(Editors Note: Frequently, I recieve emails from people with questions about MOVE. Rare however, are there any pertaining to the orgins of the cult. What follows is a question about MOVE and my response. Mentioned in the question is Ira Einhorn. Einhorn, was a fixture of the hippie movement in the Powelton Village until fleeing to France after being charged with murder. He was found guilty in absentia of the murder of a young gril named Holly Maddox. It was thru the dogged detrmination of the DA's Office and others who fought to have Einhorn extradited from France. Much like Mumia, Einhorn, the cold-blooded killer has a cadre of French supporters, but to date no street has been named after him.
As alway, please feel free to contact me with similar questions and I will do my best to answer them)
I was talking about MOVE with this older (60-something) guy I work with who is from West Philly and was curious about what he had to say being that he's lived at 56th and pine the majority of his life. He told me that as far as he understood that John Africa was once in cahoots with this white trust fund Penn student and that they had a free-love proto-MOVE group that was heavily inspired by the ideas of Ira Einhorn and made up of blacks and white hippies. He said that this group lived in that Powelton village house and that it was once owned by the Trust fund cohort who eventually gave the house to Africa after his parents came in to break him out of the lifestyle he feel into. Do you know if this is true at all?
I think there is the possibility that what this man is saying is true. It is hard to verify all of the story as the people that were the original MOVE members are not even in the group any more or are not interested in talking about it, for obvious reasons.
Prior to MOVE being MOVE, it actually called the "Christian Life Movement"
and also "The Christian Movement For Life". Around 1973, it became MOVE.
The white man that is being referred to is a man named Donald Glassey, who is really MOVE's co-founder, as he was the first person to really devote himself to John Africa and who put the semi-literate, cult leader's thoughts down to paper. He also included aspects of John Africa's teachings into his community college classes, extending John Africa's teachings past the confines of Powelton Village.
I am not aware of any contact between Einhorn and John Africa and do not recall anyone in MOVE really speaking much of Einhorn while he was constantly in the news due to the fight to have him extradited from France. It has been said that prior to the man born as Vincent Lephart becoming John Africa, that he gravitated towards intellectuals and philosophical types and began to cobble together a distinct philosophy of his own.
Another major influence on John Africa's ideology came from the religious group his first wife was involved in. "The Kingdom Of Yahweh" had a strict vegetarian diet, with an emphasis on raw foods and they also claimed to be following the tenets of "natural law". These dietary restrictions would make their way into John Africa's philosophy as would the emphasis on "natural law".
As for the issue of "free love", this is one of the many contradictions in MOVE's belief system. On paper the group explicitly maintains that a traditional, heterosexual, sex is for pro-creation, kind of attitude towards sex. In reality, single MOVE members and supporters are expected to "take care of their needs", through casual sex, prior to an arrangement of marriage. As part of my time with MOVE was spent as a young, single, man I was strongly encouraged to "take care of my needs", so there may be something to the "free love" allegation. Certainly, the fact that women in MOVE both married and un-married were having baby after baby speaks to the fact that there was more going on in MOVE than screaming into bullhorns and eating raw potatoes.
John Africa and Donald Glassey lived at the "Powelton Village Community Housing Project", better known as "The Co-Op". In 1973 the very liberal members of the Co-Op had enough of John Africa and his antics, the most annoying of which at the time was his refusal to fumigate his apartment, causing a growing bug problem at the Co-Op.
In 1973, Donald Glassey purchased one half of what would become MOVE's headquarters in Powelton Village. Later, the residents on the other side of the joined house would leave under the strain of MOVE's lifestyle and doubtlessly pressure by MOVE members, giving MOVE a large property from which they could base their operations.
Donald Glassey did not leave MOVE until 1977 when he was arrested for pot possession and turned on the group in exchange for a lesser sentence and a place in witness protection. Unfortunately, the evidence and testimony of Glassey was not enough to bring a conviction against his former mentor, no doubt in part because one of the key witnesses was found dead in a river, the death ruled suspicious, but with no proof, there could be no charges, just suspicion as to the timing of the man's death, who unlike Glassey, had not gone into witness protection.