Today marks the 30th commemoration of the bombing at 62nd and Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia in 1985
MOVE, which was originally called the Christian Movement for Life, was founded in 1972. Its founder, John Afrika born Vincent Leaphart on July 26, 1931 in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia, was functionally illiterate, so he dictated a document called The Guideline with Donald Glassey, a social worker from the University of Pennsylvania with whom he collaborated with. Glassey’s notes would eventually become the document. Afrika along with his mostly Black followers wore their hair in locs, advocated a political ideology that aims to create an ecologically sustainable society rooted in environmentalism, non-violence, social justice, grassroots democracy and a return to a hunter-gatherer society, while stating their opposition to science, medicine and technology. As John Afrika himself had done, MOVE members also changed their surnames to Afrika to show reverence to it, which they regarded as their mother continent.
All living beings, things that move, are equally important, whether they are human beings, dogs, birds, fish, trees, ants, weeds, rivers, wind or rain. To stay healthy and strong, life must have clean air, clear water and pure food. If deprived of these things, life will cycle to the next level, or as the system says, ‘die’.”
– John Afrika
John Afrika’s MOVE members lived in a commune in a house owned by Glassey in the Powelton Village section of West Philadelphia. They staged bullhorn-amplified, profanity-laced demonstrations against institutions which they opposed morally, such as zoos, and speakers whose views they opposed. MOVE made compost piles of garbage and human waste in their yards which attracted rats and cockroaches; they considered it morally wrong to kill the vermin with pest control. MOVE attracted much hostility from their neighbors, the majority of whom were African-Americans. Thier activities drew close scrutiny from law enforcement authorities and the police department engaged in a shootout on August 8, 1978, in which Officer James J. Ramp was struck and killed. Afrika and MOVE contend that Ramp was not shot by a member, but by one of the police department’s own men.
After that shootout, the MOVE 9 members Chuck, Debbie, Delbert, Eddie, Janet, Janine, Merle, Mike and Phil Afrika, were sentenced to 30-plus years for the killing of Ramp. Law enforcement officials obtained indictments on the implicated members of MOVE and, on May 13, 1985, attempted to arrest them, which led to an armed standoff with MOVE and subsequent death of the group members by the Philadelphia Police Department. During the raid, John Afrika was killed along with six other adults and four children when the Philadelphia Police Department head of bomb disposal, on board a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter, dropped a satchel containing a gel-based explosive on a fortified bunker occupied by members of MOVE. The resulting explosion started a fire that resulted in the destruction of 65 homes in the neighborhood. The order was given by city officials to “let the fire burn”. The explosion, fire, and shootout killed all but two members of MOVE who were present, leaving Ramona and Birdie Afrika severely burned. Birdie was released while Ramona went on to serve her maximum sentence of 7 years in prison.
In his new book to be released April 21, 2015 entitled “Writing on the Wall”, edited by Joanna Hernandez, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal compares the issues of the MOVE 9 to the current era 30 years later with police brutality still being a major issue of our time.
I don’t mean bombing people…not yet, that is…I mean the visceral hatreds and violent contempt once held for MOVE is now visited upon average people; not just for radicals and revolutionaries, like MOVE.”
-Mumia Abu-Jamal (Political Prisoner)
-Infinite Wiz (@InfiniteWiz)