[Pnews] Ramona Africa - MOVE sole survivor: police bombing of MOVE didn't happen over a neighbor complaint

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 11 15:59:42 EDT 2015

  MOVE sole survivor: Didn't happen over neighbor complaint

Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015 8:00 am

Damon C. Williams Tribune Staff Writer

For MOVE member Ramona Africa — the sole surviving member of the 
catastrophic residential bombing of the MOVE compound on May 13, 1985 — 
the focus of the group has remained steadfast over the past three 
decades: the release of her family members, the MOVE 9 and Mumia Abu–Jamal.

“From the moment I was released from Muncy State Prison on May 13, 1992, 
I made the three-hour drive back to Philadelphia,” Africa said. “From 
that day on, it’s been a whirlwind of putting out information to educate 
people and correct people’s perceptions, because the government tried to 
convince people that what happened on May 13, 1985, was because of 
neighbor complaints.

“This government never cared about neighbors complaining about each 
other, and they particularly never cared when Black neighbors complained 
about each other, so to say it happened over neighbor complaints is 
absolutely ridiculous.”

*From the beginning*

Chronological events of that fateful 1985 day vary, but the essence of 
the situation remain.

The 1985 conflict between MOVE and the police department has roots in 
similar clashes that took place in 1978.

MOVE and the police department engaged in a shootout on August 8, 1978, 
in which officer James J. Ramp was struck and killed. Africa and MOVE 
contend that Ramp was not shot by a member, but from one of the police 
department’s own men.

After that shootout, the MOVE 9 — Chuck, Debbie, Delbert, Eddie, Janet, 
Janine, Merle, Mike and Phil Arica — were sentenced to 30–plus years for 
the killing of Ramp.

“The August 8, 1978 police attack on MOVE followed years of police 
brutality against MOVE and was a major military operation carried out by 
the Philadelphia police department under orders of then–mayor, Frank 
Rizzo,” read a portion of the historical account provided on MOVE’s 
website. “Mayor Rizzo’s reputation for racism and brutality was and is 
well known — it followed him up through the ranks of the police 
department to the police commissioner’s office to the mayor’s office.

“The MOVE 9 are innocent men and women who have been in prison since 
August 8, 1978, following a massive police attack on us at our home in 
the Powelton Village neighborhood of Philadelphia,” the account 
continued. “This was seven years before the government dropped a bomb on 
MOVE, killing 11 people, including five babies.”

MOVE then moved to Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia in 1981, and 
published reports note that neighbors almost immediately began 
complaining about the lifestyle of MOVE members. When police tried to 
clear MOVE from the compound, the confrontation became deadly; the city 
dropped an incendiary entrance device — a bomb — on the compound, 
destroying it and virtually an entire neighborhood in the process.

*Lone Survivor*

Africa was the lone adult to survive; the late Birdie Africa was the 
only adolescent to live.

“One thing we always made clear to people: the root of the bombing and 
the murder of MOVE men, women and babies is due to our unrelenting fight 
for the release of our innocent family members, known as the MOVE 9,” 
Africa said. “That is what the government is trying to silence and 
crush, but they have not been able to do that, despite the vicious 
bombing and murder of our members.

“That is what I have been doing, and what the family has been doing,” 
Africa continued. “We have been putting out information, literally all 
over the world, to correct the persona the government has been trying to 
fool people with.”

Africa said support for MOVE hasn’t waned in 30 years, and the world is 
coming around to the holistic teachings first espoused by MOVE Founder 
and Coordinator John Africa.

John Africa founded MOVE in 1972, and died in the May 13, 1985 

Indeed, made trendy have been the wearing of hair in locks, natural 
childbirths and composting are now heralded as elements of a progressive 

“Back in the 1970s when MOVE first emerged, people criticized and 
ostracized MOVE all across the board, for everything from wearing our 
hair naturally in locks, to our natural food diet that John Africa 
encouraged, to the way we had babies naturally at home and to the way we 
home–schooled our children and not turning them over to the system to 
so–call ‘educate,’” Africa said. “And today, people call it composting, 
but for MOVE, we were simply feeding the earth that fed us. But MOVE was 
criticized for that, though, with people saying we were nasty and dirty 
and that we were throwing garbage in our backyard.

“Now, not only is MOVE wearing their hair naturally some 40 years later, 
celebrities of all kinds are wearing their hair naturally; there are now 
raw food restaurants from here to New York to California; and now with 
composting, when we did it, we were called nasty, but now they put a 
cute name on it and it’s an accepted thing,” Africa added. “People 
didn’t want to accept [those ideals] from MOVE, but now, system 
professionals are backing John Africa up — everything the MOVE founder 
taught was proved to be the right way to live.”

*Birdie Africa*

Aside from comments regarding the fate of Abu–Jamal and the surviving 
members of MOVE 9, Africa also shared thoughts on the passing of Birdie 
Africa, also known as Michael Moses Ward, who drowned in 2013 in a hot 
tub aboard a cruise ship.

Ramona Africa said Birdie’s death was “very strange” to MOVE, and that 
his death remained highly suspicious, given that Birdie never drank or 
took drugs, and was a capable swimmer.

Ramona confirmed Birdie was taught to swim by MOVE at a very early age, 
and it was extremely difficult to reconcile the events of his death with 
the Birdie that Ramona and MOVE knew.

“The one thing I’d like to point out is that if Birdie was still with 
MOVE, he would have not drowned in a hot tub on a cruise, because he 
would not have been on that cruise ship; it really hurt us to see Birdie 
go down like that,” Africa said. “But the reality is, Birdie was a grown 
man, and he had plenty opportunities to come back to MOVE and contact 
us. One of his aunts made an attempt to contact me and said Birdie 
wanted to see me and asked how I was doing. I told Birdie’s aunt that we 
loved Birdie and to contact us at any time.

“I don’t know the types of pressures and influences Birdie was under, 
but he never did contact me. It is a shame, because Birdie would have 
been safe with MOVE.”

*Moving Forward*

In the end, Ramona Africa and the rest of the MOVE organization finds 
itself in the same position its been since its founding — fighting for 
“freedom, justice and equality,” protecting their way life and freeing 
their family from what they see as an unjust confinement from a corrupt 

“From even 1978 to today, our focus is on the release of our innocent 
family members who have been in jail for 37 years — despite their 
innocence and despite being eligible for parole since 2008, when they 
completed their minimum 30–year mandatory sentences,” Africa said. “The 
parole board refuses to parole them unless they lie and say they are 
guilty of the murder of police officer James Ramp.

“Our focus remains on the release of our innocent family members, and we 
are also fighting for the release of our brother Mumia Abu–Jamal, who is 
facing a serious health crisis now,” Africa added. “We have been 
standing with and fighting for Mumia since Dec. 9, 1981, because he is 
innocent and because we understand that he is not in prison for the 
accusation of murder…this is witch hunt and a vendetta against MOVE and 

dwilliams at phillytrib.com

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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