Contributed by Paige Watkins
The MOVE Organization is a Philadelphia-based, Black liberation group founded in 1972 by John Africa. Members lived communally, and, in the early 1970s, were based in the Powelton Village section West Philadelphia. They were ardent community organizers and grassroots activists who believed in natural living and were known to be against science, medicine and technology.
In 1978, there was a massive police attack on the MOVE house in Powelton Village. The military raid was ordered by then-mayor, Frank Rizzo and caried out by the Philadelphia Police Department. The fence surrounding the house was torn down and the house was filled with tear gas and flooded by the police. During the raid, one of the officers was killed by a single bullet. It is thought that he was killed by another cop while the raid was in progress, but 9 MOVE members were instead charged and convicted of the murder. All 9 were sentenced to 30-100 years in prison, and have consistently been denied parole since they were first eligible in 2008. Since then, parole hearings have happened yearly, but they have yet to be approved for release. In 1998, Merle Africa died in prison at the age of 47 after being denied medical treatment. In 2015, at age 59 Phil Africa also died in prison. Chuck Sims Africa, Michael Davis Africa, Debbie Sims Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Janine Phillips Africa, Delbert Orr Africa, and Eddie Goodman Africa are the 7 members currently left imprisoned. Organizers are actively campaigning to secure the release of these political prisoners.