By Gerald Smith
MOVE member Phil Africa died at the State Correctional Institution in Dallas, PA, on January 10, 2015. Phil Africa had been locked down since he was framed up, along with the rest of the MOVE 9, for the killing of Philadelphia police officer James Ramp, during the 1978 cop siege of MOVE’s Powelton Village home.
Upon learning of Phil Africa’s death Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote the following: “[Phil Africa] 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 dozen MOVE members were charged in connection with that conflict, in which a cop likely died from friendly fire – but MOVE members were charged. Phil Africa was among 9 MOVE men and women charged 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’….”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.”
The ongoing situation in Ferguson, MO, has brought to the attention of millions of Americans and people around the world the vicious nature of racist US capitalism. Despite the fierce resistance on the streets against the murder of people of color, with the passing of Phil Africa, we are reminded that there are still scores of political prisoners being held in the belly of the beast for the crime of participating in resistance movements of past decades.
May 13, 2015 is the 30th anniversary of the bombing of MOVE by the police of their Ossage residence. 11 people died as a result of this massacre, including 6 children.
Responding to calls from various organizations, collectives, and prisoner support groups across the US to commemorate this horrific event, we here in Oakland are starting to talk about activating our networks and organizations to built support for class war prisoners, continue the fire of the rebellion started in the winter of 2014, and draw connections between the battle against racist police terror and the struggle to free all class war prisoners in the US.
Towards this end, we are envisioning a series of panel discussions, film screenings, and an educational conference to work towards the release of the remaining MOVE 9 and all class war prisoners. We are also interested in generating a call for autonomous actions to be carried out around the time of the anniversary to encourage various groups and organizations to take action on their own accord. We envision:
1) A panel discussion composed of various members of different organizations and collectives supporting political prisoners that discusses the need to support Prisoners of the one-sided ClassWar the 1% is currently waging against us and the role of revolutionary solidarity in movements of struggle.
2) A film screening of the newly released documentary film, *Let the Fires Burn,* which features never before seen footage of the police campaign against the MOVE organization.
3) An educational conference designed to share information about political prisoners that brings together a wide network of support organizations fighting for the release of all class war prisoners.
This message is the first in an attempt to create a dialog with comrades we believe may be interested in such activity. We have yet to secure our venues. Nevertheless, if you are interested in speaking to us on this project further, please respond by contacting us at: firstname.lastname@example.org