Debbie Africa

It was about 5 am on the morning of August 8th, 1978, when my husband and me woke up by sounds of unfamiliar male voices and technology clanging outside our house. My husband got u to see what was going on while I anxiously waited with our baby girl in my arms. My husband came back very quickly and told me that cops were surrounding the house, I got up and in a hurry we went downstairs where everybody was gathering children and dogs and going into the basement where it would be safe. We huddled together scared because we knew cops had lots of guns and other weapons, we didn’t know how they were gonna do it, but we knew their plan was to kill us. Soon after everybody was in the basement, the windows were punched out and the cops were yelling over a loud speaker for us to come out the house. SHOOT! Wasn’t nobody about to come out that house with all them cops out there with guns. We didn’t know what they wanted, didn’t trust them so nobody went out there. Before we knew it water was comin through the hole where the window used to be, the wave of water sprayed thru the fire hose took u the entire width of the window and the length of the window hole, throwing 2×4 oak beams across the room slamming our big dogs up against the wall, and literally tearing the house apart from the inside, then a second wave of water came through another would be window and we were caught in a cross fire of water.

All I could do was scream I was scared. Dogs and beams were flying everywhere and I cried when I saw our dogs being hurt and killed. I held tight to by baby and stayed low while the men hovered around us to protect us. When the cops started shooting I closed my eyes and just held tight to my stomach and protectively shielded them the best that I could from flying debris and planks. It was the most frightening situation I’ve ever been in. At one point I couldn’t even see the baby’s face because of the smoke bombs and tear gas thrown in the basement by the cos that was also choking me, all the while the water level was rising (we found out later during our trial from one of the lawyers appointed to represent us, that when a mixture of smoke an water are thrown together it acts as a deadly weapon and could have suffocated all of us). I personally thought we were gonna die. It was only a miracle that we didn’t die, with the way those cops were shootin at us (some shootin point blank in our faces close range), the way the firemen had water getting into the basement windows and the way they gassed us.

They were crazy that day and all I can say is LONG LIVE JOHN AFRICA that we didn’t die because it wasn’t no restraint on the cops part that saved us. The attack was over in a short time but it seemed like hours when we finally came out the house, we were met by hundreds of armed cops. All five MOVE men were beaten bad over and over again by the cops but only Delbert’s beating was caught on camera.

I had just turned 22 in August. I was 8 ½ months pregnant when I had my 23 month old baby snatched from my arms by Philadelphia cops in front of my house on Aug. 8, 1978. I couldn’t believe we were being arrested; and charged no less with murder because we hadn’t done nothing wrong.

On September 15, 1978 I had my son in my prison cell naturally without the aid of doctors, nurses, or prison staff. The prison officials didn’t even know I had had him until hours later only because we chose to tell them. Giving him up hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt before, to have my second baby snatched from me for no reason other than my belief, that I believe in the Teaching of JOHN AFRICA and am a MOVE member and this system wants to get rid of MOVE anyway it can.

Their were 7 women total arrested and 5 men. Only 4 committed MOVE women and 5 men ended up convicted and sentenced to 100 years each. Two women were given separate trials and are on the street. The third woman was released two weeks after our arrest because they simply said they are not MOVE members. The cops testified that the men had guns, but none of the nine of us have weapons charges. All the DA’s witnesses, who were all cops, could say about the 4 women was that we were all in the house together and that because we are committed MOVE members. They pushed for our conviction because their aim was to lock up all committed MOVE members. This is the issue that we have spent almost 20 years of our lives, 20 years of our children’s lives, our family’s lives in prison for: being committed MOVE members. Even the PA Patrol Board refused to let other committed MOVE members out of prison because they “were MOVE members,” for years the P.B. refused and put it in the black and white on paper (you are not able to leave prison unless you leave the MOVE Organization) when Judge Malmed sentenced the nine of us, Malmed stated on the record that he was sentencing us each to the same time because we said we are a family. Imagine that being given 30-100 years in prison because we are a family because we are loyal to our belief, not murders, but a family.

I have not been able to physically mother my son and daughter, whom are now parents themselves. Two of my MOVE sisters who are in prison with me, Janine and Janet both had young children at home on Osage Ave when we were sent to prison, and their children were murdered on May 13th, 1985 by the same Philadelphia cops who attempted to murder us on August 8th, 1978. Their children were murdered for the same reason we were attacked. The system seen our MOVE children as a threat more than the adults because they are stronger therefore more committed to JOHN AFRICA’s belief and the system wants to eliminate anything that is linked to JOHN AFRICA.

On the MOVE
Debbie Africa
Minister of Education

LONG LIVE JOHN AFRICA!