(ed. note, this article has been banned and suppressed by the UK Indy Media as has other material posted against MOVE. Because of that, it will be posted here where people are free to comment)
"The success of one imposter gave encouragement to another, and the quieting
salvo of doing some good by keeping up a pious fraud, protected them from
-Tom Paine, The Age of Reason
Ramona Africa has come to Britain for a week of steady work revising history and spreading the convoluted gospel of her deceased "master" John Africa, the deranged founder of MOVE.
As someone who lived with Ramona and worked alongside the group for nearly a decade I know a thing or two about MOVE and more importantly the routine that they have honed to perfection after years of speaking to sympathetic and largely mis-informed audiences. For Ramona, the theme is always one of victimization, with the absence of any sense that the cult to which she is beholden to, bears any responsibility.
Responsibility for a quarter century of death, blood, lies, destruction, and in this current instance, vulgar manipulation of history in order to raise money and sympathy for herself and her cult.
The victims of MOVE are non-entities in her well rehearsed and purportedly "revolutionary" speeches. What audiences will be given by Ramona is a steady diet of nothing but platitudes that are disguised to hide the fact that she is a slavish member of a cult-of-personality that abuses children, animals, and exploits the "progressive community" for it’s own selfish gain.
For what it is that people know MOVE for? The MOVE 9? The "political prisoners" who were "framed" for the murder of a Philadelphia police officer back in 1978. Ramona will tell you that the dead cop was killed with one bullet from one gun and that it was physically "impossible" for MOVE members to have killed Officer James Ramp.
There are some things about that day that she will not likely be willing to address.
It is a fact that the "MOVE 9" were convicted and sentenced to 30-100 year jail sentences in 1981 for the murder of police officer James Ramp and for the attempted murder of seven other police officers and firefighters during a MOVE instigated 1978 shoot-out in Powelton Village in West Philadelphia. It was a "confrontation" initiated by John Africa who stock piled the house with children and weapons and who, through his cult members who were taught to see him as a living God, did all they could to ensure a bloody outcome. And it was one they got. The police who had arrived to serve legitimate warrants were told that they had better make sure their life insurance was "paid up".
The evidence against MOVE was overwhelming and they knew it. So they decided to try and make a mockery of the proceedings.
Prosecutors, citing eyewitness testimony and videos, contended during the trial that MOVE members fired first at officers who had surrounded the MOVE house and were attempting to tear down the barricades that MOVE had erected . The defense presented a smaller number of rebuttal witnesses, including a handful of journalists, who said the first shots seemed to come from outside the compound, although the witnesses disagreed about precisely where.
Probably the most damaging prosecution testimony came from a police ballistics expert, civilian Anthony L. Paul, who said that tests showed that a semiautomatic, clip-loading rifle found inside the MOVE house was the weapon used to shoot Ramp and two other officers. That weapon a .223 Ruger had been observed in the possession of at least one MOVE member in the basement that day.
Prosecutors also said a "palm print" on a federal firearms purchase form demonstrated that the rifle, as well as two others, had been bought by MOVE member Phil Africa before the shoot-out with police. In all, police seized 11 rifles and handguns from the compound and 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Police and firefighters also testified that they saw all five male defendants with guns shortly before the shooting.
MOVE has long contended that James Ramp was killed not by a member of MOVE, but was instead killed by "friendly fire." To support this contention they cite a very preliminary ballistics report that Ramp was shot in the "base of the neck, with the bullet traveling downward."
In reality, Ramp was felled by a bullet from MOVE after he had ran to aid another officer who had himself just been hit by gunfire from MOVE members firing from the basement It was proven quite conclusively in court that the bullets trajectory that killed Ramp could have only come from one location, the basement that MOVE members were shooting.
MOVE members made the claim that the destruction of the house immediately after the confrontation violated their right to a fair trial and was nothing but an attempt to destroy the evidence that would exonerate them.
The incident to propel MOVE to a national spotlight was the botched and deadly debacle of May 13th 1985 that resulted in the deaths of six children of MOVE members and five adult members of the cult. Towards the end of the day a "bomb" was dropped on the house where the MOVE members were barricaded and had been shooting from.
The "bombing" occurred when police attempted to arrest at least four MOVE members on a variety of charges, including riot, illegal possession of explosives, and terroristic threats.
