Debbie Sims Africa, 61, granted parole and freed!

By Ed Pilkington
The Guardian
June 18, 2018

Debbie Sims Africa

Debbie Sims Africa was 22 when she was sentenced. Her release is seen as a major breakthrough for those imprisoned during the black liberation movement. Photograph: Courtesy of Michael Davis Africa Jr

The first member of a group of black radicals known as the Move Nine who have been incarcerated, they insist unjustly, for almost 40 years for killing a Philadelphia police officer has been released from prison.

Debbie Sims Africa, 61, walked free from Cambridge Springs prison in Pennsylvania on Saturday, having been granted parole. She was 22 when with her co-defendants she was arrested and sentenced to 30 to 100 years for the shooting death of officer James Ramp during a police siege of the group’s communal home on 8 August 1978.

She emerged from the correctional institution to be reunited with her son, Michael Davis Africa Jr, to whom she gave birth in a prison cell in September 1978, a month after her arrest.

“This is huge for us personally,” Sims Africa told the Guardian, speaking from her son’s home in a small town on the outskirts of Philadelphia where she will now live.

Davis Africa, 39, who was separated from his mother at less than a week old and has never spent time with her outside prison, said they were coming to terms with being reunited after almost four decades.

Michael Davis Africa Jr

Michael Davis Africa Jr on reunited with his mother: ‘There’s so much we haven’t done together.’
Photograph: Ed Pilkington for the Guardian

“Today I had breakfast with my mother for the first time,” he said. “There’s so much we haven’t done together.”

The release of Debbie Sims Africa is a major breakthrough regarding the ongoing incarceration of large numbers of individuals involved in the black liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s who are now growing old behind bars. At least 25 men and women belonging to Move or the former Black Panther party remain locked up, in some cases almost half a century after their arrests.

Sims Africa’s release also addresses one of the most hotly contested criminal justice cases in Philadelphia history. The nine were prosecuted together following a police siege of their headquarters in Powelton Village at the orders of Philadelphia’s notoriously hardline mayor and former police commissioner, Frank Rizzo.

Move, which exists today, regarded itself as a revolutionary movement committed to a healthy life free from oppression or pollution. In the 1970s it was something of a cross between black liberationists and early environmental activists. Its members all take “Africa” as their last name, to signal that they see each other as family.

Hundreds of police officers, organized in Swat teams and armed with machine guns, water cannons, tear gas and bulldozers, were involved in the siege, which came at the end of a long standoff with the group relating to complaints about conditions in its premises. Two water cannon and smoke bombs were unleashed. The Move residents took refuge in a basement.

Sims Africa was eight months pregnant and was carrying her two-year-old daughter, Michelle. “We were being battered with high-powered water and smoke was everywhere,” she said. “I couldn’t see my hands in front of my face and I was choking. I had to feel my way up the stairs to get out of the basement with my baby in my arms.”

Shooting broke out and Ramp was killed by a single bullet. Prosecutors alleged that Move members fired the fatal shot and charged Sims Africa and the other eight with collective responsibility for his death.

Eyewitnesses, however, gave accounts suggesting that the shot may have come from the opposite direction to the basement, raising the possibility that Ramp was accidentally felled, by police fire. After the raid was over, weapons were found within the property. None were in operative condition.

In 1985, Philadelphia authorities carried out an even more controversial and deadly action against the remaining members of Move. A police helicopter dropped an incendiary bomb on to the roof of its then HQ in West Philadelphia, killing six adults including the group’s leader, John Africa, and five of their children.

That incident continues to have the distinction of being the only aerial bombing by police carried out on US soil.

At Debbie Sims Africa’s trial, no evidence was presented that she or the three other women charged alongside her had brandished or handled firearms during the siege. Nor was there any attempt on the part of the prosecution to prove that they had had any role in firing the shot that killed Ramp.

Sims Africa has had an unblemished disciplinary record in prison for the past 25 years. The last claim of misconduct against her dates to 1992.

Her attorneys presented the parole board with a 13-page dossier outlining her work as a mentor to other prisoners and as a dog handler who trains puppies that assist people with physical and cognitive disabilities. The dossier includes testimony from the correctional expert Martin Horn, who reviewed her record and concluded it was “remarkable.”

Original article in Guardian at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/18/debbie-sims-africa-free-prison-move-nine-philadelphia-police

Who are the MOVE 9?

Over 36 years after the Aug. 8, 1978 confrontation in Philadelphia, the eight remaining “MOVE 9” prisoners are still being denied parole, after becoming eligible in 2008. MOVE is asking for support in building public pressure for the MOVE 9’s release. The MOVE 9 are:

move9-grid-210x310px-web

Write to the MOVE 9 and let them know they are remembered.

Michael Davis Africa #AM4973
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA 19426-244

William Phillips Africa #AM4984
Charles Sims Africa #AM4975
Delbert Orr Africa #AM4985
1000 Follies Rd.
Dallas, PA 18612

Edward Goodman Africa #AM4974
Mumia Abu Jamal #AM8335
301 Morea Rd.
Frackville, PA 17932
(570) 773-2158
Supt. John Kerestes

Debbie Sims Africa #006307
Janet Hollaway Africa #006308
Janine Phillips Africa #6309
451 Fullerton Ave.
Cambridge Springs, PA 16403-1238

Check out www.move9parole.blogspot.com for more specific information on how to support parole for the MOVE 9

MOVE 9

Almost 35 years after the Aug. 8, 1978 confrontation in Philadelphia, the eight remaining “MOVE 9” prisoners are still being denied parole, after becoming eligible in 2008. MOVE is asking for support in building public pressure for the MOVE 9’s release. The MOVE 9 are:

Name Photo Location Years Imprisoned
Michael Davis Africa Michael Davis Africa Graterford, PA 35
William Phillips Africa William Phillips Africa Dallas, PA 35
Delbert Orr Africa Delbert Orr Africa Dallas, PA 35
Edward Goodman Africa eddie-65x100px Frackville, PA 35
Charles Sims Africa Charles Sims Africa Hunlock Creek, PA 35
Debbie Sims Africa Debbie Sims Africa Cambridge Springs, PA 35
Janet Hollaway Africa Janet Hollaway Africa Cambridge Springs, PA 35
Janine Phillips Africa Janine Phillips Africa Cambridge Springs, PA 35
Merle Africa (transitioned) Merle Africa South Carolina 35

Write to the MOVE 9 and let them know they are remembered.

Michael Davis Africa #AM4973
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA 19426-244

William Phillips Africa #AM4984
Delbert Orr Africa #AM4985
1000 Follies Rd.
Dallas, PA 18612

Edward Goodman Africa #AM4974
Mumia Abu Jamal #AM8335
301 Morea Rd.
Frackville, PA 17932

Charles Sims Africa #AM4975
660 State Route 11
Hunlock Creek, PA 18621-3136

Debbie Sims Africa #006307
Janet Hollaway Africa #006308
Janine Phillips Africa #6309
451 Fullerton Ave.
Cambridge Springs, PA 16403-1238

Check out www.move9parole.blogspot.com for more specific information on how to support parole for the MOVE 9