‘I’m ecstatic’: black liberation prisoner Mike Africa Sr released after 40 years

Reprinted from The Guardian
October 23, 2018
By Ed Pilkington

Member of the radical Philadelphia-based group Move 9, sentenced after violent confrontation with police in 1978, reunited with wife Debbie Africa and son Mike Jr

Move 9 prisoner Mike Africa Sr and his wife Debbie Africa reunited in Philadelphia after 40 years in prison. Photo: Tommy Oliver

 

Mike Africa Sr has become the second member of the Philadelphia-based group of black radicals known as the Move 9 to be released from prison, more than 40 years after they were arrested for the death of a police officer in one of the most dramatic shootouts of the black liberation era.

He was paroled from SCI Phoenix prison in Pennsylvania on Tuesday morning [October 23, 2018] to be reunited with his wife Debbie Africa, who was also let out on parole in June having been arrested alongside him at the climax of a police siege in 1978. They were joined by their son, Mike Africa Jr, who until Tuesday had never spent time with both parents in the same room.

“I’m ecstatic coming from where I was just a couple of hours ago,” Mike Sr told the Guardian, speaking from his son’s house outside Philadelphia. “I wasn’t convinced in my mind that this would happen until I walked out the prison gates.”

He said it was amazing to be reunited with his wife, who was held in separate women’s prisons for 40 years. “I missed her and I loved her. She’s been my girl since we were kids. That’s never wavered at all.”

Debbie Africa said she was overwhelmed to have her family back.

Mike Africa Sr’s release marks a big step in the struggle of black militants who are still behind bars decades after they were arrested for police killings and other violent acts in the late 1960s and 1970s. The Guardian highlighted their plight in July.

Eighteen individuals, including two Move women, Janine Phillips Africa, and Janet Hollaway Africa, remain in prison. Many of them insist they are innocent of the charges brought against them.

In the case of the Move 9, they were convicted collectively of the death of a police officer, James Ramp, in the 1978 siege of their group home in Philadelphia even though only one shot killed him. Debbie Africa was eight months pregnant at the time.

Mike Africa Sr’s parole is of even greater consequence for his family, and especially for his son Mike Africa Jr, who for 40 years has never seen both of his parents together or out of prison. He was born in a cell where his mother Debbie gave birth to him a month after she and her husband were arrested during the siege.

For three days Debbie kept her baby son concealed in the cell, hiding him under the covers, until she was forced to hand him over to prison guards. With both parents imprisoned until the eve of his 40th birthday, Mike Jr effectively became an orphan of the black liberation struggle.

He was raised by relatives and other members of Move and now lives with a family of his own outside Philadelphia.

“I’m having an out-of-body experience right now,” Mike Jr told the Guardian as he drove his father back to his home to be reunited with Debbie. “I’m floating over the top of the car.”

He said that this was what he had waiting for more than four decades – to be together for the first time with both his parents. “I’ve always hoped for this, but I never knew that it would happen,” he said.

Mike Africa Sr with Debbie Africa

Mike Africa Sr with Debbie Africa: ‘I missed her and I loved her – she’s been my girl since we were kids – that’s never wavered at all.’ Photo: Tommy Oliver

 

The 1978 siege of the Move 9 house in the Powelton Village neighborhood of Philadelphia was one of the most violent and visceral incidents of the years of black liberation struggle. At the time, 12 adults and 11 children were living in a communal house, along with 48 dogs.

Move was a unique organization that mixed revolutionary ideology better associated with the Black Panther party with care for nature and the environment better associated with flower power and the hippy movement. The group still exists today, largely in the Philadelphia area, and continues to campaign for the release of its remaining members behind bars.

Mike Sr’s release reduces the number of still-incarcerated Move 9 members to five. In addition to his parole and that of his wife, two others have died behind bars from health complications related to their imprisonment – Merle Austin Africa, in March 1998, and Phil Africa in January 2015.

Brad Thomson, of the Chicago-based People’s Law Office, who was part of the legal team presenting the released prisoner, said that Mike Sr’s record in prison was exceptional, making him a prime candidate for parole. “With this decision, the parole board recognizes that Mike, like Debbie, and the rest of the Move 9, poses absolutely no threat to the community.”

The siege that led to the incarceration of five Move men and four women occurred on 8 August 1978. Tension had mounted for months between the commune and Philadelphia police following complaints from neighbors and fears that the group was stockpiling weapons.

The order was given for hundreds of police officers to go in and evict the residents by the notoriously hardline then mayor of Philadelphia, the city’s former police commissioner Frank Rizzo. In the melee, Ramp was killed.

Mike Africa Jr

Mike Africa Jr: ‘I’m having an out-of-body experience right now.’ Photo: Mark Makela

All nine adult members of Move living in the house were held responsible for the shooting and sentenced to 30 to 100 years. At trial they told the jury that they had no working firearms in the house, though that was disputed by prosecutors.