The MOVE members named in the affidavits were Frank James Africa, Conrad Hampton Africa, Ramona Johnson Africa, and Theresa Brooks Africa, all of whom police said resided in the Osage Avenue house.
In addition, police said they wanted to arrest Frank James Africa, son of Louise James, the owner of the house, for parole violations.
The police said they had monitored MOVE's statements made over the group's loudspeakers in recent weeks and had heard MOVE members make a series of threats against Mayor Goode, the police, and the residents on Osage Avenue. MOVE members had also sent a threatening letter to Mayor Goode, in which they threatened to kill him and blow up the neighborhood.
MOVE had given authorities no choice but to attempt to arrest the law-breaking members of the sect, but MOVE was not going to surrender without a fight. Members of the cult had erected a rooftop bunker fortified with railroad ties and heavy timber, from which MOVE members could command the high ground in any confrontation with city police. In doing so, they had threatened to turn the quiet African-American neighborhood that they inhabited into a war zone.
Prior to the police assault on the MOVE house, authorities had repeatedly implored MOVE members to surrender or to at least allow the children to leave the house. MOVE not only refused this request, they issued more threats over their gasoline powered bullhorn and began shooting at the officers surrounding their headquarters. A number of officers were struck by the MOVE gunfire. However, unlike the previous confrontation in 1978, they were spared serious injury or death by bullet proof vests.
With gunfire raining down from MOVE’s fortified house that contained an unidentified number of children and two heavily fortified bunkers, complete with firing ports, police were left placed in a most unique and difficult situation.
One might wonder what led to the transformation of a working class neighborhood in West Philadelphia into a blood soaked landscape of urban warfare. The answer lies within the mind of MOVE’s co-founder John Africa.
MOVE’s "Coordinator," as his devotees called John Africa, led his followers on a path of psychological warfare and physical terror against their neighbors and followed a policy of increasingly provocative actions against city officials and institutions. The stated goal was to force the government to release the nine MOVE members who had been incarcerated for amongst other things, the murder of Police Officer James Ramp, in 1978.
In order to accomplish this impossible goal, MOVE initiated their campaign of torture against their African-American neighbors, telling them in effect, "we are going to put pressure on you, so you will put pressure on the city to let our people go."
In 1984, MOVE’s assault on their neighborhood began. According to one resident of Osage Avenue."They could go on for hours on that loudspeaker system of theirs," recalled Marguerite Walker, of 6217 Osage. "Sometimes they would start at 3 in the afternoon and they would stay on there until 1 o'clock at night. Different times they would come on.
But you know, with that kind of thing you are tense all the time. You are just always wondering when it is going to come on. "So you never relax."
But, for the residents of Osage Avenue, the bullhorn assault was only the beginning. There were also the barrels of raw meat that MOVE members fed their dogs and the smell of cat urine that hung in the air.
The foul stink of what residents believed to be human excrement and unwashed bodies filled the summer air, making children and adults physically sick.
An omnipresent stench rose up from the MOVE house, seeping through screen doors and forcing people inside. The MOVE people kept dozens of cats and dogs, but never cared much about controlling them. One day, Osage Avenue resident, Bennett Walker was working in the back of his house when he remembered "noticing this smell."
Other MOVE neighbors reportedly had to turn on their stoves to clear out armies of roaches before they could cook their families dinner at night.
As if the stink, and infestations, and bullhorn harangues were not enough of an assault on civility, MOVE would also singled out certain neighbors for particularly brutal treatment. There would also be ominous threats of violence on the part of MOVE members against children.
Maugerite Walker would tell reporters that: "On the loudspeaker, Conrad (Africa) used to shout that he was a rapist. He would get on there and say that he used to go into people's houses through their skylights and rape young virgins."
As the war on their own community waged on, MOVE brandished firearms terrifying children and convincing adults that MOVE had no intention of living peaceably.
Finally, fed up, and fearing for the safety of themselves and their families, MOVE’s embattled neighbors demanded that the city take action.
In order to save Osage Avenue, the city, in a terrible and reprehensible choice apparently made the decision to destroy it. A choice that has helped to give rise to MOVE as a cult of martyrdom.
Only two people survived the "confrontation", MOVE’s Minister of Communications. Ramona Africa and a child who went by the name of "Birdy."
"Birdy" was rescued from life in MOVE by his father, who was never a MOVE member. He has not returned to the cult and, quite understandably, has chosen to live a private life.
