOVE Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission letters, for further analysis. At the time, he worked at the University of Pennsylvania. When Mann transferred to Princeton University in 2001, he reportedly took the bones with him.”
Under the leadership of the now-retired 81-year-old Mann and Penn Museum’s physical anthropology curator, Janet Mongue, the universities held onto the bones of these young girls for decades, without consent from the families, for online forensic anthropology teaching videos. Harriet A Washington’s book Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, gives great detail to the historical legacy of “Black bodies” being used as sites for white inquisition (and profit). However, UPenn’s and Princeton’s use of the MOVE children’s bones have as much political context as it does historical.
Throughout the 70s MOVE members under the leadership of John Africa battled with the Philadelphia police who placed a target on their backs for their environmentalist and humanitarian-based political beliefs. There were frequent confrontations with police over police brutality, animal rights, and other injustices. All of these volatile incidents led by Philadelphia police resulted in the eventual long term imprisonment of MOVE members who came to be known as “The Move 9” (Mike Africa Sr, Debbie Africa, Janine Africa, Merle Africa, Janet Africa, Delbert Africa, Phil Africa, Chuck Africa, Eddie Africa). Seven years before the MOVE bombing, members of MOVE were attacked by Philadelphia police.
During the attack, the police used military-grade machinery to tear down the fence that protected the home. They intentionally used hoses to spray so much water, at such intense pressures, that they almost flooded the home basement, as well. They viciously tear-gassed and beat several members of MOVE before arresting them. The attack was ordered by the mayor at the time, Frank Rizzo. Rizzo immediately moved forward with demolishing the house. In court, they were all convicted of third-degree murder, criminal conspiracy, attempted murder, and aggravated assault based on “being a family”. Since that time, members of the MOVE 9, collectively serving over 100 years, have been released, two have died in prison (Phil and Merle Africa), Delbert Africa died six months after his release, and Chuck Africa, the youngest to enter and last to be released, is currently battling stage 4 cancer. What the US has done to MOVE is beyond criminal, and still today the inhumanity continues.
Despite a half-ass apology statement issued to the public, NOT the MOVE family, this isn’t abnormal for institutions like Penn, who recently came under heavy criticism for the non-consented collection and hoarding of Black remains. Penn Museum released a statement in 2020 regarding its Morton Collection which was made up of more than 1,000 skulls– a collection amassed by a 19th-century white supremacist researcher who directed workers to pull the bones from unmarked graves.
At Monday’s press conference held by MOVE, the demands made were:
- Immediate return of remains of Delisha and Tree Africa
- A full investigation of Penn Princeton’s role in the unethical possession of their remains
- Fire Penn faculty and curator Janet Monge
- A formal apology from Penn and Princeton
- Reparations for these atrocities.
At a press conference outside of the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Pam Africa recounted all of the murder and torture that has been inflicted upon the followers of John Africa. She recounted the several attacks against the women and children of MOVE, pointing out specifically an encounter where the police killed Janine Africa’s three-week-old baby, crushing its skull. During the press conference, Pam and several other speakers made it clear that MOVE demands more than an apology— there must be restitution. What the MOVE family has explicitly made clear is that the only real justice they can receive is for their family who are still alive– FREE MUMIA ABU JAMAL!