With Mike and Debbie Africa now released, thoughts are turning to the remaining five Move members still in prison. Petitions for habeas corpus have been filed in federal court on behalf of the two women, Janine Phillips Africa and Janet Hollaway Africa, challenging recent parole denials.

Bret Grote, of the Abolitionist Law Center, another lawyer for the Move 9, said: “This historic release of Mike Africa renders the parole board’s decision to deny the rest of the Move 9 all the more incomprehensible. For example, Janet and Janine have both maintained prison records that are as exemplary as Mike’s and essentially identical to that of Debbie, yet they were inexplicably denied parole in May.”

Seven years after the siege of the Move house, a second trauma was dealt to the black radical group. The then mayor of Philadelphia, Wilson Goode, gave the go-ahead for an incendiary bomb to be dropped on top of another Move house.

It caused an inferno that killed 11 people, including five children. More than 60 houses in the predominantly African American neighborhood were razed to the ground.


Read more by Ed Pilkington for The Guardian
“A siege. A bomb. 48 dogs. And the black commune that would not surrender”
Forty years ago, Philadelphia erupted in one of the most dramatic shoot-outs of the black liberation struggle. Ed Pilkington tells the surreal story of the Move 9 – and what happened to them next. Read more.

Debbie Africa Free! Baby-Snatching Practice Blocked Motherhood For 20-million Seconds (40 years)

June 20, 2018
Linn Washington Jr.
Reprinted from ThisCantBeHappening.net

Justice system abuses mothers with no apologies

Debbie’s son Mike said life was “hard” for him growing up without his mother and father, not having their “guidance” at times when he needed it. Mike said that when he went to wake up his mother the morning after her release from prison he saw her feet for the first time in his life.

“Things people take for granted like just talking to your parents — I never had,” Michael said. “Fortunately I had the support of my parent’s family, other MOVE members and MOVE supporters. It helped a lot.

“I can’t wait to see my dad come home.”

Debbie Africa, with son Mike Africa Jr. with photo of still imprisoned husband/father Mike Africa Sr

Debbie Africa with son Mike Jr. and photo of still imprisoned husband/father Mike Africa Sr. LBWPhoto

The arbitrary and often abusive practices of authorities that drove clashes between MOVE and Philadelphia City authorities were evident in the parole release of Debbie Africa – a parole granted after eight previous parole rejections.

Debbie and fellow MOVE members Janine and Janet each saw the Pennsylvania Parole Board on the same day. Each had similar unblemished prison records, each were credited with positively mentoring other inmates, each were praised for helping keep calm in the prison and each – for the first time ever – had a release recommendation from Philadelphia’s new District Attorney, Larry Krasner.

But the Parole Board rejected Janine and Janet while that Board released Debbie during a process that is completely secret even from lawyers representing inmates.

One reason given by the Parole Board for the rejection of Janine and Janet was they received a negative recommendation from Philly’s DA – a claim that is factually inaccurate according to Brad Thomson, the lawyer who represented Debbie, Janine and Janet during that parole proceeding.

“It is shocking that Janet and Janine were denied parole. Their circumstances and institutional records are nearly identical to Debbie’s,” stated Thomson, who attended the press conference with Debbie and Mike Jr.

“The decision to deny Janet and Janine appears arbitrary and it is difficult to understand how the Parole Board could justify it based on the facts that were presented,” noted Thomson of the People’s Law Office in Chicago.

Then again, arbitrariness and abuse riddled the MOVE 9 trial. The judge who convicted and sentenced the MOVE 9 during a non-jury proceeding said he meted out identical sentences because they “were a family” and that he, therefore, would sentence them as a family – a stance that made a mockery of the so-called maxim of prison time fitting the crime.

Police testimony during that long trial was that only the four MOVE men were armed and the MOVE women, including Debbie Africa, were merely holding children while huddled inside the basement of the then MOVE compound in Philadelphia’s Powelton Village during that 1978 shootout.

(Evidence furthermore indicates that police gunfire accidentally killed the policeman. Police experts could not match the bullet removed from the slain officer to any of the weapons recovered from the MOVE compound.)

The arrest and imprisonment of the MOVE 9 unleashed a chain of events that culminated in the horrific May 13, 1985 incident where Philadelphia police bombed another house occupied by MOVE members and deliberately allowed an inferno sparked by that bomb to burn, preventing firefighters from trying to put it out.

That bomb-triggered blaze incinerated 11 MOVE members including five children. That police blaze also destroyed 61 adjacent homes and left 250 people homeless.

Pennsylvania State Historic Marker near site of deadly 1985 bombing by Philadelphia police and FBI

Pennsylvania State Historic Marker near site of deadly 1985 bombing by police. LBWPhoto

Police snipers drove some MOVE members who tried to flee their burning building back into the inferno where temperatures reached 2,000-degrees. Only one MOVE adult and one child escaped that deadly firestorm.