The resulting fallout from the city’s actions led to the mayor empaneling a special "MOVE Commission" that would have limited powers and no ability to hand down indictments. The commission’s findings savaged the city government’s handling of the crisis, but ultimately laid the blame for the catastrophe squarely at the feet of MOVE members and their actions.
Ramona spent seven years in prison for her role in the destruction. Their was nothing political about her imprisonment. MOVE members practically murdered their own children and than killed themselves. Ramona’s escape was not likely part of the plan of John Africa.
While MOVE is known for it’s bloodletting, it is also known as a group whose commitment is to the preservation of life. The trail of death and destruction ought to be an antidote to that toxic myth, but for those who are only given MOVE’s version of events, it is easy to see why people fall victim to this fallacy.
Take MOVE’s treatment of the animals in it’s care for an example of it’s "reverence" for life.
MOVE members are not vegetarians having long since abandoned the "raw food" diet advocated by John Africa, use animal products including leather, and seem to regard the animals who have the misfortune in their care as props in their facade of benevolence.
For MOVE, the notion of compassionate consumerism does not exist, because John Africa said it doesn’t exist (hence the authoritarian cult title the group has earned). They unabashedly are patrons of the industry that tortures and slaughters animals, namely companies that employ the use of factory farms like Perdue, Tyson, and, basically, every meat industry out there from pork, beef, poultry, and seafood. They literally buy hundreds of pounds of meat every month, possibly week, to feed to their pets or to consume themselves.
This subject is important to clarify because it shows a callous idea that, although they do not admit taking part in the wholesale slaughter of these animals in tormenting conditions, they readily sustain these corporations with their sponsorship. One of their youth members, in explaining why they shop at certain stores and buy products from specific companies that have been cited as being either destructive in their behaviors towards the environment, child labor exploitations, sweatshops, and/or animal cruelty, stated that all industry is bad; so there is no difference in whom you buy things from. An answer that is indicative of MOVE’s cultish arrogance.
The most problematic matter in regards to the health and well being of the dogs and cats is the diet that these animals are fed. MOVE gives animals in their care and stray animals in their neighborhood a "raw food" diet that consists of raw beef, pork, lamb, poultry, horsemeat, and bones. They do have a tendency to temporarily ban certain meats from time to time, but not because of the properties of the meats themselves, rather because of mad cow disease threats and such. Their concerns do not seem to stem from the quandaries posed by use of growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides in the production of these meats. They do not ban the use of these products for those grounds.
Obesity is typical around MOVE houses for animals. These weight problems have lead to horrendous leg, hip, and joint pain to the point that these dogs could no longer walk without problems, eventually leading to their inability to even get up without being literally carried. The result of being burdened with excessive pounds is that all of the dogs that have these weight issues wind up suffering from arthritis.
The weight problems are directly linked to the poor diet that is fed to these animals. After a lengthy discussion with a veterinarian about the raw food diet fed to the animals, it was explained that the myth that dogs do not need vegetables and grains is factually wrong. When a dog eats an animal such as a rabbit, it also eats the intestines, which contain the diet that the prey had eaten. It is said that this portion of the diet is essential to keep the balance of vitamins and minerals that are required to keep all the bones, muscles, and joints working properly. To feed a dog or a cat just raw meat would be as detrimental as a person eating tons of nuts and nothing else.
MOVE, as a religious sect, does not believe in the use of modern medicines as a rule (except if you are fortunate enough to be one of the group’s leaders). Their general habit is to wait until a problem has stretched its limits beyond anything they can control before they will use medical interventions.
This is especially the case when it comes to their animals. There is little or no preventative care for their pets. They do not vaccinate their cats and dogs. They do not adhere to spay and neutering of animals (stating that it is cruel to take away their ability to procreate). They do not have regular health check ups or give preventative medications for common and sometimes deadly illnesses such as heartworm.
MOVE’s mind-set in how to deal with cats differs from that of dogs. They see dogs as being hopelessly domesticated at this point, not being able to utilize their instinctual sense of survival. They believe cats, however, to still have these skills and so have adopted a system of dealing with them. When MOVE gets overrun with cats they just go and drop them off in the woods somewhere. They do this without regard to the ecosystem or to the cats themselves. Out of sight out of mind. Dogs, also occasionally meet with this fate. "Respect" for life indeed.
Which brings us to the next set of MOVE’s victims. The children who have the misfortune to be born or brought into this death cult.
They came to MOVE not out of any conscious decision, but because they were born there, or because they were brought there by their parents in their earliest years. John Africa referred to them as the "Seeds of Wisdom" as they were to be raised as pure examples of his anti-establishment teachings.
To the MOVE Organization, these are not children. Instead, they are tiny soldiers in John Africa’s revolutionary war on society. They have played a major role in every major and minor "confrontation" that MOVE has had with authorities, and in 1985 five of them would lose their lives. The "role" played by these children is either that of human shield or expendable widgets in the cult’s martyr machine.
While MOVE, itself, has changed over the years, the role of children within the group remains largely the same as it has always been. Education for the average MOVE child is almost non-existent. For pre-teen girls within the group, childhood ends at around 11 or 12 years old, and motherhood begins.
According to Ramona Africa herself:
" Women in MOVE do marry and have babies at what this american society might now consider to be a young age but we follow the coordination of Mother Nature who coordinates it such that she determines when a woman is ready for marriage and babies, which is when a woman has her monthly period, then she is ready to have babies and be married. It's just that simple."
If there was ever more a self-incriminating statement of child abuse I have not seen it.
Another former MOVE member who has spoken out about the plight of children within the MOVE sect would be a woman named Valerie Brown.
Brown had been one of the groups earliest members and had even been placed in charge of a "MOVE Chapter" in Richmond, Virginia. In 1981 she had grown tired of the rats, the "meetings", and isolation of cult life and bundled up her two young daughters and left MOVE to begin a new life. Not long after the MOVE confrontation on Osage Avenue, she stepped forward to speak out about the cult that she had been a part of for so long.
Behind the holistic rhetoric of MOVE’s teachings, there was an ominous reality that lurked beneath the surface of MOVE's utopian enterprise.
Brown would claim that John Africa had indicated to police in 1976, that if the authorities tried to storm the Powelton Village house, MOVE would kill all the children inside.
"I believe he would have done it," Brown said. "I don't know that everybody would have done it at his command."
In March of that year, there was a scuffle between police and MOVE members in Powelton Village. Later that day, Phil and Jeanine Africa contended that a policeman had shoved Janine, who was carrying her 3-week-old child, Janine said she fell to the ground on top of the infant, that a policeman then stepped on her and that the child died as a result.
MOVE accused the police of murder and re-count this tragedy as part of their propaganda to this day .
Asked about that incident, Brown said, "That's not the way the child died. It's not that there was any kind of homicide. The child died of natural causes that might not have occurred had MOVE believed in modern medicine, and they used it for political purposes against the police and for sympathetic audiences the world over.
Today, the lives of the children of MOVE have changed, but only in superficial ways. Although the are now allowed birthday parties, video games, movies, t.v., bicycles, more cooked food, etc...they still live under the complete control of MOVE’s leaders. For the most part, education does not exist for the children and they are largely functionally illiterate.
Girls in the Organization as young as twelve are married to older MOVE members and begin having children at that same time. These children do not receive pre-natal care and are expected to give birth to their babies at home without the aid of doctor or mid-wife. After delivering these new MOVE members, the young mothers must sever the umbilical cord with their teeth and than lick the afterbirth off the baby without the aid of water or other "systematic" methods.
These things with the children I saw with my own eyes. I saw mothers have to be rushed off to the hospital to have premature babies possibly due to lack of pre-natal care. I saw other children with their teeth rotting out of their mouths because their mothers did not know how to properly breast feed their children. Girls as young as 11 or 12 having children, girls who could barely write their own name. If this is revolution than I am a proud reactionary.
And finally, the issue that has consumed MOVE since the mid 1990's. The life and death of former MOVE member John Gilbride. He had been married to Alberta Africa and had a child with her via in-vitro fertilization, but like most of us who come around MOVE, he eventually wanted out.
For two years, Gilbride and his former wife, Alberta Wicker Africa Gilbride (MOVE’s current leader), waged an acrimonious battle for the child. In September of 2002 that fight ended with John gunned down just hours before he was to have his first un-supervised visitation with his son, a visit that Alberta and MOVE vowed would not ever happen. The cult of course denies any role in the murder and has spun a half-dozen contradictory conspiracy theories about John’s death, for a while even contending that he had faked his own death.