One of the MOVE members murdered by police action during that 1985 clash was MOVE founder John Africa. The five youth deaths included the children of Janine and Janet, Debbie’s now former cellmates. No Philadelphia police officer or City official faced prosecution for that incident where an FBI agent supplied the main component for that bomb — military C-4 hi-explosive — that Philadelphia police dropped from a Pa State Police helicopter.

Debbie Africa said she is looking forward to strengthening bonds with her children and grandchildren. She will adjust to life outside prison like learning how to use a cell phone, a now ubiquitous device that didn’t exist at the time of her arrest in 1978. And she said she would work for the release of her imprisoned MOVE family members.

Water in Mahanoy Correctional Institute (Eddie Africa & Mumia) is Severely Polluted

Saturday, April 01, 2017
By Lamont Lilly, Workers World,
Interview – Segment of Part 2 of 2.

Lamont Lilly: I heard that the prison where Mumia Abu-Jamal is being detained doesn’t have clean drinking water. Is that true? You also have family members in that prison. What have you heard about this?

Polluted water in Dixie cupsRamona: Lamont, let me tell you. I know people have heard about Flint, Michigan but contaminated water is not just in Flint. The prison that our brother Eddie Africa and Mumia are in is called Mahanoy Correctional Institute. The water there is so so bad! It is so bad that they started giving the inmates, (and this is ridiculous), three little Dixie cups of water with each meal. That’s nine little Dixie cups of water per day because the regular water is not drinkable. This is what they’re giving them, nine little Dixie cups of water per day? It’s unreal! Most people have no idea this is going on.

Where my brother Mike Africa is being incarcerated, at Graterford Prison here in Pennsylvania the water is really bad there, too. He convinced the “Lifer’s Association” to sell bottled water. It’s one of their fundraisers. But he pays like close to US $20 for a case of water. That’s ridiculous. He’s spending 60 bucks a month for water.

They were telling the guards, straight up, don’t drink the water; bring your own. My brother Mike works in the kitchen there, and he was telling me that in the guard’s dining room they have filters on the water spigots, but not for the inmates, of course. That is the state of what’s happening in this country, not just with Mumia, but in prisons all over this country.

I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to really, and I mean REALLY, get the message that this system and those running it are not operating in our interests, in the interests of the people. Their only interest is money and keeping this system going. I don’t know when people are really going to get that, but we can’t look to this system for anything.

…I don’t know what it’s going to take for people to realize that we don’t need this system. We can’t use or get anything from this system. It’s the system that needs us — that relies on the people, not the other way around. We have to let this system go and make up our minds to do for ourselves because we sure aren’t getting anything from this system. Nothing!

Thank you, Lamont. Long live the revolution! Free Mumia! Ona move!

Read entire interview:  http://www.workers.org/2017/03/26/former-u-s-political-prisoner-ramona-africa-discusses-mumia-abu-jamals-incarceration-u-s-prisons-and-donald-trump/#.WTORPhPytE4

Michael Africa Sr Denied Parole

Mike Davis Africa Sr.Back In 2014 our Brother Michael Africa Sr went before The Pennsylvania Parole Board and was as expected denied parole. What was even more sinister with this parole denial was the fact that Michael was given a five year hit, that is, he cannot come back to The Parole Board for five more years!  One of the reasons cited was that Michael was considered a threat to the safety of the community at large. Back in 2015 Michael had appealed this denial and was granted an appeal hearing that took place in August of 2016. Nonetheless, after a six month wait Mike was finally given word that he was again denied parole. We know that Michael was given a one year hit for reasons not yet cited, but as usual we know the forces behind his denial .

A couple of weeks ago we brought to people’s attention the background of Mark Koch one of the newest members of The Pennsylvania Parole Board. We exposed in full Mr. Koch’s lifelong career in Law Enforcement and the Special Role he has played with The Fraternal Order of Police. We exposed to people the danger in having someone of such a long storied background in law enforcement voting over the potential release of parole for Move Political Prisoners. Mr Koch was one of The Parole Board Members who recently voted against parole for Michael as was to be expected. The Fraternal Order of Police no longer have to lobby against parole for The Move 9 now that they have one of their members in place on the Pennsylvania Parole Board to do their work.

From 2012-2014 a former Board Member Randy Feathers voted against parole for the Move 9 stating in their denial that they were a risk to the safety of the community. Meanwhile, Randy Feathers resigned from his position from the board due to himself being involved in the recent kiddie porn scandal with recently convicted disgraced former Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane!  A man that is the greatest risk to the safety of every child in the community stated that our family risks a threat to the communities safety and cannot be paroled!

We are asking people to Sign And Share the petition we have aimed at The United States Justice Department calling for a civil rights investigation into the case of The Move 9. People can sign the petition at https://www.causes.com/campaigns/92454-free-the-move-9.

Ona Move
The Justice And Accountability Campaign

For More Info:
https://move9parole.blogspot.com
http://onamove.com
Justice For The Move 9/Facebook