This was however, no typical custody fight. MOVE barricaded their home and promised a repeat of May 13th 1985 if the court sided with John in his effort to obtain custody of his son. But MOVE did not just act "defensively". They and their supporters, of which I was one of, declared a veritable war on John and his family members and his life was repeatedly threatened if he did not relent in his actions to see his only child.
On June 10, 1999, Gilbride filed for divorce in Superior Court in Camden, citing "extreme cruelty."
In his divorce complaints, Gilbride said that whenever he and his wife had a disagreement or argument, MOVE members would have "an intervention, wherein I was expected to sit in the middle of the room while each member and my wife would degrade me."
One such intervention in 1996 followed a disagreement over how he held their son and lasted for eight hours. "I was told that if I don't pull myself together, I was out of there, baby or not!" Gilbride said. "I was also told that any man could take my place."
And in January 1997, Gilbride said, he was told during another "intervention" that "my attitude towards my wife was going to cause a situation that would involve my death."
After vigorous litigation, John began to obtain the right to see his son.
He was supposed to begin his first weekend alone with the boy on Sept. 20, but when MOVE supporters gathered at the house and held a vulgar demonstration at the Cherry Hill municipal building, he was advised to stay away. Following the advice of authorities he left town for the weekend.
He went to Las Vegas instead, returning just days before the next opportunity to see his son. But he was shot dead before he could.
Over a year after his death, it came out in the media that John’s life was threatened by a now former MOVE member named Mario Africa just days before his murder. He was able to escape that potentially violent situation than, but could not escape the killer or killers who would end his life a short time later.
MOVE for their part has made contradictory and suspicious comments with regards to John’s murder.
Before John was savagely gunned down in his car after returning home from work, his ex-wife (current MOVE leader and opponent in John's battle for custody of his son) had this to say in a letter to the judge in charge of Philadelphia Family Court Judge Myrna Field during their custody dispute:
"John is a traitor to me, to his son, and to MOVE, and he is an enemy, not a friend."
Not long after John's savage assassination, MOVE member and spokesperson Ramona Africa was in damage control mode. In an interview with a Philadelphia City Paper reporter, she had this to say:
"We never hated John Gilbride. He was not our enemy."
What a difference a murder makes.
And in letters from prison, MOVE members were all but celebrating John’s demise. Take for example the following quotes from members of the "MOVE 9".
Debbie Africa had this to say about John's death in a letter from December of 2002, just a couple of months after the murder:
"The situation concerning our sister, Alberta and Zack is resolved. We want to thank any and all of you who helped in the situation with Alberta and Zack....Y'all are the greatest."
In April of that year, Chuck Africa went even further with his candor regarding John's demise:
"Well, anyways it all worked out (the custody case). The folks out there really didn't believe the city would attack. Later I saw the psychology behind what happened & how it was handled. The city just couldn't afford to be aggressive becuz of May 13th and people were too aware of what was going on then? Do you understand what I am saying? It was really unlikely that things would turn out like they did. But, I was so relieved that things worked out. I don't need no more of my family killed, hurt, or imprisoned, as well as my friends and supporters."
In conclusion, I would encourage people to go and hear Ramona speak, so long as you don’t go and fill her pockets. Please realize that there is more out there than the "official" MOVE party line and don’t just take my word for it. Do research on your own.
Consider why it is that there are those dedicating themselves to keeping you from reading my words and why every major group who concerns itself with the study of cults considers MOVE to be a violent and dangerous sect, one that deserves nothing but scrutiny.
As for me, I am no tool of the "establishment". I am an anti-racist activist and an opponent of the death-penalty. Unlike MOVE, I am a supporter of gay rights and a woman’s right to choose and a right to an education. Something that both male and female children of MOVE members and hard-core supporters of MOVE are deprived of.
I left MOVE because I saw them for what they were. A cynical and manipulative death cult who runs a victimization racket with blood drenching the hands of it’s leaders. Leaders who expect those underneath him to subordinate their interests to that of them and who expect complete obedience.
This is not a group of anarchists or a group that even gives a nod to any kind of democratic ideal. The cult is authoritarian and therefore is explicitly dictatorial. It’s ideals are not progressive, but retrograde and not born out of empirical examinations, but out of the warped mind of man who cobbled together a contradictory philosophy that purportedly put a premium on life, but instead left a trail of death and destruction.